The Native American Sweat Lodge (Inipi) by Salvatore Gencarelle

The Native American Sweat lodge is one of the most profound healing and transformative indigenous ceremonies that I know. At the age of 16 I attended my first traditionally run Sweat Lodge and personally experienced the power and beauty of this ceremony. I’ve repeatedly witnessed this transformative and restorative power of the sweat lodge for over 23 years.

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Sweat Lodges Around the World

There are many forms of the sweat therapy found across the world, from the European sauna to the Japanese Sento. Understanding of how sweating in a controlled manner in combination with ceremonial approaches can bring about healing and a deeper sense of connection is a universal concept. This is a good indication that sweating as a method of healing is a fundamental principle of health to human beings.

In America the indigenous structure used to induce sweat therapy is commonly called the Sweat Lodge. There are many variations of the sweat lodge among the different Native American peoples. One of the most common versions of the sweat lodge has comes to us from the Lakota Sioux. The Lakota Sioux version of the sweat lodge is called the Ini Kaga (E-nee Kah-gah) – To Make Live or commonly the Inipi (E-nee-pe), which simply means – We Live.

Legends of the Lakota Sweat Lodge

The Lakota Sweat Lodge is ancient. According to one legend, the Inipi originated with a cultural hero called Stone Boy. This young man was a sacred being who had great knowledge at birth. He was the first to construct and use the Inipi to bring his uncles back to life after they were bewitched by an evil sorceress.

Another, less known legend, tells the origin of the Sweat Lodge back in time when the first peoples began to have conflicts over territory. At this time the population of humans grew to a point where people began to compete over natural resources. People began to become more physical orientated and less spiritually connected. Conflicts erupted and people began to shoving matches that soon led to greater violence. These battles were just external expression of what was occurring within people on a deeper level. During one of these conflicts a person killed another, intentionally. This was the first time a human ever murdered another human. After this, people’s spiritual connections weakened even more and they began to experience hardship and difficulty in their lives that was previously unknown.

During this time a young man was internally guided to seek a way for people to come back to a deeper spiritual relationship. He was guided through a series of Vision Quest to the west coast of an ancient land. There, at the place where the earth, stone, water, and air mixed he Vision Quested in the mist of the Ocean. Through his quest he was given a gift of the first sweat lodge. He returned to the people with this new powerful gift of purification, healing and rejuvenation. The Sweat Lodge ceremony aided people to once again live in physical and spiritual harmony with themselves, each other, and the land.

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Sweat Lodge and the Helpers Mentoring Society

For the past 23 years I’ve been educated in Lakota traditions and ceremony, becoming what is known as a Helper. During my training I came to a deep understanding of the power of the Inipi ceremony and how it can benefit modern people. Over the course of my training as a Helper I was taught every aspect of the ceremony; from stacking the fire, to singing the sacred songs, leading the ceremony, and even teaching others how to become Helpers.

The time for many others to become Helpers is now at hand. We, the people that understand the current disconnected and dysfunctional state of humanity, are being called forward to help return balance to human existence. In this task we have been given powerful gifts to assist us – such as the Sweat Lodge. Now is the time to learn how to competently utilize these sacred ceremonies to ensure the continuation of human life upon the earth. If you have the heart and mind to learn then now is the time.

Salvatore Gencarelle
https://manamongthehelpers.com/

This November Salvatore will be travelling back to the UK.  He will be offering workshops and talks in East Sussex, Devon, Glastonbury and Scotland as well as Life Initiation & Rites of Passage – a four part training commencing February 2016.

Please click here for details. These introductory talks, ceremonial and teaching workshops are for anyone looking for an immersion experience in Life Initiation, Rites of Passage and Advanced connection techniques. The day workshops will include an Inipi. The experiences and content is especially applicable to people looking to understand how to enhance holistic relationships and bridge this into the modern world and systems.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Women in Culture – Native American Wisdom

mum and child

This way of life is based on observation of energy movement and how the energies are related. By developing this understanding we begin to see creation as the movements of the Great Mystery. We can witnesses the creation born off of the Great Mystery in the wheeling of the stars, the beauty of a sunrise, the song of the birds, and the movement of the seasons. It is all becomes an expression of the Mystery.

This knowledge of energy movement isn’t just applied to the world of nature but also the world of humankind. We understand human nature by this same perspective is a manifestation of the Mystery. Human beings are part of the creation so how could this not be true.

The ancient stories of creation that we still hold speak of major cosmic events which long ago altered the dynamism of the Earth. These alterations and combinations changed the context of the earth reality and through the process, re-ordered the previous reality.

These stories tell about a time of change which blessed all females of the Earth with a number of “gifts”. These gifts are process which occur internally within woman, so sometimes they are called internal ceremonies.

  • Women’s Intuition – The ability to understand something immediately without conscious reason.
  • Internal Purification – Menses, what we typically call Moon Time based on the woman’s cycle being connected to the moon cycle.
  • Child Birth – The ability to regenerate new life from their flesh.
  • Breast Feeding – The ability to create food (milk) from their flesh.

Just as any gift from the celestial powers, there comes great responsibility with these gifts. Each of the gifts are about continuation of life, as it is with anything in nature. This means that women hold very specific responsibilities to ensure the regeneration of life. These gifts make women the conduits of life; the door keepers, if you will.

The Moon Time

The 4 gifts to women also created certain life stages that occur naturally and are marked by physical changes in a woman.

The gift and physical change that we will focus on is the menses, often called Moon Time. The Moon Time begins when a woman has her first menses and ends at menopause. Each month the cycle continues during this entire life stage, only divided during times of pregnancy and lactation.

The start of this cycle is marked by the young woman’s first Moon Time. The first Moon Time is considered a Right of Passage in every culture I’d researched. It is universally honored as a ceremony in itself and typically a ritual of honouring and teaching takes place during or shortly after a woman’s 1st Moon Time. It is a puberty Right of Passage.

There are many variations of this how the Moon Time ceremony is conducted amongst indigenous people but they hold similar patterns. They often teach about how the young woman should remain healthy in the coming years as she develops into a mature mum and childwoman. They teach about how her conduct should be in relationship to her family and other people. They teach about how to be industrious according to the “tribe” standards. They teach about love and future intimate relationships with a spouse.

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Women Ceremony

Ceremonies evolved in indigenous communities to meet various needs, based on a deep understanding of the natural energies of both men and women, and also two spirits (genderqueer).

The woman’s internal processes, which includes the menses, or what were called the Moon Time, were regarded as sacred ceremonies in and of themselves.  It was especially understood that a woman on her Moon Time is in a very powerful ceremony which can interrupt any other ceremony.  Women on their Moon Time are in a type of purification which needs to be respected.

There is a lot of confusion about this, even amongst traditional peoples.  Some people have created a view that women on their Moon Time are unclean and have manipulated this taboo in unhealthy ways.  This can create a sense of shunning or rejection, as if Moon Time is a punishment or curse.

The older belief holds that Moon Time and the menstrual blood is the manifestation of the unfulfilled capacity for creation.  It holds the female power of creation and the mystery.  The woman is the only one who can bring new life into the world.  A woman’s blood flow during her Moon Time is full of the mysterious power of childbearing.  To be able to create new life from one’s own flesh is incredibly powerful, even the most powerful thing possible.  Man can do nothing compared to this.  So we respect the power and all that which is attached to it. It is for this reason(s) that woman do not participate in many of the external ceremonial practices.

The Inipi (Sweat Lodge) workshops that we are offering welcome women and children.  In this tradition, if a woman is on her ‘Moontime’ she is considered as a experiencing her own ceremony, with it’s corresponding purification and connection attributes, so would not take part of the Inipi.

By Salvatore Gencarelle

Learning with Nature – Reflections, Thoughts & Reviews

“This book offers a chance to the youth of today and the nature of tomorrow. It has a wealth of structured, tried and tested projects, ideas and games all designed to allow children to breathe fresh air and engage personally with a real world where their minds and bodies can develop and bloom, burst into life and inspire them to love life.”
Chris Packham, BBC

Learning with Nature, special offer available now!

 

“This wonderful new book aims to connect children with nature. Through a broad range of outdoor activities and games, young people are encouraged to engage their senses and interact with nature. This not only leads to a better understanding of the natural world but can also contribute to much broader agendas such as personal and social development.

 

Most importantly, the activities are fun. It is through enjoyment and understanding that people will want to conserve and care for their environment and so I encourage everyone to give the book a try.”
Andy Naylor, John Muir Award England Manager

“Whether you are a parent or educator, Learning with Nature is full of ideas for fun in the great outdoors. It caters for children and young people of all ages and abilities – and comes with clear instructions and illustrations. So grab a copy, get your boots on, fill your backpack and head to your nearest wild (or not so wild) space for some playful adventures.”
Tim Gill, Author of No Fear: Growing Up In A Risk Averse Society

Learning with Nature, special offer available now!
“Learning with Nature is fittingly described as “A how-to guide to inspiring children through outdoor games and activities”. Featuring a foreword from Chris Packham, the book is packed with dozens of activities and games as well as survival skills and a brief note on looking after nature. The activities, some of which are split by season, are varied and suitable for families of all sizes.

 

We especially enjoyed the Walnut Boats activity and the Swallow Migration activity, which involves children simulating the epic journey swallows make with their own home-made birds.

The games section of the book is perfect for youth groups or schools, as the majority of games require 4 or more children to play and many are suitable for groups of 8 or larger.
Learning with Nature is an excellent resource for youth groups or schools looking for some inspiring ideas for outdoor pursuits. In terms of activities, the book is great for families, though some of the games will require your children’s friends to come along!”
Farming & Countryside Education (FACE)

“Beautifully presented as a ‘how-to’ guide to inspire children, Learning with Nature is aimed at families, schools, youth groups and anyone working with children. The activities are suitable for ages 3 to 16 and will help develop practical skills, awareness and respect for the natural world. An initial flick through reveals great images and a layout of activities that is easy to follow.
Reduction in Roaming Radius
The introduction gives context in the form of an intriguing diagram showing an ‘extinction of experience’ revealed by the decline in roaming radius from home of 8 year olds from the 1920s (6 miles) to 2007 (700 yards), followed by the benefits of increased time in nature.

 

There’s also advice on how to make the most of the book through the art of questioning to nurture curiosity, and a section on Looking after Nature which sets out the interplay between nature and people to allow both to flourish. I was thinking hard before I got to the activities!

The activities are set out in 4 themes: games, naturalist, seasonal and survival skills. There’s a large range and each activity has clear advice on resources needed (often none, which I like), number of people, age, duration and how to do it. A note on variations and links to similar or complimentary activities is helpful. A side box titled Invisible Learning gives an idea of what we might expect when using the activity, advice I found either reinforced my own ideas or alerted me to new possibilities.

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If the book lacks anything it’s the benefits of using the outdoors from a formal education perspective. However I think those working in this context will easily recognise ways of using these activities in their work. This book is much more than a collection of great activities. It has an aim we can all buy into to forge “a heartfelt relationship [with nature] that will renew and inform our culture, creating love and respect for the natural world.”

 

 

This is an excellent book for parents, teachers and youth leaders alike looking to inspire young people with nature. Get a copy and head outdoors!”
Graham Watson, John Muir Award Cumbria Manager

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“I picked this book up thinking that it would be another ‘nice to have but probably not essential’ addition to our Learning through Landscapes library. I glanced briefly at the introduction expecting to be presented with the usual list of academics’ justifications of why learning and playing outside is good, quoting myriad obscure references with long names and concepts that mean little when you are thinking – ‘shall we go outside today to do something?’. I was very pleasantly surprised indeed.

 

The book has clearly been written by people who have their own clear, well developed and straightforward understanding of why challenging, fun and educational activities in the outdoors are not only good, they are essential, enjoyable and inspirational.

Simple concepts presented in beautifully illustrated pages in a very non-patronising style. For example – there are assumptions made that practitioners already know how to make things like bread dough and if they don’t, they can easily look it up – we don’t want to spend money on a book that tells us how to make dough – we want to spend money on a book that takes bread dough outside for an interesting experience. This book does that. I have to confess I went completely off task at one point as I was trying to remember if I had any essential oils hanging around so I could try sniff-tracking with them or if we had any suitably shaped wood for the burning bowls.

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Many of these ideas are new or are presented in a new context which is a refreshing change from reading about 50 things I was doing ten years ago with children. Many of them use risk and adventure as vehicles for effective experiential learning meaning that these activities will appeal to older children as well as the younger ones and indeed many adults.  I can see these activities turning up in LTL training sessions.

Some activities will need to be delivered by people who have experience of the safe handling of tools such as bow-saws and palm drills. Others can be safely delivered by anyone who can be trusted with a spot of clay or some melted candle-wax.

Not all of the activities require resources or tools at all. Some make new games out of old concepts, others do require specific items but these are generally not hard to source. The language of the book is gentle and thoughtful, we are asked to harvest sticks of wood ‘respectfully’, one activity refers to the ‘heartbeat of a cow’. A bug hotel suggests that we make ‘diverse rooms for the insects’ rather like some sort of more boutique or art-house style bug hotel, a cut above your cheaper end motel. The references to invisible learning ensure that no activity fails to hold its own and everything can contribute to effective teaching and learning. The book has a sense of a refined collection to it not a random gathering of ideas. My over-whelming feeling when looking through the ideas is that I really, really want to try some of these. Some of the artistic creations are very beautiful.

And if I am this excited about it then I am sure others will be too. Be nice to yourself – invest in this harvest of ideas, it’s actually really worth it. Isn’t it time you got out more?” Juno Hollyhock, Executive Director, Learning through Landscapes

“By my bed I have a pile of books I dip into every now and then for a bit of inspiration. This book is now top of my pile; a must have resource for outdoor fun. Learning with Nature is full of activities, games to get children outside, keep them motivated and most importantly of all having fun. The book is split up into sections covering games, nature activities, seasonal activities and survival skills. The book is straightforward to navigate and gets the right balance of pictures and text, which can be all too often overlooked in books. This book gets in just right. The information is uncomplicated to follow and easy to digest, with top tips and interesting facts throughout the book.

waxed leaf mobile
The activities are well structured, though some of the activities work best with groups, but can be adapted for the family. I like the extra  information provided on what’s being learnt and provides some inspiration on questions you can ask your child to enhance their learning. We decided to try out a few of the activities.

 

We had a great fun trying out these activities on a woodland walk and enhanced a walk into something much more exciting and educational for the children.”
Shell, Get Out with the Kids

Learning with Nature – special offer available now for Christmas, click here to purchase and find out more!

www.circleofliferediscovery.com