There is evidence of Temazcal ceremonies being conducted as far back as 1200 years ago. They generated from Mesoamericans and have been used since in Mexico, by not just the Mayans, but by everyone searching for some healing in a purification ceremony. The word Temazcal comes from the ancient language Nahuatl of Mesoamerica meaning temāzcalli, or house of heat.
A Temazcal ceremony is conducted inside a dome shaped, igloo type structure very much like its Lakota origins. It can be temporary or permanent. Temporary lodges are usually constructed out of saplings, often willow, for the frame. To keep in the heat, vegetation and animal hides used to be placed on the sapling frames. Today though modern times have the rooves made of tarps and or blankets. Permanent structures are built out of cement, brick or rock.
A Temazcal lodge represents all stages of life; birth, childhood, adult life, old age and death. Participating in a ceremony is a cycle of death and rebirth, purification of mind, body and soul. Often people would come to a Temazcal after battle, trauma, health crisis and or to give birth in peace. A ceremony is run by a Temazcal guide, often a curandero, shaman or someone who has come from a line of healers before.
Every ceremony is different and ultimately it is up to the guide on how the ceremony evolves. Some will begin ritual outside of the lodge while others begin once everyone is inside. Often the whole ritual runs for 1-2 hours.
Being inside a Temazcal is like being inside the womb of mother earth. Participants enter the small entrance into the lodge in a line and sit in a circle surrounding the pile of hot volcanic rocks, known as abuelitas (grandmothers), this can be quite cramped if the lodge is very small. Once settled the guide will ask to have the entrance flap closed and the lodge will fall into complete darkness.
The guide will begin with an opening prayer and anointing of the hot rocks with their medicine of choice. This can be oils, teas or herbs, often sage, copal, tobacco, sweet grass or pepper leaves. During the ceremony the guide will douse the hot rocks with purifying water to heat the lodge and begin the steaming process.
The door to the lodge will be opened a total of four times, each time allowing the addition of further medicine, water and hot rocks to be brought in. Each time the lodge will grow hotter and hotter. At any time participants are welcome to lay down or leave the lodge. During ceremony the guides may chant and sing, move around the lodge guiding healing and blessing the participants, also passing out of herbs to add to the fire as a prayer or release.
It is said to be careful what you wish for as a Temazcal ceremony is a very powerful release and blessing vessel and you should be prepared for what you ask of spirit to enter into or leave your life.
If participating in a ceremony one should be prior prepared by asking in advance what to wear and also to prepare the mind and body for the experience. One should drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration and alert the guide if you have any issues prior, so they can monitor you or seat you near the door.
There are countless benefits from participating in a Temazcal ceremony. Physically you will feel cleansed from the release of toxins, clean skin and lowering of blood pressure. Mentally and spiritually you will be purified and the meditation involved overcomes stress and opens you up to heightened spiritual connections.