How to build and conduct a Sweatlodge

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How to build and conduct a Sweatlodge

Practitioners Involved: Leo Rutherford - MA Holistic psychology, Shamanic practitioner

Venues Used: The Farm

Date / Time: 6th/7th December & w/e TBA in Feb

Price: Cost £395, a deposit of £100 secures a place, a further £100 payable at commencement of first weekend and the balance of £195 to be paid on the second weekend. Concessions available by request.)

This course is aimed at teaching you how to build a sweatlodge, how to build the special fire to heat the rocks, how to conduct the ceremony,and the myriad details which it is necessary to know in order to achieve this successfully. Please scroll down page for booking details.

Weekend 1 October 4/5th:

Teaching about the design of the lodge frame, the design of the fire, the materials required and the process of building such as the right kind of rocks, wood and saplings and the creation of the altar. Then actually doing it! The First day will take you through the basics of finding the saplings to build the lodge frame and the erection of it and finding the specific wood for the base of the fire and laying it. Together we will create all we need to have a lodge. Second day will be a lodge with Leo chiefing and teaching at the same time. Followed by feedback and discussion.


Weekend 2 December 6/7th:

Teaching about the purpose of ceremony and how to hold it in a connected way. This is the cornerstone of a good sweatlodge once the basics have been mastered. Participants get to build a lodge and fire with supervision available. Small teams will build the altar and organise water for the lodge and for drinking between the rounds. The lodge ceremony will be conducted by up to four participants taking a round each under supervision. Feedback and discussion. Further teaching about holding ceremony.

Weekend 3 a weekend TBA (by mutual agreement) in February or March:

Further teaching about the deep meaning and purpose of the sweatlodge. Sweats on both days chiefed by different people for learning and experience, with fires built by different teams. Final sweatlodge to be created and organised by the participants and only checked prior to ceremony. Summary of what we’ve learned. Feedback, discussion and completion.


At the end we piece together the observations of every participant to create pictures of the likely future.

Sweatlodge Ceremony - Reflections of Leo Rutherford

The sweatlodge is probably the most ancient way of cleansing known by humans on the planet. Through the ceremony of the sweatlodge one is cleansed and purified physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. While the sauna is a derivative of the sweatlodge of the ancient Scandinavian peoples, the most familiar sweatlodge is in the style of the native American people. It is constructed out of saplings bent and tied together to form an upside down saucer shape, half a sphere. It is then covered with old blankets, tarpaulins and whatever is available until it is dark inside.

A fire is built outside the lodge, about 10 - 15 feet away, usually to the East, in a special way. A base is layed of logs, preferably slow burning and about 6 - 9 inches in diameter, and then kindling and small pieces of dry wood are layed on top to form a flat surface. The rocks, which need to be volcanic in origin to withstand the heat, are layed in a cone shape on top. A nice way to do this is for all who are to sweat to place the rocks in turn with a prayer. Around this cone is placed more wood to cover the rocks and provide a draw to pull the fire up from the base. It takes about an hour and a half to two hours for the rocks to heat by which time the fire is burnt down from the cone shape and the rocks can be removed. Often an altar is created out of earth outside the lodge to the east and a spirit trail is layed connecting the fire to the altar and then to the fire pit which has been dug in the centre of the lodge.

The lodge chief traditionally enteres the lodge to bless and awaken it with sage and cedar and sometimes with the sacred pipe, to pray and invoke the powers of the four directions. The people line up on the left of the spirit trail and are smudged with sage and cedar incense prior to entering the lodge. The door is always made low so one crawls in on all fours and it is traditional to make a prayer on entering saying 'For all my relations', or in native language, 'Omitakuaye Oyasin'. The meaning here is that I sweat not just for myself but for all to whom I am related - which in the native understanding is ultimately All Of Creation. By purifying myself I affect all things for the better. The sweatlodge is seen as the womb of Mother Earth and the ceremony is one of entering the darkness, purifying - dying a little - and then coming out at the end cleansed of the past and reborn.

The people sit around the central pit, close together in a small space. The rocks are brought in and blessed with sage, firstly seven rocks symbolising the four directions of the manifest world, the Above and the Below, and finally the Creator, Wakantanka, All-That-Is (by any and all names). Further stones are then brought in until there is enough to give the required heat. In some traditions this is a very specific number but in practice it is changed according to the number needed for the temperature to be right. The door is closed when everyone is ready and the lodge chief calls in the powers, making an offering of water to the rocks at the end of each prayer. In the majority of lodges I have participated in, the first round of prayers is for oneself. It is considered vital to start with oneself as until one is healed and in balance, anything one attempts to do for others will be tainted with one's own needs. The people pray one by one in turn in a sunwise circle. At the end of a prayer one says 'Ho!, I have spoken' and the chief puts an offering of water on the rocks so the prayer is carried in the steam to the spirit world and then the next person knows to take their turn. At the end of the prayers, often a chant or two will be sung, and then the round ends and the door is opened and drinking water is passed around. More red hot glowing rocks will be brought in and then the second round begins. The prayer this time is for anything and anybody except oneself.

The same procedure continues and the third round is then prayers of the giveaway. This is an opportunity to make prayers to let go of aspects of oneself that are troubling, that one feels ready to change, and also to offer one's gifts and talents in service of The All. The fourth round has no set form as now we have prayed, it is time to listen. Hence it might be a silent meditation, a journey to the land of the power animals, or a time of chanting or toning together. At the end the chief gives thanks to the powers, often pours rather a lot of water on the rocks until the lodge is decidedly hot, and finally the door is opened and we come out looking somewhat pink and dive into the water if there is a nearby stream or lay on the ground.

In the words of Stalking Wolf, the Apache Grandfather who taught Tom Brown and is immortalised in Tom's books 'The Vision', The Quest' and 'The Journey'. "You have felt the presence of the ancients, the expansion of self, and the peace. You know now what a true ceremony should be, for as you felt the power of the lodge, so too will others, regardless of belief. The sweatlodge speaks to all peoples in the language of their own beliefs and thus it becomes a universal truth. So, then, use the lodge as a tool , a doorway for physical and spiritual renewal and cleansing, a pathway to expansion and a vehicle to the worlds of the unseen and eternal."

To book your place please contact :- Richard Diss Tel: 01525 862278 Payments by cheque to ‘The Clophill Centre’ or BACS to the Centre Account sort code 09-01-28 a/c no 61718066