Citation: Walkaboutjoe. "Brotherhood: An Experience with Sweating, Alcohol & Tobacco (exp64060)". Erowid.org. Dec 5, 2009. erowid.org/exp/64060
My first sweat lodge experience was in early summer. A good friend was getting ready to leave to live in the New Mexico Mountains for the summer and held a small gathering. We all sat around a large fire, fending off the cool evening. Passing the bottle of whiskey we played music. Banjos, dulcimers, guitars, flutes, all manner of folk music graced us that evening. We played and drank until late, then prepared the lodge.
The lodge was dug into the ground a few feet, with dirt piled around it. A section of wire fencing covered the top, with blue spruce branches piled on that, and capped with an old nylon tarp. There was room for eight to ten people inside sitting cross-legged around the stones. The dirt floor was a quagmire of sweat and water from old sweatings.
We pulled an assortment of old engine parts from the bonfire with a pitch fork and slowly passed them into the lodge's small door. Our Lodge Leader positioned them and got the water bucket. We all stripped naked and climbed into the lodge. The group was mostly male, but we had a few females. We all didn't know each other well, but we were together because of our mutual friend and Lodge Leader.
The Leader told us that the water he poured over the 'stones' was a brew of untreated well water and herbs from his garden. He listed them, but the only I knew was willow buds, which contain acetaminophen. He explained that we could sip from the bucket at anytime, but the water would be bitter and brackish.
The temperature was already stifling in the lodge, the sitting uncomfortable, and the anticipation unbearable. He slowly poured the first water on the red hot steel, it hissed and moaned and filled the room with unbreathable air. A few of the people made audible coughs. Our Leader giggled, and slowly drove up the temperature.
I could feel my lungs burn and skin blush. It was intense, the heat beyond anything I have felt. Saunas and steam rooms have nothing on the heat let off from two hundred pounds of cast iron. I could feel the sweat burn my eyes and run into my mouth. It was pure hell. With only a small amount of masculine pride, I held my ground and endured the pain.
Within a few of those classic minutes-turn-to-hours I could feel the pain subside, and a new sensation take over. My body was tingling, a body high unlike anything I have felt. Every breath hat left my body felt harsh and unpleasant, but the inhale was cleansing. My head pounded with each heart beat. I could feel the water sizzle off the iron deep within my gut. My slightly queasy whiskey stomach (we were shooting off the bottle, not my forte) was solid, fortified by steam.
At this point I relaxed back into the muddy bank and just concentrated on breathing. I was hyper aware of my body, each nerve ending tingling. On hour into the sweat our leader told us to slowly exit, waiting a few moments between each exit. We were to go and stand by the fire or lightly shower with the many buckets of cold water.
I went and stood by the fire, watching the steam rise off our glistening bodies. We couldn't help but giggle uncontrollably. Our fearless Leader rolled a cigarette, and told us each to take a few hits and pass. We did so, the nicotine hitting with vigor. I was honestly stoned from sweat and tobacco. My head rolled and body buzzed. I stumbled and nearly fell, a lucid head disconnected from its body.
We slowly gathered for another run in the lodge, our final push. Our non-sweating fire tender had pulled a large metal crate from the fire. The crate was full of large stones from our Leaders farm. We drug it down the small door, and crawled in after. We started slowly again, but after the familiar buzz was accomplished we did the 'push.' Our Lodge Leader poured water on the fire, laughing the whole time. The temperature surpassed the previous sweat, the pounding in my head grew faster and faster. We were told to leave when we needed, that nobody can survive a Push on pure will. We would need to know our own weaknesses. We would need to accept them and to give in to them.
I left half later. I won't tell you how soon each person left, for that personal. Our Leader did stay the whole Push, emerging at last to stand by the embers of his last fire at home for many months. We all stood around those coals, steaming and red. We giggled quietly and dressed slowly as the cool night air crept in. Our Leader went away for the summer, and I left before he came back. I haven't seen him since.
In my new life I think about running a sweat. I want to take my friends into the mountains, labor over a lodge all day in the sun, and then sweat at night. I don't know how to explain, just as I don't know how to explain psilocybin or sex. It is just what it is, and that's good enough.
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