SPIRIT LODGE PROTOCOLS
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE ARRIVAL
The Otter Creek Lodge is Alcohol, Cannabis, Substance and Smoking-free space. The land at Otter Creek Lodge Honors the Sacred Chunpa (Pipe) and traditional teaching that comes along with these teachings. We respectfully ask that participants refrain from smoking or using any other kind of Substance while visiting The Otter Creek Lodge. This includes, Community building, our sacred prayer space (Lodge and Fire) and land.
THIS is a CEREMONY: NO photographs or recordings are to be taken during ceremony of anything. If you are not sure, ASK. Or better just refrain from doing so. We are here to help with our healing and being Present is the best way of doing so.
We love dogs, however, we ask that you keep your beloved four legged friends at home.
LET US KNOW WHO IS COMING: If you are inviting someone new (or are new yourself) please let us know so that we can help you and/ or your guest prepare when you arrive.
TOBACCO OFFERING: In Traditional Ways, it is custom for people to present “natural/scent-free” tobacco offerings to the person who conducts the ceremony and fire keeper. In our contemporary times, tobacco is offered usually wrapped in red cloth to honor the person conducting the ceremony. Sometimes other healing herbs (Sweet grass, Sage, Cedar) are gifted along with Tobacco to help with the ceremony.
PREPARATIONS AND WHAT TO BRING:
WOMEN: Plan to wear a long dress or skirt and a modest shirt that covers your shoulders before and during ceremony. Be sure to bring a change of clothes (Skirt and modest top) for after the ceremony, as well as two towels one for sitting on and one to dry off with or a rug to sit on. In keeping with tradition, women in their moon time (menstrual cycle) are not permitted in ceremony/at this event for your Moon Time is a ceremony in itself.
MEN: We ask that you come dressing long pants and Modest T-shirt or shirt. To wear into the Lodge, we ask that you bring a pair of long shorts/swim trunks or gym shorts. (NOT your under wear) as well as two towels one for sitting on and one to dry off with or a rug to sit on.
EVERYONE: Please come showered or bathed with NO perfume/cologne/scented lotions on you as our senses are heightened in ceremony and some of our community members are allergic to perfume.
What to Expect In Purification Lodge Ceremony
There are many steps involved in the Purification lodge ceremony. Traditions vary from culture to culture and from facilitator to facilitator, as do the order of events, procedures, and specifics. Though this list may not be inclusive, it should help to illustrate the process and help curious individuals to understand what the experience is like. Throughout this document the Purification /Spirit - sweat lodge will be referred to as a “Spirit Lodge” or just “The Lodge”. As the term “Sweat Lodge” only gives meaning to the physical aspect instead of the Spiritual.
Teachings Of The Purification/Spirit Lodge
Inipikaga is a traditional Lakota word for a purification ceremony lodge. Translates to” Breath of Life “ Shorten sometimes to Inipi also referred to as Tunkan Ti, the house of the Stone People. For the Anishinabe People of this area it is known as Madoodiswanis, the place where the Little Spirits Dwell. Commonly now shortened roughly to a Sweat Lodge or The Lodge.
Referring to the physical actions of the body. But it is much deeper than the physical actions. It is a practice of community prayer for healing. Teachings of the traditional Spirit Lodge come in many layers and will present them-self as you come to “Be” around the ceremony. The core of the Spirit Lodge Ceremony is basically conducted in the same format for traditions chanupa -Pipe carriers and Water pourers. However each Water pour’s teachings will vary from lodge to lodge according to each families teachings/ traditions when preparing for the ceremony and the songs that are song inside the lodge.
Spirit Lodge Conductors
Spirit lodge conductors are men or women who have trained for many years to earn the right to conduct Purification Lodge ceremony. In most cases including going through the Sundance and Fasting experience. They have received the teachings and have gone through ceremonies to develop the gift that is given to them.
The Spirit lodge conductor knows the protocol and history of his or her lodge. They are able to explain it clearly and concisely when asked.It is important that the Spirit lodge conductor is aware of health issues you may have before you enter the lodge.He or she is also able to assist you with your experiences in the lodge.
Through the Native approach, we see the interconnectivity of all life, all time, and all matter. We can refer to the opening expression Aho Mitákuye Oyás’ or in Anishinabe Indinawemaagandog and acknowledge ‘all of our relations’. From this relational standpoint, we begin to see the themes that emerge from the inside space of the lodge, including humility, reverence, surrender, gratitude, resilience, the interrelationship of all life, and modesty. We may also get a sense of the We are all related .
Preparing The Body & Mind For The Spirit Ceremony
When you are requesting or going a Spirit lodge, an offering of tobacco is made to the Lodge conductor. Also, a offering is sometimes made to the Firekeeper as the Fire is a very important part of of the Spirit lodge. There must be a fire keeper for all Spirit Lodge Ceremonies.
When attending you should abstain from alcohol, drugs and other substances for at least four days, others say seven days. Before a Spirit lodge ceremony, it is a good idea to and most importantly, well-hydrated be well-rested. Ideally drink plenty of water in the days and hours leading up to the lodge.
Aside from water, tea, natural juice, and coconut water can be great ways to bolster electrolytes and keep fluids in the body, since you’ll perspire quite a bit during the ceremony. Eat light, minimally processed foods, like fruits and vegetables or soups. In traditional times, a fast was an important aspect to the Spirit lodge, although formal fasting is not necessary for most lodges, it’s a good idea to stop eating an hour or two before entering the lodge and allow the body to digest. Remember to bring water and fruit for after the lodge too, to restore some of the lost fluids.
Set An Intention
It’s a good idea to nurture your mind and heart before a Spirit lodge ceremony with a clear intention or prayer. Meditate on what or who you are send petitions for, and bring those sentiments into the lodge energetically. In moments where the heat may seems to be unbearable, it can be comforting to reflect on the reason behind your presence at the ceremony and why you have chosen to come into the lodge to send out your voice.
Making Petitions Through Prayer Ties
Prayer ties are made for many Native traditions as an offering to the Mystery- Great Spirit. As the name implies, while making prayer ties it’s important to be focused, and infuse prayers and intentions into each tie. Prayer ties are small bundles of tobacco or cornmeal wrapped normal in Red cotton fabric squares. Each pouch is tied together to create a long string of prayers. The number of ties and colors vary from one tradition to the next, and from one ceremony to the next.The completed string of prayer ties is brought and placed on the alter throughout the ceremony. At the end of the ceremony. It is customary to have the Fire keeper burn the prayer ties into the sacred fire followed by cedar complete the offering.
Lighting The Sacred Fire and Cedar Ceremony
On the physical level, to begin a Spirit lodge, a fire is lit in a sacred way. Particular stones, preferably lava stones, sometimes called ‘grandfather stones,’ are prayed over, and placed inside the center of the fire, or ‘the fireplace.’ In some settings, the stones are called Tunkashila, which refer to the ‘Grandfather Spirits.’ In this way, ‘Tunkashila’ is also used to refer to any Great Spirit that personifies sacredness and wisdom. Usually, one stone is placed into the fire platform in honor of each of the four directions, as well as Earth, Sky and Mystery -heart center. It’s common to include 28 stones in the Spirit lodge fire, or seven for each round, though this varies greatly from lodge to lodge.
The Cedar Ceremony
The Cedar ceremony is a ceremony in itself is done by the women before the fire lighting. This is to help prepare the space around and in the lodge structure .As the names indicates, Cedar as well as other medicine herbs ,songs traditional stories and teachings are part of the process to help “Hold the energies for the ceremony.
The Sacred Pipe & The Altar
While the stones are heating, the water pourer, or the facilitator of the ceremony, fills the sacred pipe with sacred tobacco. Tobacco is central to culture, spirituality and healing. Tribal methods and ingredients differ, but traditional tobacco, called “caŋsasa” Red Willow (Lakota, Dakota) or “asemaa” (Anishinaabek) by area tribes, is carefully hand-prepared and offered respectfully for prayer, healing. Ceremony. sings songs or other teaching are shared. The places the Sacred pipe sits on an altar. The altar is adorned with special possessions which may include sage bundles, a buffalo skull, or variations of these kinds of valuables.
Spirit Lodge Door Opening
The location of the lodge is important, as is the door’s direction. Whichever way the door faces, the sacred altar and the fireplace should be visible through the doorway from inside of the spirit lodge. The pathway between the Spirit lodge door and the fire is considered a Sacred path. No one should cross between the fire and the doorway but rather walk around it.Typically, a blanket covers the doorway and conceals the heat and darkness during the ceremony.
~ Fire and Altar ~
As you approach the area for the Spirit lodge you come first to the altar and the sacred fire where the rocks, called Grandfathers, Grandmothers are heated for the ceremonial. Both the fire and the altar are in line with the door of the lodge.Before you enter the lodge, offerings are made at the altar or the sacred fire. Tobacco is always one of the offerings.
The Structure of the Lodge, Door Opening, Star Blanket and Direction Flags
A Spirit lodge is a dome-shaped. Typically when talking about the lodge, you will hear it being referred to as entering the womb of Mother Earth, this is a perception, as we can not go back into our Mother's womb. The lodge holds all of the Universal teachings. It shape and structure is base on Star teaching and constellations. It is a visible image that holds the invisible reality and is sacred place for healing In essence , It is a Star lodge. The lodge is a small structure usually made of a specific number of willows or other saplings sometimes called ribs. Tobacco and water is placed at the base of the hole that each pole is set into. The willows were traditional covered with buffalo hide; however, tarps and blankets are usually used today.The coverings keep the light out and the heat in. Once the lodge is constructed, a ceremony is held before the first lodge takes place.
Doorway ~ Opening -
The direction of the doorway that the people enter differs according to the teachings of the conductor as taught by his or her teaching through the Elder in which they have learn from. Typically the doorway face east, unless preparing for the Sundance. Otter Creek Lodge is an East facing lodge.
Star Blanket -
Traditional earth people had keen observes of nature, the night sky and attuned to their environment. The Star blanket has many connections to the constellations, planets and star knowledge. Helping to remind us of “What is above so is below.”
Directional Flags -
Colored cloth “Flags”as they are called are often used to show the cardinal directions and teaching through the designated colors used in each of the direction.
Women In The Spirit Lodge
Originally, the purification ceremony was for men only. This ceremony was given to the men to help bring themself back into balance. Under normal modern day situations /setting, women are encouraged to enter the Spirit lodge. However, In keeping with Traditional practices, women on her moon cycle (menstruating), will be asked to refrain from participating in the Spirit lodge ritual. As women we have the ability to cleanse our bodies naturally through our Moon Cycle, which already be in a purification ceremony itself.
What To Wear Into The Spirit Lodge
For men: swim or gym style shorts is best to wear inside the lodge. We respectfully ask that you refrain from wearing your underwear. A change of clothes will be need for after the lodge.
For women: a long skirt and t-shirt or long dresses that are calf length or longer and something to keep shoulders covered. Cotton fabric is best. A change of clothes will be need for after the lodge.
Firekeeper and Stone people
Grandmothers and Grandfathers ~ A Firekeeper is the one who tends the sacred fire outside the lodge. They receive teachings and trained for many years to become a fire keeper. They have many responsibilities around the Ceremony. Even though the Firekeeper may stay on the outside of the lodge, he/she is very much a part of this ceremony as the main helper to the conductor - Water pourer.
The rocks are known as Grandfathers or Grandmothers.
In preparing for the Spirit lodge the Water pour will specify a particular number of Stones to be heated in the Sacred fire. They are honored as ancient ancestors and showed great respect by the Firekeeper. At the request of the conductor, the firekeeper brings the Grandmothers and Grandfathers to the lodge door. They are then placed in the pit at the centre of the lodge by the conductor or their helper where medicine herbs are placed on the Stone people.
ENTERING THE LODGE
Once the grandfather stones are hot, after about 90 minutes to two hours, community members are invited to cleanse themselves with a cedar or sage smudging. Then, they begin to enter the lodge, crawling on hands and knees in a Sunwise direction. Although it depends on the size of the lodge and how many people are in attendance, it can be a tight fit. Some individuals describe a sense of claustrophobia from the tight quarters. The lodge certainly isn’t designed to be comfortable.Inside the Spirit lodge, the participants sit in a circle around the central pit where the Stone People will be placed for the ceremony.The Spirit lodge conductor sits at one side of the door and their Helper sits on the other side of the door opening.The person requesting the lodge sometimes sits in the West.The other participants sit in the four directions of the lodge. The number of people attending the ceremony varies depending on the reason for the Spirit lodge ceremony.
Bring The Stones Into The Spirit Lodge
When everyone is inside, the firekeeper brings a specific number of hot stones from the fire into the lodge. Inside, someone is prepared to place the hot stones in the center, usually into a crater that has been dug out to hold the stones. Deer antlers are often the tool of choice used to place the hot stones into the right spots.As the stones enter, herbs such as sage, cedar, and other medicines are used to greet the grandfathers. Then, a large bucket of water is brought inside, which will be used to activate the stones so they can rapidly release their heat.Once the stones are inside, the firekeeper(s) sometimes enter the lodge and close the door so the round can begin. The water pourer may introduce themself, offer a prayer or intention, and then begin to activate the stones
When you enter the Spirit lodge, you are seeking the help of the Creator and the spirits. The helping spirits are called into the lodge by means of the prayers, songs, drums or shakers. A drum, either a little hand drum or the water drum, is an important item in the ceremony because the drum is made from all of Creation. The sound of the drum is like the heartbeat of Mother Earth.The Ceremony goes through what is know as four door ways or levels.Songs and prayers are offered during the ceremony along with the Sacred pipe is used.Each person has a chance to speak or pray within the lodge. Cedar water is poured on the Grandmothers and Grandfathers, creating a cleansing steam in the lodge.The lodge tends to get progressively hotter as the ceremony continues and more hot stones are brought inside.Between each round, the door is opened, and the water bucket (which may now be empty) is taken out. The firekeeper may need to exits the lodge to bring more hot stones inside. Often during these transitions, the water pourer invites community members to offer prayers to the Great Mystery, silently or aloud. The bucket is refilled, and the entire process is repeated until all of the grandfather stones have been brought inside the womb space to share their ancient wisdom. A water pourer is said to be very compassionate and will offer aid to the people to help them through the lodge experience. At the end of the ceremony, the spirits are thanked and sent home.
Rebirth From The Womb
After the last round of the Spirit lodge when all of the water has been poured, the final door is opened at the proclamation of Aho Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ., All my relations. The remaining heat is allowed to escape through the doorway, and the water bucket, drums and instruments, and other sacred items are removed from the lodge.One by one, individuals are invited to crawl out of the lodge and experience the sensation of rebirth, having expressed their intentions, prayers, and devotions in the heat of the experience. When you come out of the spirit lodge you may feel a wave of emotions. Fresh water is offered to rinse yourself off. Your spirit will feels new and alive.
Closing The Ceremony
When everyone has emerged from the lodge and had a chance to neutralize body temperature, gatherers are called together to share in closing prayers and the smoking of the sacred pipe, the čhaŋnúŋpa. Ceremonial closing songs or songs of gratitude maybe sung at this point.
Smoking The Chanupa Sacred Pipe - Sending the Breath
The holder of the chanupa, usually the water pourer, and anyone else in attendance who has accepted the great privilege of carrying a Chanupa, like fire keepers, or drummers, now light their Sacred pipe and send a voice with it. The caŋsasa they light is the same sacred caŋsasa that petitions were place into at the beginning of the ceremony, and that sat in the chanupa throughout the ceremony. It is said that the cansasa takes on all of the petitions of everyone who sent out their voice inside the lodge, both silently and aloud. In some instances, those who sat in the lodge stand in a circle, during the smoking of the chanupa. The pourer may “Touch” each person on the shoulders with the pipe’s stem, and blow sacred smoke -breath in their direction. This is symbolic of sharing of the sacred breath of the Creator-mystery. Some pourers pass the pipe around for each person to smoke and bless themselves.
Sharing of the Feast
At the end of the ceremony, everyone wishes everyone else a good life. After the ceremony is over, a traditional feast is often held by community with a pot luck. The Feast is a very important part of the ceremony and is the Give Away. Your thoughts while preparing your food are your blessings that are transferred into the food .This action of sharing the food is way to help feed each others Spirit and help Lift each other up. The feast also helps build a sense of family through the coming together in community.
Your own Feast bundle
Please note; There is no kitchen in our community building . Water has to be heated on the wood stove. It is a great help to bring your own table setting ; A plate, bowl, flatware, cup and anything else you may need for yourself and your family.
After the Feast
Your help with cleaning up the lodge space and the community is much appreciated.
Love Offerings (Donations)
In the past, people would contribute things such as food , blankets, horses, etc to the ceremony helpers. In contemporary times people have the opportunity to contribute financially in place of these things..Your Love Offering are way to help offset expenses such as Port-a-John, fire wood, building up keep etc. More importantly, your Love Offerings are also a way of reciprocating that creates opportunity to benefit the community such as bring in Elders to share their teaching. Which in turn helps Lift Everyone up. The amount that is offered is up to the person who is giving the offering. It is important to point out that giving a financial offering is not a requirement to participate in the ceremony.
In conclusion, many people might feel there are a lot or “Rules” based around the Spirit lodge or other Ceremonies. We invite you to come with an open mind and Heart, looking at them not as Rules but “Rhythms" helping to enrich your experience and bring yourself closer to the natural flow of life.
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