The rainy season is upon us, that's for sure. Though it hasn't rained yet at all, all the signs are clear that it is about to happen any day now. The temperatures are still around the same 30-35°C (86-95°F) as always, but the humidity is on the rise, and even though the sun beats down from the zenith with the same ferocity, the color of the sky has become so pale that one might mistake it for cloudy. In the afternoons rolling thunder from the distance might make us hope that the rain will reach here, but so far it's been one highly humid night after another. How is one supposed to cool off in these conditions? By taking a sweat, of course!
The Idea of a Temazcal
Our last volunteer Jonathan, who ended up quarantining with us, is quite knowledgeable in pre-columbian culture, Mexican mythology, ancient and revitalized traditions, songs, and dances. Not surprisingly, knowing about the different applications of a temazcal, or a traditional Mexican sweat-lodge, fits right into his area of expertise. So he was quite happy to share with us the different types of temazcal sessions, may they be for curative reasons, for spiritual ones, temazcals for women, temazcals for warriors, temazcals for vision quests, temazcals to bring back someone from an injury or sickness, or simply to enjoy a nice sweat.
Since Romain had some back issues during the build, Jonathan promised to hold a curative temazcal for him. So once we were finished with the Earthship build, we assembled the sweat-lodge.
Setting up the Temazcal
The structure of the temazcal is composed a number of flexible pieces of reed, bamboo, or what the locals here call otate. We stick both ends into the ground, leaving the middle part bent in form of a dome.
We attach horizontal pieces, tie them tight at the points where they cross, and cover the whole dome with tarps. We dig a hole in the middle of the ground inside the dome, where the hot rocks are going to go.
Assembling the temazcal was quite fast and easy, and each step was accompanied with a bit of ceremony: blessing the otate sticks, blessing the rocks, blessing the tarped structure. But what followed then were a few days of pause.
A Recreational Sweat
Romain, the main beneficiary of the ceremony was getting cold feet. Probably not literally in this heat, but more the kind where he didn't feel like participating in an ancient healing ceremony. After all, it included a long and intensive sweat session, followed by being wrapped up in blankets for half an hour, before being sent to bed with no beer and/or guitaring around. Honestly, I can understand him a bit.
So instead, we opted for a nice relaxing fun sweat. It was not going to be ceremonial, no visions from the spirit world were elicited, and nobody had to pass their limits in standing the heat. We had two sessions of maybe an hour in total, with a bit of chanting, and lots of delicious smelling herbs, but nothing too serious.
At first we got a nice fire going, outside, where the rocks had been prepared. Once they were red-hot, we were ready to start. We sat down inside the sweat-lodge around the hole, and Jonathan brought in the hot rocks, one by one, in a shovel. Once thirteen of them were glowing dimly in the dark tent, he joined us, closed the door, and started the first pour: hot tea of various aromatic herbs poured right over the rocks, so it evaporated it instantly. We saw the tea vapor rise up immediately from the rock pit, fill the top of the tent, then circle down to envelope us all in its delicious smell.
After four of five pours the rocks had lost their intense heat, so we added another thirteen. During this time while the door was open, we had a bit reprise from the heat, before immersing ourselves in it again. It was quite pleasant, actually, and I only started to suffer towards the end. When I emerged from the temazcal into the stale evening air, all of a sudden it felt so refreshing as it hadn't in a long time. The shower that followed was just as cool. And once I was all cleaned up, opening a beer by the table was a joy I could hardly compare to anything else.
The Temazcal for the Right Reason
In a way, I'm glad that Romain didn't decide to undergo the healing temazcal. Had he done it, I think I would not have wanted to join. Or, I may have left halfway through. Once I start getting too hot, struggling to breathe, I'm not good for it any more. Nor do I intend to see visions, hallucinations, or messages from the spirit world. But this short one-hour session was just perfect. While I was generous enough not to hog the first shower, I reveled in the soft evening breeze, slightly cooling and drying my skin. Though the hour just after sunset tends to have the best air, coming out from the heat it felt even more refreshing. I'm quite glad I had the pleasure to participate in it, before we disassembled everything, as we're closing the property for the season.