During our stay in Tulum, we participated in a spiritual Mayan sweat lodge ceremony, known as a Temazcal. Translated it means “my house of heat,” the ancient ceremony is led by a shaman and originates from the indigenous people of Mesoamerica to purify the body and mind, heal the sick or provide a spiritual haven for women to give birth. This would be my first undertaking of the hotter than hot ritual, which is performed in a giant wood-fired pizza oven look a like. Inside it’s completely dark, there is no ventilation, nor is there an indication of how long you’ll be inside. I am fond of saunas and confident I start the ritual.
We are the last ones to enter the backyard of the lodges of Co Con Amor. Ten people including our female shaman are already meditating around a bonfire. A large stove stuffed with herbs, used during the ceremony is boiling above the fire. After we all put something special like jewelry on the altar to recharge with good energy, we strip down to our bare essentials. The shaman engulfs our bodies one by one with plumes of copal-infused steam and clouds of shamanic smoke. When it’s my turn I close my eyes, I hear her whisper spiritual Spanish spells, the smoke stings in my nose and I get goose bumps from the strange energy. We all get a copal stone, and are asked to set an intention for the spiritual journey we are about to take. In a row we all enter the hut on hands and knees, right at the entrance everyone whispers the magic words ‘for me and all my relationships’. When we’re all in one-by-one, red-hot gleaming rocks that have been directly shoveled out of the fire are brought in and put in a pit in the center of the hut. The firestones are also known as abuelas, the spirits of our grandmothers. It’s getting hotter by the second and I shuffle myself countlessly to find a comfortable position in the low hut. The door is shut and we are enclosed in total blackness. I take a deep breath as our shaman, begins chanting and pouring spiritual water over the stones. With loud sizzles clouds of smoke fill our little oven, packed with shoulder-to-shoulder bodies. Our shaman chanting summons the four elements. I hum along the melody of the songs as I don’t know the words, I forget about time and drink voracious as the bowl with medicinal tea is passed around. I keep my intentions in mind and try to open my heart as the shaman summed us to do. Just when I think the heat is about to break me up, we crawl out of the hut into the refreshing nightly air.
After a few minutes we go in for the next round, everyone quickly gets into a meditative trance. We sing and chant along to the steady beat of a drum, I sweat and smile. Temazcal is about opening up to receive an ancient spiritual healing, to bring problems to the surface and offering them up to the universe for release. It is about choosing growth, and leaving your fears in the dust. But without a cold shower in between -as I am used to when visiting a sauna- I am quickly overheated and ask for permission to leave. Outside I feel dizzy and try to catch my breath. I look up to the millions of stars glittering in the sky. I throw my piece of crystallised copal I kept with me during the whole ceremony in the fire to seal my intentions and feel relieved.
Pictures by Lotte & Iris