The temazcal is a shamanist ceremony coming from Mexico, which aim is to purify the body and the soul. I had the opportunity to experience it during my volunteering at the Finca Prema Mandal.
The origins of Temazcal
The temazcal is a traditional ceremony native from the Americas, and more precisely from Mexico. In the Aztec language, “temaz” means steam and “Calli”, house. It is then literally a sweat lodge, a treatment that implies sweating, like the Roman thermal baths, the sauna or the hammam in other cultures.
It unfolds in a small hut in which centre are brought volcanic stones, previously heated in a fire, and on which are added aromatic herbs and water. With the temazcal, the wisdom and healing powers of the Air, the Water, the fire and the Earth are all invocated. It is a purifying ceremony, to reconnect with oneself.
I have talked about the temazcal with other people since I did it and it can be done in different conditions depending on the place and the people that do it. The experience that I tell here is what I had the occasion to live but is not an absolute model.
Also, I obviously didn’t take any photos before, during of after the ceremony, as this kind of experience cannot be photographed.
The ceremony was held close to a lagoon that is located on another part of the finca. A fire was held outside, around which we gathered one by one, once we had been “blessed” by Patricia or Advaita, who were running the ceremony. We sung a few songs and greeted Mother Nature on all the cardinal points, before being introduced one after another in the casa.
The space was as limited as I was told before (and even more as we were a lot of participants so the casa was full) and the smell of medicinal herbs already strong. Once all in the casa, the first volcanic rocks were introduced and the curtain at the entrance was closed; we were now completely in the dark. The first songs and incantations rose, I closed my eyes and started the trip.
The temazcal is held in four steps, called “doors”. Between each door, the curtain is open to let some fresh air come in, come back to its spirits, drink and introduce new stones for the next step. The first “door” is a comeback to the mother’s belly and when you were born, the second to the childhood, the third to the present and the last one to the future. The two last doors are even warmer and more intense; it is even said that the third is the most difficult to hold on.
I completely lost the notion of time during the ceremony but I think that each door lasted around fifteen or twenty minutes and that the overall experience from the beginning to the end took us about three hours.
Even more than the heat, the most difficult for me was my position. I was indeed sitting along the walls of the casa, which are very low so it forced me to be curved, with my legs folded close to me, as there was no space. It was hard not to focus on the pain after a while! I was also very concentrated to understand the Spanish, while I was discovering how the ceremony unfolded.
A lot of memories and pictures came to me all along the ceremony but I think I reached another level from the third door, once I managed to let it go and enter a sort of trance. The intense heat, the smell of the herbs, the instruments rhythms (a djembe and a sort of traditional tambour made out of leather) and the incantations literally transported me. I didn’t dare talking in Spanish (it is possible to ask for the permission to talk or sing at some points) but strong thoughts and realizations came to me.
I went out of the casa feeling groggy and slightly dizzy. We all went in silence into the lagoon to refresh and I then came back to take my shower. I was feeling completely exhausted physically and mentally. The notion of body and spirit purification can definitely be felt and I confirm that one shouldn’t try to attend a temazcal without feeling ready to live this spiritual and personal journey.
And you, did you already try the temazcal? Was it different?