Hello all, I’m really excited to be here on Tony’s infamous blog. This site was the first thing I found online about Tarapoto before moving here, which is no big surprise, because it’s such a wealth of good info and tips.
So… I’m Lisa, US native and current expat living in Tarapoto, Peru. I’ve been teaching English, writing a blog, and living around the country for nearly 3 years now. I’m going to share a little bit about Temazcal ceremonies, how it works, and a few tips if you’re thinking of participating. This is based on my experience and the specific way the Temazcal in Tarapoto is run, but it may vary greatly in other areas.
So What is a Temazcal?
Temazcal is a cleansing ritual practiced by native people of the Americas for physical, spiritual, and emotional healing. It is really embraced as a medicine. While the tradition is from North and Central America, it has also spread to South America. You may have heard of it referred to as a ‘sweat’ or ‘sweat lodge,’ because essentially you sweat out lots of impurities in a small lodge.
Is this a religious practice?
Temazcal isn’t associated with any religion and everyone is welcome to participate. The most important thing is that everyone is respectful and willing to learn about the tradition. It’s a nature-based practice based on the four elements.
- Fire is used to heat stones until they are very very hot.
- Water is poured on the hot stones to create the vapor for healing.
- Earth is important because it is grounding and keeps us cool, even in the intense heat.
- Wind refreshes the Temazcal between endurances and keeps it cool.
What is the process like?
There are a few essential parts of the ceremony, which can also vary depending on the tradition and people (here is another historical and authentic perspective of the sweat lodge from a Native American). I have broken it into four parts to explain briefly what happens:
- Gathering circle – everyone is smudged, given a piece of tobacco, and welcomed into the circle around the fire. The leader guides the group to call forth the spirits from all the directions. Then each person sets their own intention and puts the tobacco in the fire.
- Entering the Temazcal – each person asks permission from their family to enter and enters from the left side and going to the right. When everyone is inside you will be welcomed into the Temazcal and learn a little bit about its significance. It’s a spiritual place where everyone is respected. It’s a place to pray, sing, chant, and express one’s feelings and hopes. It will be very hot, but a few things can help to cool you. Staying low to the ground, breathing through your teeth, and minimal movement will make the heat more bearable.
- Four endurances (or puertas) – each endurance has a focus, such as family, friends, self, etc. To begin, the heated stones will be added into the hole in the center of the lodge and water is poured over to create the vapors. Different herbs are used in each healing puerta. After each round, the door will be opened for air to pass in and to add more stones and create more vapor. The end of the fourth endurance is called the ‘rebirth,’ which is symbolic of going through so much and finally being welcomed back into the world.
“Agua mi sangre,
Tierra mi cuerpo,
Aire mi aliento,
Y Fuego mi espíritu.”
- Closing circle – everyone leaves the Temazcal to hug and greet others. There’s a brief gathering in the circle to give thanks and close the ceremony. Then we always share fruit, hydrate ourselves, and jump in the river.
Temazcal Ceremony Info
Being a sacred ritual, it’s important to be respectful and open to participating and learning.
The ceremony is held in Spanish, but everyone is invited to express themselves in their own language.
It does get very hot inside the lodge and it’s possible to get dizzy or weak, either during or after. Just be aware that you are able to leave the sweat at any point if needed. And having water on hand is a good idea.
General Tarapoto Temazcal Info
Temazcales are normally held every other weekend in Tarapoto, either on Saturday or Sunday (watch this handy YouTube video for directions).
Cost is based on the Quechua practice of ‘ayni’ or ‘mutual help.’ A suggested donation is S/.5 to S/.10 and bring fruit or juice to share.
Be prepared to sweat (it is a sweat lodge, after all). Women can wear a bathing suit or loose dress/skirt. Men should wear shorts.
It’s nice to clean off in the river afterwards. Bring a towel!
It’s buggy, so I’d recommend some bug spray (natural).
If you’d like to learn more about Temazcal, read this in-depth explanation. I hope this has been interesting and perhaps helpful if you’re thinking of participating in a ceremony.
Thanks again for having me, Tony!