The Ancient Ritual of Temaskal

Experience the ancient temazcal ritual


The sweat lodge or Temaskal has always been accepted as a North American tradition that originated with the Lakota, a tribe that comes from South Dakota, the great plains of the centre of the landmass. This ancient tradition is also to be found here in the Andes, passed down through generations until recently in secret, it shows remarkable similarity to its northern counterpart. The Andean masters of the sweat lodge claim that it originated with them and that the natives of the North learned it here on long ago journeys to the South. This indeed would be a logical explanation as to why it exists in both halves of the Americas.

The ritual is known in Quechua as the Chulla Chaka, the bridge of dew; a process of purification through water, air and fire or a condensation of dew drops of purity through the passage through the evaporation of the old and impure. It is a cleansing process on a deep level. Each of the four portals of tawantinsuyo, the matrix of creation, are opened so that the healing energies and forces from these four directions may enter this dimension and heal and balance the participants during the sweat. The Chulla Chaka begins when the female leader of the ritual lights the sacred fire in which the “Grandfathers,” or sacred stones are to be heated. Fire, Wilca Nina, is a masculine energy that is called into manifestation through the feminine, a seduction into life where the sacred dance of the masculine and feminine, Tinkuy, the yin/yang of the balancing act of life, seduction, struggle, reflection is played out. The stones are heated until red hot, around five hours, the women tending the flames as they infuse the healing energies of fire into the stones. Before entering the sacred space of the Chulla Chaka, intentions are set by offering a Q’intu, or group of three coca leaves, to the sacred fire and cleansing smoke from sandalwood is blown over the whole body. The participants enter the tent from the east and ask permission of Mother Earth and all her Spirit Entities to be cleansed and rebalanced, the sacred space within the lodge is entered as a womb-like space from which we emerge anew, reborn. The door to the outer world is sealed and the ritual begins; the first group of stones is brought in, carried by the antlers of a deer, whose touch is pure and prevents any negative energy from coming into contact with the stones. Water is poured over the hot stones and the first steam rises from the central pit as the prayers and songs of the leading shaman begin to circulate the healing energies of the earth.

The grandfathers are brought into the lodge in four rounds of thirteen stones and the healing essences of the medicinal plants macerating in the water poured onto the stones are released throughout the ritual. The participants are encouraged to release all impurities and imbalance to the earth that is seen in the Andes as a purifier and filter who transforms these into fertilizer for new life. As they  emerge from the Chulla Chaka, fresh spring water is poured over each participant in a final baptism of water, a welcome to the new life that awaits.

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