There are a few rules and courtesies that are requested for people invited to participate in The Bear Lodge (Sweat Lodge)
at "R.P.M.L. Ministries"., to follow. It is not a "public" sweat lodge and is by invitation only.
First, a little background.
The sweat lodge (Inipi) is a Medicine Lodge. It was initiated by Medicine Bear Whitebow a Pipe Carrier under the guidance
of a tribal elder and spiritual leader from the Heart Medicine Lodge in California, under Dancing Cloud an Apache Medicine
Woman, one of Bear's many teachers.
Unlike a Lakota (Sioux) lodge, the Lodge is under the medicine of the Bear, not the Buffalo.
Since I was trained
and initiated as a water pourer in this way,
those ceremonies are followed and honored.
Some practices differ. For many years, I have carried a pipe (canunpa) which was blessed by a (Apache) Medicine
Woman, and I may use this pipe in ceremony with the Lodge. Other practices reflect Cherokee (Asi or "Hot House") and other
tribes with whom I have ties and affiliations. Additionally, my shamanic training incorporates practices from several traditions.
So, if you are looking for a traditional Lakota sweat lodge, this will not be the case here.
The Lodge is a Bear Medicine Lodge, and it is dedicated as a healing center, which reflects the spiritual nature of the
Sacred Area: The Circle outlined by the flags of the Four Directions is a Sacred Circle. When ceremonies are under way,
those outside the Lodge and within the Circle should be in prayer or Silent Meditation, with no chitcat, unnecessary activity
or noise of any kind. The Sacred Area between the Altar and Fire is Holy and should be respected. The Firekeeper oversees
any activity within the Sacred Circle when ceremonies are under way. Nothing is to be placed in the Sacred Fire except by
the Firekeeper, and the Sacred Fire must only be tended by the Firekeeper or a designated helper. Do not litter. Pick up any
debris. No drugs or alcohol allowed; participants are expected to be sober and respectful of others at all times.
Women in the Moon Time are not allowed within the Sacred Circle or Lodge, since their Power at that time is so great.
Altar: The Lodge Leader places his/her Pipe and/or Sacred Bundle on the Altar on the North side; gifts to the Lodge Leader
are placed on the South side of the Altar; the West side of the Altar is kept open for foot traffic; the East side is open
for items to be blessed by the ceremony.
Pipes may be placed on the altar, bowl toward the West, with the Lodge Leader’s furthest North. Staffs may be planted
East of the Lodge Leader’s.
Do not step over the Sacred Altar/Sacred Fire Path; cross only between the Altar and the Lodge or on the East side of
the Sacred Fire. Only the Firekeeper may step between the Lodge and Sacred Fire.
Dress: Those participating in the Lodge Ceremony should be dressed modestly. For women, this usually means a simple cotton
dress to the mid-calf or ankle; for men, shorts. Shirts not required for men. Towels are allowed to be taken into the Lodge.
Any other item should be discussed with the Lodge Leader. No metal should be worn in the Lodge.
Entering The Lodge: Before entering, take a pinch of tobacco from the can next to the Altar and, clockwise, offer it
to each of the Four Directions, starting at the East, and sprinkling a little on the Altar. Then, gift tobacco to the Sacred
Fire before presenting yourself at the entrance to the Lodge to be smudged by the Doorkeeper with sage.
After being smudged, kneel at the door and thank the Earth Mother at the entrance to the Lodge, asking the Lodge Leader
if you may enter; the Lodge is entered on one’s knees, clockwise as far as a seat is available.
The ceremony includes four rounds, with each round usually getting hotter/more intense. It is acceptable to leave after
one round or two if the heat is too intense, though it is also prayers that may be needed for you, however for health or other
reasons, after a round if you simply must leave this is the time to do so.
Some may not wish to enter the Lodge. If so, do prayer ceremony outside the Lodge on the South side of the Altar. You
are still very much a participant there within the Sacred Circle.
If you must leave the Lodge, please wait until the current round is over, then ask the Lodge Leader for permission to
leave. Once one has left the Lodge, one cannot return to within the Lodge without the Lodge Leader’s permission. Only
the Doorkeeper may touch the door at any time.
Ceremony: The Lodge Leader chooses the type of ceremony and how it should be conducted. Silence is to be maintained unless
the Lodge Leader says otherwise. If moved to speak, ask: "Permission to speak, Lodge Leader?" When finished, signify by saying
"Aho," "Amen," or "Mitakuye Oyasin." Often, the Lodge Leader will call upon individuals to speak, or ask if they would share
their thoughts, or if they would like to sing a Sacred Song. When finished, signify the same way. Only the Lodge Leader and
Firekeeper handle the Grandfathers.
The ceremony lasts as long as Spirit directs.(Usually between one and a half to four hours.)There is no timeclock. There
are four rounds, usually with more Grandfathers added at each round. Between rounds, the door will be opened for fresh cool
air to enter.
It’s not unusual for Spirits to enter the Lodge during ceremony; in fact, they are specifically invited to enter.
Odd or unusual colors, shooting lights and sounds are often heard. The intense heat provides doorways to perception outside
of thinking. The best way to "beat the heat" is just to pray harder, "get out of your head and into your heart," with prayer.
This allows visions and insights not normally experienced. Pray out loud, cry, wail, if it helps. Remember to breathe.
When in the lodge, pray from the heart, in your own first language.
The Lodge is not meant to be an endurance test. Those inside the Lodge are sacrificing themselves for healing and visions;
they are not inflicting pain upon themselves for the sake of suffering. The intent is not to harm anyone, but help everyone
– including all in our Sacred Circles, all Beings, indeed, the Greatest Sacred Circle, our Earthly Mother and all her
Regarding Gifts: It is customary to give the Lodge Leader a gift. Since the most used items in ceremony are tobacco and
white sage wood or money for wood/supplies –( up to a third of a cord is used per sweat lodge ceremony) these are appropriate
and much appreciated. There is no charge at all for sacred ceremony, and no gift is expected. But gifts or donations, if guided
to do so, are welcome. Generally, participants are expected to bring nutritious food to share for the potluck (for feasting
after the ceremony), cold drinks to share, some wood for the fire (if possible) and a Grandfather (stone), if they have one
they believe would add good spirits.
Preparation: Most who do ceremony are there for an intense spiritual experience, so they may fast or pray for a day or
two prior to the ceremony, but it’s not required. A light meal several hours before the ceremony is OK, but it’s
not advised to have a heavy meal. Since the ceremony involves sweating, it is a good idea to drink plenty of liquids the day
of the ceremony, but not immediately beforehand, since the ceremony can last for hours. We have found that it is good to replace/supplement
with electrolytes and minerals that may be lost in profuse perspiration.
Bring: 3 towels: one to sit on, one to wipe off with after the ceremony, and one for drying after rinsing off at the
hose outside of the house. We have a shower available. Bring your sweat attire and warm clothing so that you are comfortable
for our time outside the lodge (Men bathing suit, Women skirt/T-shirt). Food. Donation. Water or healthy drinks of your choice,
though plain water or herb tea is best. Insect repellent and close toed shoes for the lodge area, which can be muddy. Do not
apply insect repellent to your skin directly before sweat lodge.
We pray this experience will for the highest good, filled with love and sharing.