We all want to be better people. We all have demons we want to expel. We all live in the fear we are alone, but in this, ironically, we unite. Living in the world today is front page news, and to avoid disease, every one of us needs to disengage.

A big hulking man friend of mine told me he attends this sweat lodge in Lanseria, and he said we should go. If you know me at all, you will know I have a slight obsession, fascination, past life romance with Native America. If I could live in a Teepee in Johannesburg I would, but it’s hard to find any on the market and I just haven’t found anyone with the right experience to build me one big enough to fit my life in, ….So I dabble in things. The Sweat Lodge is a sacred Native American Ceremony dating back thousands of years. It’s basically a dome shaped hut where you enter for purification and exit newborn, from the womb.  On a small holding in Lanseria, JHB, a place called the Jazz Farm hosts Sweat Lodge Ceremonies open to the public. Home to Julian and Myrtle, or better known as the “Dagga Couple” a reeded hut and firepit adorns their back garden.

Javier, a Columbian shaman is visiting Johannesburg, and he is hosting the ceremony. When we arrive, I am not in the mood. When you see the size of the “door” and realise what you are going to put yourself through, all sorts of fears start to enter the cerebellum. I did contemplate not joining in, but then I would feel like a failure, not to those watching, but to myself. Javier is stoking the fire, heating up the stones. And we hesitantly wait. Before you enter, you purify yourself of any evils with a smudge stick along the back the legs the feet the face. Then you enter clockwise.I dont have a camping chair with me. I have to sit on the floor and I have to shovel in with 27 other people. Elders, middle elders and us. This is a Temezcal sweat lodge – based on the Lakota Sioux sweat lodge, we have 4 “doors” to complete. Each door represents an element, fire, earth, air, water. As the fire starter ladles in Rocks, we are told to welcome the grandfathers and grandmothers of the earth. Red hot rocks enter and we clap, ” welcome Grandmother” welcome mother earth, welcome wakantanka. It’s all totally Hippie.

For real, I can see Chief Crazy Horse in front of me, and I feel like I’m in ancient North America, and I will come out with a new name. This is all in my head, but this is what I am Channeling today – to expel my demons, and to sweat my fear. When the “door” closes it’s pitch black. The drum starts… Javier starts to sing.

The first door is terrifying. I have no idea what to expect. During the ceremony we used 80 liters of water. Javier throws water on the hot rocks and starts to gently bang his drum. It’s tough to sit with your knees crossed on a mat next to strangers and pretend to be comfortable. The sweat starts to drip. I can feel my pores opening up and my chest expanding. Tough to breathe through the mouth, all sorts of fears enter your mind. What if I start having a panic attack or think Im having a heart attack or what happens if the hut sets on fire and what if and what if? Fear is like a tricksy gollum in our heads and part of the process of this ceremony is to tame the conscious mind and  meditate yourself into a sub conscious level. 2nd door opens and more rocks are introduced. It’s ok, it’s manageable, but my back is killing me. The lady next to me tells me to put my head close to the floor if Im feeling anxious or to touch the sand at the back of the hut, for coolness.  Great idea when you’re covered in sweat. It helps, but soon I have mother earth in my hair and up my nose and painted on my face. Door 3 and the intensity is overwhelming. Jules (1 half of the Dagga Couple) starts to sing in English. It almost sounds like a Beatles song, and this obviously connects with me on some deeper metamusical level. I find space to lie down, I cant sit up anymore balancing on my back bone.

When the door opens again I am entering “had enough” space. Javier says he doesn’t want to push the first timers as we may not come back. Then the door closes again and by this time I am swearing at the GrandMother rocks. You’re meant to focus on your intentions in the lodge and send positive energies to those you think need it. Ill be honest, I didn’t see the face of God in the dark or have any major revelations,  but the effects hit you later. After being told we could leave the sweatlodge, you crawl out on hands and knees. My fingers felt like they were buzzing, like all the blood in my body was boiling and my energies aligned. Of course, we do then jump in the very tempting pool and realise it’s winter and it’s like jumping into the Siberian Sea.

Everyone has a different experience and some people become regularly sweaty. The week after the sweat I woke up on Monday not entirely hating the world and I felt focussed, relaxed and less rabbit in the headlights. The health benefits of a sweat lodge are huge, and I probably have given myself an extra few months to live. I might be back, I might not be back. I’ll see what the city throws at me.
Perhaps you need a purge too.
Thanks To The Dagga Couple, Jules and Myrtle who served us soup and home made bread afterwards
SweatLodge ceremonies are held at the Jazz Farm and you can email them and ask to be added to the newsletter – thejazzfarm@gmail.com
Words / Photos (Respectfully taken on discreet Iphone).
Joanne Olivier