Author Topic: Sweat Lodges and Inuit Tradition  (Read 10450 times)

Offline Alraune

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Sweat Lodges and Inuit Tradition
« on: July 01, 2008, 12:47:09 pm »
Hello,
I am interested in learning if sweat lodges are part of Inuit tradition.
Thank you in advance for your time.
What a great website!
Sincerely,
Alraune

Offline educatedindian

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Re: Sweat Lodges and Inuit Tradition
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2008, 01:40:59 am »
This is not definitive by any means without speaking with people in Inuit communities. But online there are very few references to the Inuit haivng them. One of the few comes from an amateur historian. A lot of what he calls a sweatlodge is simply staying by a warm fire indoors, and he's doing what we've criticized others doing before, deliberately ignoring the difference between sweatlodges and simple saunas or sweating for health reasons.

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http://www.cyberbohemia.com/Pages/directfire.htm
Alaskan Eskimos, some Pacific Coast tribes and the Pueblo Indians in the Southwest built lodges heated directly by fire. They were usually large enough to accomodate dozens of men. (Women were rarely allowed inside these"men's clubs.") A small pilot fire was kept burning most of the day. After hours of talk, gossip and dancing the fire was fed to a noble size, thelodge became torrid and sweating began.

Although caustic smoke filled the air, these people made no effort to convert to the hot rock method, though they surely knew of this alternative. Without stoves or chimneys, a blazing central fire was the simplest way to convert a men's club into a sudatorium. When the smoke became unbearable, the men would simply lie flat on the floor and breathe fresher air....

Eskimo men endured long dark winters in the glowing warmth of a sweat lodge while carving spears or knotting nets for the coming spring....

The Eskimos used the kashim as their social and religious center. It was a rectangular wooden structure, large enough to house bachelors and male travelers and as a clubhouse for married men. They were dug partially underground, insulated with dirt or sod with a single tunnel entrance and a small hole in the roof for smoke to escape. This style plank house was found along the Pacific Coast as far south as northern California. Central Alaskan Eskimos, lacking timber, never built sweat lodges. Aleutian Eskimos never built the sweat lodge until it was introduced by Russian traders inthe early 18th century.

Until recently, coastal Eskimos held a festival every autumn to honor the ribbon seal. Preparations lasted a month. During this time men lived in the kashim apart from the women. During the day the men danced, composed songs and planned their winter hunts. Come evening, they would stoke a big fireand create a fierce heat. They emerged, dripping with sweat, rolled themselves in the snow and doused themselves with icy water.

In 1899, Edward Nelson observed Eskimos of the Bering Straits and their very curious method of cleaning:

"In these buildings (kashim) sweat baths are taken by men and boys at intervals of a week or ten days during the winter. Every man has a small urine tub near his place, where this liquid is saved for use in bathing. A portion of the floor in the center of the room is made of planks so arranged that it can be taken up, exposing a pit beneath, in which a fire of drift logs is built. When the Smoke has passed off and the wood is reduced to a bed of coals, a cover is put over the smoke hole in the roof and the men sit naked about the room until they are in profuse perspiration; they then bathe in the urine, which combines with the oil on their bodies, and thus takes the place of soap, after which they go outside and pour water over their bodies until they become cool. While bathing they remain in the kashim with the temperature so high that their skin becomes shining red and appears to be almost at the point of blistering; then going outside they squat about in the snow perfectly nude, and seem to enjoy the contrasting temperature. On several occasions I saw them go from the sweat bath to holes in the ice on neighboring streams and squatting there, pour ice water over their backs and shoulders with a wooden dipper, apparently experiencing the greatest pleasure from the operation.

Nelson also observed a clever way of protecting the lungs from the causticsmoke:

"Owing to the intense heat generated in the fire pit, the bathers, who are always males, are obliged to use respirators to protect their lungs. These are made of fine shavings of willow or spruce bound into the form of an oblong pad formed to cover the mouth, the chin, and a portion of the cheeks. These pads are convex externally and concave within; crossing the concave side is a small wooden rod, either round or square, so that the wearer can grasp it in his teeth and thus hold the respirator in position."

Offline Sparks

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Re: Sweat Lodges and Inuit Tradition
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2019, 03:02:56 am »
Hello,
I am interested in learning if sweat lodges are part of Inuit tradition.
Thank you in advance for your time.
What a great website!
Sincerely,
Alraune

I found educatedindian's reply very interesting, and I found additional information and photos. Before I do anything more I note what happened to the original poster:

Alraune … uses the same email address as Annabel Lee, a völkisch-racist musician who has translated the works of Italian fascist guru Julius Evola. Clearly the words of someone with such bad judgment should be viewed with suspicion.

Alraune/Lee is now banned. Racists are not welcome here.