New York-based jeweller Jules Kim is a true original, a spiritual adventurer whose travels always lead to inspiration and personal insight. On a recent trip to Reykjavik, she decided to partake in an ancient sweat lodge ritual. THIS was her experience.
I recently had the blessed opportunity to be part of a ritual Icelandic sweat lodge in Reykjavik. My close friend and elfin sidekick, Imba, has been dropping stories about this unique experience for years. I always doubted whether I’d survive a session, due Imba’s stories about the intense heat. Then she suggested we book up, and I was excited and a little nervous.
Imba called ahead several days before our sweat and her friend, our future host, encouraged her to include at least 16 bodies to fill the lodge. But the night before our encounter, the number of real participants had dwindled to nine. Were they afraid they wouldn’t be strong enough to handle it?
Sweat lodge rituals have been used in cultures all around the world for centuries, as a place for purification and prayer. I wanted to enter to release some inner turmoil, but perhaps my neighbor was searching for a mystical connection. Each of us was choosing to partake in this otherworldly trial for our own reasons.
Our hosts were a Reykjavik gay couple, living on a hidden bunny farm in the town center. Upon arrival at their tiny, colorful house, friends from Germany, Iceland, the US and Italy congregated around the massive bonfire burning in the backyard of the property. The heat was overwhelming and as it roared in front of us, I became more and more aware of the hot rocks staring me down through the flames. These were the rocks that would be used to heat the lodge.
Imba was passed a handwritten note by our host as we stood around the fire, a group reading rendered from the tarot. Our host had given us the title “Ants,” and our key guidance was to exercise “Patience”.
Here’s what you need to know about my experience:
Know that each person in the group gets an individual reading based on their birth chart before the sweat, and that when this happens you will discover you’re not alone in seeking to find the best for yourself
Know that the ceremony begins with an hour-long group dance. The tracks on your playlist have been carefully chosen by your host to aid the entire group vibe before the sweat
Know that you will not recognize one song
Know that you change into your swimwear for the sweat itself
Know that the lodge is made of leather and wood, a womb-like structure erected 22 years ago with the guidance of a Native American Shaman invited to Reykjavik by Bjork’s mother
Know that, once inside, nothing can really prepare you for the heat. When the first hot rocks arrive from the bonfire, they will scald your throat
Know that you will be sitting in total darkness and that chanting mantras throughout will be a physical challenge in the heat
Know that you will be told to lie on the cold earth and breathe if you feel winded, and that the closer to the earth you get the cooler it will be
Two and half hours later, we emerged into the frozen darkness and slipped into hot tubs under the stars. A lovingly prepared organic meal was waiting for us, along with another reading for the following 24 hours. Collectively and in silence, we agreed that the sensation of rebirth was welcomed, the trial we had been through was worth it. Finally, I take words from our group reading which describe the intention of participating in such an intense physical and spiritual awakening:
Scared fire within us
Place of eternal flame
Burn away the barriers
In great mystery´s name
Teach us warmth and goodness, the love of Grandfather Sun, melting every difference until we are truly one
In all cases, fire medicine insists that we use the fire within to fill our lives with energy
This energy comes from Mother Earth´s passionate physicality and Grandfather Sun’s spontaneous LOVE
Then we are in BALANCE