Mayan or Native American Steam Bath (Temazcal)

March 3rd, 2009 by Jerimiah Molfese

The Mayan or Native American Steam Bath (Temazcal) is included with the

Interactive Workshop Combining Healing and the Didgeridoo June 19th 2009

The practice of inducing a healthful sweat has long been known to be beneficial in detoxifying the body and helping to cure sicknesses of the skin, liver and circulation as well as relieving symptoms of rheumatism, arthritis, gout, muscular pains, colds and congestions and other chronic diseases. On the psychological and spiritual level it helps to remove tension, stress, fears and negative energies that one harbors within themselves. The Temazcal, because of its special methods, is perhaps the most effective of this kind of curative technique, certainly the list of conditions for which it has been used in the course of centuries is the most extensive.

The name Temazcal, or temazcalli is made of two Nahuatl words, temas, which means bath, and calli, meaning house. At the time of the Conquest, they were found everywhere in almost all of central and southern Mexico.
The Temazcal is oriented according to the cosmic directions: the fire which heats its stones is placed towards the east where our Father, the sun, the god called Tonatiuh, arises; he is the light or masculine element which comes and fertilizes the womb of the mother earth (the chamber of the Temazcal itself), and so life is conceived. The doorway through which the bathers enter and leave is oriented toward the south, “the pathway of the dead”, which begins with birth and ends in death, to the right of the path of Sun. In this way, the ever present duality of traditional Mexican thought is manifested. Just as there are mother and father, sun and earth, hot and cold, so we are born and, in being born, we begin our path towards death.

When we enter the Temazcal, according to this ancient doctrine, we return once again to our mother’s womb, presided over by the great goddess, Tonantzin or Temazcaltoci, the great mother of both gods and humans. She is our beloved mother, concerned with the health of the children and she receives us into her womb – of which our own mother’s womb is but a microcosmic manifestation – to cure us of physical and spiritual ills. The entrance way is low and small, and through it we enter a small, dark, warm and humid space, in this way recreating the uterus, cutting off the outside world and giving us a chance to look inside and find ourselves again. Our re-emergence through this narrow opening represents our rebirth from the darkness and silence of the womb.

Through the use of heated volcanic rocks and special herbs the trained healer, called a Temascalera, combines heat and humidity to help purify the body. The high heat and the high humidity, taken together, produce their healing effects, basically, through reducing or impeding the body’s mechanism for cooling itself. The heat, higher than normal body temperature, induces sweating; the high humidity inhibits the evaporation of the sweat, the chief method through which the body normally cools itself, and thereby, blood circulation is increased, sweating is increased, and the elimination of toxins is maximized.

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