Tradition in ceremony creates structure

Carrie JordanShamanism

As a child in church, I always thought that people sounded monotone during prayers and songs because there wasn’t much feeling. It has taken me this long to realize why that is!

Last weekend I went to a sweat lodge, an indigenous purification ceremony from the Native American and ancient Celtic (known as sweat houses) traditions.

The non-traditional ceremony took place on an island outside of Seattle. It is a on a beautiful piece of land where I have been before to sweat. There are tall, mossy trees, abundant wildlife, and a lovely community of elders and like minds.

This particular experience gifted me with the realization that respect for tradition supports an atmosphere of focus. It made me realize that tradition isn’t arbitrary—it is well thought-out and exists for a reason!

Let me explain: I found myself becoming quite annoyed by a very sweet woman sitting next to me in the lodge. During our prayer songs, she was singing louder than the rest of the group and with lots of “inflections”—she has a beautiful voice, however her singing made it very hard for me to focus on my process and my prayer songs.

My first thought was that perhaps I should examine why this was bothersome to me, but then I realized: In a traditional sweat lodge, no one sings louder than the person who is “pouring” (the person who is leading the lodge). This is for good reason—it creates a structure for those inside.

Singing repetitively creates a trance-like state, which helps one focus on their spiritual connection and their own prayers. I am so thankful for this lesson, and this deeper understanding of my needs and the beauty of tradition.