Temazcal is an ancient Mesoamerican tradition

One of the best things about visiting Mexico is its unmatched cultural heritage and fascinating traditions. Throughout this region’s history, it has been home to five major civilizations including the Mayan civilization and the Aztecs.

Temazcales were used in pre-Hispanic times: many vestiges of ancient sweat lodges have been found within ceremonial centers, and interestingly, frequently associated with ball courts. The construction was similar to that of palaces and temples, and their size, in comparison with modern examples, shows that they were buildings of great importance. Temazcales represented a place of transition, similar to a cave or womb – a symbolic passage between the heavens and the underworld. They were used for both ritual and medical practices by priests, warriors, and players of the Mesoamerican ball game.

Traditional symbolism

At its heart, the ceremony symbolizes death and rebirth with the Temazcal itself representing the womb of the mother. A Temazcal ritual is more than a simple steam bath: it’s a ceremony that envelops physical, mental, and spiritual elements, led by a Temazcalero or Temazcalera who guide the proceedings according to ancient customs.

The Temazcal ceremony blends the physical benefits of a steam bath with ancient traditional rituals and medicinal herbs to aid purification and healing. A Temazcal thus opens a space for personal reflection and contemplation, and some also use the practice as part of an effort to overcome some personal difficulty they may be passing through.

The area surrounding the Temazcal is blessed with incense in the four cosmic directions: north, south, east, west, which also represent the four elements of earth, water, wind and fire.

North: Our elders, ancestors, traditions and air to symbolize stories

South: Intentions, manifestation and strength to make things happen

East: Consciousness, awakening, knowledge and light (where the sun rises)

West: The dark side to everything (where the sun sets)

The Ceremony

Before beginning the ceremony, the guide or “temazcalero” will perform a purification technique with copal, as was customary in the magical-religious rituals that were celebrated throughout Mesoamérica.

To carry out the ceremony they participate: The fire man who initiates with the preparation of the purifying flame and the burning stones to then introduce them; Who receives the stones and accommodates (usually received with deer antlers); Who deposits medicine (aromatic plants and vegetable resins) on each stone; And the Temazcalero / Guide (woman or Medicine man) who runs the ritual and who is consecrated to unite water and fire.

In the entrance we ask with love and respect “for all my relationships, permission to enter the Holy Temazcal.” Women and children enter first, kneeling, in the clockwise direction sitting around the center which is a well that represents the navel of Mother Earth, in which the volcanic stones (grandmothers) introduced to red Vivo are deposited; We call them grandmothers because they represent the memory of the Earth, the wisdom of all the ancestors and the universe, the stones symbolize the “semillas de la vida, el conocimiento”.

The temazcalero uses some branches to “call the steam”. He chants prayers and at the same time sprinkles the hot stones with water. The temazcal songs are a fundamental part of the ceremony.

When entering a temazcal, the intention is to leave all negativity there (pains, fears, regrets, bad actions, etc.) and at the same time it is requested through prayers for beneficial changes, health and wellness.

A temazcal bath invites us to transform our lives and be reborn to start a new cycle.

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