Temazcalli Re-Birthing

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North America » Mexico » Jalisco » Puerto Vallarta
April 10th 2007
Published: August 8th 2007
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For a few days now I have been searching for something traditionally Mexican, something with healing shamanistic kind of influences that I have read about for many years now, this is part of why I am travelling. I found a technique, Temazcalli Aztec sweat lodge, using all the Earth's elements, water, fire, earth and air, which have been practiced in Mexico since pre-Hispanic times. This is a timeless approach to spirituality and said to be similar to a Turkish steam bath but let me tell you it’s nothing like it; it’s earthier, religious and heat intensive. It is meant to symbolize a re-birthing ceremony. Perfecto!

A small group of people from all over the world stood within a stone circle in alliance with our birth sign, facing into a central god-ish statue. I am Aquarius, which is Air also known as HOW. Air is the intellectual thought, the thinker. In its loving form, it is, like a breath of fresh air. Air is also a wind that can cause much damage, angry storms, but a storm clears the air, which is a positive thing. The Air queue is not so popular as I had only 2 females behind me, four of them stood in the water queue which is pronounced HOO, this element cleanses, nourishes and enables growth and emotions, and finally four people in Earth known as HAW, this element represents flesh and bones, having feet firmly on the ground, stable foundations upon which we build. Haw, Hoo, How, Hee, HA!

We had a beautiful Mexican-shamanic lady speaking in Spanish throughout and Horhay who runs this amazing serene spa translated for us. We started with various exercise movements to open ourselves up. I realised I was ridged and had no real fluidity in my movement; I moved more like I had body rash that needed scratching. I realised while the translation was given I was holding on to a lot of bad stuff, we were told to let go of our pasts, our hurts, losses, disappointments, pain, materialism, expectations from others, this is all the things I have tried doing over the years. Haw, Hoo, How, Hee, HA!

It was no coincidence we were all there, it was as if the words were written just for me right there right then, I think everyone else thought the same by the looks on their faces. We were told to face east, jig about, then west jig about more, then north and south, to raise our hands to the gods and wave them in the air. We stretched our arms to the right, then to the left, up high to the sky again. Various falconry flew above our heads, a good omen we are told. Once we had all had a good old stretch and really tried to laugh along with our inner child, we were stripped to bikinis and shorts and placed in line man, woman, man, woman, the significance was balance, ying-yang stuff.

The temazcalli is a simple circular mud hut which is the same shape as a tortoise shell so the devil cannot hide, the tortoise shell is built of clay and sticks and has a beautifully painted exterior. Of course this shaped dome is to represent Mother Earth and her womb, a place we all need to symbolically revisit at various turning points in our lives. There are volcanic stones at the back of this clay womb which is heated up before we enter.

The fire and heat represents the male energy, a true balance is maintained throughout. There were more people than expected turn up for this ritual, so not much space around the cool clay wall; I had to sit right in the middle of the inferno circle. Today the temperature outside was higher than normal, which meant the clay walls which are meant to be feminine cool inside to balance the intense heat that flows from the stones didn’t work, the walls heated up to make the dome a complete pizza oven which soon became pure pain. It was dark inside, very, very dark and sweaty stinky wet. Shaman lady talked us through what our seven generations of great ancestors simply wish for us to do, by listening within, that whatever messages we hear they wish us to pass on to the next seven generations to come.

As Shaman lady was talking and Horhay translating the heat and our breathing intensified, I thought when there is intense heat if I lowered myself to the ground like advised in first aid courses I could possibly breathe more normally and not feel like my entire face was sliding off. I was trying to concentrate on the words spoken about the purposes of being reborn, go back to the womb imagine you are there they told us, which for me was a difficult thing to imagine after forty very long tiresome years ago, ‘let go, let go let go’, we took no water in with us which was a sad rule, nor did I take something to wipe my old skin down which was certainly shedding crud. My sinuses were clearing as huge amounts of snot poured out from my nostrils and back of my throat.

There were no dignified ways of blowing it all out in such a small space with no tissues, except by using hands, kind of proper Indian style, flinging it away to the ground and hopefully not into someone’s legs or worse face, it was so dark in there I don’t think anyone would have know the difference.

Some people were seriously hyper venting, (a good start for a re-birth or imminent unconsciousness) crying, yelping, thanking their guru’s, gods, asking for forgiveness, I wanted to do all the above but couldn’t, I held on to my resistance on every level. I jumped out my wilting skin when a sudden lengthy blast of primal screaming occurred egged on by shaman lady, everyone joined in apart from shy me, just as I thought to hell with it and pushed my English pride aside plucking up the courage to start screaming from my belly depths, all the others had suddenly stopped, and I felt an idiot. Just as I thought the end was nigh, my skin stripped to near exposure of muscle, my sinuses and part of my frontal lobes dissolved, alas all my internal organs were now in melt down, my heart nearly cracked my own sternum, temples and all visible arteries and veins throbbed, Venus kept returning over and over I tried to keep up with my own blood flow with slow focused breathing.

Without warning shaman lady chucked herbal tea on the hot stones. The heat cranked up to beyond a summers day in Dubai. One lady tries to make a run for it, a kindly man grabbed her ankles and told her to quietly lie on the floor, the best I could do was head for the crouching position on the mat and my god it only made a slight difference lying at lower levels. But then everyone wanted to hit the ground screaming, I was piggy in the middle it was awkward for me as shuffles and inappropriate touching of others while transitions were made into other orbits, I was made to feel obliged to sit up and regain personal space, when I sat full upright I hit the infernal wave of intense heat. Shaman lady talks more, with an intense tone to her voice, like in a chant, she only does it again when another three cups of this wasted tea had been thrown on to the stones, this was it, to hell with personal space, its every man for himself. I tried to lay down, I was summoning any out of body experience to happen right then, my breathing was rapid and deep, I felt this usually worked. I was earthed to the ground and forbidden to leave my physical body at this very important time.

I spotted that Horhay had a towel which he used it to waft the air, this only intensified the heat and did not cool it down. This wafting of a towel is apparently ‘POWER’ Said with squinted eyes and pursed lips. We all were oh Godding and bloody helling, of course my language was much harsher kept to a silent snarling whisper. Clearly we were all desperate to get out the one birthing tunnel which was up against the cool wall. This hefty lady behind me was not going to let me out either, I was frustrated and at this point wanted to pass out with the heat still waving like aftershock from standing up on my knees.

Now totally exhausted I pushed in front of the third woman turned myself around from feet first out the tunnel, to head first, I took a deep breath in and pushed myself out, landing face down in the grass outside, covered in other peoples body fluid, cooling off, very still, eyes closed. Coughed a lot, snorted out more stuff on to the grass, breathing the fresh air, I was alive, bliss.

It did feel amazing, lighter not just in body matter, but all my rubbish London life anxieties which mattered before was now passing. We finished off with an after birthing balloon water fight, the re-birthing process was now complete. No one died, no blood was lost, probably a few pounds in weight which can only be a good thing.


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