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What is a Temazcal?

Temazcal3

The Temazcal is a  steam bath  used in Mesoamerica for hygienic, ritual, therapeutic and spiritual purposes.

The word Temazcal comes from the Nahuatl word “Temazcalli”, (temaz-sweat, calli-house); its literal translation would be “sweat house”.

Temazcal

The Temazcal is a kind of generally round hut that is between two and four meters in diameter and does not exceed one and a half meters in height, with a tiny opening that serves as an entrance door. In some cases it has a stove (tlexictli), where the wood that heats the room is placed through a wall, and in others (when they are located outside the houses), a large bonfire is made where the firewood is heated. Stones, containers with water and medicinal herbs. This sacred fire represents the god of the sun, whose fertilizing and creative energy heats the volcanic stones.

Often a circle of stones with objects representing the ancestors is also placed to recognize the spiritual presence of the grandparents.

The Temazcal played for a long time an important role in the social and religious life of the Mexican people, these architectural structures and above all, the ritual that was carried out there, came to be considered one of the most relevant ceremonies for various indigenous cultures, mainly of Mesoamerica and North America. 

Both for ancestral peoples and for hundreds of people who practice the Temazcal ceremony today, the heat, steam and sweat cause a purification of body and soul, in communion with nature, well known by ancestral cultures.

In itself, the Temazcal represents the earth, the goddess who sustains us and gives us life; When the person enters it, it is said that he/she is entering the womb of mother earth and therefore has the shape of a “dome” with small dimensions representing the mother’s womb.

How is the ritual performed in a Temazcal? Steps you should know in the Temazcal ceremony

If you plan to attend a Temazcal ritual, it may be helpful to know exactly what is done in a temazcal. Discover here the phases of the Temazcal, both the procedure that is performed before, as well as during and after the Temazcal ceremony. 

  1. Before the Temazcal ceremony

When it is considered that the Temazcal is hot enough, the participants are called. 

Before entering it is important to eliminate traces of chemicals such as biodegradable sunscreen, the person who runs the bathroom cleans each one with “copal”. 

Copal is an aromatic plant resin, a very important element in the medical and religious tradition of Mesoamerica since pre-Hispanic times, whose smoke purifies and was used as an offering to the gods or as a therapy for physical and spiritual ills.

  1. Entrance to the Temazcal ceremony

You enter the bathroom from the back and wearing appropriate Temazcal clothing: either underwear or bathing suits (formerly and in private bathrooms, you entered naked).

The attendees sit in a circle leaning on the walls of the enclosure, in the center of which burning stones are placed that are sprinkled with water and herbs to form the vapors. The small entrance opening is closed with jarapas or skins, leaving the room in absolute darkness.

  1. Beginning of the Temazcal ritual

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The  guide of the ceremony or “Temazcalero”  uses some branches to “call the steam”, at the same time that he chants prayers while he continues to splash the stones with hot water. In addition, the Temazcal songs are a fundamental part of the ceremony. 

The 4 doors of the Temazcal are opened throughout the ceremony, up to a total of four times, and new red-hot stones are introduced while the shaman guides the participants in a kind of meditation with the aim of doing a spiritual cleansing with the help of Mother Earth.

  1. Completion of the Temazcal ceremony

Finally, after the four times have elapsed and the four cleaning doors closed, the assistants go out crawling, as if they came out of the womb and the feeling of being reborn again to life.

Outside, the guardian welcomes us, holding some smoking rocks and surrounding us with the smoke of medicinal branches.

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What to do after the Temazcal?

A refreshing swim in a nearby cenote can put the icing on this mystical, beautiful and magical experience.

The healing properties of Temazcal

– On the skin : It acts as a regulating mechanism for the internal temperature of the body, allowing the elimination of accumulated toxins. In people who live in contaminated environments and their pores are clogged, the Temazcal stimulates the renewal of the skin as it favors the desquamation of the superficial layer, at the same time activates the formation of the acid mantle and protects against skin infections.

– In the respiratory system . Mainly for problems such as flu, bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis. As the temperature rises and the steam combines with the aroma of medicinal plants, the respiratory tract is unblocked. There is an increased blood flow, expelling accumulated toxins from the lungs and bronchi.

– In the circulatory system . The Temazcal produces an increase in blood circulation, dilating the vessels and facilitating the expulsion of toxins and uric acid and cholesterol. So it is used to treat problems of diseases related to circulatory deficiencies.

– In the nervous system. During the bath there is a relaxing and stimulating effect on the body, thus reducing problems of stress, insomnia, nervous tension, and so on.

– In the digestive system . Improves intestinal activity, eliminating fluids and fats to help lose weight.

– In the muscular apparatus. Improves activity to prevent problems of sprains, bumps, strains and inflammation.

– For childbirth and postpartum. Traditional midwives used it as a preventive, curative and birth care means. They used to bathe women in the Temazcal with medicinal plants, allowing the womb to expand to make labor easier: “The Temazcal ceremony is a powerful moment in our lives, an opportunity to reconcile ourselves, with ourselves, with all our relationships, with life, with health, strength, with our spiritual path, stop and find ourselves. “

Different types of Temazcal

Social
Its main function is to relax the body and mind , meet and socialize, benefiting from the medicinal aspects of steam. 

Ceremonial
It is the most complete. It brings with it all the physical, mental and cultural benefits , in addition to penetrating the mystical ritual , in which a dance is performed towards the four cardinal points, which makes it extremely fascinating.  

Healing
In the healing Temazcal, only the healer and the patient enter. Your goal is to cure a specific disease . It will be different for each disease and for each patient. Sometimes it will be very hot, sometimes colder, and different herbs and techniques will be used. Its duration can also vary.     

Guerrero
is also ceremonial , but focuses more on the mind and spirit than on the body. It requires great physical and mental preparation, since it is very hot , so much so that most people would not resist it, and if it is not handled with prudence and responsibility, it can be very dangerous. Its objective is to temper the mind and spirit to be able to face adverse situations with ease. It develops the will and confronts us against our weaknesses, fears, vanities and selfishness.        

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