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Ceremony of the Inipi

Colombia Retreat

inipi photo

Ceremony of the Inipi

"By bowing low in order to enter this lodge, I am remembering that I am as nothing compared to You, O Wakan Tanka, who are everything. Help me to become pure, before I send my voice to You! Help us in all that which we are about to do!"– Black Elk

The rite of Inipi utilizes all the Powers of the universe: earth and the things that grow from the earth, water, fire, and air.

When we use the water in the sweat lodge we should think of Wakan Tanka who is always flowing, giving His power and life to everything. We should even be as water which is lower than all things, yet stronger even than the rocks.

The sweat lodge is made from twelve or sixteen young willows, and these too have a lesson to teach us, for in the fall their leaves die and return to the earth, but in the spring they come to life again. So too, men die but live again in the real world of Wakan Tanka, where there is nothing but the spirits of all things. And this true life we may know here on earth if we purify our bodies and minds, thus coming closer to Wakan Tanka, who is all-purity.

The willows which make the frame of the sweat lodge are set up in such a way that they mark the four quarters of the universe; thus, the whole lodge is the universe in an image, and all the things of the world are contained within it.

The rocks represent Grandmother Earth, from whom all fruits come, and they also represent the indestructible and everlasting nature of Wakan Tanka.

The fire which is used to heat the rocks represents the great power of Wakan Tanka which gives life to all things. It is a ray from the sun, for the sun is also Wakan Tanka in a certain aspect.

The round fireplace at the center of the sweat lodge is the center of the universe, in which dwells Wakan Tanka, with His power which is the fire.

The sweat lodge is always constructed with its door to the east, for it is from this direction that the light of wisdom comes. During the course of the Inipi the door will be opened four times, letting in the light. This is to remind us of the four ages, and how through the goodness of Wakan Tanka we have received the Light in each of these ages.
All these things are sacred to us and must be understood deeply if we really wish to purify ourselves, for the power of a thing or an act is in the meaning and the understanding.

When we leave the sweat lodge we are as the souls which are kept, and which return to Wakan Tanka after they have been purified; for we too, leave behind in the Inipi lodge all that is impure, that we may live as the Great Spirit wishes, and that we may know something of that real world of the Spirit, which is behind this one.

(Excerpts from the book The Sacred Pipe. Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux)