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Making of a Temazcal: Mesoamerican sweat lodge

Temazkal Giorgio
Temazkal Giorgio

Local benefits:

Showcase a tradition inherited from the pre-hispanic civilizations of Central America.

Travellers benefits:

Offer an original activity toyour visitors with therapeutic properties.

Benefits to the environment:

Fits perfectly into the landscape and can be self-built with natural material.

Description

Balam offers eco-tourism excursions to the travelers looking for a self-tailored trip, sharing by his side an archeological, anthropological and cultural adventure into local Maya culture. Besides this, he also offers temazcal building to hotels or individuals. It is part of the mission he set up for himself, which is “to allow visitors to discover and experiment an ancestral mesoamerican ritual”.

What is it for?

  • Therapeutic properties: Through corporal sweating and the use of medicinal plants, a temazcal allows a body purification.
  • Spiritual properties: Through its mind-relaxing effects, as in a moment of meditation. “In a temazcal you do not think about the past nor the future, you are in the present and you get back to the original state of the being in contact with mother nature”, Balam explains. The temazcal allows a close contact with the four elements: Water, fire, air and earth, and a “spiritual purification” according to the Maya and Aztec traditions. The temazcal was a ceremonial place allowing a “spiritual awakening”.

Temazkal Giorgio

How to build a temazcal?

Some basics:

  • The entrance must be facing east (entrance of the sun) and the temazcal usually as a circular shape.
  • Its structure is made of “bars” which could be made of material of your choice. In this case, Balam uses sapodilla wood (typical Mexican tree, which also provides the “chicle”, a kind of white latex previously used as a chewing-gum). It is important to use a very flexible wood, as you then have to fasten the stems to the ground (with cement in this case), before to join them in the center (with an igloo shape)..
  • You must dig a hole in the ground in the center of the temazcal, where you’ll dispose the hot volcanic rocks.
  • The ground can be made of bare ground, or sand, palm leaves or petate (carpets made of palm leaves).
  • The structure can be covered with plastic or airtight cloth material. You can then cover it as you wish to have it fit into the landscape.

For more information, you can find a temazcal building practical guide on this website for example.

And then, how to use it?

Once the building is achieved, you have to light up a fire inside to warm up the volcanic rocks, as well as some water mixed with plants. Everything must then be put in the hole in the center of the temazcal. To know more about the “temazcal experience”, read this article.

Translated from French by Guillaume Rey.

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