Friday, September 16, 2011

The Sweat Lodge

On the west shore of a pond in northern Rhode Island is a site with about 20 cairns.  Some of them have shapes suggesting effigies.
By the water's edge is a circle of stones about 5 feet in diameter.
The shape and location of this circle suggest it was a sweat lodge. I once found an article in an online copy of  The Narragansett Dawn describing how Indians would build a lodge of bent saplings and cover it with skins.  They would then place heated stones in the center and pour water on them to create steam.  After a  steam bath, they would bathe in the pond.  The Pilgrims believed bathing was unhealthy, and rarely washed their clothes.  One can only imagine what the Wampanoags thought.
I have seen other structures like this near water, as well as some far from water.  They may have had ritual as well as hygienic use, and I'll show some in later posts.  Here's my interpretation of the site on an early September morning.

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