LTRP Note: The following is an excerpt on Nanci Des Gerlaise’s new release, Muddy Waters: an insider’s view of North American Native Spirituality. Many Native Spirituality practices are being embraced and practiced by both Native American and non-Native Christians. Nanci’s book is a vitally needed warning to the Church and a witness to unbelievers, pointing to the Gospel and Jesus Christ.
The sweat lodge is an important part of Native Spirituality. The lodge may be a small structure made of a frame of saplings, covered with skins, canvas, or blanket and resembling a sauna. Or it may be a large one that can accommodate as many as a dozen or more people. Inside, they splash water onto hot rocks in a shallow pit in the middle to make steam.
The medicine man or the facilitator of the sweat lodge sets the time for each session, which usually varies from half an hour to forty-five minutes. When the sweating starts, the elder invites the spirits into the sweat lodge. The door to the sweat lodge is always facing the east because this is where the sun resides. They never allow a woman in her menstrual cycle to enter during the ceremonies. They say she is in her “moon-time” and fear that power in her blood is present, which will cause the medicine man to weaken. (Here we see a mockery of the power of the blood of the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ.)
Sweat lodge ceremonies are done in complete darkness; this represents an individual returning to the womb and is suggestive of being born again. Their purposes differ in many ways: spiritual cleansing and renewal, healing, educating the youth, asking for guidance or direction in life, or making a spiritual offering.
Purification rituals also use the sweat lodge ceremony to start or end vision quests. And “to receive spirits, an individual first has to be clean both internally and externally, which is achieved by . . . bathing in a sweat lodge.”41
The medicine man or woman chants and prays repeatedly, calling upon animal, bird, or ancestral spirits to enter the sweat lodge. Different lineages have different spirits. In our lineage, the animal spirit was represented by the grizzly bear; the bird spirit is the eagle, and the ancestral spirits are referred to as “grandfathers” or “grandmothers.” The medicine men or women encourage spirits to occupy their bodies during public ceremonies. Other times they require these spirits to leave and to perform necessary acts. They sometimes go into trances to seek healing or lost items.
People used to come to my grandfather John’s place for healing through a sweat lodge ceremony. Sometimes it was because someone had cursed them through witchcraft or because someone was sick. A few wanted healing and freedom from substance abuse, but it never worked. Some even became worse, going into deeper bondage. On one of my many visits home to my paternal grandpa John and my dad, Dad told me that he had been a sergeant at arms (doorkeeper) for Grandpa John when they held sweat lodge ceremonies in various locations. Once when they were in Saskatchewan, Canada, in the middle of nowhere, Dad was waiting for the ceremony to end when he noticed two Caucasian teenagers walking in a semi-circle. As he watched them, they walked directly in front of him, turned into snakes, and slithered into the sweat lodge. Another time, he says he saw a deer do the same thing. I believe this was God’s way of showing Dad that sweat lodge ceremonies are evil. And, in fact, Dad told me that’s when he realized the ceremonies are the devil’s work. Unfortunately, Dad didn’t quit at that point but instead became an apprentice through my grandfather, John. Because Grandpa knew he wouldn’t live much longer, he handed down the dark supernatural powers to Dad. I’m sure that if someone had explained the truth to Dad, he most likely would have quit. But God never gave up on him, and today he belongs to Jesus Christ instead of the devil. In these ceremonies, we again see Satan’s counterfeit, as this type of purification is nowhere found in the New Testament. Only the blood of the crucified and risen Jesus Christ can purify us of our sins. The worst thing is that Native people do believe they are worshiping the true God and are expecting to go to Heaven when they die. And to make matters worse, Roman Catholic teaching is frequently combined with Native Spirituality, which focuses the Natives upon works rather than Jesus Christ. Like many, I ignorantly endorsed both teachings until someone shared the Gospel with me, and I was born again through the Lord Jesus Christ. Our mighty God does not come in a wafer as the Catholic Church teaches!42
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
For more information or to order Muddy Waters, click here.
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