Purification and Cleansing: The Lakota Inipi Sweat Lodge Ceremonies

Great stuff from Know-thyself that talks about the purification ceremonies:

An Inipi is a purification ceremony, which is common among many Northern Woodland and Plains tribes. The Lakota Inipi or Stone People’s House is perhaps the most widely utilized and understood form of this ceremony today. Therefore its procedure is universally accepted as the standard by most people. There is also a ceremony of purification that is used by the Denéh in their Hogan. The Hopi have a Kiva Ceremony for this form of purification as well. Here we present a basic understanding of the Lakota Inipi for use as a healing lodge, a People’s Lodge.

The Inipi Ceremony is often performed prior to many Lakota Ceremonies, it is the preparation of our bodies and spirits through purification. The People’s Lodge, or Healing Lodge does not require that a ‘medicine person' pour the water, any person who is respected by those attending can be chosen for this service. This is usually a person who has had a substantial amount of experience and, or training by elders with this ceremony.

On Knol, Paula Bidwell outlines several different types of Inipi ceremonies including these:

There are also Sweat Lodge ceremonies for the healing of illnesses. These are called “Doctoring Sweats”.  These ceremonies may only have the patient and medicine person in the lodge. The rest of us would stay by the fire and pray or be busy in the house cooking. Or sometime there may be a few singers and other people close to the sick person inside the lodge.


Then there are Sweat Lodges for activating, renewing or cleansing of sacred objects, medicines or canunpas (sacred pipes).  In the case for cleansing, these are very serious ceremonies. It means that something has happened to the sacred object that has harmed or weakened it. The need to cleanse a sacred object is a very sad thing. Many tears are shed during these ceremonies. For the renewal of a sacred object or medicine is far less serious and is a little like breathing fresh air into it and letting the sun shine all over it. Activating a sacred object is another serious ceremony. It is necessary when a person takes the responsibility of carrying a canunpa (sacred pipe) for the people. This is best done where the Buffalo Calf Pipe resides in Green Grass, South Dakota. Although, I have heard of it done in other places when necessary. Activating other types of sacred objects or medicine can happen anywhere, but usually takes a Medicine person to conduct the ceremony.

Sun Dance Sweat Lodges are especially for the people preparing to Sun Dance they are held frequently during the time of preparation. Sweat ceremonies are also held during Sun Dance for the Dancers and for the people attending.

Image from Satzmeister on Flickr