AK note: Thank you all so much for the love and positive feedback I’ve gotten in the last few days. It’s so exciting and humbling that this project I thought wouldn’t go outside of my family and a few friends has taken really taken off. I’m so appreciative of the support and so glad these issues are getting out there!
So, I had another post all ready to go for today, but then logged onto Jezebel this morning and saw this post entitled: “Sweat Lodges: The Therapy of Choice for Bros”, and decided that after the comment thread on the post about tribal fashion yesterday (here) I should say something.
The Jez post is based on an article in Details concerning a new “trend” towards successful, macho, business men participating in “sweat lodge” ceremonies for renewal and cleansing purposes. The Details article is pretty bad overall, though I feel like the tone is a little mocking towards these “bros”, so that’s good (?). First of all, the title of the post is “The Hottest (and Most Dangerous) New Trend in Therapy”. They then describe Durek Verret, a former model and self-described “healer” who looks “more like a hipster than a healer”:
Verrett works out of a converted garage next to the laundry room in his home. Between chants, you can hear the dryer churning. On a makeshift altar on the wall behind him, he has placed a beeswax statue of a rotund woman he calls Mama, a cylinder of sea salt, an empty wine bottle, and a dried pomegranate…Verrett charges $500 an hour for these sessions and sees about 25 clients a week.
and describe a “healing session”:
Verrett—the son of a Norwegian medicine woman and the grandson of a Haitian shaman—starts by summoning Hale’s spirit guides, asking them to enter the young man’s body, which is reclined on a massage table. “We now begin to unprogram all of the fears he has in his relationships,” he says. “He’s running from love. He uses these fears to block him from experiencing women the way he needs to.” Verrett moves his hand in the air above Hale’s body like a magician set on making something vanish. As Hale shakes and flops, the healer yells, “Now, spirits! More, spirits!”
This reads like a parody of a new-age healer. Working out of a garage? makeshift altar? summoning “spirit guides”? but it gets worse:
In the garage in Silver Lake, after some chanting in Greek and Italian, he closes the session by rubbing lemongrass on Hale’s chest to clear his mind and sprinkling sea salt on him for protection.
Chanting in Greek and Italian? rubbing him with lemongrass and sea salt? a Jezebel commenter pointed out that it sounds more like he was preparing him for dinner than summoning spirits.
The second half of the article describes a group of men who participate in “sweat lodges,” which are described by the author as “macho bonding experiences”:
A fixture in Native American culture, sweat lodges were embraced by men’s groups in the sixties and again in the nineties as macho bonding experiences, hearty cures for the emasculating upheaval of the women’s-liberation and political-correctness movements. Today they’re mostly seen as dangerous.
These men in the article sit in a sweat lodge in a backyard that is adorned with elk antlers and a disco ball “just for fun” and participate in primal screams during the final round of the sweat. One man mentions he found his “spirit animal” during a sweat in Alaska–he now calls himself “Summer Fox” in his prayers to the “Great Spirit”. gag me.
Anna, the author of the Jezebel post, had this to say as her closing:
And before I rag on the middle-aged white dudes in Schaefer’s article for appropriating Native American traditions to solve their decidedly white-dude problems, I should confess that I too once signed up for a sweat. But I couldn’t go. Because I was menstruating. True story.
She had an opportunity to address the inherent issues with the idea of white bros and white “shamans” appropriating spiritual practices, but instead the comments turned to swapping stories of sweat lodge experiences and disdain over the fact that menstruating women weren’t allowed into Anna’s sweat.
Some of the Jezebel comments:
“I used to do a sweatlodge with my all female feminist women’s group in my hometown, all were welcome, no matter the time of the month. It was actually amazing. We’d sweat and meditate and then run out buck naked and jump in the river. Young, old, skinny, fat, and we’d just dance or howl or sit quietly. It was great. And we always called the sweat lodge “the womb” so take that Macho Man!”
Sweat Lodge culture is very weird place for women. I once had to do a sweat lodge ceremony when I was dating the future Mr. Tusk (his godfather was WAY into it) and I was asked in front of a large group of strangers (and my boyfriends parents!) if I was menstruating!! I was told that if I was, I had to go and sit in the other tent by myself and I couldn’t participate. Needless to say, I’m a bit jaded on sweat lodges and their lodgers.
I did a sweat lodge once. My friend was doing a rotation in holistic-style medicine and one of her teaches had a lodge in her backyard. A Native American man led the experience with the appropriate chanting and so on. I have to say, it was an incredible experience. I did not expect to be affected the way I was.
All I have to say is: YOU’VE GOT IT ALL WRONG!! There are so many assumptions and inaccuracies in this discussion, I don’t even know where to start. This is already the longest post ever, so I’m splitting it into two. Part II immediately to follow.