A Temazcal is a low heat, traditional Mexican sweat lodge that was used by the Indigenous people of Mexico for therapeutic and meditative purposes. It was believed that the Temazcal could heal several medical ailments and was also used to assist women with childbirth. A temazcal ceremony typically happens inside of a small, pitch-black igloo-shaped hut, in which a shaman pours water over a pit of hot rocks, producing a thick vapor which envelops the sweat bath's inhabitants.
The word temazcal or temazcalli derives its origin from two words in the ancient Nahuatl language: temas, which means bath, and calli, which means house. In Aztec culture, the goddess of the sweat bath was Temazcalteci, also known as "our grandmother." During the Spanish Conquest, these sweat lodges were found scattered around central and southern Mexico.
When the Spaniards saw indigenous people of all ages entering naked into the small chambers of the temazcal, they deemed it a pagan ritual and ordered them to be destroyed. Luckily, the native people managed to successfully hide a few temazcals in secret locations, allowing the ancient tradition to survive. Today, there are many places in Cabo offering the temazcal as a spa service.
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As for the ritual itself, the bath is supervised by a temazcalero, who pours water onto the hot coals to produce an intense steam until the desired temperature has been achieved. The temazcalero is also in charge of leading the group in ancient prayers, chants and songs. Once the shaman pulls down the blanket and covers the hut's entrance, it is completely dark inside the sweat lodge, allowing one to focus solely on breathing and meditating.
If you plan on visiting Mexico and experiencing the temazcal, be prepared to sit in complete darkness and sweltering heat for at least one hour. While it sounds potentially scary on paper, many have found the tradition rejuvenating and nourishing to the soul, including celebrities such as Sharon Stone, Minnie Driver, and former UK Primer Minister Tony Blair.