A Temazcal is a mud or brick dome-like construction and is used to house people while they undergo an ancient Aztec cleansing ritual. The intention of this is to balance the mind, body and spirit, ‘which they say promotes spiritual rebirth.’ The site of this particular Temazcal was the home of Menelio Morales. Sarah Markworth travelled to the outskirts of La Paz, Baja California to find out more
Manelio is warm and friendly which is a comfort to me when I see the Temazcal. It has the appearance of a giant pizza oven with a very small door. Very Alice in Wonderland, I thought and began to damn my fascination for weird sounding places and things.
The ages in our group were varied. A young boy probably around seven-years-old accompanied us. If he could cope with this then I suppose I could too. A few of us were first timers and we were easy to spot. We were nervous, anxious and clueless ones. Those who had been before were wearing knowing smiles. I wondered exactly what they knew and did think of paying up and running for the hills.
The pre-Temazcal ceremony began. Manelio prayed. The prayer starts with, “There is a world that time does not know”. The fire was lit at the back of the structure and prayers were chanted over offerings of fruit and flowers. We were bathed in incense and then one by one we crawled into the womb of the dome.
It was already hot and steamy inside. There were no windows and the air was scented with aromatherapy oils. I moved as close to the tiled wall as I could and picked up the musical instrument by my seat pad. It was the maracas, a hand held seedpod, something like a large babies rattle. Now I really had no idea of what to expect. I kept hoping I would not freak out.
Menelio offered smiles of reassurance before he closed the door and dropped some scented water onto the coals at his feet. The heat in room intensified. Manelio swirled branches of leaves around his head manipulating the pockets of heat. I almost stopped breathing when these pockets engulfed my face.
The prayers and singing began. The energy in the room intensified. I started to feel a little faint and this was definitely the time to shake the maracas for England. In such a confined space this was the only way to release the energy building up inside me.
The leaves kept swirling, the heat kept increasing and the prayers kept flowing. The strangest of sounds were being released by those around me. Chanting, singing, shouting, more swirling and this went on and on. “Huh, huh, he ya ya ya ya. Huh, huh.”
Being the repressed Brit of the room the heat eventually got too much for e and so I asked permission to leave. I flopped outside the Temazcal and onto the floor of the cooler room. A friendly, chubby lady wrapped me in a towel and I must admit it felt good.
What happened in there? I have no idea but it was scary, intense, elating and I am very glad to have survived it. I have no idea of what happened to that day but I felt great for a long while after it. Guess that is why they call it a rebirth.
by Sarah Markworth