The lodge is constructed from the inside out. The rock pit, which holds the rocks and the circumference of the lodge, is marked in the earth by using two sticks tied together by a string. One stick is placed in the ground to mark the center of what will become the rock pit. The string is stretched out and the second stick is then used to scratch out the cirumference of the lodge in the earth. The Fire Pit, where the rocks are heated, is also marked. Both areas are consecrated with tobacco and prayers. Once this is done both pits are then dug out and the soil which is removed is used to create an earth altar either between the fire pit and the rock pit or in an area slightly north of where the door will be. Once the pits are consecrated and cleared, the spacing of the poles is marked and the poles placed in the ground.
The lodge is usually constructed of 12 to 16 poles from the willow tree. The 12 main poles form the frame or the “ribs” of the lodge and four poles are wrapped around the sides to provide additional support. These 16 poles represent the Sixteen aspects of Wakan Tanka, the Great Mystery, which form the foundation of life. Once the foundation is formed the lodge is then covered with blankets and tarps to maintain the heat inside the lodge. Gathering poles for the lodge, or Inipi as it is referred to bythe Lakota, is a sacred and social event. Every act of contstructing the lodge is done with great intention as this determines the energies which will manifest in the lodge.The Poles
Every component of the lodge is loaded with symbolism. The willow trees grow freely along the river
and stream banks. They are considered to be closely related to the Water Spirits and absorb their energies and the energy of the water into their trunks. They carry these energies into the lodge. Lodge poles always seems to remain cool inside a loge. More than once I have placed my back against a pole to buffer the heat of a lodge.
Small holes are dug into the earth in which to place the willow poles. Prior to placement the earth is fed by placing tobacco and other items into the holes. The poles are then placed in the holes in a specific order and bent towards each other. When the bending is complete, a square is formed in the top of the lodge. This square represents the Gateway or the opening through which the First People, the Spirits of Nature, entered the earth plane. Some people build an additional Gateway at the front of the lodge and over the door by adding additional saplings to form a cross above the door. These four saplings, it is often said, represent the Four-Directions created by the Four Winds of Earth.
In the African tradition of Ifa, a story is told where Ogun, the Nature Spirit of Iron and industry, opened a gateway between heaven and earth. He then lowered a chain, and he and the other Spirits of nature lowered themselves to the earth plane. Here we find another correlation between Lakota and Yoruba spiritual teachings which speak to similiar spiritual belifs and the probability of historical relationships.
Once the Lodge frame is built, the lodge is covered to form a dome shaped structure. From an aerial perspective the completed lodge facing the fire pit looks like a turtle, and some refer to the lodge as turtle lodge. The turtle is significant in both Lakota and Yuroba traditions because it is said that the earth was created (or re-created) by a Trickster type being spreading dirt over the back of a turtle to create land for humanity. The Lakota refer to this being as Iktomi, the Spider. The Yuroba call this being Eshu. The Native reference to the North American Continent as Turtle Island refers to this creation lmyth.
The lodge is said to represent the Womb of the Mother or the Womb of Creation and is a reenactment of the process of creation. Individuals enter the lodge to cleanse the body and renew the spirit, and give birth to renewed aspects of the self.
The Fire is representative of the Eternal sun and our Source of Life. The sacred Rocks, which represent Inyan or our ancestors, are heated in this pit then carried inside the completed lodge. In this sense, the life of the sun is carried into the heart. Inside, the red rocks glow in the darkness ( the darkness as representative of Han or the void) until they are touched by water and release steam or spirit. The transformation of water to steam represents the transformation of life which occurred when Inyan gave of his life to become the crust of the earth and he and the Earth Mother gave birth to Skan, The Great Spirit. It also represents our transformation from our physical to our spirit selves and the true essence of our being.
The lodge, as a physical structure, represents many aspects of Spiritual thoughts and teachings. We will be posting more articles on these particular teachings on this site.
Spider Who Sings