Several Guadalajara musicians—all expats—told me they had very rewarding experiences at a temazcal located near the ruins of the Guachimontones circular pyramids, 50 kilometers west of the city. I decided to investigate.
The temazcal (also spelled temascal) is the Mexican version of the traditional sweat lodge which has been in continuous use by native peoples of the Americas for 4,500 years. In this part of Mexico the sweat lodge takes the form of a round, one-room construction made of adobe, with one very low door and no windows, except for a small hole in the roof. It can hold about a dozen people.
The word temazcal is said to come from the Nahuatl temazcalli. The verb tema means “to bathe” and calli means “house.” The temazcal near Teuchitlán was built by Godofredo Oseguera, founder of Proyecto Mixcouatl, which is dedicated to the rescue of pre-Hispanic traditions.
Oseguera says the temazcal has always been used for a variety of purposes, including physical and mental health, communication with immaterial beings and far more mundane ends such as the processing of grana cochineal (insects used to produce crimson dye) and the smoking of corn seeds to protect them from insects.
Symbolically, the temazcal ritual represents a return to the womb, a renovation in which participants hope to find the inner child they may have lost contact with.