sweat lodge 

By Amy Fendley From a culture that celebrates the earth every day of the lunar year comes Zilqua, and an Earth Day celebration like no other, or so they claim. Three weeks ago the construction of a sweat lodge, the planting of a rainbow-shaped organic garden, and raising of a 16 foot tepee, were all still a dream. Today, all are now very much a reality and part of Zilqua Sweat Lodge. The sweat lodge is part of what project partners Lucy Joseph of the Lil’wat Nation and Carolyn Hachey, are calling a place of energetic healing for the community. Situated on two acres in Mount Currie and surrounded by 19 mountains, Zilqua, minus the lodge and tepee, was inherited by Joseph from her late father. Every morning for the past few weeks, interested volunteers have been meeting at a local coffee shop, where Hachey has shuttled them to Mount Currie. Once on site everyone contributed something, helping to make Zilqua a reality. Twenty or so volunteers have involved themselves in the building of Zilqua. Some have contributed wood and willow branches for the lodge, others have loaned their tools, but all have given their time. Most of the volunteers made their way from Whistler to help, which leaves one wondering: why are so many people interested in building a sweat lodge in the middle of a field surrounded by grazing livestock? What brings them here? Is this just another manifestation of new-age thinking? Joseph and Hachey say the purpose of Zilqua is to honour ancestors, families and friends, a future generation and self. Hachey says the enthusiasm and interest in the project has grown since the idea was first floated and work began three weeks ago. She drafted a survey and gave it to about 60 people, asking the question: "How do you view the integration of traditional Native Customs into your modern lifestyle?" Most people replied positively. Some of those interested are now volunteers. "People are really getting inspired to see things get going," says Hachey, an energy healer. "There’s a great energy coming from this, it’s almost magical. Our goal was to bring Mount Currie people and Whistler people together and that is what’s happening." Zilqua, meaning "place where the waters whirl," has been created as a healing centre, not so much as a physical healing centre but as a mental and emotional place of well being. The sweat lodge itself is a dome-shaped structure, 20 feet in diameter that represents Mother Earth’s womb in its warmth, moisture and darkness. The lodge keeper holds four short rounds where water is sprinkled on the hot rocks to create sweat, banishing spiritual and biological toxins. Tobacco, sage, cedar and sweetgrass are traditionally offered as gifts to the lodge by guests. Fruit is offered at the end of the sweat. On Earth Day, April 22, starting at 8 a.m. inside Zilqua, some of Joseph’s family members will perform rhythmic healing rituals using song, drum and didjeridoo. "There has never been an Earth Day celebrated here in Mount Currie," says Joseph, the keeper of the sweat lodge. "Earth Day is every day, but what is planned for April 22 is just a fun day, a day of celebration and special prayer to send positive energy to give honour and thanks to Mother Earth that we’re alive and healthy." There will be workshops in bead work, spirit catcher-making and Chakra balancing. A juggler, astrologer and storytellers will be on hand, and a bake sale is planned. At 6 p.m. there will be a potluck dinner. Donations are accepted and events wind down at midnight. This weekend, April 17 and 18, there will be a fence raising at Zilqua. Any interested volunteers are asked to round up their chainsaws, hammers and nails and call 932-9817.

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