This is the Druidschool Teach Allais or sweat house, following our Sli an Drui weekend for Samhain 09. Its design is based on a Bronze Age sweat house identified by Archaeologists near Kilkenny town as reported in the 2nd issue of Seanda last year. The unique feature for us is that the hot stone pit is beside the door as opposed to in the middle as in most sweat lodges. Research has told us that only the Native Indians from the northwest coast of Turtle Island use a similar layout to this ancient Irish version.
As you can see in the image below - we have created a high banked enclosure to surround the actual Teach Allais, shower and fire for total privacy. Built earlier this year it is now grassing itself over and Sage has been planted on the inside of the west bank. A door will be fitted next to secure the entrance as shown below.
The fire for heating the stones has been created using unprocessed wood, we call this sacred wood - we always use a mixture of wood from different trees - you can see the Scots Pine layered over the stones in the image below. The fire is built over a base of stones and added to until a huge ball of heat is generated. More wood and more stones are added by the Firekeeper as the fire matures. When the first stones crack we are nearly ready. The stones are taken from glacial drift - rounded lime stones preferably egg-shaped, they dry evenly and hold deep heat for a sufficient period of time to suit our needs. Once the fire has its power established - I take a big stone and put it in the Teach Allais to dry the air and preheat the inside of the chamber. The fire burns for up to 2 hours to generate a strong heat in the stones.
Fire and water balance and the heat is made by burning - then the stones are brought into the Teach Allais - water is sprinkled on to the stones and hot steam fills the inner chamber. Because the door is closed - this is done in total darkness. Four rounds are held, each with more steam being added and each round has a different focus for those seeking purification and re-birth. After the last round we may sit and feel the power rise inside us but following this we leave slowly and go for a cold shower as shown below. This seals the pores of the skin and removes salt crystals from our body - it also activates our energy field (aka Aura) or Druid's Egg / Light Body. All participants are encouraged to let out a roar as the cold water hits the warm body - this is extremely refreshing and invigorating. The shower has been constructed using treated decking timber and gives privacy while being close to friends who have just had a go or are next to go....
The structure itself was built before Beltine 09 and uses light poles from the local area, it is then covered with sheep's wool felting stitched together to form an absorbent but insulating layer to keep the steam where we want it. This is then covered with heavy duty tarpaulin keeping all daylight out. It is dark inside, very dark and quiet and it seems as if time is suspended. The high roof was a design choice to allow a reservoir of extra hot steam to be used by those who are able for it - one just has to wave the steam down by hand to any part of the body or get up one's knees and 'cook' the head! All participants are required to wear clothing for modesty purposes but great care is taken to ensure that no one wears any items with steel as they can cause burns.
The wooden door to the Teach Allais is made from pine floorboards because they join with a tongue and groove allowing a good seal. This was treated with boiled linseed oil to waterproof and seal it from rain and steam damage. It was backed with sheep's wool felt and it is held together with screws as this is the most secure design I could think of. The ancient Ogham writing on the front say exactly what you would expect - read from the bottom up - Teach Allais (note - Ogham has 30 versions and may be written up across and down a spine - here we wrote up.)
The open door is supported by a stick because its weight will close it and seal the light out and the steam in. A small chamber designed for a maximum of 8 people allowing enough room to ensure a personal individual experience of re-birth in a supported group space.
In the image below you can see the stone flags that cover the floor of the sweat house. These are laid over sand on bare earth so there is no barrier to the flow of the Earth energies. Wooden matting is laid so that direct damp from the stones does not prevent your body from building up heat from the steam. The intention is that the heat builds up slowly and penetrates into your very core - your bones are warmed. We sit on towels on top of these mats for the duration of the experience. Each sweat is different but will last from one hour up to maybe two full hours.
The image below is myself - Con Connor, taken by Niamh my partner as the fire built up its first strength. Up to two hours of burning wood is followed by up to two hours of hot steam sweating and inner searching and this is the process of re-birth.
This article must be read in conjunction with Sli an Drui weekends because there is so much more to the experience.
Rehydration with soft alkaline living water from a holy well.
Spiritual Rebirth in our replica bronze age Sweat Lodge.
New life focus in a Vision Quest in our ceremonial enclosure.
Discover, understand and connect to true Celtic Time.
Touch and work with the Sacred Earth Energies.
Check out our Druidschool�s Calendar if you wish to join us.
Teach Allais is currently out of action
Our Teach Allais is currently out of action as of Dec 2010 - severe weather and a very busy year and the wind turbine not working ... we do have a plan to rebuild a Teach Allais but with Quartz Sandstone taken from the fields in our 16ac / 6hc farm. I will fit a firebrick furnace with a new cast iron bastable (round bread oven) with lid onto this brick furnace and fit this into the Quartz walls - this will allow easy fire set up that is quick to make steam. I have gathered about 30 big Quartz sandstones and they sit in the fuel yard next to the Taech Allais enclosure. More progress is expected in Spring 2011