Temazcal: the Womb of Mother Earth

Temazcal in Kan Kuu’l Yaxché, Yucatán, México.

You’re entering the womb of mother earth. Into the smoking mirror, into the great spirit. A place where the doors of the four directions open, where water, air, earth and fire live together, where the past and the present are united, where the other reality is touched. A place where the sun dies and is reborn, where the word is shared and silence is heard, where feelings are exchanged.

You enter with the permission of the guardians of the place and under the guidance of the fire man and fire woman; you enter with humility and respect; you enter with an intention. It already smells of rue, mint and rosemary: you are entering the Temazcal and here you are an apprentice.

The Temazcal is much more than a steam bath. According to scholars of the subject, its meaning is to access another dimension within the same physical land on which we move, it is to open a sacred space in everyday life, with all that those words mean.

If the temazcal is therapeutic, the emphasis will be on the healing of the physical body and the emotions; and if it is ceremonial, the fundamental thing will be the link between the four fundamental elements of nature and the spirit. It does not need a specific architecture, there is no single method and traces of temazcals have been found in all the original civilizations of the world.

Part of the magic of a temazcal is that none is the same and the ritual changes according to the geography and philosophy of each people, and according to the master who was initiated in the knowledge and treatment of fire.

According to the Mesoamerican cosmogony, the temazcal becomes a living being in which the energies of the place and of those gathered there coexist; it feeds on the uniqueness of each person present. Thus, the essence of the temazcal is to remember the link with the energies of the cosmos and everything around us to access a plane that is not within the reach of the senses but that exists. As the Yucatecan Mayan sages would say, we are part of a whole and everything is united.

The celebration that I know begins by asking permission of the woods that will give their lives as an offering to grandfather fire so that the stones that will be heated there take on a new entity and become wise “grandmothers” who will be the providers of spiritual medicine. Once the fire has warmed the “grandmothers”, the fire woman wraps the participants with the incense of the copal and that will allow the pores of the body and the spiritual windows to be opened in order to carry out the personal work.

Touching the breast with the ground, the members will enter the semi-circle that represents the mother’s womb that is about to give birth thanks to the miracle of fertility.

Once inside, the fireman will open the doors of the 4 directions, mentioning the color that is part of its element, telling its meaning and thanking the guardian who protects them. Between each door, the fire-woman will pour into the “grandmothers” the water that was prepared with medicinal plants, to extract a sacred steam that will circulate among all those present in that heavenly vault. Between each door, a space will also be opened for silence, meditation, reflection and sharing of ideas and feelings. A space for catharsis in contact with the divinity.

For the Yucatecan Mayan philosophy, the first door that opens is the one to the East, protected by “Chac Xib Chac”, which represents the color red and means the birth of the sun. Then, you will access the door to the North, protected by “Zac Xib Chac”, which represents the color white and refers to the wisdom of the greatest of the clan, the reflection on experience. It will follow the door to the West, protected by “Ek Xib Chac”, from the black element and representing the underworld. Finally, the door to the South will be opened, protected by “Kan Xib Chac”, the yellow element, which alludes to corn as a sacred plant that emerges from the ingenuity of man and is the creator of our life.

This whole story was told to me by a fireman whom I deeply admire, who was initiated by a Mayan “hmen”, and who happens to be my father. He explained to me that it is fundamental to continue transmitting this wisdom from generation to generation by means of the living word, and that is that whoever officiates a Temazcal, was initiated by others, who in turn were initiated in their own time and space.

In this way, a kind of lineage of ancestral knowledge is being woven that has the intention of sharing the faculty and the gift of running a temazcal with all that this means. It is key that this wisdom remains and follows its path towards the horizon, because in this way we can continue to be co-creators of the universe and of divinity.

That is why today I am convinced of my role as a humble apprentice because one day I would like to be a fireman: a healer who can share the healing of the mind, the emotions, the spirit and the body. So be it, my teacher is my dad.




Mexican freelance journalist based in Berlin. Someone who travels the world with a small backpack.

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Alonso Monroy Conesa

Alonso Monroy Conesa

Mexican freelance journalist based in Berlin. Someone who travels the world with a small backpack.

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