by Dr. Al Carroll
A sweatlodge that is not properly run can result in death from asphyxiation, heart attack, or dehydration. Hapless New Agers routinely get burned or scalded. There are also many cases of psychological damage. You can relive traumas in a sweatlodge, such as child molestation or rape, as well as manic episodes. The rocks heated in a sweatlodge, if not properly chosen, can explode. Finally, many of the worst exploiters sexually abuse their followers. It's easy to pass out in the heat of a sweatlodge. Many women (and men) are molested or raped. No one should trust any operator who insists on a sweatlodge alone or in the nude.
Don't trust anyone who advertises or charges for ceremony. There's a simple standard that non-Natives should use when thinking about going to an alleged "Native" ceremony: If the operators seek out non-Native peoples, they are frauds looking to take your money. Actual Native traditionalists neither seek nor want converts. Native ceremonies are intended for Native communities, always. They lose their power and meaning once taken outside that context.
For her part in promoting the dangerous fraud James Arthur Ray, Oprah Winfrey should publicly apologize and vow to be more careful about who she endorses in the future. How many of the victims in Sedona would never have gone there had they not seen Winfrey's program? How wealthy did Ray become off of his victims because of Winfrey's repeated endorsement of Ray, both on her show and online? Why didn't her show's researchers take the time to look carefully and see what they should have known, that Ray was potentially dangerous to his followers?