Where does the zampulche (temazcal) come from?

Among the native cultures of Mexico and Central America, these healing steam baths meant going back to the origin.

By Alejandro Ruelas

Nov 6, 2019

The temazcal, also known as zumpulche in the Mayan regions of Mexico and Central America, is an ancient tradition. For many centuries, probably more than we are aware of, it has been used as both a healing and spiritual practice. Today, people from all over the world are rediscovering its benefits for both body and spirit.

The name temazcal comes for the nahuatl word temazcalli, which means “house of vapor” or house where one sweats”. This small igloo-like round building made of adobe or carved stone was widely used among several Pre-hispanic cultures to treat ailments and purify the body. People would go inside and let herb-infused vapor produced with hot stones in the middle of the temazcal relieve them from toxins and other impurities. 

This vapor bath had multiple hygienic and medicinal purposes. It was even used as a common postpartum remedy. Moreover, the sweating ritual carried profound religious significance. 

According to Italian historian Vincenza Lillo Macina, the temazcalli carried the spiritual symbolism of a cave, a place of connection between the gods and men which represented our very origin. It is also possible that the temazcal symbolized going back to the womb of Tonantzin, the mother of the gods, in order to be re-born. 

Vestiges of ancient temazcales have been found all over Mesoamerica; in the Mayan cities of Palenque and Chichén Itzá, and other archeological sites in central Mexico such as Tlatelolco, Xochicalco, and Teotihuacán. Archeologists have also found numerous depictions of these, varying in shape and size across different cultures. 

After all these centuries -probably millennia- the origins of the temazcal are shrouded in mystery. Nonetheless, its medicinal properties are as true now as they were then. At AZULIK Healing, the zumpulche is one of or most powerful rituals. We harness the power of the elements and share with you the significance and history of this sacred tradition that will purify and heal you with the ancestral wisdom of our land. 

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