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SMUDGING

The burning of herbs or incense is a Sacred practice held in common by many traditions. In American Indian traditions we call this practice "smudging" or sometimes "smoking" even though the herbs may not be inhaled.

Sage is used as a part of any Native American ceremonies because of its purifying powers. During the Sundance Ceremony, the dancers wear sage on their heads and chew on the leaves to alleviate their thirst (they are not allowed to drink during the dance). Sage is associated with purity, with things of the spirit and of the heavens. Sweetgrass has a fresh clean smell and it is said that it drives away negative thoughts and spirits. It is used in the sweat lodge, in healing ceremonies and in many purifying rituals. Cedar is often ussed by the Cherokee it is especially effective in dispelling negative energy. It is prefered to use the evergreen needles and that makes it hard to burn.

Smudging, practiced traditionally, takes many forms. Sometimes we tie the herbs in a bundle called a "smudge stick" and allow them to dry. There are some herbs that lend themselves to braiding, such as the Sweet Grass. In the Old Way, the end of the smudge stick or braid was lit from the council, central or cooking fire. Now we often use a candle.

In some cultures, pinches or even branches of herbs are placed directly in a camp or council fire, or onto the burning wood in an indoor fireplace. In other cultures, a coal is removed from the fire and placed in a special receptacle. The Sacred herbs (which are hung to dry and then crumbled) are sprinkled on the hot coal. This is the form most smudging takes today. Most people use prepared, quick-lighting charcoal. It's available from many Indian trading posts, at pow-wows, health food stores, new age shops, and even bible and Christian supply sores. (Smudging is similar to Catholic and Orthodox incense burning, for which bible and Christian supply stores carry prepared charcoal.)

The container used as a receptacle for your lighted charcoal and Sacred herbs needs to be fire-proof. Ceramic and glass bowls or abalone shells work well. There are also special chalices designed for smudging. Place a layer of soil, sand or salt in the bottom for insulation, before adding your charcoal and herbs. The charcoal and smoldering herbs can heat the container up enough to scorch the surface it's resting on or the hand holding it. So please use proper resting holders.

If you prefer to light your whole bundle or braid, hold it in a candle flame until the smudge glows red. Blow out the flame; it should smolder at least a few minutes. You'll need a bowl or shell to catch the hot ashes. When burning a bundle or braid of smudge they will eventually go out themselves. Should you need to put them out before they do, you can easily tamp them out as you would a cigarette or cigar. If you are burning herbs in a special receptacle, you can use a stick or spoon to gently tamp out the charcoal and herbs. The addition of a small amount of water also will do the trick, if you are in a hurry. Using water is messier, and considered a disrespect to the Fire Spirits.

The main idea behind burning herbs is to release their energy and fragrance, not to fill your room or your lungs with smoke. A curl or two of smoke rising from your herbs is all that's necessary. If your eyes are burning, you're coughing or suppressing the urge to cough, you're either using herbs that don't agree with you or making way too much smoke. (Put out smudge, open the windows, leave the room and close the door.)

Show consideration for other people when burning smudge. Avoid burning smudge in the same room as infants, anyone who is pregnant, those suffering from respiratory problems, or those who have asthma or respiratory allergies. If you or they want you to "smudge" them, doing this outside is also an option. Seek a quiet place away from prying eyes. Remember smudging is a ceremony, so treat it with respect and honor.

To avoid fire hazards, never leave burning smudge, charcoal, candles or fires unattended

SMUDGING YOURSELF

Before you clean anything other then you, smudge yourself to clear your thoughts, and clean your energy and aurua. Light the herbs and offer the smoke to the Four Directions, then to Mother Earth below, Father Sky above and to the Great Spirit. Then cup your hand and bring the smoke to your body. Start with your head saying "May my thoughts might be clear." Smudge the rest of you body Symbolising each part and lastly bring the smoke towards your chest: "That My heart might be pure and open"

SMUDGING OTHERS

Have them stand in front of you, facing North if possible. Let them close their eyes and take a deep breath, with the scent of the Sage, and tell them to exhale slowly. With a feather you will repeat the symbolisation mentioned earlier while you put the smoke from head till toes. Then let the person turn around and repeat waving the smoke at them this time from toes to the head. Smudging is intuitive, if you feel the need to smudge an area more then another place, please do it.

SMUDGING A ROOM

After cleansing yourself and assitants you wash your hands ( an objects you use) in the smoke. Then take the bowl with the smoking herbs in your hand and a feather in the other. Sweep with short strokes of the feather the smoke into the room beginning with the far east corner. If you went around the whole room stand in the middle of the room asking the Great Spirit for cleansing and purification.. Here is a sample smudge prayer, you can always make your own prayer.

"Great Spirit, may my prayers travel up this smoke to you, that you may bring blessing and peace and Love to this room/house and all who occupy it. I know the blessings travel down through this smoke to us and we give thanks for the blessings received."

Commonly, Sage, Sweet Grass and/or Cedar are burned to purify one's self, one's space and one's spiritual or healing tools. After lighting the smudge, we offer it to the cardinal directions, or hold it near our hearts. We wash or fan the smoke over our bodies by first bringing it towards the heart, then inhaling, pulling it up over the head, washing it down the arms, etc, etc.

We also burn herbs during healing work and prayer. This helps one connect to their Spirit Helpers. The smoke carries ones intention to the Sky World, where the Spirit Beings and our Ancestors live.During healing work, the smoke may be directed over your client by blowing, or fanning either with the hand or with feathers. This clears out old unhealthy energy and brings in the special attributes of the herbs.

RITUALS/CEREMONIES

Ritual is any action, undertaken with intention and belief that grows powerful through repetition and connection. The repetition can be personal, through this life time or many life times. It can be cultural, such as tooth brushing after every meal. Or it can be ancestral, such as the autumn dances held through out California by the Indians who have lived here for thousands of years.

Finding ones own personal ritual is a very healing experience. All rituals have a beginning point. Many traditional rituals began as dreams or visions. Often the ritual evolved out of the enactment of the dream or vision. Direct instruction for ritual sometimes came from Spirit helpers. This still happens today. It is possible that Spirit will instruct you through dreams or visions if you ask and open your heart.

Another way ritual evolve is by paying attention to ones feelings as one makes or attempts to make Sacred or Healing actions. The right actions feel good. A sense of well being and connection, of magic creeps into ones soul. Some people experience this quickly, but for others it evolves slowly. Patience and commitment are required as with any new endeavor. When this happens do not question it, just go with that "flow".

When you find your right and perfect ritual, I know it will sustain you too. Let the searching flow through your heart, let it be spontaneous. There is no exact recipe for your personal healing rituals, but with patience and commitment I know you will find them. ................AHO!

Common Herbs Used in Smudge Sticks

Who is Smudging

Religious Groups

Native Americans

Healers

You Can Too!!!

Purposes of Smudging

Ceremony / Ritual

Cleansing / Purification

Clearing / Freeing / Releasing

What To Smudge

Yourself

Crystals

Personal Objects

Home / Office / Healing Space

When To Smudge Yourself

When your spirits are low

After being around someone who is sick or depressed

During meditation

In prayer

Sage is used as a part of any Native American ceremonies because of its purifying powers. During the Sundance Ceremony, the dancers wear sage on their heads and chew on the leaves to alleviate their thirst (they are not allowed to drink during the dance). Sage is associated with purity, with things of the spirit and of the heavens. Sweetgrass has a fresh clean smell and it is said that it drives away negative thoughts and spirits. It is used in the sweat lodge, in healing ceremonies and in many purifying rituals. Cedar is often ussed by the Cherokee it is especially effective in dispelling negative energy. It is prefered to use the evergreen needles and that makes it hard to burn.

NOTE: PREGNANCY is not a good time to begin experimenting with smudging. Most herbs should be treated as medicine, learn the herbs you are using. Understand its principals and attriubutes. Knowledge is strength.