A smudging ceremony is a ritual of burning plant resins and herbs in a shell or a clay bowl while intentions and prayers are called forth. For centuries, Native American and Indigenous cultures have practiced smudging rituals to clear away negative energy, to invite in peace and harmony for individuals or environments. The smoke from the herbs and the plant resins are fanned using a feather or a hand and directed like a spiritual cleansing bath which is used to purify people, ceremonial and ritual space, and ceremonial tools and objects. There are different ceremonies and rituals that can be done.
The burning of herbs or incense is a practice held sacred by many indigenous cultures. It is a ritual for cleansing, purifying and protecting the physical and spiritual bodies. The effect of the smoke is to banish negative energies.
Many differing cultures and peoples have their own methods and herbal mixtures for this purpose. Smudging, done correctly, can bring physical, spiritual and emotional balance.
The term Smudging originated in the Native American culture. Native American Indians use a variety of smudging mixtures. In olden times, the end of the smudge stick or braid was lit from the central or cooking fire.
Not everyone views the practice of smudging in the same way and different herbs may be used for different purposes.
Sacred plants used for smudging
The principle herbs used are sage, cedar or juniper, lavender and sweet grass.
Generally, sage, sweetgrass, and cedar are burned to purify and protect one's living area, self and sacred tools. Pure tobacco is also used by some Plains tribes and copal in South and Central America. The herbs are burnt on their own or in mixtures, depending on tradition and required effect.
Sage is not the same as the European varieties and is indigenous to the Americas.
Sage offers clarity, vision, strength and wisdom; it is known as a medicine for Women.
There are many varieties of sage and all are effective in smudging. Sage is burned in smudging ceremonies to drive out evil spirits, negative thoughts and feelings, and to keep Gan'n (negative entities) away from areas where the ceremony takes place. In the Plains Sweatlodge, the floor of the structure is strewn with sage leaves for the participants to rub on their bodies during the sweat.
Sage is also used in keeping sacred objects like pipes or Peyote wands safe from negative influence. In the Sioux nation, the Sacred Pipe is kept in a bundle with sage boughs. I would think special crystals could be so protected this way as well.
Cedar burnt while praying to the Great Spirit, in meditation, and also to bless a house before moving in as is the tradition in the Northwest and Western Canada.
Cedar holds the medicine to purify and return balance.
The teaching for harvesting is to not cut the branches or tree but only take what's already on the ground.
Sweetgrass is known as the hair of Mother Earth. Very important to the Plains peoples. In these tribes, the sweetgrass is braided like hair braids. It could be burnt by lighting the end of it, or (more economically) by shaving little bits of it onto an avaloni shell. Sweetgrass is burnt after smudging with sage, to welcome in good influences after the bad had been driven out. Sweetgrass is not common today.
Tobacco is a sacred medicine plant to all North American Indigenous Cultures. Tobacco is believed to be a gateway or a bridge between the Earth and Spirit realms. Historically if tobacco is offered and accepted, then there is a sacred promise sealed. It acts like a commitment made by people and supported by the Spirit World.
Tobacco can be used as a way to thank Mother Earth or the Creator for the abundance and beauty we receive every day.
For example, if you saw a beautiful sunrise or a rainbow and you want to give thanks you could leave some Tobacco upon the Earth for this gift of beauty. Tobacco doesn’t need to be smoked.
Palo Santo. Considered by many to be a holy wood, the Incas have been burning palo santo since ancient times as a spiritual remedy to purify and cleanse. They had a strong belief and understanding of the many benefits to burning palo santo, which are helpful to know before using the fragrant wood in your smudging rituals today. Purifying the spirit and clearing negative energy are common uses for palo santo wood smudge sticks, but the sacred wood is also known to inspire creativity, bring a deeper connection to the divine source, and aid in physical healing.
Palo Santo is a mystical tree that grows on the coast of South America and it means “Holy Wood” in Spanish.
Palo Santo looks like a small wooden stick and it’s scent is known to raise the vibration in preparation for meditation, creative endeavors and ceremony.
It’s known to bring a grounded and clear feeling when burned and is related to Frankincense, Myrrh and Copal. It is used the same way as Sage and is burned and fanned with a feather to clear the air and ask the spirits for permission to perform the ceremony.
Copal is natural tree resin and comes from the Buresa tree family in Southern Mexico.
Since ancient times, Copal incense has been considered sacred to the Mayan and Aztec people. Offerings were made to the deities and the gods atop the pyramids and the sacred burial grounds. Copal is considered a medicinal tree to the Mayas and is used to clear the body of diseases.
Using copal to smudge before meditation and ceremony can assist in strengthening peace of mind while removing energy blockages from the body.
Any of these plant medicines – along with any others that you feel called to burn – can be placed in a shell, a clay bowl or the open fire. Take the time to witness the smoke purifying and rising, allow the smell of the herbs and incense to bring you into a place of pure presence. As you call forth your prayers, visions, or intentions stay curious, open and full of heart as you engage in your smudging ceremony.
"The purpose of this cleansing ritual is to clear away anxieties, sadness, impurities, dark thoughts or unwanted energies that may have attached themselves to a space or an individual".
Smudging may be done by yourself or with one or more other people.
There are many different rituals and methods used when smudging.
One or more herbs used in different combinations or alone.
Rooms and psychic tools, such as crystals and other objects that hold energy, are often smudged/cleansed on a regular basis.
The initial smudging is for the purpose of purifying the space and participants and for banishing any unwanted energies.
Cleansing the ceremonial or ritual space before and after the event is an essential part of spiritual hygiene.
The final smudge is to cleanse any negative vibrations and energies attracted or created during the proceedings.
It is also a good thing to do on a regular basis for both one's self and one's living space, to maintain individual and domestic harmony.
Smudging itself takes many forms.
Sometimes herbs are tied in a bundle called a 'smudge stick' and allowed to dry.
Some herbs lend themselves to braiding.
In olden times, the end of the smudge stick or braid was lit from the central or cooking fire.
Today a candle is recommended as it takes some time to get the stick smoking.
Loose dried herbs may also be placed directly onto the burning wood in an indoor fireplace or crumbled between the fingers over a piece of charcoal. The container used for the charcoal and herbs needs to be fireproof.
Ceramic or glass bowls with a layer of sand or salt work well.
Especially nice is an abalone shell with a layer of coloured sand in the bottom.
Remember that the container may become warm enough to scorch a surface or burn your hand.
A Smudging Blessing for New Beginnings
Read over this a few times so you are familiar with the blessing and the body parts, then smudge yourself while speaking this prayer. Replace any words that you feel work better for you.
I cleanse my Eyes so they will see the Truth all around me, allow my eyes to see the beauty I receive from Mother Earth and the Love I create within my family and my communities.
I cleanse my Mouth for truthful speaking. In my speaking words may I elevate my community. May I speak prayers of healing to Mother Earth.
I cleanse my ears so that I may Listen fully to the wisdom passed down from my ancestors, the creator, the Earth and my Spirit Guides. May I be open to hear the good and allow any negativities to slide off me.
I cleanse my heart so that I may be filled with compassion and gratitude. May my heart be in truth and grow with purity, balance and joy.
May I walk in beauty
I cleanse my feet so they will guide us on this life’s journey as light and truth seeker. May my feet stay grounded and remind me of how to walk in balance, love, joy and in harmony with my family, friends, earth, sky, water, plant and animal worlds.”
May I walk in beauty.
Smudging is a very powerful practice and can work wonders in clearing away stagnant or unwanted energies in your home, in your heart or in your mind. Being intentional, mindful, and calm as you are smudging creates a portal for you to go further into your spiritual work. The ritual of lighting a candle and then smudging yourself or your space allows you to gather presence, to let go of stress and to enter into your yoga practice, meditation, prayer or ceremony with intention. Let us rise up, clean our own energy fields and feed the greatness that lives inside us. Through this state of presence, may we also inspire our communities to live in their own greatness.