The Sacred Art of SMUDGING
In this article, we'll take a look at the history and purpose of smudging, the different herbs used, and how and when to smudge your self, home, office or car.
Background: A History of Smudging
Smudging shares its roots with incense, which is the burning of natural substances for a particular purpose.
According to Webster's, incense is a word derived from the French encens, or encensen from the Latin incensus to cause (a passion or emotion) to become aroused. The English definition of incense is defined as: The perfume or odors exhaled from spices and gums when burned in celebrating religious rites or as an offering to some deity.
The use of incense dates back thousands of years. It can be traced to ancient Egypt where materials were burned in religious ceremonies, and to drive away demons and gratify the presence of gods. It is mentioned on an inscribed tablet that was placed on the Sphinx at Giza, Egypt, in about 1530 BC.
The Babylonians used incense extensively while offering prayers or divining oracles. It was imported into Israel in the 5th century BC to be used in religious offerings. At one time the Israelites erected separate altars for the offering of incense. It spread from there to Greece, Rome and India, where both Hindus and Buddhists still burn it in their rituals and at festivals. It was one of the gifts of the three wise men from the East to the infant Jesus, in the form of frankincense and myrrh. Roman Catholics still use incense at mass and in many other of their rituals.
The smoke of the burning incense symbolizes the sacredness of a person or occasion, and their prayers are like the smoke that rises up to God. Incense is widely used in most Oriental religions and in the ceremonies of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches.
Throughout history, the burning of natural substances has been used for cleansing, healing and spiritual purposes.
Native American Smudging: The Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing
'Smudging' is the common name given to the "Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing," a powerful cleansing technique from the Native American tradition. It is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place or an object of negative energies or influences. The theory behind smudging is that the smoke attaches itself to negative energy and as it clears it takes the negative energy with it, releasing it into another space to be regenerated. 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 ceremonials take 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.
Smudging is very effective when you've been feeling depressed, angry, resentful or unwell or after you have had an argument with someone. It is also great to smudge yourself, the space and all the guests or participants before a ritual or ceremony or celebration. You can smudge your own auric field, the spaces of your home, car or work area. You can use smudging to cleanse crystals, gemstones, altars, sacred books, or any other spiritual item.
Different types of herb for different uses:
Sage: Healing, Out with the bad
There are two major genii and several varieties of each genus of Sage that are used for smudging. Salvia, or the herb sage used for cooking, comes in two major varieties: S. Officinalis, commonly known as Garden Sage, and S. Apiana, commonly known as White Sage. Salvia varieties have long been acknowledged as healing herbs, reflected in the fact that its genus name comes from the Latin root word "salvare", which is the verb "to heal" or "to save."
Cedar: Purifying, In with the good
True cedar is of the Thuja and Libocedrus genii. Cedar is burnt while
praying to the Great Spirit (Usen', the Source--also known to Plains nations as Wakan Tanka) in meditation, and also to bless a house before moving in as is the tradition in the Northwest and Western Canada. It works both as a purifier and as a way to attract good energy in your direction, it cleanses and chases away life-negative energies and beings.
Sweetgrass: Blessing, Goodness and Warmth
Sweetgrass is very important to the Sioux and Cherokee nations, its botanical name is Hierochloe Oderata. Used for general blessing--for making a home a warm, inviting place. In these tribes, the sweetgrass is braided like hair. Sweetgrass is burnt after smudging with sage, to welcome in good influences after the bad had been driven out. Cedar can also be safely be used this way. Also Pinon pine needles (used more frequently by the Southwest Teneh, like the Navajo and Apache as well as the Pueblo people and the Zuni) and Copal (used by the Yaqui and in ancient times by the Azteca and the Maya) have similar effects.
Other Ritual or Ceremonial Herbs
Sagebrush (artemesia) is for calling up spirit (empowering) or calling in spirits.
Mugwort stimulates psychic awareness and acts a strong cleanser of negative energies.
Lavender restores balance, and creates a peaceful atmosphere and attracts loving energy.
What does the "smudge kit" symbolize?
Each part of the smudge kit signifies an element, that becomes transmuted into the fifth element: ether, or life energy:
- The shell represents the element of WATER
- The unlit herbs and ashes represents the EARTH
- The lit herb represents the FIRE
- The smoke represents the AIR
How to Smudge:
Before you begin:
- Make sure the area you are smudging is well ventilated. This is a health precaution, as well as a spiritually practical one as well, as the negative energy will need an "escape route."
-Do not use near infants or very young children; people with respiratory problems such as or asthma, or pregnant women.
- Never leave burning smudge unattended.
- Place some sand or soil or even salt in the bottom of the container to provide insulation as otherwise the container could scorch a surface it is placed upon.
- Clean the area to be smudged. Remove unnecessary clutter that creates energy blockages. Vacuum and dust if possible.
- If you prefer additional guidance during this process, Psychic Medium John Edward provides guided instruction for smudging, and additional protection rites on his audio tape sets "Developing Your Own Psychic Powers."
- Focus on your intent:
Any action, undertaken with intention and belief can become a potent ritual. Consider your intention before you smudge and hold it clearly in your mind. You may wish to invite the spirit of the herbs to join you and guide and assist with your intention.A candle flame is recommended to light the herbs as it may take a little time to get the herb smoking. Once there's a flame, put it out so that the herb is smoldering, not burning. Wave the flame with your hand or feather to put out the fire. Allow the smudge herbs to smolder, freeing the smoke to circle in the air.If you are smudging a group, smudge yourself first. Offer smoke to the seven directions (east, south, west, north and up, down and center) sometimes called the cardinal directions.
- Smudging yourself
Fan the swirls of smoke around your body from head to toe with your hands or feather. (Blowing the smoke is not encouraged as this is considered as blowing negativity into the smoke.).You may want to especially focus on chakra areas where you feel there are blockages or where there has been or is physical, emotional, or psychic pain. Visualize the smoke lifting away all the negative thoughts, emotions and energies that have attached themselves to you. If you are feeling depressed for instance you could visualize the smoke carrying away all your feelings of depression.
- Smudging another
It is often appropriate to smudge guests as they enter the space at a ritual, ceremony or special event. Smudge as if you were smudging yourself, fanning the smoke all over their body. You may want to speak an intention or a suggestion for the smudging as you do it. For instance, "Allow the sacred smoke to cleanse your body and spirit and bring you present and available into this moment"
- During healing work
During healing work, the smoke may be fanned over the person either by your hand or with feathers. This clears out unhealthy energies and brings in the special attributes of the herbs. You may also direct smudge to each of the person's chakras and as you do so visualize each chakra coming into balance as it is purified by the smudge. If you can see auras, look for discolored places in the aura and direct the healing smoke towards those places on the patient's body.
- Smudging a room or space
For cleansing a house, first offer smoke to the four directions outside the house, starting with the east, then south, west and ending with the north. Beginning with the lowest level of your house, and moving upward, light the smudge and walk about the perimeter, giving special attention to the corners and the places behind doors. You can also fan the smoke throughout the room with a large feather. Repeat the following either out loud, or in your mind:I break up and release all negative and stagnant energy in this place. May peace light and divine love protect us and be ever present.
- Cleansing objects
Hold the objects to be purified in the smoke or fan the smoke over them. If you are clearing your crystals prior to programming them thank both them and the herbs for helping you to realize your goals.
Extinguishing the smudge
Have ready a fireproof receptacle such as another shell or a glass or ceramic dish to put the smudge in when you've finished. It's ideal to damp the herb out in sand, or earth or you can just press it against the bottom of the receptacle. Always make sure that a smoldering smudge herb is out before leaving the room where you keep it.
How often should I smudge?
At least at the beginning of every season. You can smudge once a day if you like, and is recommended daily for health or spirit practitioners.
Disclaimer: Cautions are provided in this document, but good sense and responsibility on the part of the user is expected.
Webster's Unabridged Dictionary
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Make your own smudge: