Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Smudging is the common name given to the sacred smoke bowl blessing; a powerful cleansing technique from the Native North American tradition.  Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred plants to drive away negative energies and restore balance.  It is the art of cleansing yourself and your environment using simple ritual and ceremony.  For thousands of years smudging has been a part of Native American tradition but now its power of cleansing is available to everyone. 
When we frequented Delavan, every summer the Indians performed ceremonies at a  local mound.  I participated in a few of their rituals and they happened to use tobacco as well as sage.  I took note of the ceremony and its after effects and decided to include this in my healings.  Before my sessions, I smudged the person receiving, the room and myself.   When I spring clean my home or office, I always smudge the entire vacility, room to room, corner to corner.  If I feel too much negativity in our lives, I smudge.  It is a simple, yet powerful ritual that works for me, hence, I share.
Homes and bodies are not just made of purely physical matter, they also vibrate with quiet, invisible energy.  Cleansing a space or our bodies with smudging clears away all the emotional and psychic garbage that may have gathered over the years.  It is like a spiritual spring cleaning.  The effects are swift and dramatic.  It banishes stress, attracts love, soothes you and gives you energy. It brings families closer and lets you adjust to the healing seasonal rhythms of the year.  Above all, it can turn any space, however humble, into a soothing sanctuary - a place of renewal and happiness.

When you light a smudge stick, you are connecting with a spiritual tradition that originates from the depths of time. It is impossible to say for certain when smudging began.  Perhaps early civilizations came to realize, through sheer trial and error, that the smoke generated by setting alight particular herbs had beneficial effects for humanity.  Many cultures have an old tradition of driving animals through smoke to kill off pests and diseases.  We have become aware that smoke ascends to the heavens - to the world of spirits - almost as if it were acting as a spiritual messenger.  The Catholic Church burns incense during the Holy Mass Ceremony and at certain Sacramental Blessings and the Hindu burn incense to their gods.    The idea of purification through smoke is certainly not the sole preserve of the Native North Americans.
Originally, mixtures of sacred herbas and resins were burned in a special bowl.  Smoke was then wafted around the person or place need purification and cleansing.  Smudge sticks (bundles of dried herbs tied together with colored thread or a strip of hide) offer an easier way of smudging that is just as effective.  The herbs most often used in smudge sticks are sage and sweet grass.  Sage salvia officinalis drives out negative thoughts, energies and spirits.  Salvia is Latin for 'to heal'.  Sagebrush, mugwort and cedar are good for driving out the influences. Cedar is burned while praying aloud and the smoke is a carrier to the Creator. Sweet grass is used to attract positive energy after all the negative energies have been banished by sage. It is the most sacred and brings in good spirits and influences.

Get a shell, abalone is what I always use.  Any small, flat, heat-proof container will do.  Light the sage and let it flame for a minute.  Extinguish the flame so the sage is smoldering and smoking.  Take the smudge container and using circular clockwise motions, encircle yourself with the smoke, asking that all negative energies be cleansed away.  You can do this for the whole room and even the whole house.  Try and finish off the smudging process by ending up at an open door towards the most northwesterly part of your home.  I say a little prayer and affirmation over and over as I smudge.  Ask the powers that be (spirit of the sage) to remove all negativity and unwanted energies.  It works! At first you may feel a little agitated or uneasy and not sure why.  It is because you are clearing with the help of the smudging.  This would indicate there is a lot of negative energies in your environment.  Smudge as often or as little as necessary. 

Prayer: Teach me to forgive, Jesus, by letting old hurts go. I'm not sure how to do this; it's that difficult.  Give me the grace I need this Lent to pray for my enemies and even to love them.  Give me the courage to try to love "everyone without exception."  Then may my love and forgiveness continue to grow.  Amen.