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  • Writer's pictureBruja

Smudging: A shamanic cleansing ritual

Origin: The Americas

People use smoke in ritualistic ceremony all over the world, whether it be frankincense and Myrhh burned during Sunday mass or incense smoldering in a Buddhist Temple. There is something primordial within us that connects smoke with spirituality. Native Americans believe that smoke is as a bridge to higher worlds: it can bring in positive spirits and dispel negative ones. One of the most widely known smoke ceremonies is called smudging. Shamans would burn dried sage and other herbs on their fires to cleanse away conflict, anger, illness or evil. They believed that the smoke absorbed the negative energy. In Native American culture, Great Spirit is in all of nature and creation. From waves to wolves, everything on the Earth represents a different aspect of divinity and sacredness. Therefore they honor the elements, and all natural things, from plants and minerals to animals and people. Smudging involves all four elements - an abalone shell (water), which holds the dried herbs (Earth), embers that set the herbs alight (fire) and a bird’s feather, which fans the smoke (air). The most common herbs used for smudging in North American traditions are white sage, sweet grass, tobacco, and cedar. The life force energy of their smoke penetrates deep into the air and alters the vibration of a space. Sage smoke changes the ionic composition of the air and can have a direct effect on reducing our stress response. It has been proven to absorb up to 94 percent of airborne bacteria. Smudging is like ritual alchemy — altering and shifting the air around us and transforming a mundane experience into a mystical one. This ancient shamanic practice is easy to incorporate into your life, whether daily, after an argument (literally clearing the air), or when you begin a new life event (a move or a new job).

What You Need

  • Sage or other sacred plants listed above.

  • Abalone shell that is meant to hold and burn the plants. It represents the water element.

  • Matches or a lighter. These represent the fire element.

Place the dried herbs on Abalone Shell or another heat-proof surface. Light the bundle by holding a flame to it until it begins to smoke. If an actual fire appears, shake the bunch gently or blow until it is just embers and smoke. Once you have a good smoke going, use your hand or a feather to direct the smoke over your body from your feet up to your head. As you do this, visualize the smoke taking away with it any negative energy from your life. You can then walk with around your house or anywhere else you want to cleanse. Direct the smoke into all corners of the room, across doorways and into all the nooks and crannies. To maintain the atmosphere of ritual, keep the lights low, and refrain from using technology. Some like to close their eyes or play repetitive background music. After you cleanse the space, allow the herbs to burn out.

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