Historical beliefs

Believer or skeptic, how methods of spiritual communication came about is an interesting subject. Here we look at beliefs of days gone by and the methods used to protect or communicate.

How To: Smudging

Posted by Stuckie on Saturday, April 16, 2011 Under: How To:

When I moved into my new house I wanted to cleanse it of unwanted negativity and other peoples presents so I done some research into the technique of smudging.

Smudging is a sacred tradition that has its roots in the indigenous cultures of the world. As a tradition, it has been passed down for millennia and many ways and variations exist. The common thread is that, the smoke from sacred herbs can be used for purification and spiritual preparation.

We can smudge to clear and ground ourselves and our intentions before and after healing, initiation and ritual. The smoke will help purify our crystals and other sacred objects. We can clear rooms and create sacred space. The herbs can also be burned to give thanks and to aid us in our prayers.

Smudging can totally transform your life and luck. If you feel as though life is an uphill battle, as if fate is never on your side then smudging might just be the answer. Smudging is the art of cleansing your self and your environment using simple ritual and ceremony. For thousands of years it has been a part of Native American tradition but now the power of Smudging is available to everyone.

The effects of smudging can be swift and dramatic. It can help you banish stress and attract love; soothe you or give you energy. It can bring your family closer together and let 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. I have used smudging for many years and often combine it with techniques from other ancient traditions to provide a totally holistic approach.

But how can smudging be so powerful? The answer lies in the sub-atomic world of subtle or spiritual energy. Homes and bodies are not just made of purely physical matter; they also vibrate with subtle, invisible energy. Cleansing a space or our bodies with techniques such as smudging clears away all the emotional and psychic "garbage" that may have gathered over years or even hundreds of years. It's like spiritual spring-cleaning.

These ideas are not new-fangled nor are they airy-fairy New Age waffle. Native American tradition dates back millennia and most traditional cultures, from the Zulus to the Maoris, from the Chinese to the Balinese, have age-old forms of cleansing and blessing ritual. Even the West retains relics of it, although we have long forgotten the true purpose behind many of our rituals and ceremonies. The incense wafting through a church is cleansing the atmosphere just as surely as the medicine man's bowl of sacred smoke, or smudge. The bells that ring out on Sunday morning were originally intended to purify the whole parish through sound and lead the community from everyday space into worship - just as the shaman's drum can lead us on sacred journeys into the world of the spirits.

The act of smudging is done with a bowl, cauldron or Abalone Shell or a fireproof surface with the appropriate herbs directly lit or burned on a coal or Self lighting charcoal tablet, NOT THE BBQ kind. When using charcoal tablets the bowl or shell should be filled with sand or a flat stone to prevent over-heating the container. Smudging is also done with herbs tied in bundles called Smudge Sticks. In either case the smoke is “washed” over the person or object with a Feather or by fanning the smoke with one’s hand.

Using a smudging tool is part of many Native American traditions. The burning of herbs for emotional, psychic, and spiritual purification is also common practice among many religious, healing, and spiritual groups. The ritual of smudging can be defined as "spiritual house cleaning." In theory, the smoke attaches itself to negative energy and as the smoke clears it takes the negative energy with it, releasing it into another space where it will be regenerated into positive energy.

There are many ways to actually smudge. One ancient way is to start by drawing on the power of the five elements, by burning your smudging herbs in a shell. An abalone shell represents Water and the flowing and filling power this element offers us. The sacred herb is a gift of Earth and represents her creativity and strength. When we light the herb we are invoking the transmute element of Fire and the smoke that rises represents Air, carrying and releasing our cleared intentions and prayers. Through our deliberate action, we ourselves bring the fifth element: ether or life energy.

Next we offer the smoke to the seven directions: east, south, west, north and up, down and centre. Returning to centre we are now ready to purify ourselves. Start by holding the shell in front of you and gently fan the smoke up to your heart. Pass the shell up along the centre of your body, encircling your head. Be aware of how you feel through out this process. Are there places that you feel a desire to clear and honour? It is important to follow your own inner guidance.

Passing them through the smoke, in a spiralling or a figure eight motion can clear Crystals and other sacred objects. Both are sacred symbolic movements: a spiral represents an ever expanding and focusing energy; a figure eight on its side is the symbol of infinity.
Sacred spaces are created by passing the smoke around the perimeter of the room, moving sun wise: east, south, west, and north.

As with all things this is only one of the ways. Trust your inner feelings and allow yourself to create what is sacred and meaningful to you. Explore and have fun!

Another view on smudging: To do a blessing of a person begin by looking into the eyes of the person for a moment to “greet” them, fan the smoke first at their heart and then up to the right side (your left) of the person’s head moving around clockwise (sun-wise), gently washing them with the smoke. Continue brushing smoke down over their left shoulder and the length of their arm and back up again to the shoulder. Wash the smoke down the left side of the torso, left leg and foot. Now smudge the right foot, up the left leg, torso and down the length of the right arm and back up to the shoulder. Now Turn the person around, turning to their right (sun-wise again) and repeat these movements as you smudge and bless the person’s back.

For objects, bless them moving sun-wise around them also.

Sage The use of sage is for healing, the smoke is used to bless, cleanse and heal the person or object being smudged. Sage is used to “wash off” the outside world when one enters ceremony or other sacred space. Objects are likewise washed off with sage medicine smoke to rid them of unwanted influences.
True sages are in the genus of Salvia; this includes Salvia Officinalis (garden sage) and Salvia Apiana (White Sage). Many of the herbs called sage come from a completely different family of plants, the Asteracea family. This family brings us the genus of Artemisia from which come New Mexico Sage (Artemisia tridentada), and the sage from the Dakotas (Artemisia ludoviciana). All of these sages (Salvia and Artemisia) are used for healing and cleansing.

Cedar is a medicine of protection. Cedar trees are very old, wise and powerful spirits. Cedar is often used to cleanse a home or apartment when first moving in. Inviting unwanted spirits to leave and protecting a person, place or object from unwanted influences. Cedar is used as a name for a number of different genuses of trees and shrubs. The primary ones are Cedrus, Thuja, Libdocedrus and Juniperus. The Junipers are not truly Cedars (scientifically) but are used as such by many people. Keep in mind that these scientific names have little meaning to the people using them as medicine in traditional ways.

Sweetgrass Also called Seneca grass, holy grass and vanilla grass. This very special herb’s sweet vanilla-like scent is the breath of the Earth mother, bringing the blessing of Mother Earth’s love. Sweetgrass is burned to remind us of essence of the feminine and that the earth provides us with everything we need. Most commonly found as braids, Sweetgrass can be unbraided and lit, blown out and the smoke that follows washed over the subject of the blessing. This wonderful medicine can be cut with a scissors into small pieces and sprinkles on hot Charcoal.

Lavender This native of Europe is often used for invitation of the spirits. The name may be derived from the Latin lavare (to wash) or livendula (meaning bluish). In Ancient times lavender was an important herb used in mummification. There is a legend that the clothing of baby Jesus was laid upon a lavender bush and acquired the fragrance. Some Christians still regard the scent of lavender as a safeguard against evil.

Copal This is tree sap from Mexico that is similar to Frankincense. When burned it has a crisp, clean, sharp scent that is almost citrus-like. Copal is sacred to the native peoples of Mexico, as it is a gift “pleasing to the gods”. Because copal is the blood of trees it is offered to honor the enormous gift given to us by all of the tree people of our planet

Frankincense At one time both Frankincense and myrrh were considered to be more valuable than gold. Used to embalm the bodies of the Egyptian Pharaohs, this tree resin is considered to cleanse and protect the soul. Frankincense became important to most every major religion in the world and is still used in Muslim, Jewish and Catholic rituals. Frankincense is said to ease depression and promote clairvoyance.

Myrrh This tree resin is said to help one maintain a state of enlightenment. Also it connects one to the spirit of youth and clears the path of debris that stands in the way of one’s truth.

Pinon Resin Has a pleasant and meditative fragrance. Is cleansing, strengthening, warming, and used by Native American cultures for its spiritual and healing properties. Produces a thick stream of smoke, and is excellent for refreshing the senses and reviving a tired soul.

Juniper Has a sharp, piney scent. Excellent to stimulate and revive when tired in body, mind or Spirit. Used in ancient times for ritual purification of temples. Smoke believed to aid clairvoyance. Also useful for purification and to stimulate contact with other worlds. Burned during the Plague to resist disease.

Yerba Santa Leaves Traditionally used for enhancing psychic abilities, magical protection, healing and spiritual strength. Excellent for meditation and divination. Said to be ruled by the moon. One Native American tribe rolled the leaves into balls, dried it in the sun and chewed it for a natural mouthwash.

Hibiscus Flowers Produces a sharp, invigorating scent that lasts for a long time after burning. Excellent for rejuvenating the senses and restoring life force.

Rose Flowers and Petals Produces a heavy, warm, aromatic scent with just a hint of sharpness and scent lasts a long time after burning. Excellent for meditation, divination, increasing psychic abilities, contacting powers and beings in other dimensions ad psychic communication. Also traditionally associated with attracting love, conferring peace, stimulating sexual appetites and enhancing beauty.

Amber is a sweet resin that can be burned on charcoal to release fearful and painful energy. It is often crumbled into massage oil as a healer for the skin or it can be rubbed directly onto the skin as a sweet subtle perfume.

Mugwort is a versatile sacred herb. It can be used for spiritual cleansing, protection, healing, and consecration, and it can aid dream work, trance, and intuitive development, along with enhancing divination.

Smudging Feather It is traditional to use a bird’s feather to brush the smoke over the person or object being blessed. It is important to use the underside of the feather to wash the smoke over the object of blessing. It is the underside of the bird and its wings that face the Mother Earth as it flies and it is this surface of the feather that offers the blessing medicine of the bird.

Smudge yourself on separate occasions with different herbs and report the difference in results...as well as report on the actual smudging themselves.

A house cleansing and blessing ceremony is a good way to clear out stale and negative energies and bring Light into a home. This is especially helpful when moving into a new house or apartment, or for shifting and cleansing the energy in a present home. Do a house cleansing and report results.


House Cleansing Ritual

All areas where people live or work will "collect" energies - both positive and negative. Every person who visits or uses the space will leave their own imprint of their energy. Thoroughly cleansing and purifying the area will remove these energies and create a more harmonious space.

This ritual is especially useful when moving house - to remove all your energies from your old living space and also to cleanse your new living space in order to prevent living amongst the old occupant's emotional baggage.

Take a bunch of dried cleansing herbs, eg. sage, and light them holding them over a smudging bowl or other suitable vessel. Next smudge the entire house. Open ALL cabinets, closets and drawers, making sure smoke goes into each corner. Work around the house in a clockwise, deosil, direction room by room. Start at the front door and then end there as well, sending the negative energies out. Or you can send out the negative energies in each room by opening a window and directing the energies out it.

Light a protection incense, I use sweetgrass to bring in blessings, and fill a bowl with salt water. Go through each room and at every window, door, phone point, outlet, ventilation grill, every exit to the outside, draw an invoking pentagram using your finger dipped in the salt water. Draw the pentagram on the window, door or other exit and say:

With the powers of Water and Earth,
I consecrate and protect this space.

Wave the protection incense over the opening and say:

With the powers of Fire and Air,
I consecrate, protect and bring blessings into this space.
Repeat this throughout the house until all the rooms have been cleansed and protected this way.

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