Our Native elders have taught us that before a person can be healed or heal another, one must be cleansed of any bad feelings, negative thoughts, bad spirits or negative energy – cleansed both physically and spiritually. This helps the healing to come through in a clear way, without being distorted or sidetracked by negative “stuff” in either the healer or the client. The elders say that all ceremonies, tribal or private, must be entered into with a good heart so that we can pray, sing, and walk in a sacred manner, and be helped by the spirits to enter the sacred realm.
Native people throughout the world use herbs to accomplish this. One common ceremony is to burn certain herbs, take the smoke in one’s hands and rub or brush it over the body. Today this is commonly called “smudging.” In Western North America the three plants most frequently used in smudging are sage, cedar, and sweetgrass.
Sage There are many varieties of sage, and most have been used in smudging. The botanical name for “true” sage is Salvia (e.g. Salvia officinalis, Garden Sage, or Salvia apiana, White Sage). It is interesting to note that Salvia comes from the Latin root salvare, which means “to heal.” There are also varieties of sage which are of a species separate from Salvin Artemusia. Included here are sagebrush (e.g. Artemisia californica) and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). We have seen both Salvia and Artemisia sub-species used in smudging.
Sage is burned in smudging ceremonies to drive out bad spirits, feelings, or influences, and also to keep bad spirits from entering the area where a ceremony takes place. In Plains nations, the floor of the sweat lodge is frequently covered with sage, and participants rub the leaves on their bodies while in the sweat. Sage is also commonly spread on the ground in a lodge or on an altar where the pipe touches the earth. Some nations wrap their pipes in sage when they are placed in pipe-bundles, as sage purifies objects wrapped in it. Sage wreaths are also placed around the head and wrists of Sundancers.
Cedar There is some potential confusion here about the terms used to name plants, mainly because in some areas, junipers are known as “cedar” – as in the case of Desert White Cedar (Juniperus monosperina). This doesn’t mean that J. monosperina wasn’t used as a cleansing herb, though; in the Eastern U.S., its relative, Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginia), was used ceremonially. However, in the smudging ceremonies we have seen or conducted ourselves, Western Red Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and California Cedar Incense (Libocedrus descurrens) were used … not varieties of juniper.
Cedar is burned while praying either aloud or silently. The prayers rise on the cedar smoke and are carried to the Creator. Cedar is also spread along with sage on the floor of the sweat lodges of some tribes. Cedar branches are brushed in the air to cleanse a home during the House Blessing Ceremony of many Northwest Indian nations. In the Pacific Northwest, the people burn cedar for purification in much the same way as sage – it drives out negative energy; but it also brings in good influences. The spirit of cedar is considered very ancient and wise by Pacific Northwest tribes, and old, downed cedar trees are honored with offerings and prayers.
Sweetgrass One of the most sacred plants for the Plains Indians, sweetgrass is a tall wild grass with a reddish bas and perfume-like, musty odor. It grows mainly on the eastern side of the Rockies in Montana and adjacent Alberta, Canada. It also shows up in some small areas of Wyoming and South Dakota. Its botanical name is Hierochloe odorata. Some common names for it are Seneca grass, holy grass and vanilla grass. We have been told that a variety of vanilla grass grows in North Central California. But, how similar it is to the Plains variety we don’t know.
On the Plains, sweetgrass is usually braided together in bunches as a person’s hair is braided, although friends have said they have seen it simply bunched and wrapped in cloth. Either way, it is usually burned by shaving little bits over hot coals or lighting the end and waving it around, letting the smoke spread through the air. This latter method is how we were taught to burn sweetgrass in the sweat lodge – allowing the purifying smoke to get to all parts of the lodge.
We were taught that it was good to burn sweetgrass after the sage or cedar had driven out the bad influences. Sweetgrass brings in the good spirits and the good influences. As with cedar, burning sweetgrass while praying sends prayers up to the Creator in the smoke. High Hollow Horn says in the The Sacred Pipe “This smoke from the sweetgrass will rise up to you, and will spread throughout the universe. Its fragrance will be known by the wingeds, the four-leggeds, and the two leggeds, for we understand that we are all relatives; may all our brothers be tame and not fear us!” Sweetgrass is also put in pipe bundles and medicine bundles along with sage to purify and protect sacred objects.
Sweetgrass is very rare today, its territory severely cut by development, cattle- grazing, and wheat fields – and tradition Indians in the northern Plains are trying to protect the last remaining fields. The best way for most folks to get sweetgrass is to buy it at Native American retail outlets. This gives support to Indians who can help the fields from being depleted.
Smudging To do a smudging ceremony, burn the clippings of these herbs (dried), rub your hands in the smoke, and then gather the smoke and bring it into your body, or – rub it onto yourself; especially onto any area you feel needs spiritual healing. Keep praying all the while that the unseen powers of the plant will cleanse your spirit. Sometimes, one person will smudge another, or a group of people, using hands – or more often a feather – to lightly brush the smoke over the other person(s). We were taught to look for dark spots in a person’s spirit-body. As one California Indian woman told us, she “sees” a person’s spirit-body glowing around them, and where there are “dark or foggy parts,” she brushes the smoke into these “holes in their spirit-body.” This helps to heal the spirit and to “close up” these holes.
Recently we did a “light” house cleansing for a friend. We use the term “light”, for this is a relatively simple ceremony as opposed to some that are more lengthy and complicated. Our friend had some serious emotional and relationship problems, and he felt they had left a heavy and dark atmosphere.
First, we prayed together to the Creator and to the spirits for help. We then, burned sage, purified ourselves, and took the sage to all the corners, closets, and rooms of the house. We pushed the smoke with our hands to cleanse every bit of space – lingering over dark or cold spots that “felt” uncomfortable.
We used sage first in order to drive out the bad influences. Then we purified ourselves with cedar and, then repeated the cleansing process throughout the house with that. Then sweetgrass was used in the same manner to bring in good influences. All the time we prayed for help in this cleansing. Finally, we took a candle over the whole house and pushed its light into every corner. The People of the Pacific Northwest Coast taught this “lighting-up” of a house to us. We’ve been doing this type of house cleansing for ten years, and it never fails to “clear the air.”
In any case, smudging is a ceremony that must be done with care. We are entering into a relationship with the unseen powers of these plants, and with the spirits of the ceremony. As with all good relationships, there has to be respect and honor if the relationship is to work.
Shamanic smudging—or just smudging—is an age-old tribal tradition which has been used for centuries to create harmony and peace. There are many different shamanic smudging ceremonies, and different tribes use a variety of herbs for smudging.
To define it more clearly, shamanic smudging is the burning of herbs or incense for cleansing, purification, protection of physical and spiritual bodies, banishment of negative energies and creation of sacred space. You can use smudge sticks (herbs that are tied into a bundle for easier handling), braided herbs and botanicals (like sweetgrass) or loose herbs (burned on charcoal or mugwort, or in a firepit). Shamanic smudging releases the energy and fragrance of the herbs and botanicals so they can heal, cleanse and purify.
In many traditions, shamanic smudging involves a four directions ceremony or prayer, which sends specific kinds of smoke or prayers into the four directions. Different tribes have different smudging prayers that “program” the smoke to do a specific action, such as cleansing or aiding in divination.
In general, shamanic smudging can be used in daily life for practical purposes—to restore physical, mental and emotional balance; to shield against negative energies; to cleanse yourself, use your tools and clear your space; and to restore you sacred space.
COMMON HERBS USED IN SMUDGING Although different tribes and traditions use different herbs for shamanic smudging, some of the most popular herbs include desert sage, white broadleaf sage, juniper, pinon (sometimes in resin form), sweetgrass, copal (in resin form), mugwort, lavender and sacred tobacco. Here are some general uses for the different herbs often used for smudging:
– PINON RESIN Primarily fire element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. 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.
– COPAL GOLD RESIN Primarily fire and water elements though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. When burned, the scent is sweet, resinous, slightly woody, mildly earthy and spicy. Was a holy incense used by the peoples of Mesoamerica. Traditionally used as incense in divinatory and cleansing ceremonies. The resin contains aromatic chemicals called terpenes, which make it volatile and flammable. Used by Mayan shamans prior to ingesting mushrooms.
– MYRRH RESIN Primarily earth element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. Produces a lot of smoke when burned, very earthy, piney scent. Gathered from an almost leafless Middle Eastern shrub called the Commiphora Molmol. It was used by the ancient Egyptians in rituals of Healing and Passing. It is one of the ingredients used by the Egyptians to embalm bodies. Useful for spirituality, meditation, happiness, release, transformation, strength, confidence and stability.
– FRANKINCENSE RESIN Primarily fire element though can also be used for a four-element general purpose. Is the resin of an African tree and produces a rich, dense smoke when burned. Used extensively in meditation and healing. In numerous religious traditions, frankincense’s spiritual scent was believed to confer divine blessing. Pliny the Elder mentioned it as an antidote to hemlock poisoning.
– DESERT SAGE Primarily air element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. Has a somewhat sharp, light and refreshing scent. One of the most sacred herbs among Native Americans. Used to purify the mind, body and spirit before prayer, meditation, ritual or ceremony. Also used to purify sacred items such as pipes, magical tools, tarot decks and eagle feathers. Can be used for area, house and personal cleansing. Some people carry a small amount of Sage in a pocket or medicine pouch to insure personal and spiritual safety.
– JUNIPER Primarily fire element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. 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.
– LAVENDER Primarily air element . Has a light, aromatic and refreshing scent. Useful for attracting peace, happiness and restful sleep. Also reduces depression, grief and sorrow. Aids in meditation and divination, and often said to aid in manifestation. Known as Elf Leaf, Nard, Nardus, Spike and Lavender. Traditionally associated with fairies and elves.
– WHITE BROADLEAF SAGE Primarily air element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. This is a broad leaf sage is highly prized for its strong aromatic properties (strongest of the different types of sage). Considered the king if all sages. Excellent for meditation, divination, smudging, cleansing and purification.
– 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 Primarily fire and water elements. Produces a sharp, invigorating scent that lasts for a long time after burning. Often used in divination and psychic communication. Excellent for rejuvenating the senses and restoring life force.
– ROSE FLOWERS AND PETALS Primarily water element. Produces a heavy, warm, aromatic scent with just a hint of sharpness – scent lasts a long time after burning. Excellent for meditation, divination, increasing psychic abilities, contacting powers and beings in other dimensions and psychic communication. Also traditionally associated with attracting love, conferring peace, stimulating sexual appetites and enhancing beauty.
– SWEETGRASS Primarily air element. As its name suggests, sweetgrass produces a sweet and light fragrance that does not last for long. Excellent for cleansing sacred space. Sweetgrass is a rare grass which is found growing wild in very few places. Traditionally, sweetgrass is believed to invite the good spirits.
You can burn these herbs singly or in combination with each other. One good combination that covers all four magical elements of air, fire, water and earth is pine resin and sage (either desert sage or white broadleaf sage). This combination is appropriate for general use, cleansing, ceremony and ritual.
WHEN TO SMUDGE YOURSELF Smudging yourself on a daily basis can be very helpful in keeping yourself balanced and maintaining a peaceful state of being. However, you should definitely use shamanic smudging techniques when you’ve been around people who are ill, depressed, fearful, angry or generally emotionally unbalanced; before meditating to create a calm state of being; when you’re feeling blue or depressed; or when you’ve been under a lot of stress.
Smudging yourself is easy. If you’re using a smudge stick, light the smudge stick on a candle flame. Hold the stick in the flame until there is a lot of smoke and the stick is burning well (that’s why a candle is better than a match—it can take a while to get the stick really smoking). Using a feather (or feather fan) or your hand, gently fan the smoke onto your body, starting at the top of the body and moving downward. Get the back of your body as best you can (it’s often easier to use a smudge pot and loose herbs for this). When you’re done, inhale a little of the smoke (just a little!) to purify your insides.
If you’re using a smudge pot or Fire-bowl and loose herbs, light the herbs (using self-lighting charcoal—not the barbecue kind!) until it is smoking well. Then, put the Fire-bowl on the ground and stand over it with your legs spread and feet on either side. Weave back and forth in the smoke until you have been thoroughly cleansed. Clothing is optional for this approach, and smudging in the nude is recommended for a more thorough cleansing. Again, when you’re done, inhale a little of the smoke to purify your insides. People often feel more relaxed, lighter and brighter after smudging.
If you’re going to use the smudge smoke during meditation, use a charcoal burner or Firebowl, light the herbs and enjoy the scent and smoke as you meditate. Meditating with these herbs often produces a deeper and longer-lasting state of relaxation and contemplation.
Native Americans used herbs to purify the spirit and bring balance to people who are unhealthy in spirit, mind, or body. Everything that happens within your home leaves a trace. The morning after party, the tired- ..but-happy revelry from the end of the evening is still in the air; Focusing your true intention to purify your space with time-honored method can return a dwelling to its rightful place as your sanctuary. One such cleansing method is known as smudging. Smudging originated as a Native American custom, and modern practice can reinvigorate your living space.
The vital action of smudging is lighting aromatic bundle of herbs and allowing it to burn away the negative energy that has been collected.
You can celebrate a new phase in life by conducting a smudging ceremony, or improve someone’s day by smudging the space around a friend. Offices and work spaces can benefit from smudging as well, allowing clarity of thought and improved productivity. The essential object for smudging is the herb bundle. It can be purchased or made by hand.
Using a match or candle, put the flame to the smudge stick. Then blow or wave it out, allowing the stick to smolder and the aromatic smoke to fill the room.
If you don’t have a smudge stick, you can also place loose herbs directly onto burning wood in an indoor fireplace or into a fireproof container with some charcoal. As the herbs begin to burn, the honored method is to use a feather to move the smoke around the person or place you are smudging. You may also use your hands. As you feel the space fill with the herbal scent, take time to consider the parts of your life that need cleansing. Imagine the smoke lifting away all the negative thoughts and emotions around you.
Tradition teaches that each smudging herb is used for a different purpose. So an important aspect of the ritual is finding the right herb for the moment. * Sage is the most prominent herb and is used to purify and protect one’s living area by removing negative energy.
* Sweetgrass is often burnt after smudging sage to welcome in the positive influences. * Lavender restores balance and creates a peaceful atmosphere. It also attracts love. * Rosemary is effective for gaining clarity about perplexing problems. * Mugwort is celebrated for stimulating psychic awareness and powerful dreams. * Bay leaf is used to protect against colds and flu. * Cedar is burnt upon moving into a new home. It works as a purifier and as a way to attract positive energy. The act of cleansing your space can help you to truly put the past behind you. As the herbal aromas gently enter a room, clearing out accumulated spiritual clutter, you’ll be free you to enjoy your abode as the place of it was meant to be.
Today is a day to focus on healing. If my body needs healing, I attend to what I need to do physically. And I also heal my thoughts. I keep my thoughts and ideas positive, and let go of old hurts and ideas that have made me unhappy. I release those old ways of thinking and become a source of healing – for myself and others.
Embrace the need for solitude. Your inner sanctuary calls you. Renew yourself and thrive.
I realize deeply that this present moment is all I really have and that the NOW is my sanctuary. It has all the magic and happiness that I need. I let go of the past for I am not there. I let go of the future for it has not yet happened. I look within and find the peace and joy I seek in this divine moment and I will flourish.
Stop hesitating. Movement creates the magic. Nothing can hold you back.
I will focus my energy on moving forward without hesitation. I will get things done. My head and my heart are moving in the same direction. I won’t waste energy worrying about “what if’s” and “who says?” I will rise up, feel my power and be happy. Nothing can hold me back.
Remember the source of love. A loving action is all you need to begin the process. Reach out with a simple first step.
I will pause and remember those I have left behind, my lost loves, and broken relationships. I will be brave and take a step toward healing the past. I will reach out with silent love but will expect nothing. For I know the most important mending needs to take place in my own heart. Looking back, I am filled with gratitude. For the good we had I am filled with joy. I will give myself all of the love that I ever needed. I will heal the past and I will be free.
Reading from the deck “Magical Times Empowerment Cards” created by Jody Bergsma
Whether the physical body has developed the cancer yet is really of no great bearing on this reality, it is simply an outward manifestation of our spiritual health.
You see, we’ve all been leeched on to by a force we cannot see. It sends dark tendrils through our energetic and spiritual form. It causes mood swings, depression, and funky funks we find it difficult to climb out of.
It’s a double whammy really, because it uses others who are also in a funky funk to increase our own … it feeds on us, and then uses us to feed on each other.
A woman in the astral gave a talk last night about how she pulled the tendrils from her form. All of us there wore the typical head scarf the cancer ridden female wears.
She let us know it is possible to heal ourself.
She suggested we utilize whatever visualizations and thought forms we need to to pull out these tendrils, these pipes that inject our form with poison.
I woke at 3am after listening to her speech. She rose when she finished, showing her flesh and she was brilliant, so bright.
She is proof that healing self is not only a possibility, but with consistent effort and formatted technique, a probability.
When we train ourself to help ourself, we can then help others.
So I thank the one who helped me … and then regretted it and took the help away.
I thank all those who send me trials, for without them I would not have opportunity to overcome … to rise.
Of course I am grateful to all the helpers, here, and in the astral … friends. Some who know it, others who deny it.
Someday we’ll be together again in the light, strong and healthy once more.
Shadow: Wash Away Your Burdens ~ As you move through life, you have undoubtedly experienced moments that have inspired feelings of regret, remorse, shame and guilt. You have made promises you have not been able to keep. You have judged and blamed yourself and others. You have burdened yourself with feelings born of acts that cannot be undone, which still bind you to the past. It is time to forgive. It is time to lie down in the healing waters and let them wash away your burdens so you can move forward with Spirit cleansed.
Soul: Protect The Wild And Green ~ You are a guardian of the earth and all who share it – the trees, the birds, insects and inhabitants of the ocean blue. It is time to play an active role in protecting and preserving the wild and the green by being aware of, and limiting, your impact upon the natural world. This world is not yours to possess; it is a gift given you and your children. Tread gently. Tread with care and walk with love. Remember, your relationship with the world is a symbiotic one.
Let The Two Become One:Nurture All You Love ~ Take the time to nurture the things you care about so that they may flourish and grow. Your hopes, your dreams, your body, your mind, your spirit, your creations, and your relationships; all that is you needs to be cherished, loved, honored and respected. Without care and attention, these aspects of self can fall into a state of neglect that does only harm to both you and the world around you. Nurture them, and they will bring you peace and fulfillment.
Reading from the deck “Messenger Oracle” created by Ravynne Phelan
Many folks, myself included, like to think we are all “love and peace” … bringing light into the world by being kind, when we feel like cussing someone out. And yes, this helps in tremendous ways we cannot even fathom currently.
What do you find yourself doing in the astral, in your ‘dream’ states? Are you dreaming light and fluffy? Or are you in shadowy places? If in shadow, do you allow your shadowy side of polarity to flourish, or are you also attempting to bring light there?
It is the same. The various worlds are indeed differing realities of this life, equally needing balance.
If, while in shadow, we cuss and fume and tantrum (as I experienced for a moment last night) then we add to the darkness. This does not bring light to shadowy places. Learning to control our behaviors in the astral is just as crucial as learning to be moderate in our responses in our waking moments.
You may be experiencing more shadowy dream states these nights. The worlds are merging, and our responsibilities increasing.
We can see by the chaos in the world currently that folks are either unaware of the merging responsibilities, or they are not trying to bring light to shadowy situations … out of control additions to chaos … claiming the whole while, in many cases, to want peace. Blaming the world for the darkness they themselves contribute to.
I get it, I really do. Sometimes our triggers are flipped in such surprising swiftness the ‘reaction’ takes over before we get a chance to think. ‘Responding’ in an effective and beneficial manner impossible in these moments … which is exactly why our triggers must be investigated, evaluated, and absolved of the unconscious power they have over us.
If we truly want peace, like I feel the majority of us do, then the change must begin inside us, inside the WE that make up the whole.
Eyes wide open, both in the waking world, and in the sleeping (or astral) … intention for peace must be sought and garnered, gathered and strewn about with as much love as we can muster.
Trust me when I say I am no expert. Why, last night a woman told me there was no ‘out’ for me in the shadow realms. I flipped out and called her the ‘C’ word … the one word I really do not like (training from youth, you know) … anyhow, I took the candles off the table and headed for the outdoors in shadow land, where a kind hearted fellow embraced me while I calmed down.
The thing is, I’m in process of researching my triggers, here and there. I intend to master myself in both realms, rather than being mastered and manipulated … I will do the manipulations … of self, for I have no desire to manipulate others.
I think of the look on that woman’s face as I exploded in trigger mode, and I wonder how it must have affected her. I am responsible for that … and my truest desire is to learn to respond with love, or at least a calm demeanor which allows me simply to say, “Thank you for your input, have a nice day.”
Oh, these worlds we live in and are responsible for. They are beautiful and horrifying at the same time.
Dwelling on light is my intention, yet a wise woman once said, “The brighter you are, the darker you are also.” Bringing that beautiful light to our shadows is the goal, at least it is mine.
Should all people consider for a moment the absolute HUGENESS of this, and other realities, we might stand a chance at actually bringing heaven on earth, peace to all lands … here and there.
May Source (whatever name you give it) be with us in these days, these moments, and assist us in the navigation of Self while we learn who we are and what we truly are made of, help us to bring the light into our own shadowy spaces so we may help others in the world do the same.