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The Ritual of Smudging

Updated on November 24, 2014

Lighting the bundle

My homemade bundle of cedar, lavender and sage
My homemade bundle of cedar, lavender and sage

If you believe in spiritual energy, chances are you have smudged or know people who do. Most people recognize smudging as a Native or Aboriginal ceremonial practice. It's also a ritual used by Pagans, Wiccans and New Age Philosophers. I'm none of the afore mentioned, I simply believe in energy.

Smudging is part alchemy (because it causes a reaction) and part symbolic (because it has become a custom).

The craft is not simply about the flame - but also the offering up of smoke. Smudging is used as an accompaniment to prayer, the cleansing of space, a repellent against negative spirit and as an adjuster of energy.

The ceremony is in the act. You ignite dried leaves causing flame, the flame blows out and creates burn, the burn creates smoke - the smoke billows and it is in the cloud that cleansing begins. In addition to smoke, there is scent and consistency of the smolder emitted- because it is believed, that specific sacred herbs, bring forth certain intentions;

**Just some of the keynotes, not limited to......

  1. Sage, for example; drives away bad spirit, feelings or negativity.
  2. Cedar is believed to purify and be direct communication to the creator
  3. Sweetgrass announces your intention to pray.
  4. Lavender is often used as a gentle, fragrant- invitation to spirit.
  5. Frankincense is said to cleanse and protect the soul.

There are so many variations to consider, just do not use toxic plants. The alchemy of scents released is much like aromatherapy and scientifically; the act of oxygen being heated & burned, actually changes the oxides and carbonates of the air. If the purpose for smudging is to cleanse with reverence, then the act becomes symbolic. Intention sways belief, if you believe you are cleansing, honouring or inviting...then you are.

How is it done?

You can purchase incense, loose white sage or already bound - smudging sticks. Of course, you can also create your own smudge bundles by gathering herbs and evergreen tips, bind them with string or thread while they are fresh and allow them to dry out. When setting them on fire, it is recommended to do so over a non combustable container because they often spark and who wants to hold a torch in their bare hands?

Ignite and allow to burn out (or blow out flame), then waft the smoke in circular motions throughout your home. Your intention is to let it pool and accumulate thereby altering the energy. Ideally, you are not to miss areas and should concentrate in corners and areas you want lightened and refreshed.

Why do I smudge?

I am of no particular faith, but I do recognize ritual and I do practice traditional Feng Shui. Feng Shui is about identifying chi (energy) and manipulating it for a desired outcome. A studied practitioner knows when to enhance or weaken. In advanced formulas (of feng shui) it is known that fire can be used to heal, convert or kick start existing energy. Fire is also used to bridge certain kinds of energy when they meet, thereby altering the state of that energy.

Space clearing is another recognized energy philosophy modality, that I have tried. Not often but, I have been known to cleanse a room after times of conflict or sorrow. I have also used smudging to ward off negative energy from the outside world, in a way, I consider smudging a bit of a confidence builder and I use it to manifest protection.

Truth be told, I also have smudged because it smells good, makes me feel well and because it has been demonstrated and utilized by so many "healers" that I have come to recognize it as a staple when it comes to creating one's own sacred space.

We are creatures of habit, ritual, custom and belief and I personally, don't find it surprising that the peoples of long ago stumbled upon acts that mankind can still use today.

There is great beauty in the natural world.


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