BYE BYE NEGATIVE ENERGY: SMUDGING 101
Chances are you’ve heard about smudging, the act of burning sacred herbs to transmute negative energy. Here, modern shamanic practitioner Marika Messager explains the process in detail and provides a step-by-step basic smudging ritual.
WHAT EXACTLY IS SMUDGING? Smudging is the common name given to the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, a powerful cleansing technique from the Native American tradition – but essentially it refers to the art of cleansing your self and your environment using simple ritual and ceremony. Our homes, objects and bodies do not consist 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, perhaps over hundreds of years. It’s like spiritual spring-cleaning.SO HOW DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred plants to drive away negative energies and put you back into a state of balance, peace and harmony. It is the psychic equivalent of washing your hands before eating – and used as an essential preliminary to almost all Native American ceremonies. And the apparent benefits are steeped in science – when burned, sage and other herbs release negative ions, which research has linked to a more positive mood.
OH! HOW SO? The aroma of sage, for example, increases the oxygen supply to the brain, producing a relaxation of muscle tension. In addition, the smoke from some herbs actually changes the molecular structure of air and energy, producing a cleansing effect. As the sense of smell is connected very powerfully to instinct and memory, the burning of smudge sticks has been found to be a very effective aromatherapy agent, especially when combating feelings of depression, anger, fear, frustration, resentment, and grief.
YOU MENTIONED NATIVE AMERICAN TRADITION – WHERE DID THE TRADITION ORIGINATE? Smudging is a North American ritual, but is not exclusive to this area and has been practiced all over the world. In some cases, smudging is linked to the use of incense – as incense, like a smudge stick, is a natural object that is burned for a specific purpose. The history of incense itself goes back thousands of years to Egypt.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 – 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 church bells that ring out on Sunday morning were also 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.
IN WHAT SITUATIONS SHOULD YOU CONSIDER SMUDGING YOURSELF OR YOUR SPACE? Smudging is both a ceremonial and an every day practice, so some smudging rituals are performed on a daily basis. Others are reserved for special or ceremonial occasions. As well as a way to clear one’s energetic field, smudging is often used to cleanse apartments and houses before they’re sold, before you move in, or whenever you feel the need to clean your environment. It’s also good to clean any objects you interact with regularly, like your computer or phone, while smudging can also be used to cleanse or protect crystals.
SO WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT THINGS YOU CAN USE TO SMUDGE WITH? A smudge kit usually consists of four of five pieces, each representing one of the four or five elements (
Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and sometimes Spirit or life energy):
A shell (abalone shell is most often used) to represent Water.
Unlit herbs to represent EarthLit herbs to represent Fire,
Smoke to represent Air.
Sage is one of the most popular plants used for smudging, as the smoke carries an amazing fragrance that lifts the spirits. Even though sage grows abundantly in many locations, the most commonly used sage for burning and ceremonies is desert sage, or white sage. The smudge sticks you find in our on line shop. Sage is used to evacuate the negative energies, spirits and influences, while the sweet grass will gather new and positive energies. Other herbs used for smudging are cedar, juniper and lavender, and plain tobacco is also sometimes used by Plain Indian tribes.Palo Santo wood from the rainforests in Ecuador was also considered by many to be a Holy Wood, and burning Palo Santo has been used by the Incas since ancient times as a spiritual remedy, for purifying, and cleansing.
AND WHAT ARE THEIR DIFFERENT PROPERTIES? Sagebrush (confusingly, the “sage” used in most smudge sticks, is not culinary sage but sagebrush): transforms energy and brings change.Sage (the culinary herb): brings wisdom and is calming and healing.Sweetgrass: attracts positive energy.