White Sage, Blue Sage, Russian Sage, Garden Sage, Rosemary, Mugwort, Lavender, Cedar… The list goes on...
Which is the right one for you?
Smudging is a purification ceremony which involves burning sacred plants for spiritual cleansing. It is a tradition specific to some Indigenous cultures of the Americas, often used in healing and cleansing rituals.
The ICT Inc. (Indigenous Corporate Training Inc.) has given a general definition of the practice in Canada:
Smudging is traditionally a ceremony for cleansing the soul of negative thoughts of a person or place. It allows people to stop and slow down, and reconnect to the earth. The four elements are involved in a smudge:
Earth - the four sacred plants used for burning (sage, cedar, sweetgrass, tobacco)
Water - the container to hold the sacred herb, a seashell - commonly the abalone shell
Fire - the fire ignited to burn the plant
Air - the smoke produced from the fire
Smoke cleansing however, is the act of burning sacred herbs and is a practice performed by cultures all over the world. Burning these sacred herbs is soothing and it's relaxing aroma can be used to aid meditation, or be burned simply for enjoyment.
How To Smudge:
Smudging is a practice which has been passed down for many generations. Because of this, there are many variations on how to do it. Lisa Charleyboy, a First Nations journalist, has provided a how-to guide for non-Natives who wish to participate in smudging respectfully. The article features interviews from Indigenous educators in Canada:
“To practice smudging at home, it’s important to be respectful and learn how to handle the herbs according to traditional protocols,” says Cat Criger, aboriginal elder-in-residence at the University of Toronto. Native American medicines must be treated with reverence, so once you’ve acquired the herbs, clear out a bookshelf or an honoured place in your home that is above waist height to store them.
Cleansing the mind, body, and spirit...
Before you begin, open a window or door. Place the herbs in an abalone shell, a clay bowl, a cast-iron pan, or any heat-proof dish. Light the herbs with a wooden match. Then gently blow out the flame, letting the material continue to smoulder.
Take that smoke and metaphorically wash your hands in the smoke, take some over your eyes, your ears, your heart, and your brain. Some traditions use an eagle feather to waft the smoke.
Once finished, you can leave the bowl in a safe place and let it burn, filling the room with fragrant smoke. Treat any leftover ashes with intention. A proper way to dispose of them is to take them outdoors and put them on the earth.
We are not supposed to carry or keep the ashes.
Cleansing the home...
If you have moved into a new place, or have had an argument in your home, you might want to give it a smudge to cleanse the air:
To prepare the room, cover mirrors, close windows, open doors (including cupboards), and turn off all electronics.
“You start on the left side of the door and you stay to the left all the way through the house or apartment, while praying the entire time. With the smoke you ask for the good spirits to stay and the negative spirits to go away,” says Eddy Robinson, Ojibwa cultural educator.
“When you get to the front, you shoot the smoke out the front door and then you wait a minute or two. Then you go outside and you put the ashes of the smudge on the doorstep, and that is to protect the entrance. After that you put on a feast for the house.” (Charleyboy 2015)
Our Favourite Smudge Wands at the Healing Muse Apothecary:
Our favourite herb for smudging is Blue Sage, which is a more ecologically and socially conscious than White Sage. Blue Sage is not as pungent as White Sage, and is more agreeable to some folks who find the strong, bracing scent of White Sage overpowering.
Blue Sage is used to cleanse negative energies and welcome abundance, success, and prosperity. It is also anti-microbial and can be used to physically cleanse your home.
You can find Blue Sage smudge wands at the Healing Muse Apothecary.
Another favourite is Grandmother Cedar.
Cedar trees are very old, wise and powerful spirits. It 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.
There are many species of cedar that grow all over the world. It is used in sweat lodge ceremonies and is considered to be a house for the gods, used as an entrance to the higher spiritual realms.
Because Cedar is local to us in Canada, it is the most sustainable cleansing options. You can find locally made Cedar Smudge Wands at the Healing Muse Apothecary.
Sweetgrass is near and dear to our hearts.
Sweetgrass is considered to be at risk, but if harvested correctly, it is not harmful to the plant population. Harvesting sweetgrass correctly actually increases growth and plant population.
The Sweetgrass Braids we carry at the Healing Muse Apothecary are responsibly and sustainably harvested from Manitoulin Island in Ontario.
Sweetgrass has a vanilla-like aroma and brings positivity and peace to people and places where it is burned. It is said to purify thoughts and cleanse negative energies.
Sweetgrass has slightly different significance in different communities:
To the Anishinaabe First Nation, it is believed to be the sacred hair of Mother Earth, and is often braided; the three sections representing mind, body, and soul. Some First Nations believe the three sections of the braid represent love, kindness and honesty (ICTINC)
Smudge for Health, a Calm Mind and an Open Heart.
With these challenging times, Health, Calm Minds, and Open Hearts are vital to our daily lives. We can work on improving our health, calmness and keeping our heart kind and open with simple, traditional smudging rituals.
The simplest way to cleanse the air in your space is to use one of the smudge wands listed above, but a dried rosemary bundle will do just fine, as will a blend of lavender and sage. Blended smudge wands that distinctive aromas in a room and we encourage you to choose one that puts a smile on your face and leaves your mind relaxed.
Often times we are asked in the apothecary how to utilize ancient incense — either hand rolled incense sticks, incense cones, or dried resins and powders. Many are familiar with burning incense sticks and cones but have not yet tapped into the power of burning pure sacred resin.
The best way to start is by burning a few kernels of dried Frankincense or Myrrh on a charcoal disk. Both dried resins have been around since ancient biblical times and have been shown to be effective at disinfecting the air and cleansing the soul.
It is a good time to keep your space and mind clean!
What you need to start smudging with ancient resin incense:
- Charcoal Burning Disk
- Dried Tree Resin (Myrrh, Pine, Copal, Frankincense, Sandalwood, Benzoin)
- Lighter or Match
- Heat Proof Dish for safety
There are many benefits of Smudging and Burning Incense:
- Enhances meditation (use sandalwood or frankincense for this)
- Promotes calmness
- Instantly reduce stress
- Purifies the air (the heavier aromatic molecules attach to lighter allergens in the air)
- Medicinal smoke is anti-bacterial ( see article here)
- Promotes focus (benzoin is best for focus)
- improves the natural odour in your space (palo santo is best for this)
We have created a ‘How to’ Basic video guide so you can begin your journey into traditional, native, and old fashioned air freshners — incense!
So remember to:
Smudge for Health, a Calm Mind and Open Heart!