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I came across a very interesting article from "Shaman's Drum" which
was reprinted for Vision Quest Bookstore. I will attempt to convey
the gist of it, along with my views, as a student of the Ways of the
Teneh, about it. Smudging is a way of using the smoke from burning
herbs as a way to cleanse the body, an object, or a given area of
negative influences. I myself use smudging to "cleanse" crystals
before using them in jewelry projects I may do, and for protecting my
home from some recent "bad vibe"-producing events. (landlord
troubles!) I imagine that the skillful use of the proper herbs could
help in warding and banishing ceremonies as well, if used properly and
with reverence. The three most used plant material for smudging are
sage of all types, cedar, and sweetgrass.
There are two major genii and several varieties of each genus of Sage
that are used for smudging. Salvia, or the herb sage used for cooking,
comes in two major varieties: S. Officinalis, commonly known as Garden
Sage, and S. Apiana, commonly known as White Sage. Salvia varieties
have long been acknowledged as healing herbs, reflected in the fact
that its genus name comes from the Latin root word *salvare*, which is
the verb "to heal" or "to save." Artemisia is the genus commonly
considered "Sagebrush", and is more common in the wilds out here in
California. There are two major varieties to the Artemisia genus:
A. Californica, or Common Sagebrush, and A. Vulgaris, or Mugwort.
There are many other varieties of both Salvia and Artemisia, and all are
effective in smudging. Sage is burned in smudging ceremonies to drive
out evil spirits, negative thoughts and feelings, and to keep Gan'n
(negative entities) away from areas where ceremonials take place. In
the Plains Sweatlodge, the floor of the structure is strewn with sage
leaves for the participants to rub on their bodies during the sweat.
Sage is also used in keeping sacred objects like pipes or Peyote wands
safe from negative influence. In the Sioux nation, the Sacred Pipe is
kept in a bundle with sage boughs. I would think special crystals could
be so protected this way as well.
True cedar is of the Thuja and Libocedrus genii. Some Junipers
(Juniperus genus) are also called "cedar", thus complicating things some.
Some Juniper varieties ARE cleansing herbs, especially J. Monosperma, or
Desert White Cedar. But for smudging, the best is Western Red Cedar
(Thuja occidentalis) and California Incense Cedar (Libocedrus descurrens).
Cedar is burnt while praying to the Great Spirit (Usen', the Source--also
known to Plains nations as Wakan Tanka) in meditation, and also to bless a
house before moving in as is the tradition in the Northwest and
Western Canada. It works both as a purifier and as a way to attract
GOOD energy in your direction. It is usually available in herb stores
in chipped form, which must be sprinkled over a charcoal in a brazier.
I like a piece of charcoaled mesquite for this purpose, rather than
the commercial charcoal cake.
Very important to the Sioux and Cherokee nations, its botanical name is
Hierochloe Oderata. In these tribes, the sweetgrass is braided like hair
braids. It could be burnt by lighting the end of it, or (more economically)
by shaving little bits of it onto charcoal in a brazier. Again, use
charcoaled Mesquite (I believe it comes packaged for barbecue use
under the brand name "Red Arrow") to burn it, not pressed charcoal
tablets. Sweetgrass is burnt after smudging with sage, to welcome in
good influences after the bad had been driven out. Sweetgrass is very
rare today, and traditional Plains people have been attempting to
protect the last of it. Myself, I believe that Cedar, which is not
endangered, can safely be used this way. Also Pinon pine needles
(used more frequently by the Southwest Teneh, like the Navajo and
Apache as well as the Pueblo people and the Zuni) and Copal (used by
the Yaqui and in ancient times by the Azteca and the Maya) have
similar effect. The three mentioned here are readily available either
through gathering yourself or, in the case of copal resin, from any
good herb shop.
Burn clippings of the herb in a brazier...not a shell as some "new age"
shamanic circles do...it is an insult to White Painted Woman (The Goddess)
to do this, especially with the abalone shell which is especially sacred
to Her. If the herb is bundled in a "wand", you can also light the end
of the wand that isn't woody and use that. I like the latter way. Direct
the smoke with your hands or with a Peyote (feather) wand over the
person or thing you wish to smudge. If you can see auras, look for
discolored places in the aura and direct the healing smoke towards
those places on the patient's body. For cleansing a house, first
offer cedar smoke to the four directions outside the house. Then,
take a sage bough and go throughout the inside of the house, making
sure the smoke penetrates every nook and cranny of the house. It
might help also, if you have a power animal, to visualize your animal
doing these things, to also dance your animal, and if you have a power
song, to sing that too. Then finally, run through the house with a
white candle that is well protected, to "light up" the house. Careful
not to burn it down when you do it!!!
Smudging should be done with care, with reverence, and in an attitude
of LOVE. Show your respect and honor to the plants that Usen' has
given us for our healing, and they will return the favor by keeping us
well and free from disease and negative energy. Aloe Vera plants,
though not to be burnt, are good for the cleansing angle as well. Keep
one or more potted Aloe Veras in the house (modern varieties are too
tender to plant in anything but full shade outside) in organic (wood
or ceramic, never plastic or metal) pots. To honor the plant when you
transplant it, sprinkle the roots with corn meal and smudge it with
cedar once it is transplanted. The spirit of Aloe Vera is a good
protective spirit, and if you burn yourself, can also be used to heal
your skin. BE SURE TO ASK THE PLANT'S PERMISSION before cutting part
of the leaf off for the healing juice. If you don't, the protective
power of the plant will cease, and you will be left with but an inert
houseplant...and perhaps some bad karma to boot.
Hi-dicho, it is finished....ENJU!
© Michelle Chihacou White Puma Klein-Hass