Smudging is a practice of cleansing both the physical and the spiritual. It is a traditional way to clear or clean a persons aura, their energy field, in order to prepare the person for healing or to prepare them for healing another. The act of smudging will help cleanse you of bad feelings, negative thoughts and bad spirits or negative energies. Smudging allows the participants of a ceremony to enter into the event with a clear heart enabling you to pray in a sacred manner.
Indigenous peoples throughout the world use various herbs for smudging. The choice of herbs used usually depends upon the local. In the Western North America the three most popular herbs are sage, cedar and sweetgrass.
Modern research has shown that a one hour treatment of medicinal smoke emanating from burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs, reduced aerial bacterial population by over 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min and the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24 hour in a closed room.
White Sage, a variety of Salvia, comes from the Latin root word salvare which means “to heal”. The smoke from sage is used to drive out bad spirits, feelings or influences, and also to keep bad spirits from entering an area where a ceremony is being held. Sage is placed on the floor in a sweat lodge, wrapped around pipes in a pipe bundle and to purify the rooms. Native Americans have long used smudge to clear children before they go to bed.
Where sage is more medicinal and stronger than sweet grass, and used more frequently to clean a space or person from negative energies, Sweetgrass is used in healing and talking circles because of its calming energy and to bring sweetness into the healing or meeting. It is used as a smudge and purification of the spirit. It is said to attract the good spirits, or to call in Great Spirit.
Sweetgrass is known as the sacred hair of Mother Earth. Its sweet aroma reminds people of the gentleness, love and kindness the earth has for her people. Native peoples, the Blackfoot, pick and braid sweet grass into three strands as a representation of love, kindness, and honesty. It can be burned by shaving little bits of the dried plant over hot coals or lighting the end of a woven braid and waving it around, letting the smoke waft through the air. Sweet grass is often placed in pipe bundles and medicine bundles along with sage to purify and protect the sacred objects.
Like sage and sweetgrass, Cedar is used to purify the home; it also has many restorative medicinal uses. When mixed with sage for a tea, it cleans the body of all infections, when used in baths, cedar can be very healing. Place a mixture of cedar and tobacco into a fire and it crackles, it is said this is calling the attention of the Spirits to the offering that is being made.
Cedar is considered a guardian spirit and believed to chase away bad spirits. It is used in sweat lodge and fasting ceremonies for protection. Cedar branches cover the floor of many sweat lodges and some people make a circle of cedar while fasting, in preparation of a coming ceremony or a vision quest. Cedar smoke carries your prayers up to the Creator, and cedar branches can be swept through the air to cleanse a home during a House Blessing Ceremony.
Many people think they can go out and gather these herbs without thought or consciousness. This is not so. Each plant must be asked for permission before it may be picked, and an offering of prayer and sacrifice, usually in the form of sacred tobacco, must be given. Remember, these plants are giving of their life force and a part of their soul essence for your use. If you should decide to pick these plants, take only what you need without damaging the plant itself; think of it as pruning the plant that it may grow stronger in the next growth cycle. And never pick herbs while a plant is in flower as you may obscure its future growth. Give thanks when you pick the leaves and always do so in a respectful and sacred fashion.