Smudging And The Four Sacred Medicines
Everything You Wanted To Know About Sage & Smudging.
If you’re not familiar with it, smudging is the common
name given to the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, a powerful cleansing technique
from the Native American tradition. Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred
plants to drive away negative energies and put you back into a state of
balance. It is the psychic equivalent of washing your hands before eating - and
used as an essential preliminary to almost all Native American ceremonies.
I use smudging to cleanse myself (particularly if I’ve had a lousy day or have had to deal with difficult or unpleasant people). I use it as a prelude to all kinds of spiritual and magical work (it’s like a kind of spiritual power shower). I use it to cleanse my home and office. I use it to mark the seasons and as part of other rituals. Basically I use it all over the place, at all kinds of time – it is totally adaptable and practical, a really user-friendly soulful tool.
But how does smudging work? The answer lies in the sub-atomic world of subtle or spiritual energy. Homes and bodies are not just made of purely physical matter; they also vibrate with subtle, invisible energy (you might know it as qi or chi, prana, quwa etc). Cleansing a space or our bodies with techniques such as smudging clears away all the emotional and psychic "garbage" that may have gathered over years or even hundreds of years. It’s like spiritual spring-cleaning.
These ideas are not new-fangled nor are they airy-fairy New Age waffle. Native American tradition dates back millennia and 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, although we have long forgotten the true purpose behind many of our rituals and ceremonies. The incense wafting through a church or temple is cleansing the atmosphere just as surely as the medicine man’s bowl of sacred smoke, or smudge. The bells that ring out on Sunday morning were 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.
OK, I’ve gone on about how wonderful it is for long enough. Let’s get smudging. These exercises come from The Smudging and Blessings Book, a simple DIY guide to get you started.
Basic Smudging For Self-Clearing
There are many ways to use smudging. I suggest this as a simple way to get started. As you become more proficient, you may well find you want to use different words or actions. That’s fine – just be guided by your intuition. But always treat smudge with great respect.You Will Need:
smudge stick, matches, a small ceramic or stone bowl, or a large shell (a saucer will do), a large feather.
Light the end of your smudge stick and let it burn for a few minutes until the tip starts to smoulder. You may need to fan the flames for a while to get the smudge really smoking. Then extinguish the flame so the smudge stick smokes.
Call on the spirits of the smudge to cleanse and protect you, saying: "Sacred Sage, drive away all negativity from my heart; take away everything unworthy and impure."
First waft the smoke towards your heart. Hold the smudge stick away from you and use the feather to waft the smoke towards you. Then take the smudge smoke over your head, down your arms and down the front of your body. Imagine the smoke lifting away all the negative thoughts, emotions and energies that have attached themselves to you.
Breathe in the smudge, visualizing the smoke purifying your body from the inside. (Note: be careful if you suffer from asthma or respiratory difficulties. Experiment cautiously).
Now bring the smoke down the back of your body towards the ground. Visualise the last vestiges of negativity being taken back into the earth, away into the air.
Repeat your smudging once again, this time calling on the spirit of Sweetgrass in this way: "Sacred Sweetgrass, bring me the positive energy I need to do this work. Help me to come into balance. Purify my soul." As you smudge, imagine yourself being surrounded by gentle, loving energy. Breathe in positivity, courage and love.Using Smudging For Space Clearing
Smudging not only cleanses people: it can also clear a room or area of any old or stagnant energy. All rooms need cleansing - just as much as they need physical cleaning. If your life feels stuck or things just aren’t going according to plan, you may just find that simple space clearing solves the problem. Clearing the space around you is also an important part of most rituals and ceremonies.
You Will Need:
smudge stick, bowl or shell, feather, matches.
To cleanse the space in which you are working, light your smudge stick as described above (Self-clearing) and smudge yourself and anyone with you.
Walk around the room clockwise wafting smoke into each corner. Call on the spirit of Sage as in the Self-clearing to drive away all negativity from the room.
Then repeat, asking the spirit of Sweetgrass to bring harmony and balance to the room.
Come to the centre of the room and stand quietly for a few moments. Turn to the East of the room and fan smudge out into that direction four times, saying: "Spirit of the East, Great Spirit of Air, cleanse and inspire this space."
Turn to the South and smudge four times, saying: "Spirit of the South, Great Spirit of Water, strengthen and bring peace to this space."
Now turn to the West and smudge four times, saying: "Spirit of the West, Great Spirit of Fire, energize and protect this space."
Turn to the North and smudge four times, saying: "Spirit of the North, Great Spirit of Earth, ground and cleanse this space."
Return to your original position and look upwards, sending smudge up to the ceiling four times. Say: "Great Father Sky, guard this space from above."
Now finally squat towards the floor and send smudge down to the floor four times, saying, "Great Mother Earth, nurture this space from below."
Put down your smudge stick and stand quietly with your eyes shut.
Visualize the great spirits you have summoned standing guard around your room. You could imagine them as the great archangels or the four animal spirit keepers of Native American tradition (Buffalo - North; Eagle - East; Coyote - South and Grizzly Bear - West.) Visualize the loving energy of the Mother and Father Spirits above and below you. Give thanks to all of them.
Note: You should also smudge anything you will be using for your blessing - i.e. crystals, candles, flowers, stones etc.