The Art of Smudging, a Shamanic Cleansing Ritual
We have all experienced that moment when we are in someone’s presence or have been to a place where we feel “bad vibes.” Negative energy can change yours in a moment and even if you know how to do the Teflon prayers of protection, we can bring them home with us. It could even be in your own home where a lot of arguing, unhappiness, sorrow, etc. has filled the space and the house just feels unhappy and you along with it. There is a cure for what ails you and your home: The Native American ritual of smudging, performed with white sage, or other cleansing herbs, that have the properties to purify negative energies and allow uplifting and higher vibrational energy to take its place.
If you grew up religious, you probably witnessed the ritualistic use of smoke from frankincense and myrrh being burned during Sunday mass in ceremony. For others it is the smoldering incense at their Buddhist Temple or the spiraling tendrils of bukhoor in a mosque. There is something primordial within us that connects smoke with spirituality. In Native American tradition, it’s seen as a bridge to the higher realms, a way to bring in good spirits and dispel the negative or stagnant ones.
A Shamanic Cleansing Ritual
Smudging is a ritualistic burning of herbs and plant resins in a shell or clay bowl while prayers of gratitude and well-being are said aloud. The smoke is traditionally fanned by hand or using a feather (eagle feathers are treasured for this) and directed over a person or throughout a living space. The purpose is to wash away impurities, sadness, anxieties, dark thoughts and any unwanted energies or emotions that may be clinging to a space or individual. This is often done before a ceremony, after an argument (to literally “clear the air”), when moving into a new home and at the end of the cold season to re-invigorate one’s living space, to name a few.
There is deep symbolism that underlies each of the objects used in a typical smudge. First and foremost, the materials involved symbolize and honor one of the four elements, a central theme in many Native American rites. It is also important to hold pure and focused intention while you perform a smudging.
You will need a sea shell or a clay bowl, cleansing herbs of your choice (white sage, lavender, rose petals), a feather and a long lighter. You can use loose herb or smudging sticks.
The shell or clay bowl represents water
The herbs and resins represent the earth
The feather and wind it creates represent air
The flame used to ignite the herbs represents fire
Smudging yourself and others
If using loose herbs, gently separate any stems or buds from the leaves of your dried herbs (only the leaves or blades are used in this process). Then place the leaves into your smudging bowl or sea shell. If you are inside, open the windows in the space you are in, creating a flow of air from outside. Light the herbs and let them flame for 20 to 30 seconds before sweeping your hand above them to extinguish any fire (do not blow them out as you will scatter ashes and also your energy is blowing into the bowl). Smoke steadily rising from the smoldering herbs shows they are ready to smudge.
It is customary to smudge yourself first before moving on to others and the surrounding space. Using your cupped hand, draw the smoke around you. Starting from the top, bring the smoke over and around your head, down your torso, all the way to your feet (be sure to smudge the bottom of your feet also).
Smudging your home
Go clockwise around your house (usually starting at the front door), and gently wave the smoke into the air. Spend a bit more time smudging the room corners, as they tend to accumulate stagnant energy. Be sure to also open the closet doors and carefully smudge inside. Do not forget about spaces such as the laundry room, the garage or the basement. Be aware of your breathing and watch carefully how the smoke behaves and flows around specific people and objects. When it puffs thick, there is lots of negativity caught in that energy. When it gently spreads out, the smoke is purifying the area or object versus cleansing.
Once you have finished smudging, tradition tells the ashes of the spent herb should be brought outside and returned to the soil. Many tribes believe that the charred residue carries its own energy and must be given back to the earth.
A Suggested Native American Prayer While Smudging:
Creator, Great Mystery
Source of all knowing and comfort,
Cleanse this space of all negativity.
Open our pathways to peace and understanding.
Love and light fills each of us and our sacred space.
Our work here shall be beautiful and meaningful.
Banish all energies that would mean us harm.
Our eternal gratitude.
– The Medicine Wheel Garden, E. Barrie Kavasch
Psychic Susan Z’s Reading
Having smudged for many years, I can personally attest to what cleansing smoke is capable of doing. It WILL calm nerves, lower an argument, make you feel less fearful, less angry or hurt. Negative energy is the absence of light and love and hates cleansing smoke. Darkness cannot encompass smoke as it is always in movement and the smell is of an elemental energy which was created in love. It works!
Susan Z Rich is an emotional addiction counselor, spiritual intuitive and holistic therapist. She counsels others to see life in a more positive way and teaches personal accountability for life choices. She is also the author of several children’s books and Soul Windows…Secrets From The Divine.