Smoke Medicine and Ritual Bundles
One of my favourite yoga teachers, Ana Forest writes often about the importance of ritual and ceremony in our lives.
~To sit in Ceremony is to make a conscious decision to shift into sacred space~ AF
She teaches her students to use breath to achieve this, a deeply beautiful practice, which I try to include in my life each day, however, there are other ways to clear energy, change your space and evoke light. One such way, and my favourite of all, is to burn sacred plants and herbs to evoke ceremony, otherwise known as smudging.
All ancient cultures burned things of various types for spiritual reasons. Incense is thought to 'please the gods' with its scent, and resins such as frankincense and myrrh have been burned in sacred places for centuries. Native Americans also use various herbs that are thought to purify a person, place or thing by virtue of the interaction of the smoke with the item. Herbs used in smudging are typically sages, cedar or sweetgrass, particularly in North America where the ritual has gained the most renown. In Ireland, we can harvest sage, perhaps the herb most commonly used as a magical herb for protection and purification, but I like to mix it or replace it with other herbs that are more common here, which all have their own benefits such as mugwort, rosemary, bay, rose and lavender. Magical associations include purification and protection, wisdom, health, and long life.
It has been said that the practice of smudging, or purifying a room with the smoke of sacred herbs, can help clear negative energy from a space. And the benefits are steeped in science, when burned, sage and other herbs release negative ions, which research has linked to a more positive mood. These are the same ions that are released from waterfalls and the ocean. Burning some plants can also reduce bacteria in the air, even after that smoke has gone. Smoke attaches itself to negative energy and when smoke dissipates, negative energies dissipate as well. To practice smudging at home, it’s important to be respectful and learn how to handle the herbs according to traditional protocols. When done properly, smudging can be a way to connect with ancient cultures and I believe, with ones self.
Personally, I feel the energy shifting around me when I smudge with sage or palo santo and I don’t skip this ritual, at least, on a weekly basis. I use both a homemade sage bundle and a palo santo stick, choosing one over the other when I feel like it.
It is nice to smudge before or after healing practices like yoga, meditation, self-love rituals, and equally whenever you feel down or are surrounded by stagnant or stressful energies.
I like to start with an intention while I’m lighting the stick. Think of what you want to cleanse and how you visualise the outcome.You should be in a good and peaceful place/mood and focusing on cleansing the negative energies and replacing them for positive ones throughout the whole ceremony.
Light up the tip of the smudging bundle or stick with a lighter or candle, let the flame rise energetically and fan the burning side so it starts to smoke (you shouldn’t blow it yourself since it can contaminate the smoke and energy of the whole practice). Repeat until you see red choals, since this keeps the stick smoking for longer.
If you want to smudge yourself, always start by clearing your energies first, gently waving the smoke around you, up and down, 360º around yourself clockwise, and then do the reverse. Meanwhile, ask so that your energies are cleaned and you don’t attract any of the ceremony’s left over energies.
To smudge a house or a room, start in the furthest corner and make your way towards the windows, so energies leave as well as the smoke (windows can be open). Special attention to corners and doors. Continuously focus on cleansing the energies, visualise the room being protected and good vibrations to come and stay. Finish it by saying a final sealing prayer.
When smudging someone else, I like to start by bringing the smudging stick close to their heart, go up to the head and make my way down, always visualising the person surrounded by warm loving energy. From the shoulders down and from the waist down. You can bring the smoke to the chakras and cleanse each one individually.
Put out the smudging bundle or stick on a fire-proof surface, like sand, earth, a shell such as an abolone but you an use anything that feels right to you. Keep the smudging material on an open shelf or alter, if possible, close to your special amulets and above shoulder height.