Written by Sherrie Locke on 2 Ix, February 2014
In most Native American and other indigenous traditions, a clearing or a cleansing is performed as the opening for all ceremony or ritual practice, whether is it a personal ritual or a group ceremony.
Many traditional ceremonies use local plants and herbs. We will begin with a most basic smudging: a ceremony or ritual performed to either clear oneself and aura or to clear a space such as ones home to evacuate stale or negative energy stored in the space or auric field.
You will need three items.
1. White sage (Salvia Officinalis) or a white sage smudge stick (you can purchase these in the incense section at Wholefoods.) For the non-metaphysical properties of sage, see http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Salvia+officinalis.)
2. A fire source (I find the sacred “Bic” works well). I was with an elder at a remote sacred site a very long time ago, and he asked me if I had a light. I looked at him and said, “A light? Like a flashlight?” He said, “No, I was asking if you carry the sacred flame.” I said. “Well, I don’t think I have had that initiation grandfather.” He stood up and proclaimed, “I am the keeper of the sacred flame!” Then he reached in his pocket and pulled out a red Bic lighter, scratched it to life and held it to the sky.
He sat back on the earth, held the lighter in his open palm, looked me in the eyes and said, “My dear Sherrie, you never know when you will need to build a sacred fire, so always carry the sacred flame. This is traditional.” Then he gave me the red Bic lighter. Moral to the story: always be prepared.
3. A fireproof dish, bowl or a pan of some kind so you don’t set the house on fire. This is, of course, not necessary if you are working outside on the earth.
If working with loose sage, you will use the pan to burn the sage in. If you use metal, be sure you consider the heat factor and use an oven mitt or something.
If using a smudge stick, you will be using the pan to hold underneath the smudge stick so that if it pops or gets really hot you can catch the ashes and embers. Trust me you will need this. (Traditionally we use an abalone shell for a smudge bowl and a wing or feather to fan the smoke from the bowl or from a smudge stick. We are well trained in cleaning the aura, place or the like, we can feel it. The wing and the spirit of the bird help us go directly to the “thickness” and remove it like a surgeon.
Practice makes perfect. The tool is only as powerful as the practitioner. These are rules we go by in general. A smudge may be beneficially performed by a novice, but it might not be as powerful as a ceremony performed by a traditional shaman or properly trained practitioner who is tuned in, intentional and heart centered.
I feel it is important to do personal smudging frequently, especially after interacting with others, to re-center yourself in your own energies and clear any negativity. It is required prior to most traditional ceremony. Like we say, leave your shit outside the lodge.
Health and holistic practitioners can benefit greatly by doing smoke cleanses but may need to devote a considerable amount of time to this and also to cleaning the space they have been working in at the end of the day. Note that sage is an antiseptic, so it can also be used in treatment rooms or where people have been ill, not only to clear residual emotional debris but also to clear airborne germs and pathogens.
I must also note that in this day and age many places will not let you burn anything. I have run into this myriad times, especially in California. There are other types of cleansings that can be prepared and used in this situation, which I will address in a future post. We are solely focusing on smoke cleansing or smudging.
Basically it works like this. Take a few deep breaths and relax. If you plan to cleanse a room or a house, walk through it first and look at the places that gather energy so you have an idea what to focus on. Set your intention (to clear you and/or the space).
How to Do a Personal Smudging
Always smudge yourself before you smudge another person or start a house clearing or blessing. For a personal smudge: light the sage, get it burning and then blow out the flames. Start at the bottom (feet) and let the smoke kiss your body, bathe in it, thank it for taking away what you do not need, for clearing and letting go of any negativity. It’s that simple.
How to Smudge a Room or House
For a space or house clearing smudge, begin and end at a designated point (you work that out). If you are smudging a house, you might want to start at the front door, move in a steady fashion, clockwise or counterclockwise (your preference or belief system but choose one and stick with it), going in that general direction through each room until you get back to your starting point.
Be sure to watch how the smoke rises in different areas, it will tell you where the negativity hangs out. You might want to spend a bit more time and smoke on those areas. Don’t forget closets, drawers and cabinets. You can expedite this by opening them all on your first walk through, then go back after you have completed the whole project and put everything back the way it was, only now it’s clean and de-cootied. I always open a door or window afterward to let anything out that needs to go out.
Other Notes on Smudging
If you are using a smudge stick, put it out under running water. After it dries you can reuse it, but if you crush it out it will continue to smolder and be a fire hazard.
If you are using loose sage, carry a bag of it around with your bowl so you can add to the fire rather than having it all go up at once.
Go forth and clean that space!
I will post a more advanced cleansing ceremony at a later time, this is intended for newbies and getting used to doing the cleaning rituals.
Ho! Mitakuye Oyasin!