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Smudging: A Native American Tradition

Today, we honor Native American Heritage Day. This day is recognized on the day after Thanksgiving in order to pay respect to American Indians nationwide, celebrating their vibrant cultures, traditions, & heritages while also recognizing Native Americans' many contributions.

Native American voices are encouraged to be heard today, which fosters pride in our people's vibrant & layered heritage. One of our most important missions as beings on this Earth is ensuring that the traditions & practices of our ancestors are not diminished, left behind, or forgotten … But cherished, sustained, & provided with fertile conditions to thrive.

Smudging is a spiritual practice that has been used worldwide for centuries. In Native American culture, smudging is an essential practice because it creates a strong link between the spiritual self & the sacred elements. This tradition highlights the respect we have for Mother Earth, by using the gifts that the Earth has provided to heal & promote positive spiritual influences. This practice is used with the intent to purify, spiritually cleanse, rid physical spaces of negative energy, & bless. The art of smudging consists of burning plants, herbs, or resins in a bowl or bundle, while praying or manifesting an intention. The burning of course results in smoke forming which is believed to cleanse the air it surrounds & those within it.

“ … It is to better the lives of people & the places they live. Smudging is the bridge between mortal life & higher realms, bringing in good spirits & eliminating any negative, stagnant ones. This ceremony lifts away any sadness, impurities, & anxieties, & remediates poor health, leaving nothing but peace & harmony for both individuals & the environment after the cleansing.” ~ Paul Gowder

Most Common Smudging Herbs:

  • Sage: Sage is a healing herb, also known as Salvia. Salvia comes from the Latin word “salvare,” which means “feelings of health, wellness & healing”. There are several types of sage, the most popular being white sage, red sage or common sage. This herb provides a sense of strength, clarity, & wisdom.

  • Cedar: Cedar is a popular herb for cleansing & purifying negative energy. It is believed that it eliminates bad spirits within the spirit & self, bringing a restored sense of balance to the being. When eliminating this energy, it replaces it with positive frequencies & offers a powerful connection to the spiritual beings we consider as angels or guides.

  • Sweetgrass: Sweetgrass is believed to carry our prayers & intentions into the spirit world. Its sweet scented smoke is said to take these thoughts, prayers, words, & intentions & softly transition them to our spirits. Because of this belief, this herb was given the name “the hair of Mother Earth”. Sweetgrass resembles kindness, humbleness, & purity. 

  • Tobacco:  In many Indigenous cultures, tobacco is considered a sacred medicine. It is believed to be a bridge between the physical realm & the spiritual. Burning tobacco provides many spiritual benefits, it is a human commitment expressing gratitude for the beauty in life.

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A Traditional Smudging Ritual:

  1. Choose the space you wish to conduct your ritual in. It can be outdoors or indoors, if indoors, open a window or leave a door open to safely conduct this practice.

  2. Get in the right mindset. Take a moment to make sure you are fully present & focused on your intention. If you are distracted during this practice, the smudging ritual may not be as effective as hoped.

  3. Carefully begin to ignite the herbs inside your bowl. You may let the flame burn up for about 30 seconds before extinguishing the fire. You want to do this by carefully holding your hand above it to deprive the oxygen.

  4. Once smoke begins to rise from the herbs, you will smudge yourself first. Here is where you will want to use the feathers, tools or your hands to guide the smoke. Begin with your head first, moving down the body towards your feet. Then you may move to your surrounding space. Take your time to do this slowly, allow yourself to feel tranquil, & make the attempt to cover the room or space from corner to corner.

  5. When you are satisfied with your cleansing, bring the ashes & left over herbs outside, sprinkling them back to the soil or Earth. This is an important step as it signifies the energy being given back to the Earth & pays your respects to the elements.

  6. You can finish your ritual with a final thought, prayer, thank you, or intention.

~ Blessings!

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