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Smudging – The Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing to Remove Negativity

copyright 2010 Diane Simon 

The Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing is a powerful Native American cleansing ritual to remove negativity whereby the sacred smoke attaches itself to any negative energy, removing it to another space.

Smudging involves the burning of sacred herbs and grasses and, in many traditions, involves a four directions ceremony or prayer.  Smudging is an age-old tribal tradition which has been used for centuries to create harmony and peace. There are many different shamanic smudging ceremonies, and different tribes use a variety of herbs for smudging.  There is no "right" or "wrong" way to do it.

It is very effective to smudge when you've been feeling depressed, angry, resentful or unwell, or after you have had an argument with someone; if you're going to have a special ritual or ceremony, as part of a general spiritual housecleaning, or to clear your crystals or other possessions of any negative energy.

There are many ways to smudge and a variety of different herbs may be used.  Some of the most popular include

  • Cedar – to drive out negative energy and bring in good influences
  • Sage – to drive out negativity and for healing
  • Juniper – to attract good influences
  • Pinion pine – for protection and clearing
  • Sweetgrass  - to bring in good spirits and influences
  • Mugwort – for protection, lucid dreaming and heavy duty smudging
  • Lavender - for peace of mind and inner calm, and
  • Sacred tobacco - for an offering, clarify and purification

You can also combine loose sage leaves with other dried loose herbs, a powerful way to combine the energy of the different herbs.  If you are using loose herbs, you will need a half shell such as Abalone or a fireproof bowl or pot as the vessel to hold the herbs you have selected to burn.

How to do the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing

In Native societies, the herbs used for smudging are considered sacred. Treat your smudging herbs with respect, as well as being respectful about the act of smudging itself.  You may even wish to invite the spirit of the herbs you are using to join you and assist you with your intention.

It is particularly centering to have an intention in mind.  For example, if you are feeling depressed, visualize the smoke carrying away all your feelings of depression.  If there was an argument, imagine yourself and the person with whom you argued being at peace with each other.

A smudging ceremony can be as simple or as involved as you want. Sometimes, all that is required is a quick waft of the smudging wand to clear the energy.  Other times require more time and attention. It is up to you to decide how much to devote to your ceremony.

Before you begin, be sure the area you are planning to smudge is well ventilated because the smoke must have an escape route.  Take normal precautions to prevent an unwanted fire, such as placing your smudge pot or shell on a non-combustible surface.

Remove all jewelry and glasses.

Using a long wooden match. lighter or candle, light the bundle or loose herbs.  When a flame appears, blow it out so it will smoulder and smoke, not burn.  The idea is to get curls of smoke, not to set the smudge herbs afire.  (Special note: Don't smudge while infants, pregnant women, or people with respiratory diseases are in the room.)  Once the herbs are smouldering, the first step is to smudge yourself.

Smudging Yourself

You may want to especially focus on areas where you feel there are blockages or where there has been or is physical, emotional, or psychic pain.  Imagine the smoke lifting away all the negative thoughts, emotions and energies that have attached themselves to you as you smudge yourself.

If you're using a smudge stick, light the smudge stick on a candle flame. Hold the stick in the flame until there is a lot of smoke and the stick is burning well.  Using a fan, feather or your hand, gently fan the smoke onto your body, starting at the top of the body and moving downward.   Bring the smoke over your head, to your heart, eyes, ears, mouth, shoulders, down your arms, around your torso to your back and legs, and last of all your feet to ensure you walk the right path.  Get the back of your body as best you can (it is often easier to use a smudge pot and loose herbs for this).  When you're done, inhale a little of the smoke (just a little!) to purify your insides.

If you're using a smudge pot or fire bowl and loose herbs, light the herbs until they are smoking well. Then, put the fire bowl on the ground and stand over it with your legs spread on either side.  Weave back and forth in the smoke until you have been thoroughly cleansed.  Clothing is optional for this approach, and smudging in the nude is recommended for a more thorough cleansing.  Again, when you're done, inhale a little of the smoke to purify your insides. People often feel more relaxed, lighter and brighter after smudging.

Next, offer smoke to the four directions starting with the East.  Then, turning clockwise, offer to the South, again turning, to the West and then again to the North  Also offer the smoke downwards to Mother Earth, upwards to Father Sky and, most importantly, to the Creator or Great Spirit.  You may also offer the smoke to the moon, sun, waters, winds and the Universe.  Do whatever feels right to you and whatever your intuition tells you to.

Smudging yourself on a daily basis can be very helpful in keeping yourself balanced and maintaining a peaceful state of being. However, you should definitely use shamanic smudging techniques when you've been around people who are ill, depressed, fearful, angry or generally emotionally unbalanced; before meditating to create a calm state of being; when you're feeling blue or depressed; or when you've been under a lot of stress.

Smudging another

Before you smudge another person, an object or a place, you should make sure you smudge yourself first.  Smudge as if you were smudging yourself, fanning the smoke all over their body.  You may want to speak an intention or a suggestion for the smudging as you do it.

Smudging a room or space

After smudging yourself, walk about the perimeter or the room or space, giving special attention to corners and places behind and around doors and windows. Wave the smudge stick in slow circles or use your hands or a feather to fan the smoke throughout the room.

Here are some examples of times when it is appropriate to clear and cleanse the energy of your entire home:

  • When you move into a new home
  • When someone new moves into the home
  • Following the completion of a major home improvement project
  • Following a divorce or separation
  • At the time of a major "life-change" for anyone who lives in the home such as the birth of a child, a major career change, children leaving home, retirement, diagnosis of a chronic illness, etc.
  • Following a serious illness or death of someone (or a cherished family pet) who has lived in the home
  • Following a natural disaster (like an earthquake or flood)

Smudging can be done before healing work by fanning the smoke over the patient either with your hand or with a feather.  This clears out unhealthy energies and brings in the special attributes of the herbs.  You may also direct smudge to each of the person's chakras and as you do so visualize each chakra coming into balance as it is purified by the smudge.

Smudging can also be used to cleanse crystals or other objects by holding the objects to be purified in the smoke or by fanning the smoke over them.

After smudging, it is very important to open your doors and windows for 10-15 minutes to allow the smoke and the negative energy to escape outside.

Always have a shell or fireproof dish on hand to put the smudge stick in when you've finished.  Ideally, the stick should be pressed out in sand or earth, or just press it against the bottom of the receptacle. Always make sure that a smudge stick is completely out before leaving the room.  I prefer to put the smudge stick in a mason jar, cover it with foil and allow the smudge stick to extinguish itself but be sure it is before leaving it unattended!  When you are finished smudging sweetgrass, extinguish the braid by damping it against the shell.

Happy smudging!

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