These days health is on everyone’s mind with the spread of the coronavirus. Native Americans believe that natural herbs and plants affect the spirit and the soul of a person. This type of healing combines many elements such as spirituality, preparation, ceremonies, and rituals using natural preparations. Burning sage, for example, is a powerful ritual that has its roots in some Native American traditions. Today, many people burn sage to cleanse a space or environment of negative energy, to encourage wisdom and clarity, and to promote healing.
Smudging traditions vary depending on the location of a particular Native American community. One factor is constant, smudging must be done carefully and with a positive frame of mind because you are communicating with the powers of the plants and the spirits of this ritual. Smudging must be completed with respect and honor if it is to work.
Smudging can be thought of as a purification ceremony – it is like bathing in sacred smoke, and the way to remove negative energy and to restore balance. According to the teachings of the Medicine Wheel, the four medicines are tobacco, sweetgrass, sage, and cedar. Tobacco comes from the east and represents balance. Sweetgrass comes from the south and represents kindness and attracts positive energy. Cedar is the western direction and represents harmony and wards off sickness. Sage is the northern direction and represents protection from negative energy and brings spiritual blessings.
Sage and Smudging
Many people use sage in the smudging ceremony because it purifies your life from negativity. When smudging, use an abalone shell and light the herbs. Fan the smoke with a feather, many use the feather of an eagle to keep the smoke active. The use of a feather is symbolic of our connection to the Creator.
Traditionally, when lighting the smudge, face east, the traditional direction of the beginning and of birth. After lighting the smudge, wash your hands in the smoke then bring the smoke to your eyes to see good things, your nose to smell good things, your mouth to say good things, and your ears to hear good things. You can also wash the smoke over your head, down your arms, past your heart to feel good things, down your legs, and behind your back. You may want to offer thanks for all that is good in your life as this is time for reflection and connection to a higher power, your spiritual self, or whatever you are comfortable in believing in a positive way.
It is important to set the proper stage and attitude for your smudging ceremony. Set a time when you won’t be distracted and use this ceremony to take away bad energy and to bring good energy to you. For a traditional healing video on smudging see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db-Dxzf0CJw
The Gift Shop at the Institute for American Indian Studies on 38 Curtis Road in Washington, CT has a supply of sage for smudging available for sale!