I was recently asked my thoughts on how to smudge ourselves and whether there is or should be some ritualistic words accompanying the act.
The act of smudging is a ritual in and of itself. I smudge myself on average 5 times a week, I aim for seven....but hey....I'm not perfect. lol Personally,I liken smudging to bathing. I bathe myself to clean away the dirt and chemicals etc. that I've come in contact with on a day to day basis, and Smudging cleanses our Aura's in the same way. Everyday we come into contact with energy, some of which can have a negative vibration picked up from people, places and things that surround us. Smudging with Sage clears that negativity from around us. Our homes, rooms, office spaces and cars can and should be smudged also.
There are three common herbs used in smudging, Sage - Cedar & Sweetgrass, others may be added depending on what the intention and energy you wish to bring to the smudging, but for the purpose of this blog, I'm just talking about the three most common. By burning these herbs we tap into the power of the energy they hold.
There are many varieties of sage, and most have been used in smudging. The botanical name for "true" sage is Salvia (e.g. Salvia officinalis, Garden Sage, or Salvia apiana, White Sage). It is interesting to note that Salvia comes from the Latin root salvare, which means "to heal."
Sage is used to clear ourselves or the space of negative energy, to drive out bad spirits, feelings or influences and/or to keep bad spirits from entering a space where a ceremony is to take place or in other words, creating sacred space.
Native American Indians commonly cover the ground in a sweat lodge with sage and participants in the sweat lodge ceremony rub the leaves on their bodies while in sweat.
There is sometimes some confusion about the names used for this plant. In some areas Junipers are known as Cedars. For the purpose of smudging though look for Red Cedar, that's not to say that Juniper hasn't been used in smudging.
Cedar is burned while praying either aloud or silently. The prayers rise on the cedar smoke and are carried to the Creator, the Great Spirit or the Universe (insert a deity of your choice and belief system). In the Pacific Northwest, the native people burn cedar for purification in much the same way as sage - it drives out negative energy; but it also brings in good influences, and that's what I use it for. I've cleared out the negative with Sage and then I bring in the good with Cedar. The spirit of cedar is considered very ancient and wise by Pacific Northwest Native tribes, and old, downed cedar trees are honored with offerings and prayers
Sweet grass is a tall wild grass with a reddish base and perfume-like, musty sweet odor. It grows mainly on the eastern side of the Rockies in Montana and adjacent Alberta, Canada. It also shows up in some small areas of Wyoming and South Dakota. Its botanical name is Hierochloe odorata. Some common names for it are Seneca grass, holy grass and vanilla grass.
Sweet grass is usually braided together in a bunch in the same manner a persons hair is braided, but it can be purchased in some places loose. Either way, it is usually burned by shaving little bits over hot coals or lighting the end and waving it around, letting the smoke spread through the air.
It is good to burn sweet grass after the sage or cedar have driven out the bad influences. Sweet grass brings in the good spirits and the good influences. As with cedar, burning sweet grass while praying sends prayers up to the Creator/Great Spirit/Universe etc. in the smoke. Its fragrance is also well known in the Angelic Realm. Sweetgrass is also put in pipe bundles and medicine bundles along with sage to purify and protect sacred objects.
Unfortunately, Sweet grass is harder to find today, its territory severely cut by development, cattle-grazing, and wheat fields - Indians in the northern Plains are trying to protect the last remaining fields. The best way for most folks to get sweetgrass is to buy it at Native American retail outlets. This gives support to Indians who can help the fields from being depleted.
SO THERE IS THE WHAT AND THE WHY, NOW THE HOW.
In answering the question that was posed to me, there are no hard and fast words that MUST be spoken when smudging. We do need to keep in our mind a sense of reverence as this is a sacred ceremony and we are seeking help from the Divine/Universe/Great Spirit etc. The two most important components of smudging are "intent" and "prayer or affirmation". So, here is how "I" smudge myself (and this is not to say that I hold the only route to smudging, it's simply what I've been taught to do and the way that sits best with my inner self). House/Business/Car smudging is a slightly different process, below is simply smudging oneself.
I start by taking a moment to clear my mind and then bring in the intention of clearing any negative energies surrounding me and bringing in good influences.
I prepare my smudge: I use an Abalone shell and loose herbs for self smudging. There are some who disagree with the use of an Abalone shell as they believe the Abalone shell sacred to element of Water and feel it disrespectful to burn or add the element of fire to it. In my own belief's I feel that I am using all of the elements in smudging and that is my intention. The Abalone shell represents Water, The herbs Earth, The Burning represents Fire and the Feather and the smoke itself represent Air and my prayers of course representing Spirit.
I prepare my herbs in the Abalone Shell, starting by putting in my Sage, then the Cedar and cutting in some Sweet Grass. At this point I would add in any other herbs that I would like to include to add their energy to my prayers.
I light the herbs and when I've got a good smoke going I blow out the flames and fan the smoke. I use a feather for smudging, but it's not necessary, this can be done with just your hands.
I raise the Abalone shell to my heart space and confirm my intention and at this point I may add in a prayer or recite an affirmation.
I draw the smoke into my heart space an hold it for a moment. Then I continue to bathe myself in the smudge smoke, starting with the ground at my feet, my feet, legs, abdomen, shoulders, arms an up and over the head so the smoke flows down the back. Remember to do both sides of your body and waft it around the back as best you can. This is actually much easier than it sounds. Once I have completely bathed in the smoke, I again bring the shell to my heartspace, I bring the smoke to my third eye and hold and ask to be gifted with clear sight, then the throat Chakra and asking to be guided to speak my truth and ending with the Heart asking to be guided by pure love.
Give thanks to the Great Spirit/Universe/Creator etc. for these blessings. And I end with Blessed Be.
By all means make this a ritual if that is what you are guided to do, or chant if you are so led............always follow your own inner thoughts and feelings that guide you.
Let me know if this has helped those who are new to smudging and/or given others some ideas to add to their own smudging rituals. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at my website: www.thepeacefulhealingtree.com