Smudging – North America

Many Native American tribes have used smudging as a traditional means of bringing about balance to their environment such as ridding the home of illness, loss, even spirits that are unwelcome to name a few. In many cultures outside of North America, there are similar practices using herbs or other material to fend off or appease spirits; for this article we will focus on the ones used in North America.

Before starting a smudging there are a few steps to be taken to ensure success. This article will guide you in those steps, what equipment and elements, and in which order.

Common elements used throughout North America include Sweet Grass, Sage, Cedar and Tobacco. Some believe these plants, when picked and used, are giving us their power, therefore, it is highly recommended the smudger ask their permission to be burned prior to using them in any ceremony.

In many native cultures, it is believed that Sweet Grass is the hair of Mother Earth, as such, Sweet Grass should be braided. It is used for purification of the spirit, as well as, as after a smudging is complete. It is often used in healing or calming, as it attracts Spirits that are considered good.

Sage, another commonly used material in smudging has restorative properties. It is known to remove negative energy, remove troubled thoughts, as well as cleanse homes and items that are sacred.

Tobacco is, for many natives, a very sacred plant, used as an offering before going into a ceremony. It composes the mind and spirits. This is used as incense (not rolled into a cigarette) and can be used to ward off illnesses. For smudging, if no plant is available, use some form of unrolled tobacco or remove from a cigarette/tin.

Cedar can be used in the purification of a person or home. Like Sage it is used in healing. A mixture of tobacco and cedar are used to announce, to Spirits, an offering is being made. Cedar is also used for protection as it removes evil/bad spirits.

Each item used in a smudging or blessing should represent the four elements of Water, Fire, Earth, and Wind/Air. Shells or bowls are used during smudging to contain the ash of burning plants, as well as, representing the element Water. Sand, dirt, or unlit herbs represent Earth. When herbs are ignited, they represent Fire, and the smoke and fanning of the smoke is Wind/Air.

Keep in mind, this ceremony will not be useful, or effective, if those involved do not strongly believe in the process and effect of the smudging /purification. This is not a game.

Prior to starting a smudging or blessing, purify the person or persons who will be involved in the smudging ceremony, as well as the items. This is done by:
1. Ensure that there is good ventilation and at least one window or door is open slightly.
a. The smoke will carry the negative/evil spirit out if there is a pathway for it.
b. Too much smoke can be harmful to animals and the people involved.
2. Calm and clear the mind of all negative fears. Ask for protection and guidance.
3. Light a small amount of sage/tobacco/cedar in shell or bowl for use in purification blessing of items and people.
4. Bless/purify the items; give thanks to the plant energy and ask that they will remove pure during the smudging.
5. Each person who will be involved in the smudging/purification ceremony should, with their hands or feather, bring the smoke over and around them completely, asking for protection and guidance from all negativity/evil spirits or elements.
6. The smudging can begin.

Depending on your desired effect, light a braid of Sweet grass, and/or a blend of Sage, Tobacco (unrolled), and Cedar. Using a blessed feather(s) or fan increases the amount of smoke that is moving through the air in a direction, though ones hand works fine.

Start by blessing/purifying each room slowly walking clockwise, slowly fanning the burning herbs, ensuring all areas have received smoke.

Note:  If you’re interested in actually ghost hunting you should check out our article “Ghost Hunting Equipment” or if you’re considering having ghost hunters come in check out our article “Picking A Ghost Hunter”

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