An intro to the Art of "Smudging"

If you are feeling out of sorts, vulnerable or ungrounded; if you are finding yourself “in your head,” or possibly too immersed in another person’s energy or agenda, you may want to try “smudging.” What is “smudging?” Smudging is an ancient art of Purification and Blessing handed down from nearly all civilizations.

Usually when a person in today’s world thinks of smudging, he or she thinks of a Native American person with a bowl, a feather and some burning Sage. But many of the world’s traditions work with smudging to purify, bless, and sanctify.

For this article’s sake, we shall speak a little about what is considered the common perception of the Native American form of smudging. However, I do want to caution you that this conception of smudging is a little simplistic. As an example, if I watched someone doing Tai Chi, I could write down the movements they seemed to be making in sequence but would I know the inner workings of what they were doing and the meanings behind these inner workings? Would I know the connections that these prayerful men and women had established, and would I know how to access their lineages and the generations of knowledge that had been passed down, and come before them?

So know that this is just an introduction offering you a possibility of connection to these traditions, and that a further humble exploration on your part may yield a much more juicy relationship to the divine and true knowing.

That said, many indigenous people of the Americas use smudging to purify a space, clear the area around ones body from unwanted influences, and to still the thought processes. If you have ever had a true medicine person smudge you, you may notice that suddenly you are much more present and a stillness comes over you. Meditation also is a way of stilling the mind. Stilling the mind is really a precursor to any type of ceremony because when you still the mind, you can be attentive in the present moment and drop into what is actually happening around you. Therefore, some smudging, depending on the qualities of the plant you are using will allow you to come into a space that is generally unencumbered by the past. Another word of caution here. For some reason people in this fast paced culture seem to assume that you can burn just any plant and that most all of them do the same thing, purify. Well that is just not true. People also think that it is as simple as buying and burning a plant and waving a feather and smoking yourself and others. Well that is not true either, in fact it does not work, especially with Sage! This we will save for another discussion.

If you smudge the right way with one of the more commonly used plants, silver sage as an example, not only does it still the mind but it centers you. If you have been in ceremony with a medicine person, you will find this to be true. Don’t take my word for it. Experience this yourself. A dusting of sage into the space, when done properly clears the area for sacred work to be completed. It prepares you to start anew from a space of clarity, encouraging the past to stand aside. It brings you to a place of one-pointedness in your concentration so that the work to be done can be done with intention, potency and forthrightness. Purification in this way allows you to pave a path, to step out of the outmoded in your life and prepare and usher in transformation. We do not put new wine in old soured casks when we want to move ahead, for the old will then taint the new. Rather, we start with a clean slate and then bring in the magic, possibility and choice that empowers a new dynamic direction.                                                                 

                                                               by Mari MacEwen

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