Burning smudge, called smudging, is used as a spiritual offering and as a means of purifying the energy around people and places. This is often called “creating sacred space”.
First Nations burn various herbs (sage, Canadian cedar, sweet grass and juniper) as incense. The ones described here are used by most of all First Nations in North America. The smoke of these herbs purifies and is an offering to Spirit. The Elders say that spirits feed on the fragrances of our offerings. This is the reason why plants and incenses used as offerings by all religions throughout the world give off pleasant and inspiring odours.
For Native Americans smoke offerings also have an important role as ritual purification. This is called smudging by Native Americans. All First Nations of Great Turtle Island (North America), smudge people and places at the beginning of every important event. We use sage, sweet grass and/or cedar. We prepare the space and the people by cleansing and clearing away any useless or harmful energy or any evil spirits by the means of this ritual. We thus prepare the participants and the environment for the activities we wish to engage in. This is called creating sacred space.
One of my teachers, OhShinnah Fastwolf, a wonderful and powerful woman warrior, shaman and moon priestess of the Apache people, studied this smudging process with scientific means. She tried to understand why all First Nations used the same herbs. Together with researchers at the university where she was working, she discovered that the smoke of these plants takes an electrical charge in the air molecule called the positive ion, and carries it away. The positive ion is a vehicle for pollution by maintaining, for example, the particles of dust in the air.
The negative ion, the opposite charge in the air molecule, is beneficial for our health. We find a high concentration of negative ions by the sea. The movement of the salt water waves favours the creation of negative ions. Thunderstorms also create negative ions. We also find them in high concentrations in pine forests and on granite mountains. This is the reason why the air is so vivifying in these places. It is saturated with negative ions.
Today, we find on the market air purifiers that generate negative ions. You may notice when these devices have worked for a while near a wall and are then moved, a ring or outline on the wall, around the purifier. This is due to the fact that the negative ion, when it is emitted, cancels the charge of the first positive ion it meets. The particles of dust held by the positive ion are then going to agglutinate on the closest surface, in this particular case on the wall near the device.
Smudging with cedar, sage and sweet grass works in the same way. According to Native American tradition, the smoke of these plants eliminates evil, heavy and harmful energies and spirits. All spirits and conscious energies need a vehicle to move about in the physical world. I form the hypothesis that negative spirits and all forms of heavy and evil energies, like particles of dust and pollution, use the positive ion to move. By eliminating the negative ions these harmful energies are less able to remain in our environment.
Today numerous therapists and health practitioners on all continents appreciate the effects of smudging because it eliminates from the start many of the electromagnetic heaviness and pollution in the aura of the patient. Not only does smudging offer the advantage of offering a more neutral electromagnetic field in which to work but it also allows an easy elimination of the stagnant energies that may have remained in the environment after the departure of the patient.
First Nations are not the only ones using this technique. All spiritual traditions of the world use incense as an offering as well as to purify and inspire.
More soon on the different herbs used to smudge.
This article was copied from my book SACRED SCENTS AND MYSTICAL MUSIC