The engaging rhythm of a frame drum steadily plays while a sweet and earthy smoke fills the air and senses. An aged hand swiftly moves a long feather back and forth over a sea shell, wafting the smoke of the burning sage outward into all spaces. A voice can be heard chanting. The sun has set, the light is low, everything centers around the burning fire and stones. Have you entered lodge? How did you come? Where are you? Who are you? Grandmother and Grandfather are listening.
The use of various sages by indiginous Americans for ceremonial and medicinal purposes is thousands of years old. When we “smudge” we call the ancestors.
Before ritual, prayer, after illness, arguments, when starting a new career or journey and when entering a new home or property, sage is used. Elders, spiritual leaders and medicine people of various traditions smudge to cleanse and purify the soul, the physical body the physical space and the spiritual space. It is also used to raise awareness, and possibly even consciousness, before these types of ceremonies.
Using sage for ritual is easy and intuitive. There isn’t a wrong way of doing it. It is believed that the deeper we connect with the “spirit” of this healing plant, the more potent our rituals can be. Sage is truly a healer, having many health benefits and widely used in culinary dishes that it is no wonder this plant is also used for such potent spiritual practices. Smudging is the act of burning sage and other plants and filling an area with the smoke. Sage was often used in combination with other plants for specific medicinal and magical purposes. For example, lavendar is added to bring love and peace, especially to the home and dream time. A smudge stick can be made by bundling sage and tying it up with a cotton string.
Some common practices utilizing sage include:
Cleansing/preparing an area where ritual, ceremony, healing, medicine and prayer is to be held.
Cleansing/purifying a home, office or sacred space.
Cleansing/purifying a person.
Cleansing/purifying participants before entering the “Inipi” or sweat lodge.
Sage for the Home
When moving in or out of a dwelling, before and after having company, after illness and for daily meditation sage is used. It is also an excellent gift to give as a housewarming present.
Light the sage and get it going by gently blowing on it or use a feather to fan it until it is burning well. You might use a dish or shell to carry it and prevent embers and ash from falling.
Starting in the eastern portion of the home, office or whatever space is being cleared, blow the smoke into all corners of the rooms, down the hallways, in closets, across doorways, windows and mirrors. You may speak aloud that no negative energy is allowed here, only positive and good, or whatever you feel to say. Go around the entire house clockwise from east, south, west and finishing in the north. Open a door to allow negative energies to be released.
“Air, Fire Water, Earth guard this house with powers bold. Sage and Spirit work to still all dangers both untold and told.”
When finished, you can put the sage out in a bowl of sand or salt.
To smudge a person:
Have the person stand with feet apart and arms outstretched.
Face the person being smudged and starting at the feet, waft the smoke all around the front of the feet, going up the legs. Blow or fan the smoke around the torso, then around each arm and the head. Go to the person’s back and do the same, starting at the feet, going up the torso, around each arm and finishing at the head. They are now prepared to enter the ritual, sweat lodge, healing session, etc.