In the Indigenous culture, cleansing plays an important role, and is a common element of both everyday rituals and traditional ceremonies. Many cultures have similar cleansing rituals, whether they be fasting rituals, physical cleansing or washing rituals, or rituals for releasing negative energies. In the Indigenous culture, the most common and traditional way of cleansing the mind, body, and spirit is by smudging.
A traditional smudging ceremony involves the burning of herbs and medicines to produce a purifying smoke. In the Indigenous culture we burn sacred medicines like sage, cedar, and sweetgrass, which not only help us to cleanse ourselves, but also help us to connect more closely to the Creator and the Spirits. We use smudging for a wide variety of reasons, both in traditional ceremonies and at home to rid ourselves of some of the stressors of everyday life.
The Tribal Trade Co. team has been educating people on Indigenous cultural traditions and the many uses of sacred medicines. In doing this work, we get some of the same questions again and again, and here, we’re going to answer a common one: When should you smudge?
In truth, there is no right or wrong answer to when smudging can be useful, it really is up to the individual. That said, there are some common and traditional reasons to smudge, which is exactly what we’re going to share here. Here are 5 times when smudging can be useful to cleanse yourself, to overcome stress or negativity, or to connect with spiritual energies:
1. Smudge When You Move
Everyone knows that moving can be an emotional and stressful experience, in fact, many people even say that moving is right up there on the stress scale with divorce and even death. While we aren’t sure we would go quite that far in describing how moving can affect us, it is traditional in Indigenous culture to smudge a new home or apartment.
Walking through your new home with a smudge stick or bowl can help to drive away any negative energies or spirits that may remain from the previous residents. Smudging your new home can help you to feel more connected and comfortable with the space, and can even purify the air to make it more comfortable to breathe.
2. Smudge to Overcome Trauma
Healing from emotional or mental trauma can be a long and difficult process, but as the healing begins and you begin to feel relief, the work will all be worth it. Just as smudging with sacred medicines can cleanse your home, the purifying smoke can also help to cleanse your mind and spirit, and help you to achieve mental clarity.
For many, the aftershock of trauma often lasts far longer than the trauma itself, and can return in the form of negative thoughts, bad dreams, volatile and confusing emotions, racing memories, and more. The smudging ritual is a great way to call yourself back to the moment, and to ground yourself in the reality you are currently living.
When you smudge, the most important thing to remember is to smudge with intention, or in other words: to have a goal in mind for when the ritual is complete. If, for example, you experience a trigger that reminds you of your trauma, you may want to smudge with the intention of reducing anxiety and feeling more grounded and centered. Allow yourself to acknowledge and examine the way you are feeling, while also working to look at the positive side of things.
Because the sacred herbs we burn while smudging are beautifully fragrant, you will have a reminder of your positive feelings and intentions for hours or even days after you complete the smudge. Each time you get a whiff of the cleansing smoke, allow yourself to return to that state of centered calm. The more you smudge, the more natural it will become for you to bring yourself to a leveled and open state of mind.
3. Smudge to Alleviate Sadness
Just as smudging can help to alleviate the lingering effects of trauma, it can also be a useful tool for addressing everyday sadness and anxiety. Taking a moment to burn your favorite sacred medicines, to cleanse yourself, and to focus on the positive and uplifting things in your life can help you to avoid falling into patterns of negativity, and can help you to turn those occasional bad days into moments of reflection.
4. Smudge to Experience Spiritual Energy
Smudging with sacred medicines can help you to connect more closely to the Creator, to Mother Earth, to the Spirits, and to your Ancestors. Smudging can help to lift your prayers and intentions to the Creator, especially if you use an Eagle feather to waft the smoke. The Eagle is one of the most important birds in the Indigenous culture, since he flies the highest and therefore closest to the creator. When we use Eagle feathers in our smudge ceremonies, we help to lift our prayers and spirits high to connect with the spiritual energies that exist around us.
5. Smudge Daily Cleanse Your Space
Remember when we mentioned that smudging can purify the air and make it more comfortable to breathe? Well, that’s a scientifically backed fact! Smudging with sage can eliminate up to 94% of airborne bacteria, which can help to reduce inflammation, promote respiratory health, and enhance mental clarity. Smudging can also neutralize the positive ions in the room - which, despite being “positive”, can actually stressed and tired.
The air-purifying effects of smudging with sage can last up to 24 hours, so if you begin to do this ritual daily, you can guarantee that your bedroom, kitchen, garden (or wherever else you like to smudge) has clean, comfortable, well-balanced air. Doing this daily cleansing ritual can also help to ground you, and to make you feel more at peace in your home.