The key to choosing indigenous sacred medicines is learning about them. While it is common to practice smudging with sage, there are other sacred medicines such as sweetgrass, tobacco, and cedar that can also be used for smudging. Each sacred medicine has a distinct purpose or benefit which will help you decide which one best suits your needs.
You start by first identifying why you will be using the sacred medicine and, from there, you can choose a sacred medicine that matches that purpose.
Questions to Ask Yourself
There are five key factors that you will want to consider when choosing a type of sacred medicine to use. You can identify these factors by asking yourself the following questions:
1) Who are the medicines for?
You might give different sacred medicines as a gift than you would get for yourself. Consider whether the medicines are for yourself, a friend, or a family member. You might consider if you or the recipient are allergic to any types of smoke, sensitive to certain smells, or have a distinct preference for one medicine above the others.
Who the medicine is for might also impact how much of it you decide to get. If you need your own personal store of sage for smudging, you might buy more than if you are giving your friend a smudging kit to get started.
The need for sacred medicine changes from person to person. You might need sage for cleansing negative energy, while a friend or family member might need medicines that aid in or speed up healing. The receiver of the medicine is an important consideration when choosing a medicine.
2) What is the purpose of the medicine?
Are you trying to use the medicine for smudging? Or will it be part of a healing ceremony? Do you intend to give the medicine as a gift?
Identifying how you will use the medicine will help you determine which medicine you need. Sage is most frequently used in smudging, while you might incorporate cedar into a medicine bag used for healing or turn it into a medicinal tea.
Alternatively, a traditional use of tobacco is as a gift to an elder in exchange for wisdom or spiritual guidance. It is also often used in ceremonies or as offerings to the Creator.
Since each medicine has a different traditional purpose, the way you intend to use the medicine is the most important part of determining which one you need.
3) Where will you be using these medicines?
In what situation and environment will you be using the medicine? If the medicine is being used for a specific ceremony, this might help you determine which medicine is traditionally used in that particular scenario. Your location also determines how you can go about burning the medicines, as it might be safer to smudge in some areas over others.
The location of the ceremony, ritual, or other way you are using your sacred medicine might also determine what medicines you have access to, if they can be found naturally, or how much you need to acquire before arriving.
4) Why do you want to use the medicine?
Intention is important. In many ways, we imbue the medicines we use with meaning through our own intentions. What is the meaning behind your use of the medicine?
If the medicine is for healing, what type of pain are you trying to remedy? If the medicine is for focus, what are you trying to become more attuned with? If the medicine is for cleansing, what negativity would you like to see leave your life?
Reflecting on the meaning behind the medicine can help you decide which medicine is right for you because you will have a better understanding of your overall purpose.
5) What is your expectation of the medicine?
Think through the entire process. How do you picture using the medicine playing out? How do you expect to feel afterward? Or, if you are giving it as a gift or using it in a group setting, how do you expect other people to feel afterward?
Identifying the scenario you are expecting and the emotions you are anticipating will also help you choose which medicines are right for you. You might choose a different sacred medicine for wanting to feel energized than you would for wanting to feel relaxed.
As you learn more about each sacred medicine, you will have a greater knowledge of which one to use for different situations. While the sacred medicines are adaptable, they also have distinct purposes that can aid with healing, enhance focus, and provide cleansing. Knowing which medicine works for your needs will help you choose the correct medicine.
Ultimately, choosing the right medicine requires careful thought and reflection on your needs, your intention, your environment, and who the user will be.