Smudging is a purification ceremony, a Native American healing ceremony. Plants, our living relatives, or more accurately, medicine, are used for this ceremony. Plants such as sage, sweetgrass, cedar and tobacco. They are gathered fresh in nature in a ritual where only what is necessary is taken and something is often given back. For example, some will leave tobacco as an offering for the plants. Each Elder might have a different blend of medicine. When taken, the plants are prepared and then grounded and mixed together.
Within the teachings of the Medicine Wheel, the four medicines are tobacco, sweetgrass, sage and cedar. Tobacco comes from the east direction and represents balance. Sweetgrass comes from the south and represents kindness and positivity. Cedar is the western direction and represents harmony. Finally, sage is the northern direction and represents protection from negativity (the meaning might vary according to each nation). When smudging, one will place grounded medicine in an abalone shell and light it. Using an eagle feather (connection to the Creator), one will keep the smoke active. You do not use your breath to keep the smudge going.
Sage and smudging
Sage cleanses and purifies you and your life of negativity. When lighting the smudge, one will face the East direction, the direction of the beginning, of birth. Always start by smudging your feather in the four directions and offering it to mother earth and father sky, Honoring them, the spirit within you, your guides and teachers and power animals of the four directions, the animal and plant kingdoms, the one legs, the winged, the four-legged, the two-legged, those that walk, fly, swim, crawl.
One will often “wash” their hands in the smoke, before bringing some to their eyes, mouth, ears, heart and head. We do this as well to protect us against words of others that might offend us, visions that might trigger us and find the words to say what we need to say. You can also “wash” smoke up and down your arms, your legs and behind you. I personally finish with bringing smoke to my heart and end with saying All my Relations. It is always followed by a prayer. I call upon the great Creator to assist and guide me in my thinking, feelings and actions. I ask for guidance, strength, protection. It’s a personal moment to connect with your higher power. I also express gratitude for my blessings and for those around me and pray for my family and friends. I end my prayer with Mitakuye-Oyasin (all my relations).