I would like to start off with the basics, those simple acts that shift our energy from the mundane to the sacred. Intention setting with the ceremonial act of smudging and/or the burning of incense is an essential precursor to meditation, prayer and all forms of sacred communion, for it clears you and your space of present negativity, invites in beneficent spiritual helpers and creates a field of protection around you and your environment.
Intension setting is the first step in creating sacred space because it’s your intention that directs your thoughts toward a desired outcome. Our thoughts and spoken word, through repetition, become our consciousness and create our reality. This profound realization will allow you to state your intention with conviction, making your spiritual practice that much more potent and meaningful.
One simple intention is to reverently call in Spirit, your teachers, guides and helpers, always starting with the most powerful, and ask them for their help. For example: “Great Creator, Divine Mother, Divine Father… and all my good relations in nature. I come before you with a humble, open heart and ask that you guide and protect me throughout the day.” Then include a desire or prayer, “May each step that I take on our sacred Mother Earth be seen in your eyes as a prayer for peace.” A focused, sincere intention, backed by Spirit, elevates you and creates a positive foundation from which to live your life. The possibilities for personal growth from this practice are limitless.
Let’s talk about smudging and ceremonial offerings, what is it and why do we do it? The burning of plants and resins as a ritual to connect with Spirit is a tradition that all cultures share. Your intention and ritual set the stage for Divine connection. If you already have a practice that includes some form of smudging it is usually best to continue in that tradition for you already have a history with the process and offerings, they already hold power for you. For those of us who were not brought up with these time honored practices, below is a summary of plants and resins that can help you fill the void, allowing you to create your own sacred ritual.
Smudging is done in preparation for ritual to clear negative energy from yourself and space. The process invokes spirit, and as the plants are burned, their scents are released, activating all your senses, which in turn creates a heightened state of awareness.
Smudging is simply burning a dried plant with the intention of purification while fanning the smoke over the body to clear the auric field of stagnant energy. The smoke may also be used in the same manner to clear an environment. You will need a metal or ceramic bowl (Be careful the bowls often get hot and the embers can have a mind of their own!). The best plants to use are those grown locally (for they grow in the same soil that you do and therefore know what you need) and were collected and dried in a respectful manner. (See Plant Talk for instructions)
Native Juniper and Cedar are seen around the world as “big medicine” due to their ability to clear negative energy and powerfully protect you from negative forces, one of them is bound to grow in your area. Native American’s dry Cedar/Juniper to use as a powerful smudge, the ash they apply to the soft spot of a newborn’s head, and the berries are carried, all for the purpose of protection.
White Sage is also a wonderful cleanser and protector but white sage grows in only a few locations and is currently being over harvested. Instead, collect local Cedar, Juniper, Sagebrush, Pine brush or one of your local Artemisia’s, they all effectively remove negative energy and Juniper and Cedar are superior protectors.
After you have smudged, add an offering to your hot embers, as a gift to the Divine in gratitude for the help you are receiving. Offerings vary depending upon your purpose. Tobacco is a powerful gift, for it holds and sends prayers to the Divine. It is not necessary to smoke the tobacco. Mugwort clears blockages and enhances psychic ability. Lavender brings one back into harmony and balance. Sweet Grass attracts spirits (specify as you give the offering that the spirits be good and compassionate ones). Resins such as Copal, Amber and Frankincense are appreciated by the Divine and help create a heightened state of consciousness.
Female smudges and offerings: Just as people have their preferences, so do plants. When women are on their moon (menses) it is important to use only plants that are female oriented. Moon time cleanses and purifies women and these plants will nurture and aid you in releasing accumulated toxins. Recommended smudges are: female Cedar or Juniper (the female Cedars and Junipers have berries), Mint, Rosemary, Lavender, and Yarrow are all powerful women’s herbs. Native Elders, who have vast ancient knowledge in this area, teach that using non-female oriented herbs during your menstrual cycle is contraindicated and could cause you harm.
Greeting Each Day with Gratitude is a beautiful way to anchor the sacred in our daily lives. This practice is both simple and profound. Every morning I go outside, smudge and give offerings to the Divine, as I open heartedly thank the Creator for the many gifts in my life. This process can take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour depending upon how much time I have. The most important aspect is that I pray to Spirit with a sincere and humble heart. This practice is empowering beyond imagine. To feel and know you have support from all of creation can be life altering.
House Clearing I like to have a few bowls of smudge sitting around the house ready to be used. Smudging is an excellent way to quickly shift energy. At least once a week I thoroughly smudge my home. First, make sure you open a few windows allowing the dense energy to leave your home during the smudging process. Then, light your smudge with the intention of clearing your home of all negative energy while you walk around the perimeter of each room. Negative energy tends to accumulate in corners and hallways so make sure to cleanse them well. Always remember to veer on the side of caution when burning your smudge. If you are sensitive to smoke or are uncomfortable burning smudge, camphor and/or the ringing of chimes, drumming, tibetan bowls and high vibratory music will also break up heavy energy.
I’d like to thank and credit Native American elders, Robert Lake-Thom, AKA Medicine Grizzly Bear, and the late Corbin Harney for much of this information and encourage you to read their books for more in depth information; especially Native Healer, by Medicine Grizzly Bear Lake.