The Indigenous Origins of Smudging | Spiritual and Medicinal Properties

Smudging is a ceremony meant for cleansing and purifying the soul or a space of negative energy. It is usually done by burning herbs and plants associated with purification, calmness, and an increase in energy, such as white sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, and cedar (the four sacred plants). In such ceremonies, there may be dancing and singing involved in small to large group settings, or it may be used independently to to cleanse oneself.

Nowadays, New Age spiritualists use smudging in a variety of ways, but most commonly it is used in the home to promote positivity and banish negativity. Originally, however, smudging was a purely Indigenous practice, and continues to be to this day.

Each ceremony represents the four elements of water, fire, air, and earth. The shell, which is used to hold the plants and collect the ashes represents water, while the plants themselves represent the earth. The flame used to ignite the herb represents fire. Lastly, the smoke that rises from the herb represents the fourth element of air.

All in all, the Indigenous believe that smudging provides one with two major benefits: connection with their spirituality and healing from physical ailments.

Herbal Spirituality

In Indigenous culture, smudging is often used as a religious practice to connect ceremony participants with the Creator and offer spiritual healing and protection.

Burning sage and other herbs during meditation may promote spiritual awakening and encourage the opening of the third eye, as it will offer you clarity of the mind and help you to remain focused and free of impure thoughts.

Smudging helps to bring forth pure, vibrational energy that is useful in connecting to the inner self and Mother Earth. Taking part in this practice outdoors among nature, for example, would call upon the spirits of nature to aid you in your positive intention.

Being one with the good spirits and shunning the bad spirits is important in Indigenous culture. Smudging helps to rid oneself and the area of bad spirits by restoring balance and peace while also driving away negative energies. By doing so, spiritual awareness is grown and a better understanding of the sacred self is established.

Smudging as Medicine

Smudging is also used as a way to purify the mind, body, and soul not only of negative energy, but of illness, stress, and other health issues.

It is actually a proven fact that burning white sage removes impurities from the air and even repels insects. While it purifies the air of bad energies, it is also purifying it of bacteria and harmful particles.

For this reason, Indigenous people may often burn sacred herbs during times of crisis, illness, and death, as the smoke is believed to bring medicinal healing properties. Burning herbs, especially cedar which is known to ward off illness, in a sick person’s home, for instance, would help to keep the atmosphere clean and purified.

Smudging psychical parts of your body may bring renewal and healing of the physical self. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, “smudging the back allows for the release of troubles that weigh one down. Smudging the ears, eyes and mouth provides for better hearing, visual and language skills, and for a clearer understanding of one’s surroundings and place on this earth.”

As the mind is just as important as the body, a smudging ceremony helps to connect the mind with spirit and stay invigorated and present. It may also bring forth feelings of calmness and stress relief, especially during situations where stress is rampant.

Native American Individual Wearing Beautiful Cultural Garb

The burning of sacred herbs and plants is used in many different cultures and religions around the world to promote a variety of benefits to the mind, body, and soul. No matter where you are in the world, if you’re feeling down physically or mentally, you can always pick up some dry herbs and light them up safely to have your very own cleansing ceremony that will help you to feel better in no time.


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