The Ancient Art of Smudging: From Banishing Evil to Curing Ailments
The burning of plant materials to produce smoke with positive effects has been practiced since ancient times. One of the best-known examples is the use of incense in the ancient Near East. Another popular example is smudging, which has been practiced for centuries by Native Americans and, more recently, in the New Age movement. Although smudging is often performed for spiritual purposes, it also provides a number of health benefits.
Smudging is a ceremony practiced by various cultures around the world. This ceremony involves the burning of a smudge stick, which is a bundle of dried herbs, most commonly white sage. The smudging employed by New Age movements is based on a Native American practice known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, with smudging being its common name.
Smudging. (Alice Popkorn/CC BY NC ND 2.0)
What is Smudging? When is it Practiced?
Smudging involves the burning of a smudge stick. Whilst white sage is the most commonly utilized herb, other popular herbs include cedar, sweet grass, and lavender. Amongst some Plains Indian tribes, pure tobacco would be used as well, whilst copal (a type of tree sap) is used in smudge sticks in Central and South America. Smudge sticks may consist of either one kind of herb, or a mixture of herbs. The herbs are tied in a bundle and then burned. Alternatively, the herbs may be placed in a special bowl and burned.
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Smudging is typically performed before or after a significant event, such as when moving into a new house, before meditation, or after an argument or illness. There are various types of smudging ceremonies. For instance, some ceremonies may be performed on a daily basis, whilst others are performed only on special occasions. Generally, smudging is performed to maintain balance, to protect against negative influences, banish evil, and to cleanse the area.
Research shows that the medicinal smoke from a smudge stick can purify the air of 94% of harmful bacteria for up to 24 hours.
In many traditions, smudging involves a four directions ceremony or prayer, i.e. the sending of smoke or prayers in the four cardinal directions.
Spiritual and Health Benefits of Smudging
The effects of smudging vary depending on the types of herbs used. As an example, the use of sage in smudging is believed to have the power to drive out evil spirits, negative thoughts and feelings; whilst smoke produced by the burning of cedar functions as a purifier and serves to attract good energy. Furthermore, smudging certain parts of the body is said to induce specific benefits. For instance, by smudging the ears, eyes, and mouth, one’s hearing, visual, and language skills may be improved.
Smudge kit (bjphotographs / Fotolia)
Apart from spiritual benefits, smudging is known to have a number of health benefits, many of which are backed by scientific studies. For example, sage smoke increases oxygen supply to the brain, which in turn allows tensed muscles to relax. It can also have benefits to those affected by poor air quality, improving the condition of those that suffer from asthma, respiratory issues, and general coughs and colds.
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The smoke from certain types of plants changes the molecular structure of air and energy, inducing a cleansing effect. Moreover, smudging has been found to be an effective practice in aromatherapy. This is due to the fact that the sense of smell is connected strongly to instinct and memory. Therefore, smudging is effective in combating negative emotions, including anger, fear, and grief.
White sage smudge bundles (ForeverLee / Fotolia)
Whilst smudging may be performed by anyone, there are certain precautions that one ought to bear in mind. For instance, smudge sticks should not be burnt in excessive amounts, as this could lead to respiratory distress or problems. Additionally, smudging should be avoided in rooms where infants, pregnant women, asthmatic or allergic-prone people are present.
Top image: Smudging with white sage (Serena Williamson / Fotolia)
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