Smudging rituals

This was written by Pia Poulsen for her blog in 2010, after her classes with Jenny Ray in England.

Smudging is an ancient practice found across multiple cultures. Shamanic practices use smoke to cleanse and heal, churches and temples burn incense and smoke is offered as prayer by Native Americans.

I use smudging both as a spiritual cleansing, and as a form of focus, meditation and prayer. Depending on my intent, I use two different ways of smudging.

Morning Smudge
At the beginning of the day, or before I do massage I use the smudging method taught me by the Native American Jenny Ray during a Stone Medicine class.

Holding the smoking sage in a bowl in one hand, and a feather in the other, I take a deep breath and focus on what I am doing. Then I smudge myself while speaking aloud about what I am doing. The words vary from day to day, often depending on what is upon my mind or what I am doing afterwards. The meaning of each step is the same though.

  • Smudging my head I say, “I clear my mind of disturbing thoughts so I can hear those of Creator.”
  • Smudging my ears I say, “I clear my ears so I can hear the beautiful sounds of nature, and not the noise of cars and construction.”
  • Smudging my eyes I say, “I clear my eyes so I can see the beauty of nature and not the ugliness of polution.”
  • Smudging my nose I say, “I clear my nose so I can smell the flowers and the grass, and not the exhaustion fumes of cars and burnt rubber.”
  • Smudging my mouth I say, “I clear my mouth so I can speak my Heart’s Song and not words of anger or envy.”
  • Smudging my heart I say, “I clear my heart so it is filled with love and compassion, and not resentment or hate.”
  • Smudging my hands and arms I say, “I clear my hands and my arms so they may first serve me well, and thereby serve others.”
  • Smudging my torso I say, “I clear this Hollow Bone so the Energy of Creator can flow freely through me and not be obstructed by Ego.”
  • Smudging my legs I say, “I smudge my legs so they may often bend in prayer and humbleness.”
  • Smudging my feet I say, “I smudge my feet so that I may walk the path of Creator.”
  • Then I smudge my entire body from feet up to the head while I say, “And I take all that which I do not need and toss it to the four directions,” while I four times flick the feather away from me as if tossing away all what I do not need.

It is a very calming exercise, a beautiful prayer focusing on Nature and on serving others in gratitude. The smoke from the sage has a calming effect and helps clear the mind from unwanted thoughts.

Evening Smudge
By the end of the day, just before bedtime I do another smudging routine. Here I might use sage or use some of the mixed smudge-sticks I have, depending on what I need. A smudge with lavender helps me relax and sleep deeper, a smudge with copal helps energize me the next day. It all depends on the properties of the aromatic herbs of that moment.

Again, I light the smudge and hold bowl and feather in my hands. I might speak out aloud the cleansing, or I might just focus on the intent.

  • Facing East, I smudge my body and cleanse it for all negative influences from the day.
  • Facing South, I smudge my emotional self and cleanse it for all negative emotions and sadness.
  • Facing West, I smudge my intellectual mind and cleanse away all cluttering thoughts which might keep me awake.
  • Facing North, I smudge my spiritual body to remove what negative I might have picked up during the day and protect me from those who might wish me harm.

This next part I tend to speak out aloud, where the words change from day to day.  They might be a prayer for something, or an expression of gratitude. It all depends on how I feel and what needs I have in the moment. I send smoke into the directions I am facing, letting the smoke serve as a carrier for my prayer.

  • Facing the East I express gratitude for this moment, the positive changes in my life and the beginning of new things.
  • Facing the South I express gratitude for the abundance in my life, of love, material goods and lessons learned.
  • Facing the West I express gratitude for the visions and dreams I have which are coming true.
  • Facing the North I express gratitude for the Wellness and health in my life and the traditions I am carrying on.
  • Looking down I face Mother Earth and express deep gratitude for my life and how She sustains me in every way.
  • Looking up I face Father Sky (or the ceiling in my case) and express gratitude for the light and warmth provided which helps to sustain me.
  • Facing myself I thank myself for being true to myself and for being a Hollow Bone.

These practices are spiritual in nature, but not religious. They can be combined with any religion and practice. You can replace and substitute words and expressions as fits into your beliefs.

The directions only serve as a focus for types of gratitude. East for this moment, change and new beginnings. South for abundance, family and learning from our elders. West for our dreams and visions, for discovering about ourselves and reflection. North for wellness, healing and the traditions from past generations.

Please feel free to share your own wellness rituals and what your experiences with smudging are.


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