Smudging and Blessing Herbs
Sage is for healing. The smoke is used to bless, cleanse and heal the person or object being smudged. Sage is used to ‘wash off’ the outside world when one enters ceremony or other sacred space. Objects are likewise washed off with sage medicine smoke to rid them of unwanted influences. The plants that are called sage can come from very different families of plants. True sages are in the genus of Salvia; this includes Salvia Officinalis (garden sage) and Salvia Apiana (White Sage), also called California White Sage and Sacred Sage. Many of the herbs called sage come from a completely different family of plants, the Asteracea family. This family brings us the genus of Artemisia from which come New Mexico Sage (Artemisia tridentada), and the sage from the Dakotas (Artemisia ludoviciana), also called Grey sage, Prairie sage, Dakota sage, Lakota Sage and mistakenly sometimes called White sage. All of these sages (Salvia and Artemisia) are used for healing and cleansing. More can be learned from the book Sacred Sage, How It Heals.
Cedar is a medicine of protection. Cedar trees are very old, wise and powerful spirits. Cedar is often used to cleanse a home or apartment when first moving in, inviting unwanted spirits to leave and protecting a person, place or object from unwanted influences. Cedar is used as a name for a number of different genuses of trees and shrubs. The primary ones are Cedrus, Thuja, Libdocedrus and Juniperus.
Junipers are not true Cedars but are used as such by many people.
Sweetgrass is also called Seneca grass, holy grass and vanilla grass. This special herb’s sweet vanilla-like scent is the breath of the Earth mother, bringing the blessing of Mother Earth’s love. Sweetgrass is burned to remind us of the essence of the feminine and that the earth provides us with everything we need. Sweetgrass can be unbraided or trimmed with a scissors into small pieces and sprinkled on hot Charcoal Tablets. Allow the sacred smoke that follows to wash over the subject of the blessing.
Lavender is often used for invitation of the spirits. The name may be derived from the Latin lavare (to wash) or livendula (meaning bluish). In ancient times lavender was an important herb used in mummification. There is a legend that the clothing of baby Jesus was laid upon a lavender bush and acquired the fragrance. Some Christians still regard the scent of lavender as a safeguard against evil. Burning
CopalCopal is tree sap from Mexico similar to Frankincense. When burned it has a crisp, clean, sharp scent that is almost citrus-like. Copal is sacred to the native peoples of Mexico, as it is a gift ‘pleasing to the gods.’ Because copal is the blood of trees, it is offered to honor the enormous gift given to us by all of the tree people of our planet.
Frankincense and Myrrh were considered more valuable than gold. Used to embalm the bodies of the Egyptian Pharaohs, this tree resin is considered to cleanse and protect the soul. Frankincense is still used in religious rituals. It is said to ease depression and promote clairvoyance.
Myrrh tree resin is said to help one maintain a state of enlightenment, connect one to the spirit of youth, and clear the path of debris that stands in the way of one’s truth.
Smudging Feather – It is traditional to use a bird’s feather to brush the smoke over the person or object being blessed. It is important to use the underside of the feather to wash the smoke over the object of blessing. It is the underside of the bird and its wings that face the Mother Earth as it flies and it is this surface of the feather that offers the blessing medicine of the bird.
Other Important Herbs
Mullein has been used in smoking blends for the sacred pipe, also used as a tea for lung inflammation. Mullein is also called Yerba del lobo, velvet plant and miner’s candlestick.
Red Willow Bark is another traditional ingredient for smoking in the pipe. It is not really a willow, but a dogwood. Sioux people call this bark Chanshasha.
Osha Root is one of the roots called Bear Root. This plant grows mainly in the Rocky mountains and is used to invite the bear spirit medicine. Osha is an important medicine for people from northern Mexico to Canada, often used for infections.
Uva Ursi, called Kinnikinnik by many people, is another plant used in pipe smoking mixtures. Uva ursi is commonly used as tea for bladder infections.