My husband Andy has been a big proponent of smudging since I met him. He’s probably the more spiritual of the two of us (I grew up in the land of the religious/superstitious). However, over the years we have each integrated practices of the other into our lives, and the art of smudging is something I attempted this past Friday.
It is, from what I’ve read and what he’s said, a Native American practice used to purify places and objects by removing negative energy and spirits. I imagine there are similarities in the incense used in other religious ceremonies. Personally, Andy and I have been in an end-of-winter funk, so anything that might drive bad feelings and energy away is fine by me.
Andy’s smudge wand of choice is made of white sage (Salvia apiana). A dried bunch of leaves and stems are tied tightly together, the end of which is lit and then blown out. The idea is that the smoke produced will drive any evil spirits or bad energy from the area – in this case, our home.
I started by opening all the doors of the house. (There has to be somewhere for the negative energy to escape.) The icy winter chill had just begun to dissipate, the snow outside was melting, and birds chirped in the backyard. Once the doors were propped open, I started in the attic. Lighting the end of the sage smudge in the darkened unused end of our attic was a moment of reflection in itself. Once lit, the aroma filled the space. It was part herbal cigarette, part incense, and part holiday turkey dinner. All in all not a bad fragrance – it was the scent of the hearth, the scent of centuries.
I carried the burning bundle of sage in a sea shell, to catch the ash, but it smoldered slowly, and was not in the least bit messy. The plumes of heavy smoke I envisioned clouding my vision and nose were mere wisps of fragrant air, wafting in my wake and purifying the surroundings.
Moving methodically throughout the house, careful to turn off lights and shut doors behind me, I envisioned the path being cleared before me. The stale spirits of negative feelings, the residual winter blahs, and the wilted memories of sadness were being swept up and driven out by the smoking smudge. It was an act of symbolism, an act honoring Winter, but politely letting her know it’s time to go. It was also an act of rebirth and renewal.
While I’m not about to run out and become a shaman, there is something to be said for the spiritual practice of smudging, especially when it’s about to be Spring. It’s about letting go, and moving forward. Whether or not there are evil spirits rushing forth from our house and screaming from the smoke of sage, is debatable, but the peace of mind it brings, the idea of a new start – those are very real, and very reassuring.