July 16, 2012
My smudge stick
My house is smoky and smells like weeds, and there isn’t a single teenager in my presence. I’m not high (lol, c’mon!), nor am I desperately trying to air out the scent. I am content. I am relaxed. And I am at home.
For the past couple of weeks, and probably for a few upcoming ones, there’s some stressful and fairly unpleasant things happening around me. It’s a mild emergency situation that I’m merely playing a supporting role in, but my new apartment has become somewhat of a refuge to others, while leaving me feeling a little lost and disconnected from the space I spend all my time in, which is a weird feeling indeed. However, we don’t always have a say in what goes on around us, and we need to just take action and be present in the moment, however hard it is.
I’m sensitive to these things. I hate feeling lost. So much so that my sole tattoo is a testament to that.
Anyhow, years ago I had performed a somewhat clumsy inaugural white sage burning ceremony for an apartment I had taken in Vancouver in my early 20s. I loved the place and location, but the bad energy was nearly palpable. Burning sage is supposed to rid the air of negative energy, so I bought a HUGE bunch of sage and smoked out the place.
It was ridiculous. I was holding this massive wad of dried weeds, with a burning tip the size of a baseball. With smoke pouring out the windows, passers-by on the street looked up as though there was an emergency going on, actually pointing at my windows. I could hardly breathe and my eyes were watering up but I was determined to make the place mine, and I even had to unplug the smoke detector. I wound up burning a hole in the carpet…shhh, I put a chair over it, and fairly distressing the very persinickity upstairs neighbour who glowered at me from that moment on. But, it WORKED. After that day, the place felt like MINE. It was home.
Anyhow, this process does not need to be such a calamity. In fact, it can be way toned down and simplified, and you don’t need to put yourself in any kind of health or safety risk. I encourage you to NOT do it the way I first did, but I felt the situation was extreme.
Smudging may be popular with witches, pagans, psychic mediums, and of course with native Americans (Autochtones of Canada included. Respect!) but I truly believe that this ritual can and should be performed by everyone, at least once in their lives. The appeal to me is that I have some Cree and/or Algonquin blood, and this is a daily practice for many American tribes, from the hot and dry deserts of the South Western US all the way to the cold and clammy North East Canada, where my ancestors are from. (Side note: My family tree is messy and not well kept, as in Canada, when French men married/”took” native or Metis women, their names were not put on any document. It simply says “une femme”, so I’m not sure of my exact roots or of some of my more interesting distant, and not-so-distant relatives, as we’re talking 1800s. Sad, right?)
Here’s how you do it:
Buy a bundle of white sage. You can also get lucky and find a bundle of mixed herbs, such as sage, sweet grass (YUM!), sometimes tobacco (boo) and even lavender (for a Martha-esque ritual…that’s cool too.). Of course, you can grow your own as well, which I am thinking I will try. Think peppermint might be a good cleansing herb?
Find a bowl, plate, mug, ashtray, or anything that can get a little hot and burnt. There are traditional bowls for this purpose, but just do what’s right for you. You don’t even need a bowl, you can just go around with it a la Olympic torch style, as I do. But you know, silliness is always part of my rituals (it’s therapeutic for me!). You do what’s right for you. Light the end of the stick, and the flame will go out on it’s own. Normally, you don’t want a TON of smoke pouring out, but use your own discretion here.
Now, different folks call for different strokes. Some do it with water and salt crystals as part of the practice, others in tents and teepees to cleanse their bodies, too. Many might tell you there’s a right way to perform the ritual. Hodgepodge, I say! (?) You make your own ritual, whatever feels good and right for you. I think that what’s important is that you set your intention. Focus on your goal for the ritual. If it’s reclaiming a space, say so. If it’s ridding negative vibes, say so. You can do this in any way you like.
Right now, I went around, from room to room saying “My room! My office! My toilet! This is my home, and it’s sooo good! Hi cat! You’re home! Hi table, you look really good in here! Hey curtains, you’re so good I’m glad Ikea stocks you. Hello, ant on the floor, you are my guest!” Ridiculous, maybe. Over the top? Definitely, but I had to be clear about what I wanted.
It’s a good idea to start at the “beginning” of the home, so the front door, and make your way from room to room. Make sure to get the smoke into corners. As you transition rooms, you might want to “seal it off” in some way, shooing off the bad, and keeping in the good. I drew little squares with the smoke. Works for me.
However you do it, be authentic to yourself. Burn as little or as much as you like, depending on how much clearing you feel is necessary. Be confident in what you’re doing here, this is no place to be looking for an instruction manual or fretting that you’re doing it wrong, and setting the carpet on fire (oops). Set your intention, and do the thing without burning down your house (that would ultimately defeat the purpose entirely).
Moreover, like anything, use your common sense! Don’t let your five year old do this, don’t smoke your pets, don’t inhale too much of it (at least, don’t do it on purpose!) and don’t leave burning anything unattended.
Remember that this is for you, so make this ritual your own and pleasant.
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