There are four sacred plants – also known as medicines – that anchor the four directions of the Medicine Wheel, and all can be burned in a smudging ritual or cleansing. Sometimes they are combined with other herbs, or resins such as copal and frankincense. Although a traditional form of cleansing and healing for centuries, science has now validated these practices by showing that the burning of these herbs releases negative ions, which creates or enhances positive emotions.
The smoke of these sacred medicines is ethereal and travels between the worlds, bringing our emotions, wishes and thoughts to our guides and Ancestors, and our prayers to Spirit.
If you have challenges with smoke in your environment, dip these sacred herbs into purified water and sprinkle the area for cleansing, rather than burning the herbs.
Sacred herb of the North
It is known as the sacred hair of Mother Earth and frequently woven into three strands, representing Love, Kindness and Honesty.Use sweetgrass to purify the spirit, calm and heal, and to attract Spirit.
Sacred herb of the East
Tobacco is one of the most sacred and powerful plants. It is used for rituals and ceremonies, and to communicate with Spirit and to bond the earthly and spiritual realms. When collecting botanicals for use in your rituals, always leave a gift of Tobacco for the plant or tree. When going to a ceremony or ritual, offer tobacco as a gift to the Elder leading the ritual.
Caution: Do not confuse Native or Sacred tobacco with present-day commercial tobacco (click here for more information on the distinction, from the Aboriginal Tobacco Program). Unless you can guarantee the tobacco was harvested wild (or grown organically) and not treated with any chemicals, do not use it. There is apparently a wild tobacco (also known as Coyote Tobacco, scientific name Nicotiana attenuate) that grows here in BC, in the Osoyoos region but I have no further information on it.
Sacred herb of the South
Sage is stronger than Sweetgrass so used more frequently in rituals and ceremony. You can burn sage “loose leaf” or in a traditional smudge stick or wand. There are many types of sage; frequently White Sage is used for wands.
Use sage to release, and to cleanse or remove negative energy
Sacred herb of the West
Cedar trees are old, wise and powerful and are guardians to us. Use cedar to purify and protect your home or work space. Lay cedar boughs in a ritual space or lodge to dispel negative energies or spirits.Cedar may also be used in baths, or in a tea.
~ Della Ratcliffe, Inner Journey Events
Look for future articles from Inner Journey Events on smudging ceremonies, and how to make your own smudge wands.