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Dear Saveta: A dear friend of mine recently shared with me her experiences regarding smudging. She attended a women's healing group with a lady from work. Saveta, exactly what is smudging and what can and is it used for? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

A.W. Brampton

Dear A.W.: Thank you for taking the time to email. I think it would be best to start with a bit of background on smudging. Smudging with the Native people (Canadian and American) is what I am personally most familiar with; use a combination of cedar, sage or sweet grass to purify themselves and as part of their prayer rituals. Their belief is that their prayer intentions will be carried on the back of the smoke to the Great Spirit. In their traditions, Cedar is said to take away bad dreams. For example, if you burn some in a bedroom area, it is said bad dreams will go away, never to return. Additionally, if a child is feeling sickly, the herb would be fanned over their body usually with some kind of feather. Cedar, sage or sweet grass are burned for protection to dispel negative vibrations or when a person dies or when something tragic happens to a person or within a home or building. Sage is typically burned every morning in native tradition as a way of greeting and blessing the day ahead.

Most native people practicing the traditional ways never use the pre-made smudge sticks found in some health food stores and or new age stores. Ready-made smudge sticks (they are usually rolled into a thick stick like shape and tied with some kind of natural material which are burned like an incense stick, lit and left to smolder) are I believe okay to use for people who are without direct access to necessary plant materials from nature. Among the Native people that follow traditional paths, ready-made smudge sticks are never used and their preference is to gather directly from nature all the needed materials for smudging. Doing so is seen as an inaugural part of following what they term the “good road” that to participate in these rituals a person must be fully committed in their belief in the process and equally committed to doing the work necessary to gather, dry, and prepare the necessary plant materials. I trust this gives you a quick but meaningful insight into smudging. Thank you for taking the time to email.

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