Tonight, it is both a full Snow moon, and also the 15th day of the Tibetan New Year, or Losar. Tibetan traditions of the New year have always appealed to me, in part because of the duration of celebrations marking a new year- several weeks before and after the New Moon. My Tibetan friends tell me that there is a full month of preparation before the actual first round of Losar New Year festivities- which fall on the 3 days of the New Moon in February (Feb 9-11 this year). This preparation time leading up to New Moon Losar is a busy time, filled with cleaning rituals in the home, ridding of the old and outdated, as well as abundant purification rituals that include burning cleansing plants like Juniper and cypress.
On the 3 days of Losar new moon, there is much dancing, sacred and secular activities, hanging new prayer flags, making offerings to Lamas, Protector Spirits of all Directions, consulting oracles, cooking special foods, and making beer. Renewal ceremonies follow this for 15 more days, until the first full moon of the year, today, when everything winds down with the Chunga Choepa, or Butter Lamp Festival.
During Losar, the Tibetan celebration of the new year, we did not drink champagne to celebrate. Instead, we went to the local spring to perform a ritual of gratitude. We made offerings to the nagas, the water spirits who activated the water element in the area. We made smoke offerings to the local spirits associated with the natural world around us. Tenzin Wangyal
Why we in the west celebrate the dawn of a new year for only a day or 2 is baffling to me. It feels right, in body and spirit, to celebrate the end of one cycle and the start of another over many moons, or at least for several weeks- beginning with the Winter Solstice in December. More than the end of a calendar, it feels more about changes in the earth, elements, and skies as reflected in our lives.
Practically, for me, December and January are my busiest work months, and beginning in January, I feel that only then can I begin to shut down, sleep more, and think of cycles and rituals. Like a bear perhaps, the body craves hibernation, introspection (new creative forays begin in retreat), and a general re-charging of body, mind, and spirit. This is also the time when I crave a seasonal cleanse akin to “Spring Cleaning”, but before true Spring, as so many of us do. Renewal is also making room with hope and anticipation of the new.
So if like me, your celebrations of a New Year are ongoing, or if you haven’t started yet- no worries! Take your time. Take weeks or several moons in fact- to rest, reflect, and renew body and soul before the earth warms up, the skies lighten, and buds begin to sprout.
Here are a few ideas for celebrating a New year via Smudging ritual with Plants, whenever the time feels right for you.
1. Out with the Old: Juniper, Cedar, Cypress are used all over the world to cleanse away old energies; to deep cleanse, and renew. You can burn loose leaf juniper and berries on charcoal, or “smudge” bundles; wands of Cedar or Juniper. The evergreens are strong, so I recommend starting small and burn or offer over several days especially if there has been long term illness, negativity, or persistent malaise. You can find individual bundles in my Sacred Land Sage shop on Etsy, or a variety pack Purify- a 4-pack of evergreens and sages.
2. Refresh with Sweetgrass: (Sweet Grass or Sweetgrass) to me is the epitome of fresh, inviting joy and good health and abundance. Every year I hang a new braid of fragrant North American Sweet Grass in my car, and another near or at the threshold of my front door. Sweet Grass is such a wonderful Plant Spirit filled with sweet blessings. It has a spicy vanilla-esque scent and does not have to be burned to be enjoyed. Nearly all North American Native Tribes have stories about how the Good Spirits cannot resist the scent and will always favor those who offer it. Sweet Grass invites goodness and is my favorite plant spirit to offer in gratitude. I carry sweetgrass in the shop from 2 areas of Canada right, and have a listing with 2 or 5 braids.
3. Crumble Old Smudge Bundles outside: This is an Optional practice, but if you have used one bundle all year before (large bundles can last awhile) for one purpose, and if you feel that you are in a different place or situation now, don’t throw it away- crumble up old herb bundles and offer them back to the earth. Earth Mother will appreciate an offering gift, and this is also a symbolic way of ridding of the old and starting fresh. You can also burn old smudge bundles in a fire place or campfire (safely of course ;).
4. Offer a special Smudge Blend to mark the New year. Just like Days of the Dead celebrated in Mexico and the Southern US in late Oct, where a incense resin or Copal is burned to mark the days, you can also reserve special plants for your New Year smudging rituals as well. I created smudge blend Abundance Blend just for this purpose; it has cedar, CA white sage, sweet grass, sandalwood, and lots of other sacred ingredients chosen for the type of year it is (i.e. year of the Fire Dragon, Wood Goat, or Water Monkey.) I change it up a little every year with resins, plants, flowers, and essential oils to represent the elements at play and the balance wished for in the coming year. It also comes with a Tibetan Crystal point, from Tibet.
There are many rituals around the world for purification and renewal! I’d love to hear about your rituals with plants in comments to this post.
Happy Smudging in the New Year!