Cultural Healing: the Power of Smudging Ceremony

It is an honor to help anyone craft their own personal ceremony with Sacred Plants. To be asked by a family who is mourning the loss of a loved one, to put together special plants for their ceremonies, is always an honor beyond words. Where do I begin when putting together this kind of ceremonial care package? Smudging-TinyIn short, with a strong self-clearing smudge, prayers and intention to stay directly and firmly connected to Spirit to guide my hands and heart.

 

I believe strongly in the power of Source/Creator/Great cedar9450Spirit, the power of the Plant Medicines, and the power of Ceremony to get us all through.  Ceremony is the space where everything comes together; where there are no boundaries or limits to what is possible. Ceremony is also our opportunity to stay connected to each other in this earthly realm as well.  As modern people, we celebrate less and less together. We joke about the proverbial 3: birth, wedding, funeral. We are an increasingly individualized society. Everyone stays busy, we don’t get together so often; our ceremonies too are becoming more personalized.

But when calamity happens to one, it happens to all of us, as a culture.  So too does healing. If we let it. Taking the time to honor what is Sacred in Ceremony, for ourselves and others, is participating in a supreme act of offering our purest aims and highest intentions for healing.  We may not, as individuals, be able to clear debris after a hurricane, rebuild houses in Puerto Rico, or give blood or counseling services in Las Vegas. But we can all engage in ceremony that reaches deep and far, globally.

Ceremony connects us all to forces well beyond ourselves, and well beyond time and space. With Smudging, we set our intentions, sending them out on our breath, trusting that the power of the sacred smoke will magnify and carry them to Creator and to those affected. This is something we can never do enough. Especially right now. I recommend we all keep offering sacred plants in ceremony day and night now, to remove suffering, to send healing- everywhere it is needed. What to offer? Use what you have by resetting new intentions for old bundles. Or, start with fresh ones. Burn Sages (any kind) for gentle blessing; Sweet grass and evergreens to purify and connect to Spirit, especially Cedar and Juniper.

May all beings benefit.

5bec3ad5983527c31207e4eb67d8c736

Source: Faerypotter

Plant Medicines~Sacred Smoke: New Fall Course to Enrich your Smudge Ceremony

PlantMedicines-FlierI am beside myself excited to announce that I will be co-teaching a Fall Smudge course on my favorite subjects (SAGE and Ceremony!) with friend and Cree Shaman, Sean “Walking Bear” Mah, beginning in 5 weeks, on Oct. 5th.  This is a dream we both share- to offer our knowledge of Sacred Plants to people everywhere; to see more people confidently adopt ways of Blessing, Purifying, and connecting to Spirit via Sacre Plants via ritual.  The on-line Zoom platform will allow us to do this.

Specifically, this class will be a unique opportunity to combine resources and our varied experiences; my working knowledge of growing and wild-crafting ritual sages for ritual, with Sean’s traditional life-long experience, training, and stories. If there is one thing we both share, it is the passion for ceremonial uses of Sacred Plants as Medicine.  I hope you will join us!

For more details, visit my website Sacred Land Sage.. We may have to limit the course if there is great interest, so I recommend Registering early. Included in class, is a Deluxe Smudge Kit for everyone.

This smudge course, titled “Plant Medicines and their Sacred Smoke” will be 5-class course offered online, from Oct. 5- Nov. 2nd.  You can pay in one single or 2 payments (if you sign up before Sept. 9th).  This timeframe will leave time enough for our overseas students to receive their kits in time for class.

Thank you and hope to see you in class!

Sage and Smudge Rituals for the Total Solar Eclipse Weekend

EclipseSmudgeCollage

There’s nothing like a Total Solar Eclipse to bring to the surface polarized views on how to energetically participate in an eclipse event. While the topic of how to watch an eclipse is everywhere covered in the mainstream press (NASA, glasses- protect your eyes!), the energetic aspects of planning ritual or ceremony around an eclipse, is less discussed.  The two articles at the top of my searches, call out the same rituals for any waxing moon, with a bit about “shadow work”, but nothing terribly unique to a Solar Eclipse, or detailing which Sacred Plants make sense for smudge ceremony.  As a sage grower and one who helps others craft personal ritual with Sacred Plants- I am often asked- “what sages are best to offer for smudge ceremony during an eclipse?”

My short answer:  Based on the moon’s phase, offer sages, evergreens, and/or resins that help you; 1) deeply cleanse purify and RELEASE;  2) Set new and powerful intentions for RENEWAL- in 3 days or daily over the next 2 weeks.  See my Lists below for Plant Spirits and ideas for Ritual before and after a Solar Eclipse.

sage-harvest072

First, let me start by saying that conducting rituals around an eclipse is not supported unanimously by all cultures around the world. Certain North American Native Peoples today vehemently oppose not only viewing an eclipse, and also side against doing any ritual whatsoever during the event (see this article about the Taboo on viewing any eclipse in Navajo and other cultures, by The Indian Country Today.)

As a naturalist and ceremonialist, it is always interesting to me to note where exactly these taboo beliefs have come from. My Native American friends all tell stories of grandparents who sternly warned them to stay indoors, fully covered, avoiding windows and averting their eyes, lest harm come to them. Perhaps some of this is due in part to the fear of damage to the eyes– an entirely real and valid concern. For traditions in Mexico, Mayan beliefs refer to the fact that where there is a loss of sun, there is loss of life. This makes sense, of course. In the article noted above, Navajo Rudy Bagay speaks of how merely viewing an eclipse seriously “affects mind and body.” He speaks of the sacredness of the relationship of the earth and moon passing in shadow as an intimate affair- too sacred to gaze upon, supporting the taboo. The article also cites the sky as a place of death to the Navajo, which is a very different view than that held by my Pacific Islander friends and Tsalagi / Cherokee clans, who trace their ancestors directly to the Star People and do not shy away from viewing planetary events or rituals timed with them. But every culture is different.

On an eclipse positive side, from “Your Grandmother’s Cherokee” “Nvdo walosi ugisgo, The literal translation is “Sun/moon frog it-eats-the-round-thing-habitually,” or “The frog eats the sun/moon.” frogeclipse-CharlesEdenshawArtThis refers to the traditional belief that the eclipse is caused by a giant frog swallowing the sun or moon. To scare the frog away, people made loud noises for the duration of the eclipse.” Crazy howling, shouting and dancing outside was the ritual. Loud sounds to scare the ones “eating the Sun” were common practices among certain Scandinavian Peoples as well.

Photo: North Pacific Art by Charles Edenshaw

All of my Nyingma Tibetan Buddhist teachers call eclipses “very auspicious!”  Khandro net summarizes it this way: “In the view of the traditional medicine of Tibet, China, and India, the subtle energies of the body are diminished and so, out of compassion and concern for our world and all other beings, seen and unseen, we do what we can to help sustain them. It is for this reason that the merit of [prayer and] practice is greatly multiplied during an eclipse.”  How much greater? Rinpoche Jigme says that to practice during any lunar or solar eclipse multiplies the blessings generated between 100,000- 1,000,000 times!

As a naturalist and star-gazer, I am always looking to the cosmos for connection;  to see and feel my place in the bigger canvas, tiny as it shrinks me down. Leave it to the natural world– it’s giant redwoods, vast oceans, canyons, immense star filled galaxies, and mysterious planetary relationships, to size us all up. Ha!  (Secretly, I credit the stellar and heavenly cosmos for the first steps in our human evolution.  But that’s another blog post.)

eclipse smudge

As a biologist who grows and harvests California sages, I live by the seasons and celebrate our cycles in every way possible. Like most, I love the stories of the sun and moon, male-female energies across cultures. Without this celestial relationship kept in the balance, our entire existence and all we experience would be unrecognizable. Yes, this is obvious, but I rarely think about this any other time: what if we had eclipses all the time? There would be no day and night, plants, animals (our food!), no cycles as we know them for our sleep, moon, reproductive and birthing, cycles, or the influence on tides and oceans- which would keep our weather tumultuous. In short, the ebb and flow of life night and day as we know it, would be gone.

pia18471-full

Whew! So to me, there is much to celebrate by way of ritual right now. At the very least, in the ways of gratitude  practice with sage and evergreens. And now is the perfect time. For this Total Solar Eclipse 2017, here are a few ideas for your smudge ritual, tied with the cycles of Sun and Moon.

Aug 20-21: Waning Moon to Eclipse (New Moon):  *Cleanse * Purify *Release

Plant Spirits: Juniper, White Sage, Silver Sage, Mugwort, Yarrow, Pinion Pine

Rituals:

a) Invite your Spirit Guides and Creator to ceremony; Cleanse yourself with Juniper or Cedar.

b) Set new intentions for Release; identify what you want/need to release, naming each in your smudging ceremony (Sages, Mugwort).

*Excellent Shadow Eclipse ritual*
c) Energetically re-charge any “old” smudge bundles that may be laying idle and unused, partially burned from past smudge ceremonies- by simply re-setting your new intentions aloud to re-program them; then burn them up completely over the next 3 days (or 2 weeks of the waxing moon). If you cannot burn them- then crumble and send back to the earth your old bundles during this weekend.

d) Invite your demons and ghosts to ceremony: offer them smudge (Juniper and Sage) too.  Introduce yourself and ask them to speak. Journal your results.

e) Express Gratitude: Thank your Spirit Guides and Creator for coming to your ceremony and for all the help they give (Cedar, Sweetgrass).

As with any waning moon ritual, lightening up is a common theme. Add the powerful energies of a total solar eclipse; the moon totally blotting out the sun, save for a small crowned rim of light, and we get the “dig deep into your shadow side” motif. Shadow side of what you may ask? Symbolically the Sun is our identity, the Yang side, what we show the world.

Since the entire universe (or our small earthly corner of it anyway) is soon to be eclipsed by the moon and therefore dealing with shadow BIG TIME, we too benefit by having extra ummph and power to delve deep. We may even find strength to throw down a difficult demon or two. I like this scenario that implies: I’m not alone, the Cosmos is dealing with darkness too; I too can mirror strength, and weather shadows.

Being totally honest with ourselves in a total solar eclipse kind-of-way, to me means asking ourselves: Am I hiding behind anything? Is there any artifice or illusion that’s keeping me from being my ultra real, my authentic self?

And what is this talk of “demons” you may ask. What demons?!  Ha!! Shadow work means looking at anything potentially demon-like, or havoc-wreaking that we may be keeping safely buried in the sub-basement below our sunny faced identities to deal with later on “a rainy day”. Or like, NEVER!  I am no therapist, but can speak from experience in recommending ritual as a good  place to begin asking yourself the tough questions. If (or when) our demons rise up and hurt ourselves or  others- ritual is the gentlest way I know of to begin conversing with the dark side: Ritual  invites demons ‘up for tea’, or sage ceremony. The territory may not stay gentle forever, but it can be both lightening and enlightening.

Spirit never brings to the surface more than our bodies and minds can handle.                       Angeles Arrien

For Smudge ceremonies of Release before an eclipse, set intentions to be honest with yourself going forward; to see clearly. Offer up with the Sacred Smoke anything that is difficult. Go ahead, offer up your ghosts too.

Aug. 21:  The Eclipse:  *Mediation * Stillness *

Plants: none

Rituals:  1) Meditation. 2) Study Shadows on the ground. 3) Star Gazing.

Meditate: During the actual eclipse (2-4 minutes): I am a fan of stillness practice using any type of meditation technique you favor. An “energy soak up” as it were. Meditation is especially good when we want to feel the experience in the most present way possible; unplug, turn off our phones and just feel what one giant celestial body hiding another actually feels like to your small subtle energy body. Choose the background Sun or the timely positioned Moon. Can you feel something inside? They say our pets will be going crazy. Mine will be close. Extra rest is always good when doing shadow work anyway.

Eclipse Viewing: If I do view this year, personally, who-what-where_image2I prefer the old-fashioned way- through a paper with a pin hole held to the ground. OR, as husband recommends, staring at shadows on the ground- as under a tree and through leaves. I absolutely love the play of light anyway, and so may take my camera out for the last minute of the eclipse- to capture shape and shadow on the ground. (photo: Jet Propulsion Lab-Nasa)

Star Gazing: The Moon will rise and seteclipseSky-Sat-4631 with the Sun on this eclipse night, and won’t be visible in the night sky for awhile. New Moon blackness. Scientists tell us to expect a very dark night, making it a great time to stare at the sky (after dark only!) to your heart’s content. The night of the Eclipse- I will be outside, lying down; seeing which stars speak to me. (I use app Sky Guide to identify stars and planets in my night sky- shown on the right. This shot was taken this evening before sunset). Look “your star” up and see what the Greeks had to say about them.  More chance to revel in the cosmic mythos.

 Aug. 21 – 22: New Moon- Waxing Moon.

*Healing * Blessing *Inviting* Renewal*

Plants: Cedar, Sweet Grass, Lavender, Bee sage, Copal, Frank n’ Myrrh

Rituals:

a) Setting intentions for self-love, healing and growth.

b) Invite goodness and blessings to come and expand in your life over the next 2 weeks with the waxing moon, invite in the Sacred Smoke (Bee or Silver sage, lavender, etc).

c) Gratitude practice (Sweetgrass, Palo Santo wood) after the eclipse is gone, thank your guides, the elements, Creator.  Star gaze and send out your blessings to the cosmos to include everyone.

d) Pay special attention to dreams this weekend.  You will know best what they mean; journal to explore.

New Moon is its usual intention-setting time, but amplified by the power of a Total Solar Eclipse. Consider this a mega, über augmented new moon, when our lovely Moon positions herself just right and fills nearly the entire spotlight in darkness before bowing out. This is a great time in this post eclipse, New Moon smudge ceremony- to invite the blessings you wish to draw, related to the passing of shadow and darkness in your own life.  Follow this ritual up with a day or 2 of gratitude smudging-– the best you have to offer- with the stongest intentions for balance; the greatest hope, prayer, and gratitude your heart can hold. I like to offer to the 4-Directions or elements too. But this is optional and personal.

Enjoy! And leave me feedback about your ceremony. What rituals and plants worked best for you? What were your rituals?  The great thing about crafting rituals for ourselves, is that we are all: learning, borrowing, trying, adjusting, and adopting. Mindful practice is key. Always follow what you believe. If you don’t know; meditate on it, ask your Spirit Guides, and respecting the power of the Cosmos and celestial bodies- follow your own truth.

 

 

PS: Will you be adding Crystals to your smudge bowl for this solar eclipse? Instructor and Crystal therapist Tana Schott says “if you are working with an “illusion-busting” crystal like Black Obsidian- which brings illusions to the mind’s surface quickly- be sure to balance this with a stone of self–love and healing, such as Rose Quartz or Rhodochrosite.”  This balance of minerals is always critical for deep shadow work, but especially for a full solar eclipse.  Another great combination is Bronzite (excellent for crisis work) combined with Dumortierite.

PSS:  I suggest working with the Sages you already have on hand (not all listed here): You don’t have to go buy new Sages or plants. The important point is setting your intentions and refreshing the plant spirits you have with these strong intentions. Simply recharge your existing plants, sages, woods, or bundles that you have on hand is perfect, using the power of your thoughts, words, breath, and, oh yah- a lil’ solar power from the eclipse!! If you do want new sages/woods/resins- you can find them at your local botanical store, or next week from my shop- Sacred Land Sage also on Etsy-SlS.

Thank you for reading!!

Happy Full Moon and Tibetan New Year

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.

tibet-

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.

juniperLoose66024PurifierPac-0048

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.

SweetGrassBraid SLS6431

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.

BlendAbundance-3469a

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!