Back in the time of spirit, ceremony and belief, Great Mystery gave to Turtle Island’s Indigenous people four sacred plants. These medicines were meant to be used in prayer and for other peaceful purposes. When combined the smoke carried our prayers to Great Mystery. Today, what is often called a ‘Sweetgrass Ceremony’ opens many gatherings, powwows, meetings, conferences anywhere people are gathered together in a good way. The word ‘smudge’ is a bit of a slang term when describing the four plants as a group; ‘smudging’ means the action of fanning or pushing the smoke over you to create harmony mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Many, but not all Indigenous Peoples on Turtle Island smudge. The Indigenous People who don’t practice smudging have alternative ceremonies and protocols in place. Anishnaabe Kwewag Gamig Inc. uses the Anishaabe practice of smudging here.
SWEETGRASS, the hair of Mother Earth and the power of emotional healing.
It is literally is sweetgrass and often grows in dark, marshy places. It is braided to signify unity and strength. A single blade of grass represents an aspect of the living world, when separated it can be broken, but when braided it cannot be broken.
When in ceremony, hair is usually braided to signify that we are all one people and that our world vision is one of strong, united, supportive communities. Sweetgrass is a tangible metaphor for a unified world. Our task is to work towards a world community that is in harmony with itself.
Sweetgrass soothes the emotions, calms the nerves, brings down the heart rate. Its perfume drops your shoulders and you move into the rhythm of the Earth
CEDAR – The power of physical healing.
It’s sweet smell and healing properties are used in physical healing. Cedar is used as the protective medicine. Bathing in a cedar bath or the occasional cup of cedar tea helps to cleans the internal and external body.
Feel its power seep into your pores. Feel the pulse of your heart as your body embraces its own health and wellbeing. Line the floor of a sweatlodge with Cedar so that its sweet smell can imbue those sitting inside. It is refreshing, it invigorates, it heals
The power of spiritual healing. As the white sage (salvia apiana) wafts across your body, breathe it into your soul. Let your spirit find its balance with the emotions and the physical body.
Feel its power raise your spirits, feel yourself stand taller and stronger. There are holes in the spirit when it is sad, let the sage fill those holes with good thoughts and positive attitudes.
The power of Mental Healing. Ah, the most powerful of all, it gives thanks to Great Mystery and to the Ancestors. Often considered to be the oldest plant on Turtle Island, it was never meant to be smoked for commercial purposes! The sacred tobacco is pure and colled sema.
It is comprised of Tobacco, bear berry leaves, red willow and alder bark, among other things. It is smoked in sacred pipes and given to Elders or Traditional Teachers when requesting assistance or information. Tobacco is sprinkled in thanks to the Earth Mother, to Great Mystery and to the Ancestors for gracing us with their presence.
Tobacco should be held in the left hand, closest to the heart. Raise your hand, it should be offered to the four directions before being scattered on the earth themselves so her people could eat and live well. As a result she does not use the shells for they once contained the living spirit of a relative! To burn the bottoms of these shells is to burn the spirit that once lived there.