My personal perspective is that Spirituality and herbs are synonymous — you can’t have one without the other!
Before one communes or connects with Spirit it is necessary to clear and cleanse yourself for that special meeting.
Herbs are the sacred gifts from the Earth Mother, the medicinal tools that are used to enhance that connection with Spirit.
Purpose & Benefits of Smudging
To begin, one lights a smudge and sends the smoke wafting upward to signal our intention thereby opening the channel for our prayers, our thoughts to be carried to the Spirits.
We then cup the smoke over our body so it can washes us clean from any negativity. These motions cleanse our hands, eyes, mouth, ears, our heart and open our senses up to truth.
One then smudges any ceremonial tools that will be used, the actual work area and any additional participants — feathers are often used to waft the smoke outwards in this regard.
Smudge is used to purify any new objects, ceremonial tools, rooms from any negativity that they might have collected from previous contacts. As a healer I use smudge to balance energies, to heal mind, body and soul since the brain seems to respond to the smell of burning medicine and apparently releases endorphins which enhance that healing.
Type of Herbs Used in Smudging
My smudge of choice is Sage. The Earth Mother gives us so many different kinds of sage and I got totally confused trying to figure out which was female sage, which was male and which sage to use in what ceremony. Identification seems to depend upon which tradition or region you receive your teachings from. In my opinion the kind of sage you use is unimportant — it is the intention that counts.
Simply use the type of sage, herb or the mixture you are led to use and do it with respect — that is the most important.
If at all possible it is preferable to gather your own materials for smudge. This is the only way you will truly know that your herbal medicine has been gathered in an appropriate and respectful way. And the gathering leads to the most spiritual part of the use of herbs!
Harvesting Herbs for Smudging
As the summer days begin to shorten I keep a watch out for the silver green masses that signal an invitation that the Mother is ready to release her bounty.
Before picking any sage (or medicine herb) it is important to give an offering (generally a pinch of tobacco or sometimes cornmeal), offer a prayer and respectfully ask permission to gently collect a few of the stems from that particular patch and then move on to another patch. Remember “less is more” when gathering from the Earth Mother. At the conclusion of your picking it is appropriate to give another offering and prayer of thanks for the gift of the medicine.
Sage is then generally hung upside down to dry then the leaves are harvested and stored in airtight containers. The stems are saved and respectfully given back to Earth Mother or to a ceremonial fire remembering that nothing is ever wasted. Sage sticks or bundles can be made by braiding or wrapping the freshly picked stems and leaves and then tying them with string or thread. These sticks are great for car smudging — a good protective measure to use before setting off on any major travel.
Other Uses for Sage
Personally I have many other uses for sage:
Sage tea is a tradition after ceremony — one cleanses the outer body to go into ceremony so why not complete the celebration with an inner cleanse!! Just add a small handful of the broad sage leaves to carafe of freshly boiled pure water to make one fine, refreshing drink.
Leftover tea? Use it to rinse your hair — apparently it helps relieve dandruff and restore hair colour. Still more leftover tea?? Strain the liquid into your bath water for a stimulating, cleansing soak — not to mention the creation of a powerful opportunity to meditate!
Further, I use a strong sage tea to give the bowls of the medicine pipe and crystals a cleansing bath. I also include sage in the ingredients of my herbal pipe tobacco for added power and put the antiseptic qualities of sage to use by making it into a healing salve.
A reminder : check out a herbal compendium before using herbs since many have contraindications to use. Play it safe! For instance, one must be cautious about using sage when pregnant.
Finally this is just a taste of the possible connection between Spirituality and herbs — explore — the rewards are enlightening!