A few months ago, I was going through a particularly difficult time—in a home that I no longer occupy. As I attempted to turn a new leaf or start a new chapter, I sought the advice of my spiritually inclined friends about ways to cleanse the energy of a space that I enjoyed, but one that had endured some of life’s harsh lessons. Numerous people suggested that I invoke the Native art of smudging.
A simple, but powerful practice, smudging is a ritual used by indigenous and Native people whereby sacred herbs are burned, with the smoke helping to purify the energy of the space. According to a recent article in the magazine Spirituality and Health, the ancient practice is “steeped in science—when sage and other common herbs are burned, they release negative ions, which are shown to release a more positive mood.” Although closely associated with Native Americans, one can also trace its roots to Asia and Ancient Greece. Says the blog MindBodyGreen, “With the use of dried sage, anger, conflict, evil is absorbed in the smoke.”
Although I am not Native, I do feel a connection to America’s First People, having been raised in Oklahoma, what was once Indian Territory. My sister’s husband and children are proudly members of the Chickasaw Nation, so I enter this ritual with considerable reverence. I located the sage, for burning, at One Spirit, the interfaith seminary where I studied. And carefully, I set about the large Northern Manhattan apartment, clearing the negative energy of what would be a sad chapter in my life. As instructed by readings, one is to prepare the home by covering mirrors, closing windows, and opening doors (including cupboards), and turning off electronic devices. The ritual begins on the left side of the home, working one’s way around the apartment, praying all along the way. When arriving at the front door, smoke is sent out the door, and finally the ashes are put on the door step, with the final step to be a “feast for the home.”