Published on August 15, 2011 by Amy

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The smudging ceremony
The Smudging Ceremony

Smudging is a purification ceremony that is practiced among many aboriginal peoples in North America. Similar to the sweat lodge ceremony, smudging is as a healing ritual and cleanses the body, mind and soul. However the actual practice of the smudging ceremony is simpler than that of a sweat lodge and therefore it is commonly practiced by oneself or in a collective any other ceremony, gatherings, serious discussions, or just to start the day.

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It is taught through oral tradition that when the Great Spirit placed the four kingdoms here on mother earth – mineral, plant, animal and human, that four sacred plants entered into an agreement with us humans. These four plants agreed to sacrifice their lives so that we could have their purifying smoke to cleanse with and to pray with, maintaining a balance within ourselves and each other, in exchange for our respectful treatment of them. This means that we are to pick these plants with honor, asking for permission and giving thanks, taking only what is needed and not damaging the plant. The four plants that entered into this agreement known as the sacred medicines include: sage, sweet grass, cedar and tobacco.

Sweetgrass: Sweetgrass represents the North and the hair of mother earth. The three fold braid represents the mind, body and spirit. It has the power to call in positive energies, and carries within it deep wisdom of the earth. It provides clarity to the mind and purifies. Sweetgrass creates a sacred place for the spirits to listen, and provide blessings, safety, and protection.

Tobacco: Tobacco represents the east. It is a sacred herb used for cleansing and healing, when it is not abused. Tobacco connects people with the spirit worlds, and absorbs their prayers and carries their prayers to the spirit world. It chases away feelings that are bad and negative, and brings on thoughts that are good and positive.

Cedar: Cedar represents the south. It is used to waft smoke in ceremonies and ward away sickness, or clear the air after illness.

Sage: Sage represents the west. It is the traditional choice of herb to use for smudging as it is believed to be the most powerful, purifying medicine capable of driving away negative energies that afflict the aura, mind, body, and soul. It is used to establish a sacred boundary at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies.

The process of smudging involves burning one or more of these medicines, using the smoke produced to cleanse the mind, body and spirit. There is no uniform way to smudge. Different nations in different geographical regions may perform the process differently. However there are common similarities: something is need to burn the medicines in, a ceramic bowl or abalone shell which helps balance the four elements in the ceremony by adding the element of water. The medicines represent the earth element. When the medicines are light, the fire created represents the element of fire. A feather is used to maintain a sufficient stream of smoke (element of wind)

Source: snowwowl Unabridged
Based on the collective work of, © 2015 Native American Encyclopedia.
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American Psychological Association (APA):

Smudging Unabridged. Retrieved May 22, 2015, from website:

Chicago Manual Style (CMS):

Smudging Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia (accessed: May 22, 2015).

Modern Language Association (MLA):

"Smudging" Unabridged. Native American Encyclopedia 22 May. 2015. <>.

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE):, "Smudging" in Unabridged. Source location: Native American Encyclopedia Available: Accessed: May 22, 2015.

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@ article {NativeAmericanEncyclopedia.com2015,
    title = { Unabridged},
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    day = 22,
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