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Four Sacred Medicines

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Postby sandra » Thu Jan 14, 2010 12:00 am

Smudging and the Four Sacred Medicines
Many things have been placed on the earth for our use. One of the major tools given to us are the plant medicines.

Certain plants give up their lives so that we can use their smoke for prayers and cleansing, and the aroma produced by these plants help us place ourselves in a different state of mind thus bringing us into a deeper part of ourselves. Then, as we concentrate on what is happening, the scent may inspire memories, awaken the soul and give a sense of direction.

Many cultures and religions use sacred smoke made from the plant medicines. This is called smudging in Native America.

Often incense is burned during rituals, both for purification and to symbolize the prayers of the worshipper, which are then carried to the Creator along the smoke.

While much is written on the use of smudging to cleanse negative energy, one of its main purposes is to bring vision, aided by the sense of smell.

In ancient Greece, smudging formed part of the rituals to contact the dead, following long periods of fasting and silence. Their sacred smoke was born out of sulphur and minerals in lieu of herbs to part the veil between the worlds of the living and form a bridge to the other world.

Besides producing visions, smudging is used to purify tools and people before an important spiritual ceremony. It is also used to clear sacred space and open the soul before calling upon the Spirits and their healing powers.

The Elders say that the Spirits like the aroma produced when we burn sacred medicines.

It is always recommended to smudge a room or oneself after heavy healing work or a bad argument. This is to remove any negative energy that may persist just like disinfecting a place full of germs.

Healing powers of plants and herbs is universal and across all continents, the only difference is that not all plants grow in one region. People usually utilize the plant or the herb that is abundant in their region

There are Four major medicine plants; tobacco, sweet grass, sage and cedar that we natives use frequently in ceremonies.

Tobacco (Semah)
Sacred tobacco is used to make smoke, is one of the most sacred of plants for Native people. It is said to be the main activator of all plants. It was given to us so that we can communicate with the Spirit world and when you use it, all things begin to happen. Tobacco is always offered before picking medicines. When you offer tobacco to a plant and explain your reasons for being there, the plant will let all the plants in the area know your intentions and why you are picking them, tobacco is used first as an offering for everything and in every ceremony. Going to ceremonies you would offer tobacco to the Elder leading those ceremonies along with an honoring gift. This announces your intention and the Elders may ask you of your intentions with this offering.

Sweet grass (Weengush)
Sweet grass is the sacred hair of Mother Earth; its sweet aroma reminds people of the gentleness, love and kindness she has for the people; this is why Native people pick it and braid it in 3 strands representing love, kindness and honesty. Sweet grass is used for smudging and purification of the spirit; when Sweet grass is used in a healing or talking circle it has a calming effect. It is said that it attracts the good Spirit, so use it to call in the Spirit.


EuropeanTraditions
Sweet grass was strewn before church doors on Saints' days in northern Europe, presumably because of the sweet smell that arose when it was trodden on. It was used in France to flavour candy, tobacco, soft drinks, and perfumes. Widely used in neo-pagan practice (syncretized from North American indigenous practice). In Europe, the species H. alpina is frequently substituted or used interchangeably. In Russia, it was used to flavour tea

Ceremonial Sage(Sukodawabuk)
Sage is used in many different ways, it helps the people prepare for ceremonies and teachings. Because it is more medicinal and stronger than Sweet grass, it tends to be used more often in ceremonies, it also has physical healing properties, you can boil sage and drink it as a tea. Sage is for releasing what is troubling the mind and for removing negative energy, it is used for cleansing homes and sacred items. There is male and female sage.

Ceremonial use of Cedar (Keezhik)
Like Sage and Sweet grass, cedar is used to purify the home, it also has many restorative medicinal use. When mixed with sage for a tea, it cleans the body of all infections, cedar baths are also very healing. When cedar mixed with tobacco is put in the fire it crackles, this is said to call the attention of the Spirits to the offering that is being made. Cedar is used in sweat lodge and fasting ceremonies for protection, cedar branches cover the floor of many sweat lodges and some people make a circle of cedar when they are fasting. It is a guardian spirit and chases away the bad spirits.

Since it is believe, in many cultures, that the plants we use to burn and purify ourselves provides us with access to their soul and power, it is essential that we ask their permission before gathering these plants. Take only what we need without damaging the plant and give thanks for what we took. If you did not pick these plants yourself, know that someone else did that for you and that you could still give thanks for the life of those plants and the people who did pick them.

The format of the smudging in today's rituals varies from culture to culture and so does the plants and herbs used for such sacred ceremony. In the Dancing To Eagle Spirit Society's rituals we utilize mostly sage (all kinds), cedar, juniper, sweet grass, lavender, wild tobacco, Native American Tobacco.

http://www.dancingtoeaglespiritsociety.org/medicines.php

Do any of you ever use these medicines? Kind of curious. Many people use Sage. The smell of sweetgrass is so relaxing.
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Postby inja » Sat Jan 16, 2010 8:43 pm

I do. I will burn sage at times. However I also like to burn Thyme or Rosemary. There is something about the aroma of Thyme that entirely relaxes me.


I also like to burn incense preferably only those directly from India or Tibet.
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Postby Guest » Sun Jan 17, 2010 2:32 pm

Hi,

Its been a while, but I used to purify my home with sage. I still have a bundle of it. I love incense, but I found some really good sprays from Pier 1, that are faster when I just want to make the air smell good.

Just on the physical level, I think its nice to walk into a home and have a nice smell greet you. I have a big collection of incense from fl orals to minerals and spices. Incense is fun to experiment with. But I don't use it like I used to.

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Postby sandra » Sun Jan 17, 2010 2:41 pm

Inja, Yes I love sage, I offer my tobacco and hand harvest enough to make it through the year annualy. I try to keep a stash of cedar as well. I burn cedar in a cast iron on the stove.
And in the Winter time I boil it. Sometimes even make a nice drink with the medicines.

hmmm, thyme? Do you have an idea why you like it so much? Ive never burnt thyme or rosemary, sounds like I should try it. Is there a reason you prefer incense from India or Tibet?
Do you burn sweetgrass?


Item7, yeah sometimes I take a break from sage as well, is it easy for you to come by? I know if I run out from my harvest the only place I can find it is in the new age shops.
I like the spicy incense. Its amasing how smell can change the mood though. I know what you mean about just passing for the sprays sometimes, but with sage its nice to hover over and to a sweeping with it, it helps me feel like I've done something productive and of a self help nature. ;)
“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great
astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”
“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s
memory works both ways.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
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Postby inja » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:10 pm

I burn the incense not just for my house to smell good but for clearing and cleansing and when I meditate I have found that the incense from Tibet or India have a particular smell (smooth and earthy smell and spicy) that help me reach a meditative state or prayer state that seems deeper than when I don't use them.

Rosemary can be strong like sage....Thyme...the oil in thyme is not quite as heavy as with the rosemary. Burning thyme to me is like connecting with earth. That's the best i can explain it. Both are used like sage for cleansing purposes. I grow my own rosemary and thyme in my garden so i always have enough dried for the winter.

Sweet grass....you know I can't get myself to burn it. Just having sweet grass in the house and occasionally picking it up to smell the scent...I love it. I just can't burn it.

I only burn what is natural...same with candles only candles that are scent less or that have organic essential oils in them. I could never burn a Yankee candle. The perfume smell in them give me a massive headache every time. I don't know how people can burn them all day long.

New age stores eh? LOL...we have plenty of them around here and I love it. It's where you can find the type of incense I like or sage as you already mentioned. And i just discovered another place that makes their own soy candles with organic essential oils. Very cool store upstairs and they gave me a tour of their basement candle factory. Did you know that you can use the soft wax of the soy candle while it is burning as a lotion or oil on your skin? I didn't and I've tried it since they explained it to me. The soy wax does not get as hot as regular wax and with the essential oil in the wax it really softens the skin. Seems a lot of aroma therapists and message therapists are also now going that route because their supplies are very expensive.

Oops I think I am rambling. :oops: :)
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Postby Guest » Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:29 pm

Hi,

I grow my own sage, but if I buy it I can only find in in New Age stores like you mentioned. I think my favorite incense is Dragons blood. It comes in a little bag and is a deep red, it has the consistency of broken chalk almost, but its hard to find. When you burn it it turns into a red liquid before it evaporates.

I love the smell of cedar, its such a clean woody scent. I don't think I could ever get tired of it.

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Postby bionic » Mon Jan 18, 2010 12:51 am

Sandra,
Thanks for posting that. :)
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Postby sandra » Mon Jan 18, 2010 2:56 am

inja wrote:Rosemary can be strong like sage....Thyme...the oil in thyme is not quite as heavy as with the rosemary. Burning thyme to me is like connecting with earth. That's the best i can explain it. Both are used like sage for cleansing purposes. I grow my own rosemary and thyme in my garden so i always have enough dried for the winter.


Well thank you for the extra info on them, I really did not know they were also for cleansing purposes, and thats awesome you grow both of them in your garden, wish I had a nice yard right now, however I'm in the middle of down town a large city, there is not grass nor soil anywhere near me lol When I do harvesting of other plants I have to drive up to the reservation 2 hours away.

Sweet grass....you know I can't get myself to burn it. Just having sweet grass in the house and occasionally picking it up to smell the scent...I love it. I just can't burn it.


Very interesting. Even more a reason to burn it. :mrgreen: In all honesty, for years I could not bring myself to burn it as well. Infact, I'd find myself almost irritated when someone else was burning it around me. Very ansy like. And I finally gave in and said must be a reason, so I burnt quite a bit of it, and now, I just love it, go figures I'd go about it that way right. I buy sweetgrass at the powwows also, but it sells for like $5 a braid. So I use it more sparingly now, can't get to a powwow all the time.

I only burn what is natural...same with candles only candles that are scent less or that have organic essential oils in them. I could never burn a Yankee candle. The perfume smell in them give me a massive headache every time. I don't know how people can burn them all day long.


Only what is natural, coming from you, I'm sure there are alot of reasons for that. Good idea.

New age stores eh? LOL...we have plenty of them around here and I love it. It's where you can find the type of incense I like or sage as you already mentioned. And i just discovered another place that makes their own soy candles with organic essential oils. Very cool store upstairs and they gave me a tour of their basement candle factory.


Yes I love the new age stores 2, sometimes I pick up good books along with sage. New age shops can be the best resource for books of my interest, and it takes less time to look through their selection. :D Well you must go to a real fancy place if they have a candle factory.


Did you know that you can use the soft wax of the soy candle while it is burning as a lotion or oil on your skin? I didn't and I've tried it since they explained it to me.
Oops I think I am rambling. :oops: :)


Yeah I've tried this as well, and I like it. However it was a friends soy candle, I need my own lol
“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great
astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”
“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s
memory works both ways.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
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Postby sandra » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:10 am

Item7 wrote:Hi,

I grow my own sage, but if I buy it I can only find in in New Age stores like you mentioned. I think my favorite incense is Dragons blood. It comes in a little bag and is a deep red, it has the consistency of broken chalk almost, but its hard to find. When you burn it it turns into a red liquid before it evaporates.

I love the smell of cedar, its such a clean woody scent. I don't think I could ever get tired of it.

Item7


Growing your own sage saves money, the prices on sage are ridiculous nowadays for a bundle, especially the white sage, I always take some home iwth me from the black hills when I visit bear butte the sacred mountain in South Dakota, they have the best sage there. Very strong. Never heard of dragons blood, goodness you guys are on top of your herbs and medicines. lol I'll check that one out to, sometimes I don't like meddling with things if I have not a clue what its meant for, not entirely out of fear of unknown things, but I just make a fool of myself.

IE: A couple years ago I was doing a sweat lodge ceremony with my grandfather and he had me be in charge of the water for the lodge, the water gets poured on the stones and passed around for drinking several times as well. We put a few medicines in the water, one being charcoal. After everyone got out of the lodge and we were standing by the fire, when people smiled and started talking I realised everyone had charcoal everywhere. :mrgreen: My grandfather was histarical. Told me I had put waaay to much charcoal in the water and he kept hearing everyone crunching as they drank their water. :lol: Thats me. Always humiliating myself.
“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great
astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”
“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s
memory works both ways.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
User avatar
sandra
 
Posts: 3702
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 6:27 pm
Location: Minnesota US

Postby sandra » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:12 am

bionic wrote:Sandra,
Thanks for posting that. :)


Absolutely. Wasn't sure anyone would have interest in this topic, but the four medicines are meaningful in my life, they have been good tools.
“Living backwards!” Alice repeated in great
astonishment. “I never heard of such a thing!”
“—but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s
memory works both ways.”
— Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass
User avatar
sandra
 
Posts: 3702
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 6:27 pm
Location: Minnesota US

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