Tag Archives: smudging

Many Thanks

Corn Dance, Taos Pueblo, circa 1920s

Though the majority of the U.S. population celebrates an official day of gratitude called Thanksgiving, Native Americans have always had a deep tradition of routinely giving thanks. They have particularly given attention and gratitude to the animals and plants which gave their lives to provide sustenance or medicine.

 

Planting ceremonies were also important, as were dances and feasts to celebrate good crops. Among others, the Creek, Cherokee, Seminole, Yuchi, and Iroquois tribes celebrated the Green Corn Festival, which marked the beginning of the first corn harvest. It was a time to thank Mother Earth and all living things for providing food  and other usable items that made life good. The Maple Syrup Ceremony (late spring), Strawberry Ceremony (early summer), Bean Dance and Buffalo Dance (winter), are only a few of the times that Native Americans set aside to acknowledge their dependence upon the bounty of the earth.

Buffalo Dance at Hano, courtesy www.firstpeoples.us

Buffalo Dance at Hano, courtesy www.firstpeoples.us

Qahatika Women Resting in Harvest Field, courtesy Library of Congress

Qahatika Women Resting in Harvest Field, courtesy Library of Congress

The Iroquois particularly formalized times of thanksgiving, which would include a special Thanksgiving Address. A speaker was chosen to give thanks on behalf of all the people. The thanksgiving prayer then offered gratitude to the Creator for the earth and the living things upon it. The prayer could be quite long, encompassing specific things the speaker wanted to call special attention to, like birds, rivers, medicinal grasses and herbs, wind, rain, sunshine, the moon and stars, and so on. Thanksgiving festivals provided opportunities to feast, express gratitude, and enjoy good things, and also provided times of cleansing, healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

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Where The Wild Things Are

Native Americans depended on herbs for healing, cleansing, and spiritual well-being. Traditionally, there are four sacred herbs: cedar, sage, tobacco, and sweet grass. Only persons well-versed in their sacred properties should attempt to use them, especially to make teas; these can be dangerous if not composed and used properly.

Cedar: Used in sacred ceremonies and smudging, and as a tea for flushing out the system.

Sage: Used for smudging, as a tea to flush out impurities, and in sacred ceremonies. It especially clears out emotional energy.

Tobacco: Used for sending up prayers, and to communicate with spirit.

Sweet grass: Used for smudging, blessing, and purification.

Smudging is a simple way to cleanse a space by using a smoldering herb to drive out bad spirits or feelings, or to get rid of negative energy. Smoke from the smoldering herb carries the negative energy or spirit away with it. Traditionally it begins in the east of the space and travels clockwise.

Medicine Pipe, Edward S. Curtis photographs, courtesy Library of Congress

Medicine Pipe, Edward S. Curtis photographs, courtesy Library of Congress

White Sage Smudge Stick

White Sage Smudge Stick

White Sage

White Sage

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