Adventures in Smudging

Header image of sage from lebensmittelfotos on Pixabay

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota.

I must start out by apologizing to the Baboons for the obtuseness of the following post. I had to leave out some details so that I could tell you the substance of something I did without incurring all manner of rannygazoo for my furtive act.

I recently went somewhere (I can’t reveal where, for reasons I can’t divulge) which is usually full of people, but was deserted during the time of which I write.

It is a place I really like going to. It is also a place, however, where I have experienced a great deal of interpersonal strife, some of which goes back more than a decade.  The strife ended suddenly and unexpectedly a short time ago. My purpose for going to this place was to heal myself and the place by smudging.

Smudging is something our Native American friends do to ceremonially purify and cleanse themselves and their surroundings by burning fragrant plants and wafting the smoke all over.  I consulted with some Native friends about my smudging idea. They thought it was quite appropriate and supplied me with a shell, sage and bear root that they had harvested from their Reservation, and a  braid of sweet grass.

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The sage and bear root purify and heal; the sweet grass provides a blessing and counters negative energy.

Early one morning I took my supplies to the place I needed to smudge, all the while thinking peaceful and healing thoughts and good Lutheran prayers. It was just sunrise. I lit the sage and bear root in the shell, got them smoldering, and wafted the smoke all over myself. I then went from area to area in the place that were heavily associated with the strife. In psychology terms I would say that the areas were “deeply cathected” or full of negative energy. There was very little smoke but incredible fragrance, especially from the sage.  I then lit the sweet grass braid and repeated the process. The whole procedure took about 30 minutes. I left the place and went  home.

This is one of the goofiest things I have ever done. I told  a few non-Native people what I was planning, and one of them said “That is so weird, Renee! I was just thinking, what would a shaman do to help heal this place?” Well, I am no shaman, but I took this as an affirmation from the cosmos that what I had planned was ok.

I had to smudge in secret because smoking and burning candles aren’t allowed at the place I smudged, and many people wouldn’t have understood why I needed to do this. Anger and strife are killers, in my experience, and I needed to put as much of them to rest as I possibly could.  I feel more at peace now, and that is a good thing.

How would you nullify bad feelings associated with a significant place?

87 thoughts on “Adventures in Smudging”

  1. I really like this post, Renee. The easiest way to address bad feelings about a place would be to abandon that place. I gather from what you say and don’t say that this option wasn’t available to you. In that case, your best response is to cleanse the place of bad spirits. And the key to doing that is to do whatever your heart knows to do at such times. You have experience with smudging, so your heart has been prepared to use this as a way of cleansing an impure place.

    Other means would make more sense for some other people. I have a friend who would pray, and she would surely feel better for having done so. My mother was once so distraught that she tried to cast an evil spell, and while her victim survived her curse I’m sure my mother felt better for having tried to smudge him out of her life.

    You were smart enough to try something appropriate for you. “I feel more at peace now.” That says it all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sidenote: rannygazoo, I’m for it as a word. Also like your ritual very much.

    I have noted before that I have really strong place associations, so maybe I am lucky that I don’ have much in the way of bad feelings associated with places.

    Most of the places where something not that nice has happened are of such a final nature that I need never go back to a place I never really liked anyway.

    I do like the idea of cleansing out the house and starting fresh. Hopefully I can do that before the turn of this year.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Interestingly, Renee, 6 years after my misbehaving and contentious office mate left our offices and practice (in the meantime losing her license to practice)—-we smudged her office with sage which we obtained at the MN Science Museum Gift Shop.

    It seemed to work. Two years later our suite was broken into and taken apart by someone with a crow bar late, late at night. We always wondered if it was the naughty former tenant. The culprits were never caught, but it did make a mess.

    We have returned after our November on the road to the SW USA. Lou and I think the snow is in our honor.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Oops, the grammar police missed a non-sequitor: It is now 6 years after the misbehavior occurred and office mate left. We smudged the office 5.5 years ago AFTER she evacuated and before the new person moved in.

      Now I will be in for some Baboon Rannygazoo. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I smudged my home several times after the ex moved out….I used sage (western, not the herb, as I assume you also used, Renee) and cedar. I recently ran across my shell, sage and sweetgrass, but don’t feel the need to do it at home anymore. Good feelings abound in the house now. (But, yes, need to cleanse the house of dirt and dust and cob webs)

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Turns out there’s also a tradition of smudging in the North. It’s called “recaning” in Anglo-Saxon, and it’s pronounced like “reekening”. A variety of herbs were burned in tradition, but I’ve seen juniper and mugwort recommended most often in modern books. I haven’t tried recels yet, though I regularly cleanse ritual spaces with salt water and incense (sandalwood, myrrh, frankincense, and copal are all good for purification and protection).

    The last time I had to do a full-bore cleansing, a few years ago when we were having some spirit trouble, I tried something a little different and stirred up some banishing powder. I sprinkled it in all the corners, just as I would with the traditional salt water, and left the remainder in a bowl near the center of the house. I remember I used salt, cayenne, and asafetida, and that I couldn’t find any sulfur in time, but I don’t recall what else I used–the recipe’s in my book at home. Probably garlic powder and black pepper as well, as I’m pretty sure I wanted five ingredients.

    There are lots of recipes for banishing powders online, and I’m sure nearly all of them work, so long as they’re energized properly. Hoodoo, aka rootwork, is now extremely popular in alternative circles, and there’s a whole range of floor washes, oils, baths, and incenses for your every need, provided by people like these fine folks:

    Liked by 3 people

    1. My dad wrote a memoir of his early life, including living in a tiny town in extreme SE Iowa, not far from the MO line. The farm kids who attended his one-room schoolhouse in the 1920s were nervous about coming to town and exposing themselves to diseases. Many protected themselves by wearing pungent bottles of asafetida on their necks.


    2. Lucky Mojo is a fascinating site and is one of the bookmarks on my browser. Cat Yronwode, the force behind Lucky Mojo, has been an internet presence for many years. I once traded correspondence with her when I was able to send her a copy of some music she was seeking (a tape— that gives you an idea how long ago it was) and in exchange, she sent me a set of collector cards, “Pioneers of Country Music”, illustrated by Robert Crumb. Those collector cards, which came in a wide array of series, were one of her commercial ventures at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This is very very interesting!
    Thanks for sharing Renee and the rest of you with various methods of cleansing.
    I had one place that held unpleasant memories for me. I went there and talked to the space. (To the spirits, to the ‘old ghosts’ or whatever you want to call it).
    I think it helped.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Great post, Renee – I’m so happy you found something that helped the situation.

    I worked at the Wedge Co-op when we moved from a tiny basement on Franklin to the first location on Lyndale, which had been a 7-11… we had a cleansing ceremony of some kind, and smudged to get the 7-11 vibes out before moving in.

    For a time when I worked at Birchbark Books we would burn sweetgrass in the store occasionally, but found it smelled too much like marijuana and customers would look at us funny when they came in…

    I dabbled in Feng Shui when I was doing organizing work, and one book described a ceremony to move the negative energy out of a place that’s very like what people are describing here. Maybe each culture has something…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This reminds me of the dragon holes in Hong Kong. The dragon lives on the mountain so a lot of the really tall buildings have “dragon holes” where there dragon can pass through on it’s way down to the water. In place where the price of real estate is so exorbitant, I find this practice amazing and charming!

      Liked by 7 people

  8. Wonderful post, Renee, and that opening disclaimer is one for the annals. Obtuseness, rannygazoo, and a furtive act, all in one short paragraph.

    Unfortunately, I have a negative association with smudging. During my fourteen years at the alternative school, Native American ceremonies were commonplace, and the – to me – very pungent smell of burning sage and/or sweet grass wafted freely through the building. It caused a burning sensation in my eyes and sinuses, and inevitably, I’d end up with a pounding headache. I have the same reaction to too much incense in Catholic church ceremonies. I’m hypersensitive to smells, and that has gotten worse as I have aged.

    I have been trying to think of a place that I associate with a bad vibe, and for the life of me I can’t. I think I associate bad feelings with people, and once I feel bad enough about an individual, I avoid all contact.

    I have stated here before, I’m uncomfortable with most ceremonial rituals. I just feel silly going through the motions of what feels theatrical to me. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. I have friends who joyously partake in all manner of ceremonies for all kinds of occasions, and when I have joined in, I’ve felt like a fraud. I can go through the motions, but my heart isn’t in it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I feel the same way about rituals. Regrettably, there are folks in almost any periodic group situation who, by precise repetition, tend to ritualize it. When I feel that happening, usually I’m out of there.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m on the fence. Some ritual seems beyond my understanding and I can’t even make myself pretend to take part. But every now and then ritual seems to fit right in. Guess it’s one of those “more things in heaven and earth” for me.


    2. I understand completely about the allergic reaction. When I got back home after the smudging, my DIL, who has allergies, got all congested and red-eyed until I took a shower and washed my smudging clothes. There was very little smoke but tremendous fragrance from the sage and bear root.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. PJ, I feel more or less the same way you do about ceremonial rituals and the need to cleanse. I am not against anyone who doing cleansing rituals and other rituals. I don’t see the need for them myself. I am sure they are significant activities for many people.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. This reminds me of a humiliating experience I had when I became a Catholic at age 24 (that lasted two years). I went to my first confession and had a LOT to confess after 24 years, so I basically did my own inventory for almost half an hour. I spoke out loud in a normal voice as no one had told me to nearly whisper my sins. When I emerged, there were half a dozen shocked looking people waiting in line!

        Liked by 2 people

    4. I was at a wedding at an Episcopal Church a few years ago and had to leave because of the incense burning. Itchy eyes, trouble breathing. I was lucky that it was a lovely summer day and I just waited outside until the reception started.


  9. Morning all. I can’t think of a place that needs smudging – this either means I haven’t had any that traumatic happen to me or maybe I’ve just blocked it out. I do remember when the movie “Jagged” came to the Boulevard Theatre I had to drive to work on an alternate route as passing the theatre and seeing the name up on the marquis gave me the willies (if I could go back in time and make myself “unsee” this movie, I would). But once “Jagged” was gone, everything was fine.

    I do have a room in my house that I wonder about. Most of the time the room is just a room, but maybe 1 out of 50 times in there I can smell a really strong odor. I’ve more than once wondered if something bad happened there before my time. Maybe it needs smudging – or maybe some juniper.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. good thought . i have stuff to wave away. maybe this is the answer. my current mode is to put one foot in front of the other and go forth. qwith the best hope in my heart and doing the best i can. again today


  11. I’m not sure I am very sensitive to negative energy; I can’t think of any places I would need to disinfect this way. Most of my negative feelings are attached to people, and mostly go away when the person goes away, not lingering in the space.

    You are a wise person, Renee, to find a way to cleanse the strife.

    Consider how much more you often suffer from your anger and grief, than from those very things for which you are angry and grieved.
    – Marcus Antonius

    Liked by 5 people

    1. After more than a decade, anger and grief become habits that aren’t easy to break. I described the ending of the strife as feeling as though I had been in an abusive marriage for 10+ years, and the abusive partner suddenly dropped dead. Now what? I was at a loss to know what to do or feel.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. The important thing, Renee, is that you found a way of mentally cleansing yourself and the space that worked for you. I appreciate that you were willing to share how you did it. I suspect that because you have close friends who are Native American, the smudging felt quite comfortable to you.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. A gesture – I wouldn’t call it a ritual – that worked for me when I was in the process of divorcing wasband, was beating the crap out of my mattress with an old tennis racket. Finding an acceptable way of releasing the rage I felt was important because what I really wanted to do to him would gotten me in all kinds of trouble.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Someone told me once that she had contemplated shooting her husband but decided not to as long as she lived in ND. She said the courts were far more forgiving of that sort of thing in Texas than they were up north. Luckily for the gent in question, she divorced him before she could move south.

          Liked by 3 people

        3. I read an interview w/ Sue Grafton once. She said she wrote her first novel (A is for Alibi because she figured it was better to do that than murder her ex.

          Liked by 1 person

  12. The biggest problem for me is bad people, not bad bad places. If I decided to make use a cleansing ritual, I would like to have one to ease my problems with people who have given me a bad time.


  13. Well, you could go to their houses in the night and waft fragrant plant smoke toward their abodes. Jim, mild mannered nemotode expert by day-stealth smudger by night. That is sort of how I felt, sans nematode expertise.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This all has reminded me of something I have not thought of in a very long time.

    2 friends and I did smudge this house with sage from Santa Fe before we even considered bringing in the s&h.

    Seems to have worked 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  15. As a literalist, the only way I can relate to “cleansing” a home is de-cluttering the whole place. I did exactly this a few months ago and wound up with 60 yard bags full of unnecessary crap which I then had to pay some guys to haul away. I now have empty cupboards, drawers and a sizable closet. It all started with a decision to clean “just one nasty cupboard”. I could hardly wait to get up in the morning and tackle the next space and truly enjoyed the sense of making order out of my life. The only problem is that I’ve left myself with little to do.

    I speculate that taking care of all this will please my kids when the time comes to liquidate?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. for those who don’t remember what it is, or have time to refer to the Glossary above:
      “Rannygazoo – 1. The run-around, or nonsense, as in, “I had to pass as Canadian so I could avoid all ‘rannygazoo’ with my visa status.”
      2. A prank or joke; semi-archaic, from the 1940’s and PG Wodehouse novels.”

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Morning–
    I’m waiting, impatiently because I’m not good at waiting, for the crew to show up so we can load in ‘All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914’.
    Two of my three crew are here and the 3rd will be coming and we didn’t get a snowstorm so we should be all set.

    I’ll be making a couple trips to the cities in the next couple weeks. Anyone need bread starter?
    It is that time of year. FaLaLaLaLa!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. OT It looks like we are having a leftover day. Baboons might not mind if I mention my grandson, Liam. Thanksgiving and last weekend were delightful. My grandson has dealt with some rough patches that I haven’t said much about here. It isn’t all cupcakes and parties being a toddler, and there are special challenges for bright youngsters. Now I’m thrilled with how he has come through the difficulties, thrilled to see what kind of person he is becoming.

    I had a golden moment last weekend when Liam crawled up in my lap to read a book to me. He reads quickly, with comprehension and expression, smoothly navigating difficult words. He’s five now, reading like a kid of ten or eleven. I’m told he sometimes disappears into his room and spends an hour quietly reading on his own. Liam has many shelves filled with books. To some that might look like excess. Not to me. Little kids learn to read. Liam already reads to learn. His appetite for new facts about the world has no limits.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m sure that other baboons agree with me – you can ALWAYS mention Liam!

      The fact that my daughter is not a reader is a really hard pill to swallow sometimes. I read to her religiously when she was young and we can’t discuss how many books were on her shelves, but it just didn’t take.

      I know I read enough for the both of us, but it’s not the same….

      Liked by 2 people

  18. Related to yesterday-I have been plaqued with low back pain for several years now, and since my furtive smudging my pain is much less. I think I was putting most of my stress into my lumbar area, and now I am less stressed and not in as much pain. Yay!

    Liked by 7 people

  19. Update from Clyde:
    Not online anymore. Using my daughter’s computer to explain.
    1. My provider cannot give us a dependable signal for Internet, after many visits to our apartment.
    2. We have 120 channels or so available to us, which has only one or two shows a week I want to watch, especially with PBS looking more and more like commercial TV.
    3. Techie friends tell me that my other option for provider, Charter, uses a different system to bring the signal to our apartment, which is the better option.
    4. It will take a few dollars to set up with Charter, which we do not want to spend this month.
    So we have canceled our service and are waiting to decide if we will go back online with Charter some time next year, maybe waiting until baseball season starts at the end of March.
    I can access when I am out, like to B & N or coffee shops, but I have stopped going to coffee shops and the latest WP for Ipad update does not work for me. I can access by Safari.

    Today’s topic: places and things are simply places and things for me. I cannot see any place as sacred “(“everything is holy now” expresses my theological point of view, which happens to be Martin Luther’s point of view) or imbued with anything beyond the material realm. But one line from TS Eliot’s poem “Little Gidding” haunts me, for the depth of the thought. The poem is about an historical site in England, where a simple religious community was slaughtered because they were caught by accident in large political events.

    If you came this way,
    Taking any route, starting from anywhere,
    At any time or at any season,
    It would always be the same: you would have to put off
    Sense and notion. You are not here to verify,
    Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
    Or carry report. You are here to kneel
    Where prayer has been valid. And prayer is more
    Than an order of words, the conscious occupation
    Of the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I hate to have to be the philistine here, but I have to say, I don’t get it. These words have no power or sense for me. Anyone care to explain?


  20. Completely OT. Does anybody remember who recommended the book Peccavi by Hornung? I just got a tablet (only because it came free w/ phone) and when I hooked up the Kindle app it turns out that Peccavi is still sitting in my inbox from two years back when I must have searched for it. I’m guessing from the looks of it that it might have been Clyde?


  21. I used to be able to hover the cursor over whatever number of people had “liked” a post to see who had done so. No more. What’s with that? Anyone else having this “problem.”


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