How and Why

by EarthThunder
Shamanic Healer and Founder of BeLoved Tasom and The Ancient Schools of Mysteries

GrandMother Earth’s Family Clans teach that when two legged (humans) became taller than the sagebrush they would leave natural earth-cleansing. Humans would need many ways to have an immune system inside and outside their bodies. Smudging is an essential tool of cleansing and balancing.

Regular clearing or purification supports peoples' healing. This cleansing supports both physical and spiritual. One way we did this was in the purification Sweat Lodges. We also were known to take nettle baths before the lodges, and salt rubs and salt baths.

All ceremonies and rituals, whether they be private or clan, must be entered into with a good walks so that we can clear, sing, and walk in a spiritual, sacred manner and be helped by our ancestors and spirits to enter a sacred space, whether that space be GrandMother Earth, her families and between one another.


Break some leaves, about a thumbs worth per person. Do not burn a whole wand.

Burn to a smolder a chosen herbs/plants/resins.

Begin at the solar plexus. End at the solar plexus. Take the smoke in one's hands and rub it or brush it over the body. Some use a feather to distribute the smoke over the body also. Smudge until the smoke rises in a straight line. That generally shows balance. Use a stone to tap the fire out. Take burned tailings outside and give back to the Earth.

This practice is Smudging.

Some feel the use of abalone shells, as smudge bowls etc. are not appropriate. This is why: the shells come from the sea and thus should be used in water ceremonies or rituals. A clay bowl is used instead for the herbs and/or a metal brazier used for the resins-charcoal to burn the resins.

In any case smudging is a ritual that should be done with care. We are entering a relationship with the plants and with the spirits of the ceremony and or ritual and as with all relationships there should be respect and honor if the relationship is to work.

Using Family Clans in their Medicine Wheel Directions is often an additional healing in smudging and rituals. The following is a brief summary of what they are and what I use them for.

Sage - (Spring Family Clan) I use White Sage for heavy issues and Sagebrush for everyday. Mugwort goes between my mattresses. There are many varieties of sage. The botanical name for Artemisia is the genus commonly considered "Sagebrush,” and is more common in the wilds, S. Apiana, commonly known as White Sage. Sage is Salvia, which comes from the Latin root salvare, which means to heal. There are also varieties of sage which are of a species separate from Salvia and they are called Artemisia. This would include mugwort( Artemisia vulgaris) which I sometimes use for cleansing and protection. It is thought that sage drives out bad spirits, feelings, or influences and it also keeps them from entering the area where a ceremony or ritual place.

Tobacco (organic)-(Summer) I use Sage in Summer. Tobacco is used in Welcome Ceremonies, Pipe Ceremonies and Sun Dance. This is also an option all of my plant relations (Sage, Cedar, Sweetgrass, etc.) Many grow tobacco to harvest naturally.

Cedar - (Fall Family Clan) Cedar from Northwest tribes is sweetest and my favorite. I also am so excited to receive some overflow from those who make Totem Poles. Sometimes there is confusion about the terms to name plants because in some areas junipers are known as cedars. Cedar has long been used to help cleanse, purify and protect ones belongings, even clothes (cedar chips, or even cedar chests and drawers). Some rituals use cedar branches, or brooms are made from them to "sweep" to cleanse a home during a house blessing. It is thought that by burning cedar that it too will drive out negative energy but also bring in good influences.

Sweetgrass - (Winter) Rich, perfume like, musty odor has such a fond memory for me. Sweetgrass is very difficult to burn. Adding Sage helps in smudging. My peoples used to burn this when they gathered, work, rituals etc. and just a whiff of it today floods me with the memories. It is thought that after the sage and cedar or other herbs drove out the bad influences that Sweetgrass would bring in the good influences and spirits. Thus my Peoples would use it as a way for the good influences to further the work and hold the space. Sweetgrass is becoming Endangered today due to the overdeveloping of the land, cattle grazing and wheat fields. I try and obtain my supplies from traders at Pow Wows or from Native American outlets that try to keep the fields from being depleted.

Copal - This is a resin that I came across whiles attending some central and South American rituals and ceremonies. Its very powerful sweet, aromatic presence seems to permeate the environment in which it is burned. It is thought that this is a very good resin for removing negativity from all that the smoke touches.

Frankincense and Myrrh - (Winter) are both resins also that have been used in Africa, the Middle East and Europe for ceremonies and rituals. I often will burn both as I was taught that when burned together they represent the masculine and feminine and bring balance into what I am practicing or working on and with.

The smudging ritual or practice can be done as such; burn the clippings or resin and rub your hands in the smoke. Bring the smoke into your body or rub it onto yourself, especially onto any area that you feel needs spiritual healing. Close your eyes in silence while the plant helps you cleanse and purify. Sometimes one person will smudge another, or a group of people using hands or using a feather or wing to lightly brush the smoke over the person.

Purification with lodges or sweat lodges, it is not always feasible to do this for and/or with every person who comes to me seeking help, health and healing. There are times I suggest taking salt baths, 1/3 cup Sea Salt per tub) and I also will use essential oils to anoint the air if I'm in a space that doesn't allow incense.

There are many "Ways":

Lastly I will leave you some words of my Peoples: When harvesting any Smudging plants or stones ...

1. Get permission from the proper people before visiting a sacred place. This might be a caretaker, holy person, elder, or the governing agency affiliated with the site. Be aware that even after attaining permission from a governing agency you may be offending indigenous people who may not have jurisdiction over their own sacred sites.

2. Learn about and respect traditions associated with a sacred site. For example, there may be special attire required; sometimes only holy people are allowed in certain areas; women may not be allowed when they are in their moon time.

3. Do not assume that it is acceptable to perform personal rituals at a sacred site. Most sites have holy people who are specially trained to perform sacred rituals associated with the site.

4. Ask about participating in rituals being performed at a sacred site. Sometimes outsiders may not have the proper instruction or preparation required for participation.

5. Do not assume that it is always correct to leave offerings. It may be welcomed but first ask about what is customary. Sometimes offerings need to be blessed or cleansed before they are left at a site.

6. Always ask permission before taking photographs. Photography may be forbidden at many sacred sites or at sites where sacred rituals are being performed.

7. Keep to marked paths at sacred sites especially at ancient shrines and temples, which are often very fragile.

8. Never alter, move, or remove anything from any sacred site, including natural sites like mountains, rivers, springs, or trees.

Wild Universe, our GrandMother Earth and families, Indigenous Peoples, Are sequent First Families, Human beings are last in sequence to be considered, therefore, would you accept some well-meaning person coming into your home, taking whatever they wanted, when they wanted, because they could?

EarthThunder is a Shamanic Healer and Founder of BeLoved Tasom and The Ancient Schools of Mysteries in Idaho. Contact her with your experiences, your stories, or your questions at 208.599.1004 or email EarthThunder. Visit her website at