Well, I actually had to do research into the older methods of smudging – yep, that’s right – I knew didly about it. Well, besides the media with some hippie waving it around the room with one single feather…
I have witnessed sacred smoke while in Europe – but the ‘feather,’ was actually a whole wing (or set of wings), or a skin-fan, and in my own case I have my own feather fan made from found feathers. I don’t deny it – yep, call me influenced by the new world. It’s practical and pragmatic.
But the wing itself was not to move the smoke over the person only – it (from what I’ve learned, and what I do) also removes any evils that are coming out of the person with every breath; that the smoke, tea, wash, sweating, food, etc., bring out. The wings or feathers bound together mimic the messengers of the Gods – as well as the numerous other ritual contexts birds fulfill from various mythologies, in my case – German, French, and European American. The fan is a tool of my Bird God (and yes, it’s being covered fully in my third book on the Bird God), and that in itself has so much meaning. The fan I have is used with a ‘whisk,’ to further remove evils.
Using the bird component is not just for healing – but for visions, divinations, to aid another person to speak to the Gods and spirits directly, bridging a person or group to the Other-worlds, etc. It’s a powerful tool.
There are various European types of sacred smoke – but it seems to be predominantly wormwood, mugwort, basil, St. John’s Wort, pine resins, and there’s still shit-loads more.
I really looked into this – because if I’m doing it, I’ll admit to it.
For my own uses – there isn’t one ‘fire stick,’ used at any given moment – just like ingredients to any good recipe – there are from two to six used for a ritual. I don’t light it by fire either – from my own practice, it is to place these sticks on coals, or used as ‘food‘ for sacred fires.
Sigh. I can’t have an outdoor fire, no matter how careful I am. It’s still too damned dry.
I light charcoal, and place the sticks on it for it’s smoke. I don’t wave it around
the room or walk with it – because, well – I’m grace-challenged and that sounds like a house-fire waiting to happen in my hands. Besides that – the smoke becomes blessed with the Gods and spirits from the altar as it ventures forth.
In my own practice, if you want to be cleansed, you should approach the altar and use your own hands to carry the smoke to you. I know that again, I am probably the only one who views it like this.
So, maybe it is ‘smudging,’ maybe it isn’t. I use washes for 80% of my cleansings, because it makes more sense the ‘cleanse out the evils and ills,’ by – washing it away.
But I think this is what makes me a non-elitist. If this is indeed a form of smudging – my answer is “Meh?”
This act has been in American folk magic for some time – and out here as long as the fur-traders were here. Yep, the fur-traders took their European lineage, met the Natives, lived either around or ‘knowing of,’ the Natives – and many are surprised a hybrid was born?
This was posted for Natalie Reed, who had me thinking, and chewing on thoughts from her remark about my sticks looking like smudge sticks. Thanks Natalie, for making me think, and look at my own practice objectively.