New Year, New Smoke
In the Celtic traditions, the new year was one of the special times when homes were ritually purified and blessed. This was typically done with water or incense. A house or apartment may be cleansed by going from room to room with that intention, sprinkling water on the four corners, on the beds, as well as doors windows and key holes. The water could be sprinkled with herbs, such as lavender or Juniper. The process is known as saining.
The pioneering work of alternative scientist Masaru Emoto suggests that water absorbs and displays our vibrations and intentions. We can make good use of this fact by blessing water that we intend to use for purification (or any other purpose), and then sprinkling it around living spaces.
Juniper sprigs or branches were set alight and carried through the houses as incense *** (See note below.) If we want to do this today, the Juniper may be dried on newspaper or hung in the dry place for a few days or weeks. When you light the sprigs, hold a small bowl underneath or an abalone shell – Paua shell – to catch any sparks that may fall. Using either your hand or a long feather, fan the smoke around each member of the household in turn. Then take it to each room and fan the smoke into the four corners.
Sage is another popular herb both in European (common or garden sage, Salvia Officinalis) and Native American traditions (white sage). I regularly cleanse my crystals and workspace by smudging with Sage smoke, using a fan made of found owl feathers. But you can use your hand or other fan. One of the most rewarding experiences can be to use dried herbs that you’ve grown yourself.
When there is more smoke, I take this as a sign that there may be more impurities that need clearing. Consequently, I ensure that windows and doors are opened, to give an escape route for smoke that has done its work. Usually the smoke burns itself out, but if it doesn’t, I tamp it out in a ceramic bowl of fine sand that I have prepared in advance for the purpose. It’s better not to use water to put out a cleansing fire, as you will be left with a soggy mess! A metal bowl on an insulated stand is a good option for burning incense on charcoal.
Frankincense resin is one of the most traditional sources of purifying incense, and is used extensively in the Catholic Church, High Anglican Church, and other Western orders and traditions. Other materials that can be used in incense, including Dragon’s Blood resin (from the Dracaena plant and other genera)– one of the most powerful of all cleansers. These may be purchased from health or other shops with a good selection of herbal products.
When I lived in Austria, close to the countryside, I used wild Mugwort as incense. I tied it into bundles, dried it and used it in a manner similar to sage smudging. Mugwort, whose botanical name is Artemisia Vulgaris, has an affinity with the moon, and is an excellent support for shamanic journeying, lucid dreaming, and any other operations involving alternate states of consciousness. If you’re lucky enough to have a local source of Mugwort, even placing a leaf or two under your pillow, or in your pillowcase, can help to induce vivid and powerful dreams.
Diffusing essential oils is a good option for cleansing a space that doesn’t require burning. I use Eucalyptus and Pine oils for this purpose, and it also wards of coughs and colds to a certain extent.
Enjoy the sacred scents. It’s a perfect prelude to spring cleaning! :)
For more information about how you can incorporate space cleansing and smudging into your life, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
*** Take care that embers or sparks don’t fall on heat sensitive or flammable materials! Don’t leave flames unattended. Place any container with burning or smouldering material on an insulated base.