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Smudge Sticks

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Smudge Sticks

In the native American spiritual traditions, smudging plays a central role. Smudge sticks are long bundles of fragrant plant material, wound tightly, lit at one end until the material catches fire, then blown out so it continues to smoulder releasing smoke.

The fragrant materials used by native Americans are usually sage, wormwood, cedar or sweetgrass. Occasionally, depending on the location within the USA and Canada, the soft young stems of pine are used - these have pine needles attached and are very pliable.

There is also a plant called prairie lavender which is included in the smudge sticks of certain Nations; although it is not of the same species of lavender known throughout Europe it has somehow acquired the name lavender from early European settlers.

There are many types of sage, including salvia apiana which can grow very tall and be over one hundred years of age. Another variety often used is salvia columbarne. Sage brush, artemisia tridentata, belongs to the wormwood family, rather than to the sage.

Artemesias belong to the wormwood family although they are sometimes called sage. They bear no resemblance to the sages we know in Europe. In native American culture, artemisia spinescens is sometimes used in smudge sticks.

Often, the trees that are called cedar are actually of the juniper family, such as juniperus virginiana all types of cedar needles are also used, including thuja occidentalis.

This is sometimes called vanilla grass, and is hierochloe odorata, a tall green grass which becomes yellowish when dried. On drying, its aroma becomes more apparent. In some nations it is put on the hot stones of sweat lodges.

In all the above, it is the leaves and soft stalks that are used. Smudge sticks are held in the hand, carrying smoke to where it's required, or the smoke is directed by the hands or with a feather.

Other cultures use a small branch of a plant or tree to direct the smoke, often of the same species as that used in the smouldering fragrant material.

You could also use big crystals to spread the smoke around, or other stones that you are attuned to - or amber, which is a resin from a plant.

Reference: The Fragrant heavens: Valerie Ann Worwood

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