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Sacred Plants

The Plant World generally symbolizes transformation:

Roots represent the past, and honour heritage and the Ancestors.
Trunk represents the present and reveals the life force and creative spirit within each of us.
Branches represent desired future goals.
Fruit or Flowers represent attainment of goals.

Four Sacred plants used for ceremonial and healing purposes are:
Tobacco (East), Sage (South), Sweetgrass (West), Cedar (North)


Back in the time of spirit, ceremony and belief, Great Mystery gave to Turtle Island’s Indigenous people four sacred plants. These medicines were meant to be used in prayer and for other peaceful purposes. When combined the smoke carried our prayers to Great Mystery. Today, what is often called a “Sweetgrass Ceremony” opens many gatherings, powwows, meetings, conferences anywhere people are gathered together in a good way. The word ‘smudge’ is a bit of a slang term when describing the four plants as a group; ‘smudging’ means the action of fanning or pushing the smoke over you to create harmony mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

SWEETGRASS, the hair of Mother Earth and the power of emotional healing. It is literally is sweetgrass and often grows in dark, marshy places. It is braided to signify unity and strength. A single blade of grass represents an aspect of the living world, when separated it can be broken, but when braided it cannot be broken. When in ceremony, human hair is usually braided to signify that we are all one people and that our world vision is one of strong, united, supportive communities. Sweetgrass is a tangible metaphor for a unified world. Our task is to work towards a world community that is in harmony with itself. Sweetgrass soothes the emotions, calms the nerves, brings down the heart rate. Its perfume drops your shoulders in relaxation as you move into the rhythm of the Earth.

CEDAR – the power of physical healing. It’s sweet smell and healing properties are used in physical healing. Bathing in a cedar bath or the occasional cup of cedar tea helps to cleans the internal and external body. Feel its power seep into your pores. Feel the pulse of your heart as your body embraces its own health and wellbeing. Line the floor of a sweatlodge with Cedar so that its sweet smell can imbue those sitting inside. It is refreshing, it invigorates, it heals.

SAGE – The power of spiritual healing. As the white sage (salvia apiana) wafts across your body, breathe it into your soul. Let your spirit find its balance with the emotions and the physical body. Feel its power raise your spirits, feel yourself stand taller and stronger. There are holes in the spirit when it is sad, let the sage fill those holes with good thoughts and positive attitudes.

TOBACCO – The power of Mental Healing. Ah, the most powerful of all, it gives thanks to Great Mystery and to the Ancestors. Often considered to be the oldest plant on Turtle Island, it was never meant to be smoked for commercial purposes! Sacred tobacco is pure and colled ‘Kinnikinnik’. It is comprised of Tobacco, bear berry leaves, red willow and alder bark, among other things. It is smoked in sacred pipes and given to Elders or Traditional Teachers when requesting assistance or information. Tobacco is sprinkled in thanks to the Earth Mother, to Great Mystery and to the Ancestors for gracing us with their presence. Tobacco should be held in the left hand, closest to the heart. Raise your hand, it should be offered to the four directions before being scattered on the earth.

HOW TO SMUDGE: Place cedar, sage, sweetgrass into a clay bowl. Light it carefully and let the smoke start to rise, it carries your prayers to Great Mystery. Rub your hands in the smoke to cleanse them; scoop the smoke into your hands and bring it to your head, so you will think good thoughts – no anger, jealousy, hate; to the eyes so you will see the world around you in a good way; to the throat so you will speak always in kindness and in non-judgmental ways; to the ears, so that you will listen truly listen to each other instead of ‘waiting to speak’ which we so often do; to the heart so you feel connected to all living beings in a loving way; to the solar plexus so your emotions connect with the Earth Mother; Women to the womb, so your life giving energies go out into the world in balance and harmony. Finally under the feet, this way the dark side of your soul and the world will not follow in your footsteps.

Ah, do you hear that? Listen carefully, for the Ancestors have awoken from their deep sleep and have come along with the spirit of the smudge. They are here to help you heal. As is the way with all things sacred, great respect must be given to the process of smudging for a relationship is being formed between you, the plant spirits, the Ancestors and Great Mystery. It is powerful and must be respected.
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