SMUDGE SMOKE AND FUMIGATION
In this part of the world we mislaid some of our traditions (we did not lose them, we just forgot where we put them) and so we have looked to our neighbours in other parts of the world to remind us of them. This is very valuable; as Caitlin Matthews says when our fires go out we ask our neighbours for some embers to relight them but then we keep them going rather than repeatedly going back for more of their embers.
Much of the way in which smudging and smoking is practiced in this part of the world now is borrowed from the Native American traditions and the most widely used plant at present tends to be white sage or sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata/ ludovciana) which is native to Northern America. In this tradition smudging sticks and herbs were never sold but rather given as gifts and yet most of the white sage we use in this part of the world does not respect this part of their tradition and therefore it seems more appropriate to look to our own plants, rather than encourage the appropriation and disrespect of commercialising the American tradition.
In most cultures throughout the world smoke, smudge and incense would have formed part of ritual and ritual was seen as part of the sacred ordinary and ordinary sacredness; bear in mind that many of these rituals had a practical reason too, so smudging and smoking was not just about removing spiritual contamination but protected against airborne disease and helped clear ticks lice and other little bugs from the fur and hair of people and animals. In most places there was no clear distinction between medicine and spirituality; the priest(ess) /healer-doctor would have looked after people’s physical, emotional and spiritual heath in the community. So smoke was used as an offering to the deities and the sacred, for meditation and ritual, but also to cleanse animals (including the human ones) and make them healthy; for fumigation and space clearing; to preserve food and in some places squatting over smoke was used cleanse and repair the womb after childbirth.
The amount of ritual and complexity for preparation of plants for smoking varied from place to place; in ancient Egypt there were very complex recipes and formulae for creating incenses, as there continue to be in places such as India, Nepal and Japan where burning incense is seen as an important part of spiritual rituals.
Amongst the European peasant cultures smokes and smudges often had more practical applications in the sacred ordinary to ensure the clearing of parasites and bugs from domestic animals and to clear ‘bad air’. Fumigation by smoke would also have been performed as a medicinal practice. In France rosemary and thyme were burned in hospitals as a way of keeping the air clean and preventing contagion. Chris Hedley and Non Shaw describe how smoking mixtures were widely used for the treatment of asthma and respiratory problems by burning on charcoal or using pipes or rolled into cigarettes until relatively recently in their excellent book Herbal Remedies. Smoking with herbs was deemed to relax a tight chest and relieve night wheezes and asthma. The herbs would be sprinkled on charcoal or onto a fire or barbecue.
In this part of the world plants that were traditionally used in smoke purification included vervain, mugwort, pine and juniper. Often herbs were dried as loose leaf and burned on charcoal or thrown onto fires; vervain and mugwort tend to work better dried as loose leaves. For pine and juniper small branchlets can be dried and used as smudge sticks. Rosemary also works well this way.
To make smudge bundles the best herb to use is garden sage (Salvia officinalis) although other herbs such as thyme, and lavender and mugwort can be included in the bundles. To tie the bundles use cotton; nettle fibre or couch grass strands have also been used to good effect by one of the students here. I often tie bundles with natural garden twine which is then removed before lighting the bundle.
You may choose to grow particular plants in your garden specifically to use for smudge or to collect them from the wild. Before harvesting set your intention and sit a while with the plant to ask permission to harvest part of it and use it for this purpose. Often people will leave an offering for the plant- tobacco, corn, a hair from their head or a simple prayer of thanksgiving. Make sure to harvest respectfully not taking too much of the plant. Use strong healthy plant material. Some people use a particular number of sprigs tied together depending on the significance of the number for themselves. You may choose to wilt the herbs for a day before tying them or simply tie them fresh. Hold the herbs in a tight bundle then, using your chosen binding, wrap it tightly around in a spiral weave. Tuck the top leaves over and bind them closely then bind back down the smudge stick and tie a knot. I tend to dry the smudge sticks in the hot press (airing cupboard) to ensure that they are thoroughly dried the whole way through so that they do not go mouldy; this takes a few weeks. I prefer a simple ritual prayer to be offered before harvesting and tying the bundles; Give thanks to the plants and the Earth for the abundance around us, take a moment to clear the heart and work from pure innocent intention and if the smudge is being used for clearing a group space ask that it will be good medicine for this, or if it is to be used personally put this into the intention. If one feels that the plant does not wish to be used then do not harvest it, if one’s energy does not feel in tune with the harvesting and tying leave it to another person or another time. And remember to give thanks after harvesting and whilst making the bundles, gratitude is a great balm. And remember to say a prayer of intention before smudging too.
There are plenty of websites and other resources making suggestions of the use of different plants as smudge and smoke and there are links at the end of the article.
Here are some brief notes on a few that will grow in Ireland well.
Juniper is calming, protective and clears out negative energy. It also helps ward of viral infections and airborne illness. It can be grown easily.
Pine is grounding, cleansing, purifying and helps to bring forgiveness. It helps to deepen the breathing and clear phlegm and strengthen the adrenal glands. Our native pine is a tall tree but one can grow smaller varieties of pine or spruce in the garden in containers.
Mugwort is a native plant and its Scientific name is Artemisia vulgaris. It is considered to be a messenger plant, helping us connect with nature, protective and helping lucid dreaming. It is especially cleansing and used to treat parasites and for menstrual inbalance and is a wayside journeying plant.
Vervain is a native plant that is used for balance, repairing fragmentation, inner strength and peace. It is a tonifying nervine which works on the liver and heart and digestion.
Bay is not a native but many people grow it in their garden. It is seen as a guardian plant that wards of illness and is traditionally used to make wreaths for champions
Sage is not a native but grows really well in our climate. It is associated with clearing, cleansing,fertility, healing, wisdom, mental clarity and longevity.
Rosemary is not a native either and needs to be planted in dry soil. It. also strengthens the memory, helps with energy flow, binds the soul into the body, promotes fidelity and protects space. It also protects against airborne pathogens
Thyme protects against airborne pathogens too and is often combined with Rosemary. It promotes courage and confidence and lifts heavy moods, brining an increase in energy and vitality.
Other plants that we have found valuable are wood betony, myrtle, and lavender and you may well find yourself drawn to use others since the plant allies are so very giving and generous.
Caitlin Matthews Singing the Soul Back Home
Chris Hedley and Non Shaw Herbal Remedies
Nature Medicine Circles and Wild Walking
Sun 04th June 2017 13:30 to 17:30 – Hollyfort – Gorey – Wexford.
Four little hours of inspiring creative fun, relaxing into Nature; slowing down and taking time to come home to ourselves and remember who we are. An opportunity to gratefully sense into the generosity of the earth and the abundance that surrounds us. Connecting through our hearts to the harmonising energies that flow through the Natural world bringing us to coherent serenity, deep healing and profound joy.
Nature Medicine Resonance Workshop in Summer
Sat 1st & Sun 2nd July, 2017 – Hollyfort – Gorey- Wexford
The unique effect of entering the Earth’s Consciousness Gestalt is the most incredible process that comes out of this work, offering ways of Being in Nature hitherto unimagined. As we join in Circle Council and find our place within the Family of Beings new potentials are created. There is no time to lose, come and learn how to achieve this and facilitate others to do the same.
RE-ESTABLISHING GOOD VAGAL TONE AND BALANCE WITH HERBS
The vagus nerve was for a while thought of as ‘just one of the cranial nerves’. Its very name implies it is a wandering vagabond of a nerve, meandering around the body to nearly everywhere (not the adrenals though) and doing this in a vague manner. It is one of the cranial nerves but it is also a huge part of the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic pathways of our autonomic nervous system. The nerve starts in the brainstem, just behind the ears and travels in multiple branches that diverge from two thick stems rooted in the cerebellum and brainstem, down each side of the neck across the chest and down into the lowest reaches of the abdomen. It connects from the brain to the lungs, the heart, the spleen the guts, the kidneys and the reproductive organs amongst other places. It also networks with the nerves involved in speech, facial expression, eye contact and much more. It receives stimulation from a lot of these organs and the information it receives can be very influential on whether we feel relaxed, confident, capable and energetic (toned) or stressed and alarmed. It conveys information from the different centres back to the brain to get a consensual decision. Stress, inflammation, trauma, or tension in any region can cause an overall lack of balance or tone or lead to some quite unusual symptoms that are often dismissed as being hypochondria or psychosomatic, or all in the head. The vagus nerve can produce quite pronounced symptoms without the presence of organic disease process but these can be extremely debilitating to people. This happens when the parasympathetic activation of the vagus nerve does not kick in to balance out sympathetic response to adrenaline and cortisol by releasing neurotransmitters like acetylcholine and GABA to slow us down. The symptoms of loss of vagal tone can be many and varied and may range from:
For our first attempt at mead (or more properly metheglin, since mead is usually just made with honey according to some people whilst metheglins use herbal infusions and honey) we made a strong infusion of meadowsweet flowers and left it sitting overnight. The next day we strained it off and added 1 part honey to 5 parts infusion in a large pyrex bowl; we have recently discovered the benefits of doing small R&D runs. We decided to see if it would ferment with the wild yeasts on the flowers and in the atmosphere. So we covered the bowl with muslin and just stirred it every day. For the first 3 days it did not look too promising but one the 4th day it started bubbling nicely. We decided just to leave it for 8 days as we were not interested in a high alcohol content. After 8 days we decanted it off into bottles which we put in the fridge maturing and found we had an excellent crop of starter yeast in the bottom of the bowl. Those who have sampled it have pronounced the flavor excellent. It has a nice effervescence and the taste is a lovely combination of meadowsweet and honey; a bit on the sweet side for me. It should be great medicine for the stomach and gut flora and be full of B vitamins as a live ferment.
Nature Whispering brings us deep into the powerful Earth Medicine we need to BE the evolutionary shift. Become authentically indigenous and learn how to communicate with Nature Beings, perceiving accurately what they are saying and share the Sacred Earth healing we have to offer each other.
The pdf below is a revised version of a presentation on the treatment of Lyme I gave to Tick Talk in 2012.
SEED SAVING; Increasing biodiversity, restoring our native species populations, herb and plant sovereignty
A few years ago someone in the local gardening group suggested that we get someone to give a workshop on how to save seeds. I think in the end some people travelled down to Brown Envelop Seeds, a great company that sells a range of vegetable and herbs seeds that they have grown and saved themselves (see the Veriditas Hibernica resources section for a link to their website).
I decided just to give it a go and see how many plants we could save seeds from to share with the students and other interested people and how difficult it would be to do this.
The last two summers have been great for getting good yields of seeds. What we discovered was that seed saving is not difficult. One difficulties here can be high humidity or preciptation levels so that one has to watch out for the ideal harvest day and optimum seed maturity and hope that they coincide. If they do not I discovered that one can harvest the mature seed and blot them with kitchen paper and allow to dry gradually for storage.
“It is our task to imprint this temporary, perishable earth into ourselves so deeply, so painfully and passionately, that its essence can rise again ‘invisibly’ inside us.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Did you know that:
- As well as being a food, a medicine and a plant fertiliser nettles have also be used to spin the finest linen?
- As well as producing delicious fruit blackberries are also used medicinally and that the leaves contain more antioxidants than green tea?
- Dandelion leaves can be used in salads, are a potassium supplement, a diuretic and also a tonic to the liver, whilst the roots can be steamed or stir fried as a vegetable, used for a liver cleanse or roasted as a coffee substitute?
- The elder tree produces flowers that can be used for food and medicine, it produces berries that can be eaten but which have also been shown to as effective for colds and flus as Echinacea is? As well as being effective they can be harvested sustainably; because the berries are being harvested the plant is not destroyed and can continue to provide food for bees and insects and birds and to provide a habitat for several species, including badgers who often build their dens near elder trees. As a native species it is particularly important for supporting native wildlife.
“Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not teach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient laws of life.”
One of the central visions of Veriditas Hibernica is to help people to reconnect with the natural world and to step into care-taking our plant kin and ecosystems so that we can co-create a healthier future with them. As people engage with this work they reconnect with themselves and discover who they actually are.