NATIVE SCENTS SMUDGE INFORMATION
The use of plant and resin
smoke possibly evolved out of the primordial campfires from
distant caves. The ceremony of cleansing people,places and
objects through smoke is continued today. Not only for keeping
pesky flying insects away, certain plant smokes (smudges)
could preserve food and hides.
Some smudges could also impart protection
from unseen spirits and thoughts. To apply the protective
cleansing power of a smudge a leaf or resin was heated to
make smoke that was brushed over the person or object often
with a feather fan. Some plant smokes had specific healing
properties while others had more general powers.
The smudge smoke is made either by spreading dry herbs on
hot coals or hot rocks or igniting dry herbs in a clay bowl
Desert sage brush covers much of the high plateau of the
western states and is expanding its range. Sagebrush bark
has provided fibre for footwear and clothing to the Fremont
culture. Sagebrush grows a protective cover for rabbits
and small game, improving their habitat. With its many variations
and names, Big Sage Brush, Mountain Ball Sage (Artemisia
frigida), Sweet Sage (Artemisia dracunculoderes), Black
Sage (Artemisia nova) as well as all its common tribal names,
sage is a respected plant family.
Desert sage grows on the high desert of the West. It is
traditionally used in ceremonies and included in medicine
pouches and bundles. Sage is burned in smudging ceremonies
to drive out bad spirits, feelings or influences. The leaves
are valued for their aromatic properties and are used as
a natural moth repellent.
Sage can be used in numerous ways. Native Americans of the
Plains Nations cover the floor of their sweat lodges with
sage. They will also breathe thru a small bundle of sage
and at times rub the bundle on their bodies while in the
Some tribes commonly wrapped their pipes in sage before
they bundled them up. They believed that objects wrapped
in sage were purified. Sage wreaths are still placed around
Sundancer's heads, wrists and ankles during the ceremony.
"Sage makes the bad spirits sick. They go away from
it when it is burned. It does not make the good spirits
sick. They will not leave when it is smoked. Sweet grass
is pleasant to all the spirits. Good spirits like it. Bad
spirits like it. All like it. The smoke of sweet grass is
pleasant to the good spirits. They come to the smoke. They
are pleased with the one who makes this smoke. They will
listen to what the one who burns this smoke will ask. But
the bad spirits will also come to enjoy the smoke.
So, sage must be burned to make them sick. Then, sweet grass
to bring good spirits."
Traditional stories and myths tell of the power of sage
in that wherever sage is present negative forces cannot
enter. In the Inipi ceremony, a sprig of sage is worn behind
the right ear to protect the participant and placate the
If you would like further information on sage and other
Native American sacred plants we recommend, Plants of Power
a book published by Native Scents available at Wilde Ones
for £4.99 also available in Japanese, German and Spanish.