Smudging Your Spaceby Ana L. Palles
Our client suddenly opened her eyes and asked, “What is that wonderful essence? I love it!”
We were preparing the space and while we had already smudged with white sage, I took a few minutes and used some of the dragon’s blood resin incense. The smell of this incense always reminds me of sitting in church during a holy day service. It was a perfect way to begin our session and our client agreed. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes, settled back and relaxed.
Dragon’s blood resin is sometimes incorporated in the frankincense mixture burned in the incense censors used by Catholic priests during special masses. It is also used for celebrations and rituals in India and in the Middle East.
This resin has been used for thousands of years and was known to several ancient cultures including the Far East and Europeans. With so many years of extended use, it’s no wonder that the fragrance is familiar to many of us. Perhaps it is this very familiarity that sends a silent cue encouraging us to relax, release, and work on our spiritual processing.
There are written accounts of Greeks and Romans using dragon’s blood resin to treat a variety of ills including wound healing.
Certain aromatic resins from wounded trees, like Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha), Dragon's Blood (Calamus draco) or Propolis, a mixture of aromatic tree resins collected by the bees, not only have antiseptic properties to fight infection, but also have cicatrizant and vulnerary properties to speed up the granulation and healing of wounds. Here is a great demonstration of the Doctrine of the Signatures at work: resins, which are ‘bled’ by a tree when it gets cut or wounded to heal itself, are also useful in helping wounds heal in the human body.
However, ancient peoples were not all using the same substance when referencing dragon’s blood resin. Some cultures may have been applying the label to cinnabar, which is an ore, while others to different varieties of palm.
Today, much of the Dragon’s blood resin sold commercially is from the Calamus Draco, a type of palm. While still used in its medicinal and tinting capacities, dragon’s blood resin is most commonly known in the west as an incense. It is a favorite when deep cleansing a space.
Perhaps it is because I associate this fragrance with the sanctity of a church that I tend to experience a deep sense of harmony, serenity and peace when I use this resin. The fragrance is spicy and mildly sweet and tends to work easily in most situations. It wafts through the space becoming a warming backdrop while keeping its own presence.
Smudging has been used across the ages for spiritual and medicinal applications. Since ancient healers associated physical ailments with spiritual illness, smudges were commonly used in the homes of the sick and around the sick person and their families. It was thought that the smoke from the sacred herbs would attach itself to the negative energies and move them up into the light, back to the creator. As a result, smudging was often considered an integral part of healing and cleansing.
As some herbs have antiseptic and healing properties, the practice of smudging was determined beneficial and passed down through the ages. While families and tribes had their own favorite herbs they used for healing and for special rituals, a few achieved fairly broad, universal use and appeal. Some are:
- White Sage Sacred to many native American tribes, white sage has a distinctive, clean smelling smoke. White sage primarily refers to the species that grows in California, Salvia Apiana. Other varieties of sage, such as the one found in areas of the Southwestern United States are Artemisias, which can be seen growing wild across vast expanses.
- Cedar Often burned in sweat lodges, cedar provides a crisp, clean smoke. Cedar has antiseptic qualities reinforcing the idea of purification. It is a scent we associate with hospitals, cleanliness and anti-microbial.
- Mugwort Sometimes known as Cronewort, the mugwort is an Artemisia found in Europe and parts of Asia and sacred to the Celts.
- Copal A plant resin commonly found in Mexico and South America, copal is still used today by indigenous people of the Central and South Americas in ceremonies and ritual.
We have a number of articles on the site reinforcing the idea of clearing one’s space to create a harmonious, peaceful environment, or to prepare for welcoming the new into one’s life. Whether these be new relationships, new opportunities, or perhaps, new ways of thinking, taking the time to focus on clearing one’s space is essential to creating a productive, peaceful and nurturing environment for oneself and one’s family.
Don’t underestimate the power of using smudges, incenses or candles to set a sacred space and prepare you personally for relaxation, meditation or a fun, creative activity. You can program yourself to start relaxing the minute you smell the fragrance. I know a college student that lights an incense stick when she is about to begin studying for a test. She has programmed her body to respond to the scent by settling in to study mode.
Some couples have established a ritual of lighting a favorite scented candle when they want to be romantic. Once again, the scent triggers the mind to settle into the relaxed state that you have trained yourself to recognize. For people that have trouble silencing the mind for meditation, the use of a fragrance, whether it is incense, a candle or scented oils, can assist the person to settle down into a more introspective, quieted, state.
Remember, if purchasing commercial incenses, purchase higher quality, purer incense products. After all, you want the benefit of the various plants and resins, not filler product.
As always, use your smudges and incense with your best intent and give gratitude for the gifts they bring your way.