The winter solstice bonfire warmed us all last night. About 25 friends and neighbors arrived for a convivial potluck in our candle-lit home. The food tasted delicious. Then we went outdoors to light the bonfire, whose flames rose up 20 feet.
I use a bundle of sage to smudge each person. Smudging is a purifying smoke bath used by Native Americans. It seems counter-intuitive to think of smoke as a bath, and a purifying one at that. Yet, think of smoky fires that drive away mosquitoes and other pesky insects or smudgepots in orchards that keep the frost off of blossoming trees. As the smoke rises, it carries our prayers to the Great Mystery.
Sacred herbs such as sage, sweetgrass, and cedar are used for smudging, for cleansing our energies.
Here are the instructions from one website:
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
to the ears, so that you will listen truly listen
to each other instead of 'waiting to speak';
heart so you feel connected to all living beings in a loving way;
the solar plexus so your emotions connect with the Earth Mother;
to the womb, so your life giving energies go out into the world in
balance and harmony;
under the feet, this way your dark side and the world will not follow in your footsteps.
No matter what our spiritual beliefs, our intentions are to act as harmlessly as possible, and smudging is just one outer manifestation to remind us, once more, of our inner and honorable intentions.