Cleansing Rituals: Choosing What to Burn
Whether you are doing a smudging or another type of cleansing ritual using a firebowl or incense, you will need to understand the elemental makeup of various herbs, resins or incense that you will be burning. This will allow you to pick the appropriate one for whatever type of ritual you are performing. Different kinds of incense, herbs or plant resins are chosen to create specific effects. Every type of incense, herb or resin has a particular scent or way of burning that can be classified by element. For instance, general-purpose incenses are usually high in Air and Fire, while incense candles are usually high in Water.
Always test herbs, incenses and resins yourself to determine what elements they represent. Many incense change drastically when they are burned in a firebowl. To test, burn a little piece in your firebowl, then smell the scent and watch the smoke. You can use these guidelines to determine the elemental makeup.
General Purpose Elemental Mix:
Have a good mix of the four elements, usually higher in air and fire. Good for general use and emergencies.
Smoke - Moderate amount of smoke, tending to rise and spread moderately rapidly. Smoke leaves a slight bluish haze.
Scent - Some "edge" or "stickiness" in the scent.
These are often pale in color, containing lots of white or transparent material. Good for studying as they will keep you awake and can be used to remember dreams.
Smoke - Rises quickly and dissipates rapidly, has a very light smoke that leaves the air relatively clear afterward and does not leave a blue haze.
Scent - Delicate, fast-rising scent or no odor.
Often red, orange, or yellow. Good for studying as it will keep you awake. Can be used on gloomy days to liven up the energy.
Smoke - Light or moderate amount produced that rises quickly, and is red or yellow in color. It spreads rapidly and leaves a slight bluish haze.
Scent - Sharp scent that tends to "bite" the nasal passages and sinuses.
Often pink, blue, dark red or brown material that often feels damp. Useful for meditation, introspection or to remember dreams.
Smoke - Thick smoke that rises and spreads slowly then dissipates slowly.
Scent - Often has a fruit or flower scent or a heavy, sweet, wet, thick and cloying scent that lasts for days.
Often brown or green and useful for stabilizing an area.
Smoke - Tends not to rise, but to "boil" out and settle to the floor, spreading slowly.
Scent - Heavy, not sweet, not wet, "earthy" scent that can last for days. Also dry with a slight "edge" to the nasal passages and sinuses.
Smudging a person is one of the most important cleansing rituals and a good one for beginners to start with. Here's how to do it.
- Light your smudge stick and get a good column of smoke coming off it
- Start at the person's crown and circle the person clockwise
- Use your breath or a feather fan to push the smoke toward the person
- Anywhere the smoke bounces off, go over the place again until it sticks
- Have the person breathe the smoke in lightly at the end
So next time you need to "clean up" or give yourself a lift, grab a smudge stick and do this simple smudging ritual.
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