Smudging for Protection Against Ghosts : New Age Tomfoolery

Smudging for Protection Against Ghosts : New Age Tomfoolery

Because the paranormal exists in all of the cultures of the world, it is only fitting that the plethora of cultures should also contribute some mystical and magical method of dealing with said phenomena. As far as I am concerned, since there is no scientific basis for ghostly encounters in the first place we should all feel free to try anything once, and most paranormal groups have. We use all sorts of meters, devices and superstitions to increase our chances at capturing the ultimate in phantasmic evidence. While trying anything is certainly an acceptable strategy for covering all of the bases, my suggestion is always to know what you are getting; especially if you paid for it.

One of the most common suggestions for ridding oneself of ghosts has always been to burn some sage in your room. The application of the sage varies from placing it in a shell or pot and letting it smolder to fanning it with an eagle feather into the four corners of your room. No doubt this practice has its roots in Native American mythology. American Indians tend to be the “Sam’s Club” of the paranormal. We spit out lake monsters, bigfoot, little people of the forest, giant birds who feast on thunder, you name it, we got it at a bargain. But is smudging smoke really a good method for removing ghosts?

If you search solely within the New Age movement, no doubt you will be told that burning plants is definitely the way to go. Invariably, the first Google search you try will send you to one of two places. Either a Caucasian couple who resemble Bob Ross and Mama Cass Elliot (before the ham sandwich), who are celebrating 18 years of bringing you the finest in mystical ceremonial products to explore your inner peace and light or the most uncomitted transgender person in the United States with, as my Vegan friend once said, “An inch of cover-up and an inch and a half of stubble.” You will immediately be relieved to find a full set of instructions and magical words to say in order to perform the ceremony to it’s most effective climax. You will also be referred to an location where you can purchase the perfect synthesized native flute music to heighten your experience. If you find that the ceremony itself has too many steps remember: “Regarding the smudge ceremony, remember that no matter the details of your actions, God knows what you are trying to do, and in the end you can’t do it wrong, there is no wrong, God and the master spirit guides in the world unseen will understand your actions and bless your efforts.” Along the same repercussion free lines, please remember that Peace, Love and Light Communications LLC. is not responsible for any demon activity, loss of sexual desire, or closing of bronchial tubes that may result from your mishandling the sacred medicine bundle. Ok, I made that part up.

So what is this smudging then if it is not the miracle cure for poltergeists that I was looking for? Well for that I imagine we have to go to the source and by that I mean to accounts of Native Americans using sacred smoke prior to the influence of “Dances With Wolves.” I found many references to using smoke as purification but none had anything to do with cleansing a location of spirits. In fact, the majority of references were pretty practical, mostly having to do with biting insects and flies. Some were a bit more spiritual but still centered around the idea of keeping the fire lit. In 1534 the following honor was bestowed upon a woman who kept her fire going for 3 days in the rain, thus making the fire sacred. “We would suck in the smoke and keep it in our mouths, and one by one we would puff it out into the face of the woman who had preserved the last spark, telling her that she was worthy above all to share in the benign influence of the sun sinch she had so skillfully preserved his emanations.” Certainly not a ghostly use for smudging, however, I imagine anything would want to leave if you performed this ceremony after a meal containing a lot of garlic.


So why did smudging become so popular? Well, I found a quote by a native named Arguimaut in the year 1534 that just might explain why everyone seems to be burning sage and tobacco in their homes these days. “Fire, grant that by sucking in thy goodness,under the cover of smoke that hides thee from our eyes, we may become strong and vigorous and always be able to know our slave-women and the wives of our bed.” Now where did I put that lighter?


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  1. Ghost Diva Tammy

    05/19/2009 at 7:07 AM

    Smudging is not about ridding a place of ghosts. It’s a spiritual practice and it’s used much in the way a Catholic priest blesses a house or uses holy water.

  2. bellaboo

    05/20/2009 at 9:31 AM

    i use smudging of incense to help rid my home of the demon AaawfulsmellinCatLitterRoom.

    it doesn’t last long though. stupid cat loving demon.

    also there is a form of that for that pesky HumanCrapStinksUptheTerlet demon — plain ole matches help with ridding the home of that one.

  3. John Dockum

    05/20/2009 at 10:16 AM

    Native Smudging is indeed a spiritual practice, but the most common links found on google and the common practice on paradramas is to use it as a cleansing of evil spirits, and most often with money exchanged. Which, obviously is the incorrect use. My “About the Author” section is in need of some padding, but I am Abenaki/Huron from St. Francis as well as a reenactor of pre-revolutionary Native life, so I purposefully limited my discussion to the sale of smudging as the common demon killer.

  4. Matt

    05/20/2009 at 10:38 AM

    Pray tell Tammy, what purpose might a priest have for blessing a home with holy water? Certainly there are many, but experience tells me that ridding a dwelling of undesired spirits is among the uses. Smudging is in fact commonly used by those hoping to accomplish the same. In short…what is your point?

  5. RevDrDk

    05/20/2009 at 1:32 PM

    bella-try burning a cat turd for the Cat Scat Demon. It’s guaranteed to drive any Sages or Native Americans from your house.

  6. Brandy

    05/22/2009 at 11:16 AM

    As a person employed in education of comparative religions (I teach in Higher Ed — the joys of young adults!), I am not impressed when people simply chose to dismiss a belief because it does not hold up to their interpretation. I get that impression with this article.

    Sage smudging may or may not work, but it is something that can empower an individual and, at least psychologically, boost them into feeling protected. If a manifestation is nothing more than imagination, then sage smudging might, indeed, work because it calms the mind into belief that the ghost is gone. If it works on a spiritual level, then ghosts, as spirits, can be banished. If it doesn’t work at all, it’s an interesting aroma and experience for the individual who practices it.

    Remember that ghost investigation, working with ghosts, etc., is a) religious in origin b) pseudoscientific in nature and c) parapsychological only with the appropriate degree — this is the closest that we get to scientific interpretation. Why wouldn’t sage work for an entity? Salt is also used in some ideologies and there are plenty of other folk traditions out there to get rid of something that we actually DO NOT know much about.

    As I recall, science also pooh-poohed other folk/herbal practices. St. John’s Word, a plant that was alleged to stop melancholy when burned according to the ancient Greeks and Romans, is now prescribed as an anti-depressant in parts of Europe. White willow bark, used as a mystical plant by Native Americans, has a chemical within it that is a derivative of aspirin (and hence, healing properties).

    I’d not dismiss things so quickly. I agree that people need to be somewhat skeptical and not follow with a blind eye (too many of the world already do that). However, your article isn’t any more proof that it doesn’t work than it does.

  7. Nopaosak

    05/23/2009 at 8:07 PM

    Brandy, are you saying that charging money for a placebo affect or, as you put it, psychologically boosting people into feeling protected or calming their overactive imaginations, is ethical?

    Also, I find that a plant that has a scientifically tested, repeatable effect on the body due to an isolated and identified compound is far different than the New Age use of burning sage by people outside the Native community; especially for profit. Unless you feel that there may be a chemical in sage smoke that does indeed repel ghosts.

    The thesis of my article clearly was targeted at the sale of such ceremonies and practices outside the native community by people with a serious misunderstanding and disconnect from the culture within which the sage is intended for use. In fact, I am going to go beyond saying it is unethical and say that these people are crooks who capitalize on the popularity and misinterpretation of Native Ceremonies, potentially harm clients by encouraging and accentuating psychoses, and knowingly sell a placebo to the gullible and feeble-minded.

    So as I said in paragraph one, “Know what you are getting; especially if you paid for it.”

  8. GhostDiva TonyaH

    05/24/2009 at 8:34 AM

    Fantastic… Funny thing is, the timing is great. Here in OKC a team just did a live stream/webcast of a “real live smudging”. Yes, it is true.

    It’s about intent and belief. I have a smell good concoction that I have created called “Ghost-a-way”… I have used it for many years as a parent to keep my house rid of monsters, booger men (and women), ghosts and midgets. It works, because my children believe it to work. When the home made febreezy type smell goes away, it’s time for another treatment of course. It’s a great tool for parents.

    We are talking about children that believe in monsters right???

  9. Matt

    05/24/2009 at 4:51 PM

    St. John’s Word? God help higher education.

  10. bellaboo

    05/27/2009 at 7:35 PM

    ******Remember that ghost investigation, working with ghosts, etc., is a) religious in origin b) pseudoscientific in nature and c) parapsychological only with the appropriate degree — this is the closest that we get to scientific interpretation. Why wouldn’t sage work for an entity?******

    why wouldn’t sage work for an “entity” ??

    why wouldn’t using human left ear wax, only from a male over the age of 50 work for an entity? what about snippets of a new aloe plant, or snippets of some animal’s toenail/claw?

    not very marketable, but see how this works???

  11. bellaboo

    05/27/2009 at 7:39 PM

    that’s it.

    i’m starting an older-man’s-left-ear-wax SCARES AWAY the ENTiTIES bidness.

    hey – it was MY IDEA FIRST!!!

    i’ll use turmeric colored candle wax.

    just sayin’.

  12. bellaboo

    06/09/2009 at 12:08 PM

    brandy said: “I am not impressed when people simply chose to dismiss a belief because it does not hold up to their interpretation. I get that impression with this article.”

    brandy, i am not impressed by your non-impressed impression of this article.

    fwiw, people in the new-age, woo, paranormal movements have been adopting, twisting and bastardizing other cultures’ beliefs since they first realized there was money to be made in doing so.

  13. Dave

    06/20/2009 at 8:16 AM

    I understand that cultures have practices that have stemmed from their core belief system, and also understand that smudging is one of these spiritual practices. What I’d like to know is how do “paranormal investigators” who have no background, understanding, or belief in the clearing rituals they employ get off in saying they can clear somebody’s home by running around with a smoldering stick of weed? I had to follow a group of people around doing just this, and for me it was amusing and utterly ridiculous, and my heart went out to the homeowner because she really believed that the fool with the burning weed stick was going to rid her of all her paranormal fantasies (which, I found out during the night, were much more of the spirit variety found in a cardboard box with some grapes on it in her refrigerator).

    I also get irked when I see non-Catholics splashing holy water around, or armchair Christian-wanna-bes spouting passages form the Bible in supposed haunted places. I like what bellaboo said before this reply about bastardizing belief systems. The trouble is that there are so many running around who are experts in their own minds because they’ve sat through repeated viewings of Ghost Hunters for the last 4 years and suddenly feel they know everything there is to know about ghost hunting. All this equates to is many self-diluted people running around doing many stupid things. What we need are more rational thinking people to help those experiencing what they perceive as paranormal in their lives to think critically and rationally before allowing the fantastical and warped methods of the foolish half to overrun the situation.

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