As more people lean towards spirituality and the power of positive energy, Indigenous peoples’ spiritual practice of smudging has become more mainstream. We sat with Angela DeMontigny, a native Canadian fashion designer of Cree-Métis heritage and the creator of LODGE Soy Candles, to learn more about how to properly participate in smudging and incorporate other Indigenous wellness practices into your home.
What is Smudging?
The first thing to know about smudging, commonly referred to as the practice of burning sage, is that Indigenous people see the natural world as their pharmacy. “Everything we need for our health is grown on Mother Earth,” Angela explains. “Our knowledge about the healing properties of plants has been passed down from our ancestors for generations.”
As explained in the province of Manitoba’s Smudging Protocol and Guidelines by the Indigenous Inclusion Directorate, smudging is a tradition common to many First Nations that involves burning one or more medicines from the Earth. “The forms of smudging will vary from nation to nation but are considered by all to be a way of cleansing oneself,” the report states. Indigenous nations use different medicines depending on where they live. Sweetgrass, sage and cedar are some of the most common medicines used in First Nations’ smudge ceremonies.
Angela has always seen smudging as an important spiritual practice. “Smudging is one of the easiest things you can do to change the energy in your space. It removes spirits and negative energies from your home, which can impact your physical and mental health,” she says, adding that it’s been passed down by her ancestors for millennia.
The Healing Properties of Sage in Indigenous Culture
“Sage is one of the most grounding oil that calms the nervous system and balances your hormones. It activates intuition, wisdom, tranquility, contentment, self-love and sexuality. Sweetgrass also has similar healing properties,” Angela explains.
How to Smudge Your Home in an Ethical Fashion
As reported in the Smudging Protocol and Guidelines, “the act of clearing the air, mind, spirit and emotions may be accomplished in a variety of ways, but, according to First Nations’ practice, a smudge is led by a person who has an understanding of what a smudge is and why it is done.”
If you want to smudge your home, Angela recommends starting at your local Indigenous Canadian community centre. They’ll likely be able to find an elder that can help. In fact, a lot of work goes into proper smudging rituals, which can take several hours when done properly.
“For example, you’re moving into a new home and want to remove negative energy. In that case, you need to smudge in a very systematic way. You must open every space in your home: every drawer, closet door and place where negative energy can hide. Smudging involves moving clockwise, starting from the east of your home.” Although Angela explains that you can use smudging for your physical and mental wellness like if you’re feeling anxious or want to smudge a small room, it’s only seen as temporary.
Similar to any spiritual or cultural practice, smudging must be treated with reverence. However, there’s a different layer to consider when it comes to Canada’s Indigenous history.
Smudging Practices in Canada
“It’s often forgotten that it was illegal for Indigenous people to perform ceremonies and use our medicines during the Indian Act,” Angela says. The Indian Act gave the Canadian government power over First Nations’ identity, governance and cultural practice from 1876 to 1985. “We would be jailed for something as simple as burning sage or sweetgrass. It’s also why buying something appropriated from Indigenous culture and selling it for profit is hurtful to many communities.”
It’s also essential to ensure that you buy sage from an authentic Indigenous brand or person. “When mainstream retailers sell things like smudging kits for your home, it becomes a commodity sold for profit,” Angela says. “There needs to be recognition of a Native American connection and importance of Indigenous cultural practices.”
Additionally, wild sage doesn’t grow back again when it’s over-picked. Buying sage from a non-ethical source might mean that you’re financially supporting the decontamination of essential medicine for Indigenous communities.
Bringing Indigenous Wellness to Your Home
Using her knowledge of the healing properties that Mother Nature provides, Angela started making all-natural soy candles using Indigenous medicinal plants. Once the pandemic began, she realized it could help people calm their anxieties during a challenging time, and LODGE Candles was born.
One candle, called CEREMONY, was made to encapsulate the scent of being at a traditional Lodge ceremony when sitting beside a sacred fire. CEREMONY is made to enhance the mind, body and spirit and uses essential oils from cedar, sage, sweetgrass and tobacco.
CEREMONY, LODGE Soy Candles, $72.