We’re increasingly stepping into an era of conscious consumerism and personal well-being. With tools like social media serving as an amplifier to specific practices around the globe, we must ask ourselves how our role in any situation leaves a mark. In this example, we’re talking about cultivating sustainable smudging practices and alternatives. The sacred practice of smudging comes from a long history that has just recently grown into a mainstream cleansing modality. If we’re being mindful enough to cleanse our spaces energetically, then it’s worth shifting our attention to how we support or destroy natural ecosystems in the process. When it comes to conscious consumerism, intentionality seems to be a promising avenue for a balanced relationship with Mother Gaia and a deepened practice.
Symbolic and Historic Significance
Symbolically, smoke represents the transition from matter into spirit. Timeless examples include the gaze into a sacred fire, smoke rising during a funeral and even the blowing of birthday candles after a wish. Smoke has also been used as a means for communication during prayers and rituals. In this sense, smoke rises from the earthly plane into the realm of gods/spirits/angels to partake in the ceremony. Drawing from a long lineage of practice and intentional use, there’s a lot of concern as more people implement these traditions on a macro level.
When it comes to smudging, it is important to understand how shamans and natives work with the smoke to honor the four elements. A shell or clay bowl is often used to catch the embers and represent water while the herbs being lit represent the earth. A feather is used to fan the flame representing air and the flame itself corresponds with the fire element. Intention has, and shall continue to be the driving force behind any cleansing ritual—especially when it comes to sustainable smudging.
Intentionality vs. Exploitation
Throughout history, sacred herbs were commonly accessible through limited means and often gifted by a shaman to an individual. However, as modern conveniences expand to meet consumer demand, there is a sense of entitlement when it comes to purchasing sacred herbs in bulk—such as sage or palo santo.
Concern forms around herb exploitation and endangerment, rightfully so. While palo santo isn’t classified as fully endangered, it is worth taking into consideration how the plant is harvested. It takes several years for a tree to fully give back to the land before the soil can be replanted. In many cases, the surrounding land fails to get the respect it deserves due to high demand. This is where we get the opportunity to step in. If palo santo, sage, or any other herb is constantly selling, then it makes it hard for us to truly take care of mother Gaia. Our dollar is our vote. Remember you have the freedom to choose what you support.
Alternatives and Conscious Consumerism
Rather than placing items in our shopping carts online, perhaps we might opt for local communities or grow our own herbs that ensure a sustainable practice. There’s also the benefit of deepening your own practice as you ground into the earth.
Some sustainable smudging alternatives include pine, cedar, wormwood, etc… It varies depending on the location you live in and what is naturally available.
Our personal practices are sacred. The surrounding environment is our playing field. With that comes an immense responsibility when honoring traditions and the sustainability of our planet. Let us continue to perform ritual in a conscious manner.
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