Using incense and herbs…..
When performing shamanic practises, it is good to begin by preparing yourself spiritually and physically to approach the undertaking in an open and honest manner. Purifying is a positive act which both cleanses the spirit and relaxes the body.
In Many cultures, herbs or incense are burnt for this purpose, the scent acting at a physical level while the smoke washes negative influences from spirit.
Native Americans use several herbs in purifying ceremonies, notably sage, sweetgrass and cedar, either separately or together.
The term sage is a catch-all for the main herbs used in spiritual cleansing. Many varieties of sage and sage-like plants are used, including White Mountain sage, which grows mainly in California, and the sagebrushes and worm-woods, which also favour dry conditions but are found more widely.
Sage has a transformative property, working upon negative energies that are somehow clouding an aura. It changes these negative influences to enable them to act for the benefit of the person, place or object whose aura is being cleansed.
A purifying incense, cedar is very beneficial for healing on both physical and spiritual levels.The small, flat leaves can be burned alone on a hot rock — as in a sweatlodge — or on a hot coal, or they can be mixed with loose sage into a ball for burning. The sharp, sweet smoke produced is very refreshing and calming, having an uplifting effect on the spirit and enhancing clarity of mind.
Also called “Hair of the Mother”, sweetgrass is a tough, fibrous plant that grows in wetland conditions. It is often used to make braids, and attracts beneficial energies to the user; calling on spirits to give strength and guidance.
Burning a joss-stick is a familiar use of incense: you may be in the habit of lighting one simply for its pleasing effect, but when the burning is performed with conscious intent the effect is magnified.
There are many different incenses to choose, with different aromas and properties. Frankincense has been prized for thou-sands of years. It is a natural tree resin which is often used as a meditation aid. Pinon is a tree resin from North America with cleansing and clarifying properties. Temple Balls are a blend of gums, herbs and oils including elemi, juniper and sandalwood. They cleanse the air; affect atmospheres and relax the body.
Making Sweetgrass Braids
Bundles of sweetgrass are plaited into long braids, which produce a sweet-smelling smoke when burned. Where sage works upon influences that are already present in a person, sweetgrass has the effect of attracting new energy.
Native American shamans use sweetgrass in their sweatlodges, where it is rubbed on the red-hot stones to get it smouldering, to invite spiritual allies to join the ceremony. Sweetgrass braids can be bought from alternative and New Age stores, but making your own braid gives greater significance to its burning. Waft the braid in front of your face to inhale the smoke, and repeat four times.
1) Tie up one end of the bundle of sweetgrass, divide into three equal sections and braid.
2) Once the sweetgrass braid is lit, extinguish the flame so that the grass smoulders for a short while.