When religion and spirituality meet, sometimes there’s smoke

When religion and spirituality meet, sometimes there’s smoke October 22, 2013
I used the sage and cedar smudge stick to cleanse the house of negative energy. Just FYI: buring sage smells like marijuana …

For some time now, my aunt has been telling me to sage my house – sage, meaning burn sage in a cleansing ritual to rid the rooms of negative energy. She’s also talked to me before about balancing my chakra, too. When I was younger, I pooh-poohed that kind of thing, but as I’ve aged I’ve become more interested in the spirituality that I’d always been taught was … well, bad. Wrong. Evil.

But the last decade or so, I’ve begun to question a lot of things about organized religion –  not the faith, but the formal organization that is the modern American church. There were stirrings and questions in my spirit that no one could (or would) answer, a longing in my soul that evangelicalism just hasn’t fulfilled.

In short: I want to connect with creation, with God the Creator in a way that is meaningful and deep, not rote or trite or filtered through Christian books and music and movies and other “alternate reality” subculture.

A few years ago, when Scout was sick, I readily accepted treatment for him from a holistic vet, who mixed Eastern and Western medicine. Did the herbs work? Who knows. But the canine oncologist was cold, clinical, scary and pessimistic; she gave Scout 30 days. The holistic vet was warm, kind, loving and optimistic; Scout lived seven wonderful months after the diagnosis.

I’ve also, for much of my adult life, been a very vivid dreamer.  We’re talking technicolor, detailed dreams, bizarre dreams that seem to have no meaning. I’ve been told I should keep track of them and see if someone can decipher them. I’ve read in the Bible about people who heard from God in their dreams. Is it really so crazy that mine might actually mean something?

I don’t think about God as some safe deity sitting in a rocking chair who taps his feet along with our little worship ditties. We’re talking GOD, the CREATOR, who parted seas, spoke in dreams, rained fire from the skies, raised the dead, created the infinite universe. If that’s not the very definition of supernatural, I don’t know what is.

So when things started feeling very negative here at home again – negative, weighty, almost tangible – I figured that saging the house wouldn’t hurt.

My entire life I’d been taught to run from anything that is not Christian, doesn’t have Jesus at the center, or hints of witchcaft. And yes, the last thing I want to do is invite any kind of evil into my life or home. But after doing some research on smudging – cleansing your home with sage – I began to see that the process, the mindset and the desire to connect with the supernatural is no different than what might happen in a church. If I was Catholic, for example, I might invite a priest to come to my house and bless it – with incense and holy water, right? In women’s prayer group, we talked to a holy spirit. Where’s the line?

I decided to burn the sage.

The process started with a trip to the local psychic store, where a very kind woman explained that smudging is actually a Native American ritual. Not witchcraft, which made me feel better. (For the record, every religion incorporates other religions – Christianity is no different.) She explained how to smudge the house, the spiritual goals behind the ritual, and how I should prepare my own heart for the experience. Her instructions included smudging the house with a sage and cedar bundle to expel negative energy, burning an incense to replace the void with positive energy, and then sprinkling sea salt across the doorways to block negative energy from returning

Yes, saying it out loud, I sound like I have bats in my belfry. At the same time, the act of walking room by room in my house and praying for negative energy to leave, identifying places where negativity may thrive and asking for peace to fill the space? I’ve done that dozens of times before, just without the sage bundle and sea salt.

What was especially helpful was to take time at parts of the house where things have accumulated – literally, stuff. I prayed over and cleansed boxes of old family photos, my old work projects, my new (stalled) work projects, my genealogy research. I have to admit that it was an extremely positive experience. There’s something to be said for making a conscious decision to address negativity and to ask for blessings on specific things where life has you bogged down; the aroma and scent of the sage and incense were part of the experience – the same way people burn scented candles or use aromatherapy to enhance mood.

When I explained to the woman at the store yesterday that I was researching my Irish Celtic roots, she said that I was probably becoming more in tune with my spiritual side, and that perhaps I was an old soul who in another life had been very attuned to the spirit world. Maybe, but right now, talk about past lives and such freaks me out. For now, the house smells – and feels – cleansed. As for bats in my belfry? They’re probably gone, too. I smoked them out.

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