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How to Use Herbs in Ceremonies

What is Plant Spirit Medicine?

Since the earliest of times, people have sensed the presence of something that is intangible, indestructable, and all pervading. It is a subtle, energetic force, that pervades all things – it is spirit. Plants have this spirit. They are an intrinsic part of the circle of life, providing us with food, medicine, and pleasure of the senses. They heal us with their bodies and their spirit. From their bodies come the medicines and foods our physical bodies need. From their spirit comes the medicine our emotional and spiritual bodies need.

When you connect with a plant, tree, herb, or flower and need to have them around you in any form, their spirit and their vibration is serving you in some manner. Plants vibrate at different frequences just as humans do. The more purified you are, the higher your rate of vibration (for exampe the Masters of the different religions vibrate at a higher rate than the masses of humanity.) The plant kingdom is the same way.

Plants serve in different ways. Some have the ability to take us to spiritual realms like the visionary plants of ayahuasca or peyote. Some plants, like the culinary herbs, make food tastier and serve as physical healers. Some plants like lavender soothe a troubled mind and tension filled bodies.

Plants are sacred and alive beings with whom we could not exist. Remember that our higherselves always know what we need. Cultivate your intuition by sitting with different plants and feel which one you need in your life!

Why do you burn herbs before ceremony?

These herbs, resins, or tree barks would be the purifiers. They are burnt before ceremony to clean the space of any negative influence so that the spiritual energies can come in to offer their guidance to us. These spiritual energies will not come in to a place that is contaminated or of a lower vibration.

Ceremonial places should be kept physically clean, neat, uncluttered just as you would see temples and churches. The participants should also be of good mind, clean bodies,and clear emotions. The tools and instruments should be clean. Respect the fact that we are calling in help from other realms and we want them, as honored guests, to come to a clean environment.

The white sage, desert sage, or Lakota sage sticks can be burned and the smoke used to purify the ceremonial space. Some incense sticks can also be used. Some cultures use tree resins to purify space. They are burned on charcoals to purify space. Try using copal, piñon, frankincense, or myrrh. Consider your home and office to also be a sacred space. Smudge it often, especially after any conflict whether it be physical, emotional, or mental.

Why are some herbs burnt during prayer?

Some traditions believe that words that are spoken are turned into matter. Those words are transformed by the herbs being burned into spirit and then carried up by the smoke into the etheric realms where they are heard by the spiritual beings that we are praying to. Cedar and sweetgrass and lavender maybe used during prayer time to carry our prayers up to Spirit.

What herbs are used in the sweat (purification) lodge?

There are some herbs that are common to all traditions and then there are some herbs that are personal herbs that are perhaps a special medicine of the leader of the sweat.

The common herbs used in the sweat lodge (purification lodge) are the sages, cedars, sweetgrass. They are all burned on the sacred hot rocks to cleanse and heal the participants in the sweat. Other herbs often used are lavender, star anise, red willow, bear root and the resins like copal and piñon. Bear root and bitter root are also chewed in the lodge as an internal medicine.

Why is an abalone shell used as a container for burning herbs?

Native people were very ingenious. Objects could have several functions and waste was not an option in the old days. Abalone shells, like gourds, were a perfect container for many uses. For a West Coast native, who had access to shells, might use it for ceremony or even jewerly. A woodlands native might form a container out of a hollowed wood. A Southwest native might use a clay bowl.

Some people put an esoteric meaning to the shell, by saying that it represents the element of water and its symbology is important in the ceremony. In contrast, someone else may not use a shell, if it goes against their tradition to do so. It is really up to the individual.