Saturday, May 7, 2011

Talismans – Understanding These Powerful Tools for Healing, Protection, Spiritual Growth

Talismans – and the related Amulet – have likely been utilized by humans as helpful tools of protection, healing, and spiritual growth since our earliest hunting and gathering days. Perhaps beginning with wearing or carrying an animal claw or a hawk feather, these items were  believed to assist in connecting humans with the power of sacred Spirit forces. References to talismans and amulets have been found in prehistoric graves and dwellings, as well of course in indigenous cultures around the globe. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim practices all have descriptions of various kinds of talismans and amulets used in their religious activities.

There is much blending and confusion about talismans and amulets, especially now that many jewelry makers are calling their creations a “talisman” or “amulet” in efforts to attract the buying public searching for spirit connection and help in everyday objects. As a long-time spiritual healer, student of shamanism, and newer artist, I confess to being troubled by what appears to be efforts to apply terms that have strong sacred associations to objects intended primarily for decoration and admiration, by people creating them who have little or no spiritual intention in the work, and pieces (or crystals) accompanied by descriptions of flashy actions “performed” on the piece and big words that obscure – rather than help define and support – the purpose of the created object.

When I began crafting my talismans as tools for meditation and healing, I researched many sources to come up with a definition and description of my work that resonated with my intentions to create pieces for spiritual needs. I crafted the definition shown below, which is posted on the main information page of my Etsy & Artfire shops:

  • TALISMAN - an object consecrated with psychic force and crafted to be a tool to serve its owner in healing and/or protection. Talismans are tools – not jewelry. One’s mind responds to a Talisman – used for focus, meditation, amplifying personal power, healing - in a different way than one does to pretty jewelry worn for ornamentation and adornment. A Talisman is only made from natural elements – gold, silver, copper, wood, gemstones. The setting is as simple as possible.

  • AMULET – a natural object left in its virgin state [can be worn as charm, carried, or kept covered or protected until owner wishes to use it]

A customer recently wrote to me describing her delight in a specific piece, and also wondering about using her new talisman within the context of her Christian beliefs:

Still learning how, as a Christian, to add these to my life without using them as "idols"--but they are truly a physical comfort at times.”
In responding, I drew on the use of art, symbols and gemstones in many religious practices:

Art and symbols help us with the characteristics, messages and practices of what the symbol stands for, this is a human practice since we first began our living on Earth in this form. A talisman like you received is the same as a painting on a wall - the ancient cave paintings, or modern pictures of Jesus - all help remind the viewer of spiritual higher power and messages.

Pelican Totem-Abundance Serenity, Group Harmony
The talisman is not an idol in any way - the piece [you purchased] helps you with meditation, healing, to focus your intentions and affirmations, and to assist in work with your spiritual development. The particular talisman helps you remember what Pelican symbolizes, and the message(s) and energy that Pelican carries. There is absolutely nothing harmful or idolatic (new word) about that. Christians too have ever so many symbols in your religion - the cross, doves, the Trinity, Eve's apple and snake, the physical Bible … So don't worry - you are not worshipping the talisman or the crystal, you are using them in practices for your personal and spiritual growth. That is a universal religious practice. It is a "tool" - enjoy and appreciate the help that it brings!

Many effective and powerful tools are available all over the world to help the spiritual seeker. Everything from a simple found rock that appeals to you found on a walk, a crystal, or a detailed painting can help you raise your vibration and assist in your spiritual journey. Just be aware that just because an item is described as a “totem”, “talisman”, or other spiritual item does not mean that it automatically will fill the intended purpose, carries spiritual power, or bring the answers or help that one seeks. Research the seller/artisan’s background, experience, and credentials.

And remember that any piece ultimately does not bring a magic answer – your own spiritual practice, accompanied by meditation, affirmations, and visualizing your intentions and goals – is the core of change, growth, and healing.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Awaken the Sacral Chakra – Source of Life Essence, Personal Power, Sexuality, Fire Energy

Late winter “blues” are probably dragging most down by now. As the dormancy of Winter moves slowly but unstoppably towards Spring, this is an excellent time to focus on awakening the Sacral Chakra and prepare for new beginnings and abundance.

Custom talisman for Fertility, Communication with Aqua AuraCrystal, Lepidocrocite, Spiny Oyster, Thulite, Antique
Gooseberry Trade bead, Artisan Lampwork, and Wolf totem
The opportunity to focus on this chakra came recently when a special relative asked me to create a talisman to help her with concerns around fertility. The talisman I created contains vital energy of crystals, symbols, color and an important animal guide to assist her in maintaining focus, intention, affirmations and visualizations. In my work as a spiritual healer, I seek to combine the essential energies of a rich diversity of ancient and modern sources to bring support and strength on the journey.

The talisman began with research into the chakras for information on fertility. The word Chakra means "wheel" in Sanskrit. There are seven (7) primary chakras that are visualized along the central spinal axis of the human body in most healing traditions – Base (Root), Sacral, Solar Plexus, Throat, Heart, Third Eye, and Crown. Several other chakras exist outside of the body – most notably the Earthstar Chakra (below the feet) and Soul Star chakra (above the head).

Rooted in ancient Vedic practices, chakras are spiritual energy vortexes that links the physical body to the “subtle bodies” – the emotional, physical, mental and spiritual bodies surrounding the physical body and often perceived clairvoyantly as parts of the aura (or “rainbow body”). Since ancient times, disease or illness in one or more aspects of one’s being have been believed to be associated with disturbances originating in the chakra system.

Chakras are affected by our own energy – primarily our thoughts, also dreams, spoken words, and actions. What we say, think and do are forms of electromagnetic energy, generating a current that flows through our body. The body’s endocrine and central nervous systems are directly linked to the chakras.

Crystal healing and color therapy are two practices that aim directly at working with this energy in the human (and animal) body.

Located below the navel and above the pubic bone, the Sacral Chakra is widely believed to be the center of power for the body, the life-giving center where the Vital Energy (power, chi, prana, life force) resides.

Also referred to as the Fire Center, this is the chakra for relationships... it relates to emotions and to sensuality, intimacy and sexuality. The Sacral Chakra governs the health of the female reproductive organs- the womb, genitals, kidneys, bladder and lower back.

The Sacral Chakra is associated with the vibrant color of Orange (or Red in some traditions). Orange is one of nature’s most beautiful, powerful colors – combining red’s passion with the happiness of gold. It is the color of joy.
(Note: There are many opinions on colors and chakras. The perspective(s) of the teachings I personally follow, also held by many gemstone and other healing experts, say that red and orange are the colors of this chakra. Other healing traditions may have different colors associated with this chakra, or you may personally feel that another color feels more right for you.)

image from F Becker, The Science of Being
Various healing traditions show the Sacral Chakra pictured with a Crescent Moon pointing upwards, surrounded by a Six-petaled Lotus. The “bowl” of the crescent catches divine influence from Venus. The Crescent is part of the New Moon – a time for meaning rest and light, a symbol of increasing and growing. The Lotus is a sacred cosmic symbol in many disciplines. Both the 6-petaled Lotus and the Crescent are said to symbolize Love. Triangles are also frequently seen in illustrations of this chakra.

Many cultures see the human body as the "sacred vessel”, and incorporate various body parts engaging in religious or symbolic rituals. The sacrum is the triangular bone just below the lumbar vertebrae; it is formed from several fused vertebrae, and sits between the hip bones. The name "sacrum" comes directly from Latin os sacrum, meaning 'sacred bone'. In ancient Hebrew and Arab traditions, believed to be derived from Egyptian beliefs, the sacrum was the bone necessary for resurrection. The Sacral Chakra and Sacrum Bone are important in shamanic journeying as well. Some indigenous cultures believe the sacrum bone is a “second skull" located in the pelvis.

The sacrum is the fulcrum of the human torso. We sit on the sacrum, and we can rest in a sitting position for extended periods of time without moving. The sacrum is found next to the reproductive organs, of great significance in most if not all societies.

Ecstasy Art by stephanietberry on Etsy
Opening the Sacral Chakra with Color, Meditation
When you become aware of the need for a particular color’s energy in your personal universe, there are many simple, direct and immediately powerful actions using simple color therapy techniques that bring the color into your physical body and emotional awareness.

These suggestions focus on the color Orange, but you can substitute any color that you need.
  • Place objects in your room(s) such as flowers, art, and cloth swatches that radiate the color you are craving. If you are an artist, use the desired color in some vibrant new creations!
  • Wear clothing made of the color – I recommended that my client find some orange lingerie to wear!
  • Consume foods that contain the color. Orange foods for the Sacral Chakra include oranges, carrots, pumpkin, apricots, shellfish such as crab. (Note: Always follow professional medical advice on food consumption and avoid foods to which you are allergic)
  • Use crystals and gemstones of the desired color during meditation, and on jewelry that you wear. Crystals and gemstones for Orange include Amber, Carnelian, Spiny Oyster, Sunstone, Orange Spinel, Orange Calcite and many others
This meditation/visualization with the color Orange can be helpful (of course, you can substitute any color you want to bring into your immediate surroundings).

Become quiet and centered. Practice cleansing breaths – slow, deep breathing in through the nose, out through the mouth) for several breaths – as much as 3 to 5 minutes. Imagine the air around you is a rich deep Orange color. Visualizing an object of the color you want to work with may be helpful – such as a big Orange flower. Notice the energy around you associated with this color, and how it moves all around you – maybe in swirls, or waves. Breathe this rich energetic color deeply in through your nose, and see the color energy radiating to every part of your body. If an area feels particularly heavy or dense, try focusing on this area by seeing strong rays of Orange surrounding, entering, and filling this area.  

Tumbled Carnelian by Sagehealer

So one recommendation for opening your Sacral Chakra is to bring more orange into your environment !!! Remember we absorb healing energy from color - vision is based on light waves - energy - so visually working with a color matters! Wear orange lingerie, bring orange into your personal space, meditate with orange crystals. Feel your Life Force blossom and strengthen!

    copyright sagehealercreations2011   All rights reserved



Friday, January 7, 2011

Lilac Amethyst Spirit Quartz - The Higher Self - Understanding Crystal and Spiritual Terminology

Working with crystals for healing and meditation is a daily delight. One of the most interesting and challenging aspects is the constant research I engage in to find new crystals and to understand how they work. I love learning about how the chemical structure of the mineral combines with the physical and mental aspects of what one is seeking, and how all this comes together to inspire and support healing and meditation. Over the several years of working with these fascinating minerals in my art, I have studied quantum physics, color theory, and geology.
I recently participated in a well-respected art show in San Francisco. My booth-mate commented that she was amazed at the incredibly personal information shared by my customers during our brief encounters. That's been my experience at every show I've done, and is part of the fascination and reward of this aspect of my work.
I have many customers finding me at a show who are in great physical or perhaps emotional pain, or who are seeking spiritual healing and help in coping with their personal challenge(s). When I'm at an art show, I sense these invisible but powerful tendrils of healing white light emanating outward from my booth, wrapping around those with a particular need and drawing them to me. When they find their way to my little space, I see the light of understanding come to their eyes as they realize what I'm offering. Sometimes all we do is talk - perhaps about a difficult dream that they don't understand, or about a physical or emotional situation causing them distress. There is often no sale, no discussion of what I'm selling - yet their concern is heard, and they received something they needed to obtain some relief and understanding. This is part of my work as a healer, shaman, medium, the calling that is expressed in all of my art. It is why I do what I do.

My cat and dog listen to me comment about pieces I come across in my travels containing information on the healing qualities of a piece posted by (one assumes) well-meaning sellers and artisans. This information is all too often provided by vendors who appear to be basically sticking descriptive words about the gemstone on their wares to attract buyers, yet who do not work with or practice healing and meditation as part of using this information responsibly. Buyers need to be aware of the reasoning and understanding behind this kind of content before making decisions about what will best meet their need(s).  I am thrilled to know that my profile page is the second-most viewed page of any on my Etsy shop site. My talismans and crystals are conciously "charged" with the healing energy that comes through me from Spirit - like electricity flowing from the source. I am deeply gratified by the response and trust of my customers who understand that I "walk the walk", and that I have a strong background for the information and healing work that I promote.

Having recently acquired some beautiful Lilac Amethyst Spirit Quartz, I spent several hours combing my crystal resources and the Internet for information. I came across a number of references to this crystal's  help in connecting the user to the "Higher Self", and realized I needed to know more. I want to make sure that the information I provide to buyers is accurate and helpful - not just some fancy sounding words that cause more confusion than it helps.

The Higher Self is an ethereal energy field beyond our usual conscious awareness (called the “Superconscious”) that brings knowledge and information from a higher source, either spontaneously or intentionally. Described by some sources as an "indestructible unit", a concentrated mass of energy, the Higher Self is the Divine Spark of Infinite Intelligence or God in every living organism. This energy is condensed memory, like a hologram, holding the wisdom and memory of every vibrational frequency in which it has existed.

This energy comes from the essence and minerals found in the human body as well as all other organisms that have ever lived on the Earth, and includes past lives of your own soul (for those who accept reincarnation), the knowledge comes from the stars, the Earth, Air and Water, the movement of continents, the forming of essential minerals...from all that is and all that has been....

Spirit Quartz helps you become aware of these learnings and use the information to progress on your overall journey in this life. It is a powerful crystal for aiding healing and spiritual growth. This crystal has the important ability of helping remove fear - of one’s current situating, concerns for personal safety, even the state of the world –bringing joy and spontaneity.

Another favorite crystal that I love working with that assists in connecting the "day to day" self with the Higher Self is Lithium Quartz.  Additional crystal suggestions for tuning into the Higher self include Hemimorphite and Elestial Quartz crystals.

Lithium Quartz Crystal Point

Other "Higher Self" crystals include Moss Agate, Sapphire and Selenite. There are may crystals that can happily assist you in working with your Higher Self - check your favorite crystal books and resources.  

Upcoming blog posts will cover other interesting terminology about crystals, healing and meditation -  look for info to come soon on the physical, emotional, spiritual and etheric bodies, and how these connect to the chakras and the aura!

I'm happy to hear about your questions regarding the sometimes confusing terminology associated with crystals, healing and meditation. Post it as a question/comment here or email me, and I'll do my best to get some information that helps!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Etsy's Native American Forum Founder & 2010 Anniversary Sale

My recent drive across country had a few surprises and some treasured moments. One surprise was seeing a pickup truck at a gas station with huge moose antlers in the back (presumably attached to an out-of-sight moose).

A real delight was the opportunity to meet with Joni Stinson, founder of the Native American Forum Thread. Started in November 2009 to celebrate Native American month, the forum is currently running in its sixth edition on Etsy. An exciting promotion and sale of Native American-inspired items is running from November 1st to 21st to celebrate the Native Forum’s first anniversary. (Find these items on Etsy by clicking the search bar at the top right of any page, click on “All Items”, and type “NAPromo” into the space.)

Now a highly-respected venue for promoting Etsy artisans’ favorite Native American or Native American Inspired work, the Native Forum is lively and fun. Participants from around the world join in, we love bacon at our virtual parties, move the on-line campsite regularly to new fabulous locations (currently “located” in Fossil Creek, Arizona), and are learning Cherokee words. The forum generates amazing opportunities for spiritual and artistic growth and healing, too. Many special friendships have been formed, both on-line and in-person meetings. Check out the current thread at Native American Forum on Etsy.

Joni and her Beaded Owl Necklace

Having seen some pictures of Joni Stinson before we met, I knew what she looked like. What I didn’t realize is that this beautiful, petite woman had the deepest voice I could imagine! Must be like a Lioness sounds when talking! We met near her home in Omaha, Nebraska. Joni emerged from her car wearing one of her spectacular handcrafted beaded necklaces, with a beautiful turquoise blazer complementing the exquisite colors of the long rose-themed piece. Everything about her was glowing color and warmth.

Joni is a descendant of a red-haired Irish mother and Creek-Cherokee father. She learned the Native American art of bead weaving from her paternal aunts, who wanted to make sure she was becoming well-grounded in her Creek and Cherokee heritage. Over dinner, I learned that Joni started selling her own handmade beaded pieces several years ago after attending Native American festivals, creating her own niche for reasonably priced, high quality, Native American artisan-crafted jewelry. She has also supported and nurtured hundreds of talented artists through the Native Forum thread!

The Native Forum’s November anniversary promotion provides exceptional opportunities to obtain handcrafted artisan items directly from the artists for your holiday gift giving, at prices ranging from $5 to $500. We will also be offering prize giveaways of many beautiful items. Joni contributed these starry earrings for one of the prizes ...
Native American Dangling Star Earrings by Joni Stinson

The Native Forum’s November anniversary promotion provides exceptional opportunity to obtain handcrafted artisan items directly from the artists for your holiday gift giving, at prices ranging from $5 to $500.

We will also be offering prize giveaways of exquisite artisan-made items.

Kokapelli Suncatcher by HandyAnn

Additional temptations among the handmade artisan items and prizes from some of the participating artists include the delights featured here!

Be sure to check out the participating artists and prizes for great handmade art by searching “NAPromo” on Etsy between November 1st to 21st. Bring some special joy to your holiday gifts!

More than 30 Etsy artists are participating in this event. More information will be available in coming days, so check out my shop page, and watch for info on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Practicing Compassion Every Day for Transformation and Health

Autumn is the season for letting go. This is a time for reflection on where we are at this moment, what we have experienced that brought us to this place in our journey, and to ponder what inner work we can do that will lead us to where we really want to be. Just as the leaf is released from the tree, or the raindrop drops from the cloud, Fall is a time for learning detachment, letting go, and to not be attached to the outcome.

A recent conversation with a dear friend provided an unexpected opportunity to consider the importance of compassion in our daily lives. I have found that practicing compassion has brought ease to my heart around difficult personal relationships. And I find that I frequently have to work at compassion every day.

We each carry pain and hurt deep in our hearts. Perhaps from difficult childhood experiences that color our adulthood …rejections (real or perceived by us) from someone that we love and from whom we
wanted love from in return  … loss of someone or something that was held in close and of great importance – a job, a home, a precious animal companion.

[Kuan Yin is the dearly loved Goddess of Compassion and Mercy, cherished in many cultures worldwide. Embodying compassionate loving kindness, her presence calms those who suffer and brings peace to the heart. ]

This pain and hurt lodges deeply within, and continually calls out for our attention in many different ways. Many can manifest physical conditions that have some relationship to these hurts. Others find themselves expressing anger and bitterness in relationships – at work and at home. Holding on to emotions that are better let go brins a feeling of what I describe as a “tension in the soul” that brings an edge, like a paper cut, to our daily existence – a hurt that is not incapacitating, but one of which we are always aware.

To me, Compassion is a deep feeling of spiritual love, loving kindness, and acceptance of a person or situation for exactly what she/he or it is (or was). Compassion is much more than pity. Genuine compassion for another actually begins within - with love, forgiveness and acceptance of ourselves.
Meditating on compassion helps us observe our emotional, spiritual, mental and physical processes that are connected to holding on to behaviors and beliefs that no longer serve us well. Walking (or “moving”) meditation, when we are moving and open – especially along water – helps us move into an altered state of awareness that enables us to perceive messages from what is around us. Paying attention to our thought processes and the joy of movement often leads to experiencing creative problem-solving. A sitting meditation is a receptive, universal posture that aids us in accessing universal wisdom and learning. This posture teaches us how to wait, listen, and observe what is being revealed (A. Arrien)  Messages may come through our dreams, as our unconscious delivers information to our awareness.

Blue and pink are the color rays carrying compassion and love. Working with potent crystals such as Aquamarine, Rose Quartz, Rhodonite and Clear Crystal will help you focus the energies of compassion, healing, and transformation in meditation and dreams.

Practicing compassion means stepping back from a powerful hurt and examining the thought processes we engage in around this particular experience and/or belief that we are holding onto “for dear life” - regardless of what carrying this pain has created in our life. A clear-eyed, open-hearted review of the experience or belief will usually show us outdated beliefs and attitudes that we can address, work to release, and change into a powerful transformation of how we view the world.

Challenging? Absolutely. This is a vitally important practice that changes us, and radiates outward to change the world.

Suggested Resources:
Arrien, Angeles, The Four Fold Way, HarperSanFrancisco, 1993

The Dalai Lama on Compassion

Schlitz, M, Vieten, C, and Amorok, T, Living Deeply The Art & Science of Transformation in Everyday Life, New Harbinger Publications 2007

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strengthen Affirmations, Intention, Manifestation with Meditation

We truly are composed of the same elemental material as the sun, the stars, moon and planets, and everything in the universe. Quantum physics has shown that natural laws apply equally to the biggest and the smallest particles. Atoms vibrate at different frequencies, creating color, shapes, forms, sounds, and all of matter. Each atom and molecule is surrounded and wrapped by electromagnetic force. The physical forces of light, electricity, magnetism, and heat are linked together by Electromagnetism – that essence, chi, prana, the vital life force. Sound is a vibration - an electromagnetic force.
Our bodies are made of electromagnetic currents, sound and light waves. Our thoughts and emotions also are electromagnetic forces. Emotions travel on the mind’s electromagnetic current to every atom in our bodies. Everything operates on and creates magnetic force – causing other atoms, all beings, to move towards each other.

So, you might be asking now, what is the point?

Everything that happens begins within our bodies.

Thoughts begin in our mind, in our deepest  inner self. Our thoughts and our words have their own force and physical power. We make decisions based on our thoughts that radiate throughout the Earth – the ether – the universe, putting our own unique imprint on the history of life.  Wars, rainforest devastation, the Gulf Oil spill ... world peace, healing, democracy ... all began (begin) with thoughts leading to actions.

You've heard of “the power of positive thinking.” Most of us have heard about affirmations. Affirmations are words repeated daily – either silently or verbally – that start as seeds of thought in the conscious mind. Affirmations generate emotions, a flow - magnetic and emotional – within the body. This flow stimulates action, and manifestation follows upon action.

I practice affirmations every day – I have for years. While perusing Twitter late last week (of all things, really!), I came across an astonishing reminder that how one phrases an affirmation is so powerful. Andrea Conway, a Law of Attraction coach from Denver, writes an interesting blog about Attraction marketing for small business success. My attention was captured by her writing about the power of two little words that are “total manifestation powerhouses” – the words are “I AM.” These words are central to the teachings of the mystical lecturer Neville (1905-1972).

As Conway wrote, according to Neville,

"whatever you declare yourself to be with “I am” becomes the condition you express, and the entire universe agrees with it.”
Think about these words. When you think about – and verbally describe – your current situation, what do you say? “I am struggling to make ends meet” ... "I'm not selling anything lately", or are you saying “I am a successful, thriving artist”.

"I AM"

Conway points out that Neville states that we have free will. We can choose any condition that we wish. And because thoughts have energy, we become what we choose, and this is how the universe sees us.

Meditation is the most effective way to change our thinking, the energy that radiates outward to the universe, and that comes to manifest what we are.

To begin working with your “I AM” power, begin with concentration and meditation. During concentration, focus in your mind on “I AM” and let go all other thoughts and concerns. Follow the concentration period with meditation – listening to the silence, the vibrations from The Mystery. Be aware of the feelings flowing around and through you. Experience deep calmness, perhaps a sensation of lightness, or floating on currents of air or water. Begin to add descriptive words to your “I AM” awareness – perhaps the words are “eating healthy food”, “in good shape”, “filled with joy”, “in love”.

Repeat your statement quietly, calmly – speaking it out loud is best. Notice shifts in mind-set, your outlook, how you feel physically, and how it manifests all around you. You can even write your “I AM” statement down on a little piece of paper, and carry it in your pocket with one of your favorite crystals to generate energy and remind you throughout your day.

My new Affirmation and Intention Mini-Talisman is crafted to assist you in working with your own power of thought, helping you focus, strengthen your affirmation, and bring in crystal energies of abundance, inspiration, and Spirit Energy. With Rhodonite, Herkimer Diamond, Heliodore, and Imperial Golden Topaz.


All thoughts, all change begins within us. Thoughts are energy. Change how you think, how you speak, how you act, how you live!

Check out Andrea Conway's "I Am" blog

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Smudging Classes Bring Healing to Middle School Students

Many indigeous cultures and religious practices use herbs for cleansing and healing - as incense, essential oil, and as fresh or dry herbs. Cultural and healing lore teaches that smudging is calming and cleansing. Those of us who smudge regularly know that smudging clears the environment of negative energy and helps purify our spirit. Brushing the sacred smoke around the body is calming and centering.

I was recently honored with an invitation to teach two lessons on smudging to art classes at the Ace Charter School last month (March). Here's the story ...

Coming mostly from low income Latino families, these middle school students are some of the lowest achieving kids in their San Jose school district. Many come from rough homes. Quite a few have behavior problems. In their art classes, the students have been studying Native American culture.

Their teacher, Helene Erlich, works very hard to give them positive experiences and to teach life lessons that reinforce self esteem. She contacted me after becoming a fan of my art on Etsy.
From the moment I received this most unexpected invitation, and as we worked out the class details, I was deeply touched both by the teacher's caring for her students. We both knew these kids need opportunities for learning something that is healing in their lives, and that can help them change their own state of mind and their environment.

Class 1:

In the first class, the theme of preparing for Spring Equinox was used for introducing the sacred smudging ceremony. The students learned about the sacred practice of smudging, how to get centered, and about thanking the plant spirits. They learned that fragrant herbs used in the smudge stick - such as fennel for love and healing, lavender for calm and happiness, rosemary for success and clear thinking, sage for cleansing - bring energies from the plants into the physical, mental and emotional environment. They experienced smudging themselves and then someone else. (I crafted the smudge sticks they used from fennel, lavender, rosemary, and Mexican Sage [S. leucantha]).

Each small group had a campfire (candle) and a plastic egg rattle to use.

During discussions at the end of each class, many students - without prompting - said they felt "better", "happy", "calm", "relaxed", "more energized". One young girl who was recovering from surgery on both feet and using a walker said that she felt pain free for the first time since her surgery was over.

Class 2:

Students learned how to make their own smudge sticks in the second class. Smudge sticks are fairly easy to make. Most important is understanding that the herbs used are considered sacred, and approaching the creating in the right manner of respect and gratitude.

Handling the sacred herbs during the crafting is a wonderfully healing and uplifting experience.

For two days before the class, I prowled neighborhoods (Black Lab in tow) in two towns to gather enough Lavender, Rosemary, and Sage leaves for use by 110 students. Happily, Fennel is growing abundantly all around my neighborhood right now.

Most of the students were fully engaged in the process.

Some of the smudge sticks were quite creative!

And the smiles that lit so many young faces when I told them they did a wonderful job was a real joy to experience for all of us.

Research to Do !

Two questions were asked that prompted quite a bit of research on my part afterwards.

Quite a few students were very interested in the love energy aspect of fennel. When talking about fennel being an herb that attracts love, one girl asked me how that works (she may have been the one holding hands with a boy near the herb table). I answered that using fennel in a smudge clears your own energy and helps you feel more loving, and that attracts love back to yourself. And there are tiny particles in the smoke that move out into the universe and take this energy to others, plus stays around you - working like a hummingbird comes to a flower.

I realized that even though I've been smudging for years, and fully embraced all of the benefits that have been written about and I've experienced, I wanted to have a "technical understanding" of how and why. So, I began researching.

Understanding how smudging works begins with the sense of smell and the brain's limbic system. Fragrance has a direct, primal and powerful impact. The limbic system is a complex arrangement of brain functions that regulate everything from emotions to learning to responding to stimuli.

 This system is responsible for creativity, inspiration, and automatic life processes for survival including heartbeat, hormone regulation and respiration.

Next, remember that everything in existence has energy . Science has shown that everything in existence consists of atoms and molecules. The movement of atoms creates energy that has an electromagnetic "vibration". Everything is energy and thus has a vibration. Chi, the vital Life Force in all living things, is energy. Smell is molecular. Emotions are energy.

When you sniff an aroma, the fragrance travels up the nasal passage to the olfactory bulb, where - bypassing the blood-brain barrier - the odor molecules directly enter the limbic system. The limbic system is made up of many brain structures related to survival. This is where our brain processes emotions, and motivations such as fear, anger, and pleasure. Memory, happiness, decision making, heart rate, blood pressure, sexual response and creativity are all based in the limbic system.    
                     Abalone Shell Bowl - WillowRavenBeads

The limbic system is where atoms meet - and affect - emotional energy. The sense of smell is directly linked to health, relaxation, emotional well being, our reactions and to decisions we make. This is why fragrance has such an important role in religious ceremonies, and why aromatherapy works.

So, the short answer seems to be: the molecules in the herbal smudging smoke attach to the negative energy within the person and/or the environment. As the smoke dissipates (being exhaled and/or dissolving and moving out of the room), the negative energy is cleared away, or perhaps the smoke molecules actually change the molecular structure of the other energy. Since plants have energy, their unique qualities - for healing, change, purification - are part of the smoke and are absorbed into the body and environment. [I personally believe that the "brushing" action also has an important role - a subject for another day]

The second question was about using cilantro in smudge sticks, since many of the students were of Hispanic heritage and had this herb growing at home. Since I was not very familiar with cilantro, I needed more information.

Turns out that Cilantro has been used as a healing herb for 5,000 years.Cilantro is also known as coriander (all the same plant - cilantro is the leaf, coriander the seed), Chinese Parsley or Mexican Parsley. The Chinese used cilantro/coriander in love potions as they believed that it had aphrodisiac qualities (the kids will love that answer!). It is referenced in the Bible, and the ancient Romans are credited with spreading the plant throughout Europe. The herb was brought to the Americas (Central and South America) by the Spanish Conquistadors, making cilantro one of the earliest cultivated herbs in the western hemisphere.

Kicking Bear

Cilantro was referenced by many sources I reviewed as a common herb in smudge sticks, though I found no specific descriptions of it's metaphysical qualities. Medicinally, eating Cilantro has been found to remove mercury and other toxic metals from the brain and central nervous system into other tissues. Herbalists and aromatherapy sources say that Cilantro/Coriander contains an essential oil that helps in the healing of digestive problems (such as flatulence, indigestion and constipation), eliminates toxins, stimulates circulation, eases migraine, prevents infection and salmonella, and treat rheumatism and arthritis.

One herbalist colleague believes that coriander/cilantro would lift heaviness away, just as it helps the body get rid of heavy metals, especially mercury. Cilantro's light and clean tasting qualities probably make it feel "like soap for the spirit," she says.

Many people I've contacted recently on this topic would be interested in hearing about Cilantro in smudge sticks. Please send me - or post -  your comments!

And lastly, I am delighted to share what Helene Erlich, the art teacher, wrote about the classes:

"It was beautiful and perfect timing. This ceremony, whether they realized it or not, helped cleanse some of the energy that stops their growth. "

Partial List of Resources and Suggestions for More Information:
Aromatherapy and SmudgingAromatherapy and Limbic System
Limbic System
National Plant Data Center
Sage Uses

Smudging Fan by Rekamekip

Limbic System Photo

Questions about smudging or smudging herbs? Just ask - I have lots of experienced smudging colleagues who would be delighted to share their experiences!