We have had so many new phrases come to our minds and physical realities over the past year. It is overwhelming to say the least. As we continue to learn to shift in this immensely changing time of existence here on Earth. Spiritual appropriation has come to me many times this year in conversations with friends and colleagues. It has been one that I have been marinating upon for many weeks. And a most important topic is to HOW we move away from Cultural Appropriation in Smoke Medicine.
Diving into these conversations, even though they are uncomfortable, there is much to discover as to solutions & continuing problems. The biggest issue being that habits have formed that are woven into social structures. The ones that are currently being broken down, demolished and obliterated as we awaken into this new existence. It has been a difficult concept for me to assimilate into my being. And now it has come to me that it is time. Time to share the many thoughts, questions and downloads that I have revolving around the subject.
I have wondered about past lives…
About how we are all here together, to nourish one another & life the others up… If we are all here together, and we’ve all been, each other, through past lives. Then we hold so much of the collective energies from many ideas of spirituality.
We resonate with one in this life, that maybe we were fully in another. We yearn for connection to something greater than ourselves. And what is presented to the Western Society is not something that this human, being aware of a spirituality that cannot be named, is in resonance with. This leaves us to search for something. Anything that makes sense to our DNA.
Embodying the Spiritual Being
What it means to be a human upon the Earth. How being a spiritual being is one who works with sacred energies of plants, rocks, water ways, & dirt. While also tending relationships with these sentient beings. When we break down the fact that we are all one, as human beings. Then, we are one with the trees, the plants & fungi. We are one with the rocks and the animals, and back to each other. It cycles back around as we realize we are one with the entire unknown universe.
But I also ask how can we be aware of this oneness. While also holding space for intact spiritual practices that are not ours to take. That was outlawed from practice, then fought for while consumerism took over the offering of something that was once pure. How do we begin to understand that working in certain ceremonies, or with sacred plants & prayers that entire nations of people might be harmed by this. Because of oppression & that we have not lived up to our sacred agreement of oneness.
I am not a drop in a universe I am an entire universe in a drop…
This encompasses to me what we are still hitting up against when the word spiritual appropriation is mentioned or accused. I, who have manifested in this lifetime as a white woman of Norse and Welsh descent. Has a strong spirit guide, who encourages me on the plant path. This guide is a Native American Medicine Man. How I, as this white woman, connect to Red Cedar as a grandmother.
In my ancestral readings, she comes to me as a grandmother who I have never met before. Showing me ways of healing, & working with plants that no book, class, or physical teacher have shown me. Through my work with Red Cedar, which is in line with the elder energy the Native Turtle Islanders believe is in this tree as well.
So I ask again, how can we, as European Descendants, be more aware of our being harmful to embodied beings from different cultures and practices. While shifting our energies to better understand how we can be in a nourishing relationship, with our own spiritual practices.
Throwing the word SMUDGE around is an understatement. sacred ceremonies are COMPLETELY undermined when words are taken and used inappropriately. Not to mention the mass production & over harvesting of a sacred plant White Sage. A Medicine Man, or woman are the only ones who perform a smudge ceremony. And only takes place in within tribes of certain Indigenous Communities. The true Smuding ceremony lasts up to 4 whole days and nights. . This is the BEGINNING of understanding Cultural Appropriation in Smoke Medicine.
When a person who is not a descendant of Native Turtle Islanders purchases smudging bundles, or smudging kits from massive corporatized businesses, we can see how appropriation of spiritual practices is absorbed here. The sage is more than likely, harvested unethically. Brought into a factory to be rolled, bundled & put into boxes with the appropriated idea of what a ritual looks like. This is not only condescending toward the deep and sacred traditions passed on through the tribe in their smudging ceremony, it is harmful to the earth & our understanding of culture.
In this example I see SO much of what Spiritual Appropriation exactly is -Cultural Appropriation in Smoke Medicine
With the same right, the ancestors of my heritage also burned plants in ritual ceremonial spaces. Saining was the name of the Celtic and Welsh tradition of Smoke Medicine. Though the inquisition burned most Pagan Traditions. We are able to see these practices in the stories and some archeological evidence.. BUT there are pieces of these ceremonies that we can grasp onto & develop.
In European Pagan Ceremonies, Juniper was a go to herb for burning. This grows in abundance throughout the west. Because Juniper is a hardy shrub, or small tree, harvesting it is a breeze. Working with this plant as one would any other conifer. There are many plants like Juniper that we can work with that not only separates our intention from what might be harmful, but nourishes the Earth. This creates a relationship & honoring of Mother Nature alongside the Honoring of other spiritual practices & cultures.
When we work with plants in this capacity. We begin to tap in to the Spirit of the plant. The shifting of physicalities of fresh plant material, to fire, then smoke & ash. The release mechanism of alchemy into sourcing the spiritual essence of the plant you are working with. Smoke medicine shifts our understanding of what Smudging may or may not be, to working in the Spirit Realm of Herbalism. this shifting our idea of what Cultural Appropriation in Smoke Medicine is or is not.
Concreting a deep bond with Mother nature, the Planet & our building the communities of the Rainbow People.
Whenever I am working with a plant in smoke I have either grown this plant or harvested it in deep ritual. I sit with the wrapped bundle for many days before I begin to realize what this plant’s messages are for me. The collective held secrets are most important of all.. When we work with smoke medicines we are not having tunnel linear vision into chemicals & physical actions in the body. We are having a deeper understanding of the spirit of this plant, understanding how the facilitation into the spirit realm happens.
When we burn the bundle, we are shifting its physicality from branch, bough, leaf or flower into an alchemical action of smoke. We shift our consciousness from what we can touch to the medicine of smoke… what twists through the air that we usually cannot see. I find that when I am in meditation with plants in this regard, the connection that happens with the plant is not just asking for cleansing. Or other mundane actions. I am communing with the spirit & deeper components of the plants.
Appropriation of Tradition & Ceremony VS Creating Tradition & Ceremony – Cultural Appropriation in Smoke Medicine
We can look at so many things through this lens; like a sweat lodge of the Plains Native Turtle Islanders, or the bathhouses of Russia and China. Saunas of the northern Europeans, Hot Springs to so many people all over the world. Words like Gaia, Mother Earth, Creator or God, and the many gods and goddesses of all elements, emotions & experiences of life. All of these components are belief systems.
The belief of healing & connecting to something greater than ourselves.
These ideas hold the understanding that, because of the healing happening through these ceremonial experiences. We can connect with the sacred energies of our creator. Thus, the hot springs, smoke medicines, saunas & smudging ceremonies demand respect. Just as all components of Nature & our Earth demand respect. Appropriation of communities of all different people care shown here. But in the end, aren’t they all honoring the same component of existence?