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A Look at Native American Beauty and Style

Native American culture has long been rooted in respect for the land and living in harmony with nature, so it’s natural for Indigeous fashion and beauty traditions to be a strong reflection of these values. As November is National Native American Heritage Month, pausing to learn about the history and evolution of Native American traditions is one small way we can broaden our awareness and support the integrity of precious Native American culture.

Native American Traditional Clothing and Style

The clothing of Native Americans was closely tied to the environment and spiritual beliefs. Ranging from tropical and woodland regions to deserts and mountains, Native Americans developed diverse styles of clothing. In the warmest regions, little clothing was worn. In California, for example, Indigenous men were normally naked, but women wore simple knee-length skirts. In the coldest areas of the Subarctic and Arctic, warm trousers, hooded anoraks, and mittens protected Indigenous people from freezing temperatures. Despite the vast differences in climate and clothing styles, Native Americans had in common the basic notion of living in harmony with nature.

Clothing Materials Used by Native Americans

Native Americans made use of the natural materials available to them from their environment. Here are some notable materials commonly used for clothing:

Animal Skins

Native Americans were, and continue to be, survivors. Generations ago, they fished, hunted, and gathered edible plants. Some tribes, such as the Navajo in the southwestern United States and the Oneida of northern New York, tended flocks of sheep or grew crops to add to what they found in nature. Native Americans developed methods of tanning animal skins to make soft leather, and from this leather, they made clothing and shoes. Leather clothing was soft and strong, and if the animal’s fur was left on the skin, it was also warm, which was ideal for tribes in cooler regions.1

To Native Americans, all of nature, including animals and plants, have spiritual power. Wearing parts of an animal blesses the person with some of the animal’s power and strength. The wearing of animal skins became more than just putting on a form of comfortable and durable clothing for Indigenous people.

Animal Hide Dress

Pictured: Animal hide dress     Source: Bear Lake Rendezvous

Plant Fibers

One of the most plentiful natural resources was the bark of trees. It was stripped, dried, and shredded to make fibers. These fibers were used to weave soft, comfortable clothing. Typical shredded bark clothing included skirts, aprons, shirts, belts, hats, capes, and even raincoats. In the southeastern United States, the Cherokee used mulberry bark to make soft shirts, while the Pomo living along the West Coast used shredded redwood bark to make wraparound skirts. Tribes of the rainy Northwest coast of North America, such as the Tlingit and the Suquamish, wove rain-hats and raincoats from the bark of cedar trees.2

Plant Fiber Skirt

Pictured: Two-piece plant fiber skirt     Source: Natural History Museum

Woven Cloth

Although many tribes used handmade methods of weaving, natives of the American Southwest were the first to develop a loom, or weaving device, for weaving cloth. In 1200 A.D., long before the arrival of the first Europeans, Native Americans in the Southwest grew cotton and wove it into cloth. They also wove yucca, wool, feathers, and even human hair into fabrics.

The continued contact with Europeans and white settlers halted Native Americans’ ability to continue making clothing traditionally due to being pushed off their homelands and onto reservations during the 1800s. This caused them to lose the ability to hunt for or gather the necessary materials for their clothes. Their new circumstances forced them to buy clothing from Europeans, which drastically changed the Native American clothing style.3

Woven Cloth Shirt

Pictured: Woven Cloth Shirt With Intricate Details   Source: Silver Stage

Traditional Garments Worn by Native Americans

Today, traditional clothing is still worn by Native Americans to express their culture and heritage. While there are several prominent garments often worn by Indigenous people throughout history, here are a few of the most influential:

Headdresses

A Native American headdress, or sometimes known as a war bonnet, is a headpiece with feathers that are attached to the entire top edge of a leather headband. Commonly, they’re embellished with intricate beadwork or natural leather. The feathers decorating headdresses are typically from birds that are indigenous to the local area of the tribe. The feathers are held together with leather thread or sinew and can be designed in many different and unique ways. The Native American headdress is a well-known symbol of strength and bravery to the indigenous people of North America, and they’re typically worn by the most powerful and influential members of the tribe.4

War Bonnet Dance

Pictured: Native American girls taking part in a War Bonnet Dance   Source: Sings in the Timber

Breechcloths and Leggings

A breechcloth, also known as a loincloth, is a long rectangular piece of tanned deerskin, cloth, or animal fur that is worn between the legs and tucked over a belt. Breechcloths leave the legs bare, so Native American men often wore leggings for warmth. Native American leggings are tube-like footless pant legs, usually made from buckskin or other soft leather. Leggings varied from tribe to tribe with some being fringed and others painted with different colors.5

Breechcloth and Leggings

Pictured: Native American man in a breechcloth and leggings    Source: Traditional Clothing

Breast Plates

Breastplates are made from a variety of materials including bone hair-pipe, deer hide, and glass beads. Breastplates provided spiritual protection to the men who wore them, giving a sense of strength and security to them as they fought for their tribes. The decorations on each particular breastplate are deeply meaningful to its owner and often include feathers, quills, handmade beads, and mirrors. Oftentimes, the wealth and strength of a warrior could be determined by the number of hair-pipe bones that made up his breastplate, as well as the particular items it was adorned with.6

Breast Plates

Pictured: Native American Children in Breast Plates     Source: Sings in the Timber

Native American Beauty Traditions

For many cultures, makeup was used to define social and military status or to assert ferocity. This is mirrored in nature with animals displaying markings to their advantage, whether it be for hunting purposes or to defend themselves against predators. For Native Americans, though, face painting was a way to show tribal identity.

Native American Face Painting

Face painting has been used in Native American culture since antiquity with each tribe having its own unique patterns and designs. Face painting is an important tradition that allows Native American people to connect with their heritage, tell stories, and assert their social standing and power. The uses, colors, and symbolism of face paintings, though, have varied throughout time and tribe.

The Significance of Colors

Colors in Native American culture have special significance:

  • Red is a violent color and signifies war.
  • Black is usually considered to be an inauspicious color in most cultures, but for Native Americans, it’s the color of living and is worn during war preparations.
  • White is the color of peace.
  • Green is worn under the eyes to empower the wearer with night vision and indicates endurance and harmony.
  • Yellow is the color of death, as it is the color of “old bones,” and is commonly worn during mourning.
  • Blue symbolizes confidence, wisdom, and authority.7

Face Painting

Pictured: Face Painting     Source: White Wolf Pack

Native American Face Painting Symbols and Their Meanings

Certain symbols were used by tribes to communicate with other members. Each symbol had its own significance and was usually painted on an individual’s clothes, tepees, and other belongings to mark their heroic achievements.

A few common symbols and their meanings include:

The Eye of a Medicine Man Symbol

Medicine Man Symbol

The Eye of a Medicine Man was a very powerful symbol that represents the Medicine Man or Shaman who was believed to have magical powers of spiritual healing and also see the future. The outer lines of the symbol signified the four directions: North, South, East, and West. The inner line signified the Spirit world, which the Medicine Man was knowledgeable of, and the circle in the center signified the eye of the Medicine Man and his spiritual vision.8

Lightning Symbol

Lightning Symbol

The Lightning symbol was commonly seen painted on the face or across the forehead of warriors. It was believed that the symbol brought power and speed to the wearer. A Lightning and Zig-Zag symbol, if painted in red, also symbolized the Thunderbird, which was considered to be a powerful spirit that flashed lightning from its beak and eyes.9

The Morning Star Symbol

Morning Star Symbol

The Morning Star mainly symbolized a warrior’s gallant acts and other major events of his life. It represented hope and guidance and was used by many Native American tribes concerning past spirits and ancestors.10

Hand Symbol

Hand Symbol

The Hand symbol meant that the warrior was successful in a hand-to-hand battle. It symbolized life and was perceived to impart energy to the warrior. The Hand symbol was also commonly used due to being fast and easy to apply, requiring no artistic skill.11

To learn more about Native American symbols used for face painting, click here.

Native American Beauty Secrets

Many modern beauty products contain ingredients that have been used by Native Americans throughout history. Hundreds of years ago, ancient elders discovered the skincare and beauty benefits of a wide range of plants, such as yucca and juniper.

Here are a few cosmetic ingredients with amazing benefits that Native Americans discovered:

Blue Corn

Corn was very important in ancient Native American life and still is today. Blue corn was a food staple of many Native American tribes, including the Hopi, Pueblo, Navajo, and Zuni for hundreds of years. In addition to being used as food, it was also used for religious ceremonies. Corn was actually considered a deity in some cultures and a clan symbol for certain tribes. For the Hopi, it represented the Eastern rising sun and the beginning of life and wisdom.12

Many Native Americans used ground corn to cleanse and purify the skin. It was rubbed onto the skin before ceremonies to rid the body of impurities. Ground corn also acts as an exfoliator, ridding the skin of dead cells, thus encouraging cell renewal.

Blue Corn

Pictured: Blue Corn    Source: Specialty Produce

Sweetgrass

This flat-leafed bladed grass was considered sacred and was commonly smoked to purify individuals and their surroundings, while also being used in ceremonies. 13 Additionally, some Native American women decorated their hair with sweetgrass. As a wash, sweetgrass was used to treat windburn and chapped skin. Sweetgrass tea was also used as a hair tonic to make the hair shiny and fragrant.

Sweetgrass

Pictured: Sweetgrass    Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia 

Juniper Root

The berries from Juniper, an evergreen shrub (also called creeping cedar), were made into a tea that was used as a wash for the skin. Juniper root was also soaked in water to wash the horses, making their coats shiny.14 It’s now used in hair care products meant for shiny and healthy hair.

Juniper Root

Pictured: Juniper Root    Source: Gardenia

Yucca

The yucca plant was used by several Native American tribes to encourage hair growth and to prevent baldness. The crushed roots were soaked in water to make a hair wash. Other methods involved peeling the bark of the root, which was rubbed in a pan of shallow water to make suds to rub into the hair and scalp. Yucca was also used as a hair wash for newborns by the Zuni Indians to try to help their hair grow healthy and strong.15

Yucca

Pictured:  Yucca    Source: El Sol Brands

Native American Hair Traditions

Hair has special spiritual and cultural significance for Native Americans, though traditions and styles vary from tribe to tribe. Whether worn long, braided, or bound in a knot, most Native Americans see hair as a source of strength and a physical extension of hopes, dreams, thoughts, prayers, aspirations, history, and experiences. It’s sacred.

Long Hair in Native American Culture

Native Americans’ beliefs around long hair, as with many of their beliefs, are tied to the earth and nature. Long hair has symbolic significance tying them to mother earth whose hair is long grasses. It’s believed that long hair in Native American culture is a physical manifestation of the growth of the spirit, and some say it allows for extrasensory perception and connection to all things. Some Native American tribes believe that the hair is connected to the nervous system, and it reaches out like tentacles to pull energy and information from the world around us.16

Throughout time, Native Americans held the belief that when one’s hair is cut, they lose a small aspect of their relationship with themselves. The Navajo, for example, traditionally and ceremonially cut their children’s hair on their first birthday, and thereafter let it grow unimpeded.17 However, many tribes cut their hair while grieving the death of an immediate family member, or to signify a traumatic event or major life change. Cutting the hair at these times represents the time spent with the deceased loved one and its ending; it can also represent a new beginning. Additionally, cut hair is never thrown away by Native Americans. It’s usually ceremonially burnt with sage or sweetgrass in smudging rituals to release the hope, prayers, and dreams of the owner to the Creator.18

Native American Long Hair

Pictured: Native Americans with Long Traditional Hair    Source: White Wolf Pack

Common Native American Hairstyles

The archetypal Native American hairstyle is long and flowing or with long plaits or braids and a center part. Hair and its styling were traditionally of enormous importance and held great symbolism for Native Americans.

Native American men in varying tribes wore the following hairstyles:

  • Men of the Blackfoot and Sioux tribes cut their hair to denote shame or when in mourning. They frequently wore a forelock between the eyes or a pompadour.
  • Pueblo men often wore a chongo (low bun at the nape of the neck) or shoulder-length hair, but by the 1800s, this style was worn with a bandana. Some men of the southwest wore dreadlocks or topknots.
  • Seminole Indians believe that hair is sacred and must be protected from others seeking to do them harm, so Seminole men traditionally wore a large fan shape over the front of the head to keep it safe.
  • Men who had long braids or shaved heads often wore artificial roaches. These were commonly made of brightly dyed deer or porcupine hair.
  • Iroquois and Lenape warriors of the northeast shaved their heads, leaving only a single lock of hair at the crown (scalplock), a roach (the stereotypical “mohawk” style), or a tonsure (a fringe running around the head).
  • The Apache cut their hair each spring in a ceremony to bring success and good health.

Native American Men's Hairstyles

Pictured: (Left to Right) Salish man with flowing hair, 
Crow chief with braids and pompadour, 
Caddo man with roached hair, 
Native American actor wearing a scalplock, Pueblo man with short hair, 
Mojave man with painted hair rolls.    Source: White Wolf Pack

Native American women in varying tribes wore the following hairstyles:

  • Some women painted their hair with horizontal stripes or dyed their center part with a bright color.
  • Navajo and Pueblo women typically wore their hair in a chongo style. Others cut their hair to the shoulders in a blunt cut with bangs.
  • Seminole women from the Lower Creeks of Georgia and Florida wore a complex hairstyle, with their hair fanned into a disk over a tilted frame that remained in place under the hair.
  • Unmarried Hopi women were renowned for their unique hairstyle of elaborate squashblossom or butterfly whorls worn at their ears. This style was achieved by the girl’s mother winding her hair around a curved wood frame and then removing the frame after securing the hair in place. Once a woman married, this style was no longer worn.
  • Women from the Creek and Chickasaw tribes wore their hair in topknots.

Native American Women's Hairstyles

Pictured: (Left to Right) Klamath woman with flowing hair, 
Cayuse woman with long braids, Seminole woman with a topknot, 
sketch of a woman wearing a top knot, Hopi maiden with squashblossom whorls. 
Source: White Wolf Pack

How You Can Honor and Celebrate National Native American Heritage Month

National Native American Heritage Month is a time to acknowledge our country’s past and its impact on tribal citizens, educate oneself and others on particular challenges Native American communities face, and recognize how Indigenous people are combating those issues today. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month.” Although the name eventually changed, it started an annual tradition upheld in communities across the United States.

For those wanting to celebrate National Native American Heritage Month, here are three ways to honor Native Americans this month, and every month:

Visit a Reservation or Museum

The US holds in trust 56.2 million acres of land for various Native American tribes and individuals, according to the US Bureau of Indian Affairs. There are approximately 326 reservations.

These reservations are not tourist attractions; many are the remnants of native tribes’ lands, while others were created by the federal government for Native Americans who were forcibly removed from their lands. They are homes for tribes and communities; it’s where many live, work and raise their families.

However, some reservations welcome visitors and have even erected museums to educate the wider public about their history and culture. For example, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, features an engaging exhibit fit for all ages. The Cherokee community also hosts cultural events and sells items nearby.

Support Native-Owned Businesses

Black Friday is just one day after Thanksgiving, so instead of spending all your money on Amazon, consider buying from Native American owned businesses. It’s a great way to support native communities’ economic well-being as well as contribute to worthwhile social causes.

A few Indigenous-owned beauty brands you can support are:

  • Cheekbone Beauty: Cruelty-free, high-quality beauty products that are sustainably packaged and inspired by the 7000 Indigenous languages.
  • Sḵwálwen Botanicals: Honoring traditional Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) teachings, the products incorporate wild-harvested plants that are acquired sustainably and respectfully, which means they’re free of harsh chemicals, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, synthetic colors, and parabens.
  • Blended Girl Cosmetics: The brand focuses on vibrant palettes that connect to Indigenous culture and has donated to Black Lives Matter, Page Outreach, and Navajo/Hopi COVID-19 Relief.

“Decolonize” Your Thanksgiving Dinner

The Thanksgiving story of pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a friendly meal will be reenacted and celebrated across the country, but many Native Americans actually consider it a “Day of Mourning.” To Native Americans, the story overlooks how the introduction of European settlers spelled tragedy for indigenous communities.

For this reason, some Native American groups and their allies are calling on Americans to “decolonize” their Thanksgiving celebrations. Some ways of doing this include putting away Native American decorations and tropes, introducing native dishes to the dinner table, and conversing about Native American history with guests.

Check out these Indigenous recipes to add to your Thanksgiving dinner.

How will you be celebrating and honoring National Native American Heritage Month? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

 

References:

http://www.woodlandindianedu.com/morethananimalhides.html [1]

https://quatr.us/nativeamerican/native-american-clothing-history.htm#:~:text=Most%20people%20in%20North%20America,Aztec%20people%20south%20of%20them. [2]

http://www.native-languages.org/clothing.htm [3]

https://us.tribaltradeco.com/blogs/teachings/the-significance-of-the-native-american-headdress [4]

http://www.native-languages.org/breechcloth.htm [5]

https://wanderingbull.com/breastplate-plains-style/#:~:text=The%20Hairpipe%20Breastplate%20has%20historically,are%20used%20to%20make%20Breastplates. [6]

https://www.bergerpaints.com/imaginecolours/colour-culture/colours-and-native-american-culture [7]

https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-symbols/eye-medicine-man-symbol.htm [8]

https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-symbols/lightning-symbol.htm [9]

https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-symbols/morning-star-symbol.htm [10]

https://www.warpaths2peacepipes.com/native-american-symbols/hand-symbol.htm [11]

https://mobilestyles.com/blog/posts/show/923-traditional-native-american-beauty-secrets-you-need-to-know#:~:text=Some%20native%20cultures%20or%20tribes,blue%20corn%20as%20an%20exfoliator. [12]

https://tzikal.com/blogs/blog/give-thanks-five-herbs-used-by-native-americans-for-beautiful-hair-all-natural-haircare-with-ojon-oil#:~:text=Sweet%20Grass%20%F0%9F%8C%BE%3A,it%20as%20natural%20hair%20freshener. [13]

https://mobilestyles.com/blog/posts/show/923-traditional-native-american-beauty-secrets-you-need-to-know#:~:text=Some%20native%20cultures%20or%20tribes,blue%20corn%20as%20an%20exfoliator. [14]

https://mobilestyles.com/blog/posts/show/923-traditional-native-american-beauty-secrets-you-need-to-know#:~:text=Some%20native%20cultures%20or%20tribes,blue%20corn%20as%20an%20exfoliator. [15]

https://www.notesfromthefrontier.com/post/native-hair-traditions [16]

https://indiancountrytoday.com/archive/why-navajo-hair-matters-its-our-culture-our-memory-and-our-choice [17]

http://keepersoftheword.org/traditions/native-americans-long-hair/ [18]

 

The Sacred Art of Smudging

Sacred smoke created from burning medicinal or sacred plants is an aspect of many cultures and religions around the world. In North America and Canada, it’s a practice that’s common to Indigenous Peoples and is called smudging. During smudging ceremonies, herbs and medicines are burned as part of a ritual for cleansing or healing purposes. Indigenous peoples have their own terms or phrases for smudging, including atisamanihk (Cree for “at the smudge”) and nookwez (Ojibwe for “smudge medicinally.”) With the chaotic nature of the world we live in, the idea of cleansing our space and ourselves of negative energy sounds appealing but understanding and appreciating the art of smudging is important before taking part in the tradition.

What Is the Purpose of Smudging?

Smudging serves a variety of purposes in different Indigenous cultures. As a ritual, it is considered significant to spiritual and theological beliefs, much like sweat lodges and sacred pipes in other cultures. Smudging connects humans to the Creator and provides communities a way to gain spiritual protection and blessings.

The smoke created by burning sacred herbs is thought to purify the body and soul and bring clarity to the mind. In this way, smudging is also used to cleanse places that are said to hold negative energy. Consequently, smudging was – and still is – performed during times of crisis, ill health, and death.

Smudging is also practiced to restore the physical self by targeting parts of the body, such as the head, feet, back, and sensory organs. These targeted areas provide the whole body with a renewed sense of self. According to many Ojibwe teachings, smudging on the back allows for the release of troubles that weigh one down. Smudging the ears, eyes, and mouth provides for better hearing, visual, and language skills, and a clearer understanding of one’s surroundings and place on this earth. Additionally, respect for yourself and others, including the earth, is central to Indigenous cultures and teachings.

Indigenous communities find peace through smudging. In the aftermath of the loss of territory and traditional economies, epidemics, and socioeconomic factors that have caused intergenerational trauma, smudging has offered a method of healing. This is not a “fresh start,” but a way to cope and cleanse negative thoughts and feelings associated with hardships.

Indigenous Smudging

Source: Converging Pathways

A Brief History of Smudging

The practice of smudging, and its accompanying herb bundles, abalone shells, and hawk feathers, is probably familiar to most who have dabbled in the new-age alternative health world. But where did smudging originate? The practice of burning fragrant herbs and resins has been around for centuries, such as in Egypt’s 5th dynasty (2465-2323 BCE) where they used incense burners.1

A Painting of an Egyptian Smoke Ceremony

Source: Ancient Wellness

This practice that originated in antiquity has since been practiced by many cultures. The Celts had a practice of “saining” that involved sprinkling water from a river or stream, combined with burning juniper to bless or protect, or consecrate a home or person.2 Palo Santo, a common herb used when smudging, is still used by Amazonian tribes for healing and in shamanic rituals. Additionally, Catholics use frankincense and myrrh while in church, which is a practice that found its origins in the Old Testament.

These are all forms of smudging, but the one that many of us are familiar with is most associated with Native American traditions. Smudging is often done to mark the beginning of ceremonies. The clouds of smoke are used to bathe away negative energies and purify spaces and people. The herbs, sometimes known as “medicine,” are placed in a shell or fireproof container and a feather or fan is used to waft the smoke.

Smudging Demonstration

Source: Ancient Wellness

If you are going to smudge, it is important to respect the traditions of the Native American people. After all, it was not until 1978 that the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed. Before that, many Native American ceremonies, including smudging, were illegal in some places and it was only through the courage of those practicing in secret that these traditions were preserved and passed down to current generations.

Common Herbs Used For Smudging

With the discovery of fire, early Indigenous humans began to notice that aromatic smoke was produced by burning dried plants. As herbs, roots, resins, and barks are changed from their physical forms, they are made into smoke by the element of fire.

Throughout human history, aromatic plants have been used in the daily activities of people from all different cultures. However, when smudging, there are a select few herbs that are used more often, such as:

Sage

Sage is commonly used for healing, with its smoke being known to bless, cleanse, and heal the person or object being smudged. Sage is used to “wash off” the outside world when one enters a ceremony or sacred space. The plants that are called Sage come from very different families of plants. True Sages are a genus of Salvia; this includes Salvia Officinalis (Garden Sage) and Salvia Apiana (White Sage), also called California White Sage or Sacred Sage.

Sage

Source: National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health

Cedar

Cedar is a medicine of protection, the trees being viewed as very old, wise, and powerful spirits. Cedar is often used to cleanse a home or apartment when first moving in, asking unwanted spirits to leave and protecting a person, place, or object from unwanted influences. It is used as a name for several different genera of trees and shrubs. The primary ones are Cedrus, Thuja, and Libdocedrus.

CedarSource: Mountain Rose Herbs

Lavender

Lavender, which is an herb with its roots in Europe, is most often used for the invitation of spirits. The name may be derived from the Latin “lavare” (to wash) or “livendula” (bluish). In ancient times, lavender was an important herb used in mummification. There is a legend that the clothing of Jesus was laid upon a lavender bush and acquired the fragrance. Some Christians still regard the scent of lavender as a safeguard against evil.

Lavender

Source: Healthline

Palo Santo

Considered by many to be a holy wood, the Incas have been burning Palo Santo since ancient times as a spiritual remedy to purify and cleanse. Purifying the spirit and cleansing negative energy are commonly used for palo santo wood smudge sticks, but the sacred wood is also known to inspire creativity, bring a deeper connection to the divine source, and aid in physical healing. While Sage is said to remove negativity, Palo Santo is known to bring back the good.

Palo Santo

Source: Mountain Rose Herbs

4 Benefits of Smudging

Smudging is an ancient art that has been practiced by Indigenous communities for millennia. Though there are many herbs to choose from once you truly study smudging, the art form is just as important as what materials you use.

Here are 4 benefits of smudging you should know about:

1.   It Purifies and Cleanses the Air

Smudging is believed to release negative ions, which has been linked in studies to a more positive mood and cleaner air. Negative ions are known to attach to positively charged particles in large numbers causing allergens and pollutants to become too heavy to stay airborne. They then attach to the floor or a nearby surface, removing them from the air you breathe.

In high concentrations, negative ions can clear the air of:

  • Mold Spores
  • Pollen
  • Pet Dander
  • Odors
  • Cigarette Smoke
  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Dust

2.   It’s Nature’s Antidepressant

The negative ions produced by smudging can offer antidepressant effects. They are even said to be as effective as a prescription antidepressant without the side effects.

Dr. Clarence Hansell, a research engineer who delved into the biological effects of negative ions in the air during the 1930s after noticing that the mood of one of his colleagues changed in response to ions being generated by their equipment, discovered that his colleague was more joyful when the machine produced negative ions and sullener when it did not.

A study published in 1998 by the Archives of General Psychiatry, which was focused on seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and was an extension of Hansell’s work, found that fresh air charged with negative ions was an effective treatment and prevention of depression. It worked similarly to antidepressant drugs thanks to its effects on serotonin levels.

3.    It Can Cleanse and Empower Objects

Not only can smudging cleanse a room, but it can also cleanse objects. Whenever you bring an object home, especially something like an antique that’s been exposed to possible negative energy over the years, you can use a smudging stick to cleanse the object. If you have any concern with the history or energy attached to an object, smudging may help bring peace of mind and make the object more sacred to you.

4.    It Offers Relaxing Effects

Smudging can offer calming and relaxing effects that are known to help lower blood pressure, relieve stress and tension, and normalize breathing rates. When the negative ions produced from smudging are absorbed directly into your bloodstream, they may even help to fight off damaging free radicals that can lead to premature aging and disease.

Smudging Instructions

Let your positive beliefs guide you. Free your thoughts of negativity. You have all the tools you need to cleanse your space and protect it. Invoke a blessing that alights your soul. Light your favorite herb and know that you are surrounded in love.

Here are a few instructions to help guide you in creating your own safe, spirited cleansing rituals:

  1. Use caution at all times. You may open a window or door as needed to ensure smoke does not build up. This will allow negative energy a clean exit.
  2. If your sage bundle is wrapped tightly, you may want to unwrap and loosen the bundle for easier burning. If your Sage bundle is wrapped a bit loosely, it should burn well when tied (the string is cotton and safe to burn along with the Sage). You may also break smaller Sage pieces from the bundle and burn them in the shell.
  3. Light your Sage bundle or Palo Santo stick for about 15-30 seconds. Hold the flame to the tip, slowly rotate and tilt the stick/bundle in different ways to generate a nice ember. Gently blow on the ember for 1-second intervals to maintain it. Always use caution.
  4. Sage and Palo Santo will naturally stop burning and snuff out within a couple of minutes (Palo Santo is especially difficult to keep lit). This is perfectly normal and the nature of these sacred items – relight as needed. Be cautious of any breeze or draft which can prolong the embers. Do not leave unattended while burning.
  5. Use your Abalone shell to catch ashes or hold your Sage/ Palo Santo while burning (shell will get hot, use caution). When finished, store your kit in a moisture-free/ low-humidity area.
  6. Note- Abalone shells have natural variations such as iridescence, holes, black markings, and rough patches. You may clean your shell after using it to keep it looking fresh over time. Abalone are products of nature that have been traditionally used as smudging bowls for more than 12,000 years.
  7. Begin in any room, and start in the area furthest from the exit. Move the smoke from the Sage or Palo Alto all around the room– high, low, side to side, as you make your way to the exit.
  8. Move onto the next room, and repeat step 6.
  9. If smudging a person or object, slowly move so the smoke flows all around the body of the person or object, top to bottom and side to side. This can be done standing or laying down. Always use caution.

Smudging Mantras

Our words carry great power. So if you repeat a mantra while smudging, you’re essentially using your words to fill your body and space with positive energy, while erasing the negative energy with sacred smoke.

Use any of the smudging mantras below that resonate with you:

  • “I cleanse this space of any heaviness and negativity.”
  • “I am grateful for health, abundance, and happiness.”
  • “I release all energies that do not serve me.”
  • “I release conditioned patterns, and I trust the Universe and my intuition to guide me.”
  • “I release any worry from my body and my space.”
  • “I am filled with love, light, and peace.”

Humanist Beauty’s New Sacred Smudge Kit

The ancient tradition of smudging has been practiced by Indigenous Americans to offer blessings and purification. The new Humanist Beauty Sacred Smudge Kit can be used in your own personal ritual to help periodically cleanse away negative energy and replace it with positive energy, infusing your surroundings with blessings, harmony, and peace.

Humanist Beauty Sacred Smudge Kit

Each Smudge Kit includes:

  • 2 White Sage smudging sticks (approximately 4”)
  • 2 Palo Santo sticks (3” to 4”)
  • 1 Authentic Abalone shell smudge bowl (4.75” to 6”)
  • 1 Rose Quartz crystal (0.75” to 1”)
  • 1 Detailed instruction card with blessings
  • 1 Small drawstring bag for the Rose Quartz stone

Every botanical item in the Sacred Smudging Kit is sustainably grown, collected, and replenished:

  • Our Sage is grown sustainably and 100% naturally on private land in its original habitat in the mountains of the west coast, USA. It’s carefully harvested not to be over-trimmed so that new shoots spring forth after cutting.
  • Our Palo Santo wood grows in its indigenous habitat in Peru. Branches are gathered by locals after freely falling to the quiet forest floor (never cut). To ensure this sacred tree survives for generations to come, young Palo Santo saplings are replanted each year.
  • Our natural Abalone shell is harvested under strict regulations to ensure sustainability.
  • Rose Quartz is a soft, pink stone that signifies the true and unconditional Love that lives within and flourishes from your Heart chakra. Set an intention of Love with this crystal, and bring your consciousness to a higher level while restoring Trust, Compassion, and Harmony.

You can shop the Humanist Beauty Sacred Smudge Kit here.

References:

https://www.abebooks.com/book-search/title/incense-ancient-israel/author/nielsen-kjeld/ [1]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saining [2]