The alchemy of plants and fire permeate the area. We have burned plants to purify and cleanse our spirits in the same way we use water to purify and cleanse. One thing displaces the other, and leaves behind a more intense essence. And who are "we" ? You and I are we. We launder our clothes, we wash our bodies, and we cook our food and boil our tea. If everything is energy, and energy is transformative, then it is possible that we can send the medicine near and far distances and also create transcendent forms of medicine throughout a system. Changing our minds. Changing our bodies. Changing the world around us. Changing thoughts. Changing the airwaves. Changing reality. Sounds a bit dramatic, but you know very well that invisible things can invade our bodies and you believe it, on the one hand...I am saying nothing new here. Let's move forward.
A personal backstory of the bundles.
"Pray for me!" Sometimes I get this request, and I humbly take on the challenge. Who am I? Why me? I don't have a solid answer, even when a medicine man told me that I was a "prayer woman." At the time, I didn't know what he was talking about. Years later, I understand. It is not a gift, talent or skill specific to me, it is the potential of everyone. The medicine man noticed that I had a pre-disposition, but like anything, this awareness and compassion can be learned. My sincere wish is that you learn it. Medicine bundles creation was the way that I learned this. It was a group prayer effort involving ceremony with an elder and apprentices or family. If you were drawn to this post, I am very happy to impart this to you, so that you help the world (and yourself) to heal.
From PreColumbian times, my ancestors had shamanistic spiritual practices. They were not plant whisperers, plants whispered to them. Many of the salvias, desert and highland plants that grew in harsh conditions taught them lessons of where to derive support and stamina for survival. Honestly, this is the topic of a dissertation, not a blog, I can only give you the sensual version of what to do. Actually, this is where your wisdom begins and grows.
What are medicine bundles?
Medicine bundles are plant offerings that I make that have medicinal value. This could be a harvest of rosemary, sage, sandalwood or tree resin like copal. Once burned, or steamed, it will serve in an ethereal way. I must trust its transformation process to reach a deeper dimension than the material realm. My human will and intention is the the transportation system. It is important that I watch my thoughts, stay in kindness, goodness and love, during the process. Compassion is such a far reaching energy, that I notice others will dream or think of me in a good way, or me of them, especially if there is a fitting collaboration.
When do I make these bundles?
I follow cycles, requests and events. Moons, deaths, births, celebration, happiness, sadness, worry, gratitude, support of others. My training probably began as a child with a very religious Godmother. She had others put their hands on me and pray over me; I had a strange elevated moment. She often burned incense for prayer and this seemed to bind us in ceremony. When I told her my experiences she was surprised and pleased. Later, as an adult, an indigenous elders would also conduct ceremony and use various plant medicines such as sage and mugwort for purification and wisdom. One philosophy was to trigger ancestral blood memory in me with the use of plants, so that I may receive the messages of ancient ones within me.
How do I make these bundles today?
If you are tuned into the plants that attract you, you may connect with them more consciously and purposefully. Some people will feel lavender is comforting, others will say frankincense or roots of specific plants. You might say their aroma speaks to you. Once you have made your list, you can either grow, acquire locally or long distance to gather your supplies. I grow White and Black Sages. I also use rosemary, lavender, mugwort, wood from the incense cedar tree and more. I have a forest backyard and elaborate garden for harvesting my own supplies.
Following the indigenous law of reciprocity, I do not take without giving in return. When I choose an offering plant, I offer the shrub or plant a handful of tobacco or even coffee grounds. I thank the plant for its sacrifice and nurture the plant, more so after this. these bundles will be dried and used in a ceremonial fire. Or, perhaps I will light a single dried leaf in my home to send a prayer on its way. Another important way to use these offerings is to give a morning thanks at sunrise. I step outside my door and take a gentle puff of an herbal cigarette or light a copal stick outside the door of my home. These rituals, especially connect with the breath --a culturally universal focal point of awareness. Often called the finding of the zero-point by many cultures.
What shall I do with these bundles?
By now you have seen commercially bundled smudge sticks, palo santo and cedar too. Many of you live in urban environments and will feel it is easier to buy commercially prepared medicine bundles. That is absolutely fine. I am not one to judge what you can or cannot acquire. Be creative, and original. Maybe, picking fragrant flowers and a candle is your way of creating a sacred space for your prayers. Light incense. So many honorific ways to meditate and pray. Some choose an abalone shell to burn material, while others use a stone bowl or a space as large as a bonfire. Different choices for different occasions.
It can be very ceremonial and meaningful for you if you ask a group to join you in the intention. Having an experienced person, will help everyone with safety, etiquette and respect.These ceremonies can last an hour or all day. These situations have a way of unfolding in their own terms. These are the ways in which the Sweat Lodge or the Temazcal is conducted to include a variety of plant medicine energy, such as tobacco, kinnikinnick, Angelca root and other strong medicines.
As for my recommendation, first practice humility and compassion in your life. Adding rituals to support this is a great dynamic action that can be undertaken in private. Understand your bloodline and what your tribal ancestors might have done. What aligns with you, may not align with me, and vice versa. You don't have to be elaborate or be showy. In fact, it is a deep quieting of the self and the triggering of awareness. When using plant offerings: Fire, water, wind, and earth will have a say in the matter. Once you collaborate with the elements, you will know with your senses, and not your thoughts, that so much of this will be healing experience. Peace my friends