This year, the autumn equinox, which is the official start of autumn, occurs on September 22, 2016, at 10:21 a.m. EST.
Our ancestors celebrated all equinoxes and solstices, but the autumn equinox seems to have been a little less celebrated than the others. I’m not sure what the historical reason is, but for myself, I’m sad to see summer coming to an end and am not quite ready to say goodbye to sunny, warm days and welcome in the fall.
But it happens. It’s part of the cycle of life, and to be in tune with the natural world, it’s important to honor these special “natural” events.
As the days get shorter, all of nature knows what to do: here in the Northern United States, nights get cooler, leaves start to turn, pumpkins appear, plants cease their flowering and get ready to let their growth go into their roots. Nature gets quieter, and it’s time for us to follow the same cues.
Many people have heard of “smudging,” and may even practice it, but there’s great value in knowing its history, and understanding the true sacredness of it.
There are three primary herbs used in the Native American tradition for smudging: sage, cedar and sweetgrass.
- Sage is used to dispel negative energy.
- Cedar is used for an overall blessing or to cleanse where there has been illness.
- Sweetgrass draws in positive energy.
I have been taught the importance of burning only one herb at a time for smudging, otherwise you are giving mixed messages.
Sage is the most commonly used for cleansing the energy field of a person, place or thing, so I will focus on it for this post.
In ancient Ireland, the ceremony of crowning a king included a marriage ceremony in which the king would marry the land, or more accurately marry the Goddess of the land.
This marriage meant that the King swore to protect the land and the people, and be a caretaker of the earth. In return, when a King was favoured by the Goddess:
- he would rule with wisdom,
- the land would be fertile and prosperous,
- the country would always be victorious in war.
When that sacred contract was broken, the land was no longer fertile.
Water. The original peoples teach that it is sacred and we cannot live without it.
It is the first thing we use every morning, and the last thing we use every night.
It allows us to thrive, and plants, trees and our food to grow. It is essential to all life.
And yet we poison it at every turn:
- It’s reported that at the Rio Olympics, swimmers need to ingest only three teaspoons of water to contract a virus. Rio de Janeiro waterways are contaminated with raw human sewage teeming with dangerous viruses and bacteria.
- 14 billion pounds of garbage, mostly plastic, is dumped into the ocean each year, killing sea life. In January, 2016, thirteen sperm whales washed up dead in Germany, their stomachs full of plastic and auto parts.
Several years ago, when the pop singer Madonna was studying the Kabbalah with Rabbi Philip Berg, she invited Rabbi Berg up on stage at the end of one of her concerts and asked him to give the audience a blessing.
That was a lovely sentiment, but an unnecessary one. Because I’ve learned that we can all give blessings.
What do blessings do?
There are any number of definitions of blessings, but my view is that a blessing asks for the Creator’s protection, or a little gift of extra energy to make everything better.
When I first started studying with my teacher, Bear Heart, I would ask him to bless spiritual items I had acquired. I felt it would give them extra power if they were blessed by a medicine man.
Yet after 30 years of walking this path, I’ve come to understand that we all have the ability to give blessings, and it’s a good practice to do so regularly.