Let us throw out the “new year – new me” philosophy. May your new year be filled with powerful moments instead, may you be like flowers in the snow, growing strong, beautiful, and succeeding despite adversity. The new year only takes on an important meaning if you put genuine intention behind the change you want to see in your life. This year I chose not to make resolutions. I joined all of you who walked into the new year feeling fatigued. Then on the fifth day of the new year I realized that I do have a resolution in mind. In order to truly change aspects of my life for the better, I need to get uncomfortable. In short, living to my fullest potential by challenging my fears no matter how uncomfortable, and tackling my anxieties with frequent exposure. Maybe the point of living is to be uncomfortable, coming out at the end of it feeling lighter and happier. Taking small steps is the goal here. I hope this inspires you to take on your own challenges.
This winter, allow nature to push you through the threshold of the new year with positive intentions. Many cultures believe smoke can help us cleanse our surroundings and our spirit. No matter your age or where you are in life, it is never too late for a fresh start. If you feel like your space and mind contain unnecessary clutter, a heavy feeling, or negative energies, it is time to purify. Thank you for reading Cultivated. I am grateful, and invite you to be your own wellness hero.
Cleansing & Puryfing Tools From Around The World
Sage, Sweetgrass, Palo Santo
In United States and South America, native plants like sage, sweetgrass and palo santo are among the most popular purifying tools. Learn about their spiritual symbolism and make sure to attribute them to the Native American culture. Practice using these natural tools respectfully and you will see, and feel, the change in the way you carry yourself. If you can, I advise you to purchase your smudge stick or herbs from a shaman, spiritual shop with a direct source to its origin, or make your own. You might feel silly at first, but make sure to thank the plant. It is an important part of the ceremony. Use a feather to spread the smoke in all corners of your home, singing a song of love or positive change. Of the three, palo santo has the most alluring scent. It comes from a sacred trees in South America so use it sparingly. Sage can help with so much more than your spiritual needs. It has antimicrobial properties. That is perfect for this time of the year. Let us remember, always respect the culture you are borrowing from. When in doubt, there are alternatives. Find an herbal ally and faith that resonates with you.
In the old Scottish culture the word for blessing or purifying is saining. Saining can take on many forms; through spoken word, water, and yes, smoke or fire. As is done in many old Pagan and Celtic cultures, the people of Scotland enjoy getting together for community bon fires. The typical custom is to jump over fire, sing, dance and be purified by it. Old Scottish magic teaches that everything, including plants, animals and objects, have a spirit. Yet another reason to thank whatever tool you use for your spiritual practice. If you want to connect with your Scottish roots, use the highly aromatic Juniper. Keep it in a vase or burn it. Always use smoke with caution and in a well-ventilated area.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa. In slavic cultures St. John’s Worth is believed to be one of the most powerful herbs for banishing melancholia, evil and negative energies. The yellow flowers come into bloom late June, making them an important part of midsummer celebrations. This herb is widely used as a healing plant, but it can also be used to do harm. Be careful when working with St. John’s Worth. Use it for positive rituals only. To use it in your spiritual practice, pick a bouquet in the summer and let it dry. In the wintertime, hang it over a preferred religious images, like the Holy Mary. While it is typically burned in the summer to get rid of negative deities, nothing says you cannot use in the wintertime. Burn it wrapped in a bundle or spread the dry flowers outside of your home.
Bells, Tibetan Singing Bowls
The sound of a bell alerts us to pay attention. Bells are typically used to announce an event, such as; a wedding, important holiday or a call to a prayer. Sound therapy and purification has been around for many years and is used in various parts of the world. Not only does it have a cleansing effect, it can be used to reset energy and heal broken spirits. Music has been known to boost morale in military troops, buddhist monks use sound as a mediation enhancer, and pagans rang bells in the wintertime to deter the evil on darkest of nights. My grandmother used to collect all types of bells. When you start your search you will see there are a number of options to choose from. Whether you prefer a cow bell, bells incorporated into jewelry or a decorative ceramic bell, they can all be used in a various rituals. The sound of a bell or a singing bowl shifts the energy in the room. Using bells or sounds in ceremonies or your home is an intuitive practice. To purify your space you can play music with bells, hang a bell by your front door, ring a bell before and after prayer to seal it and you can even ring a bell on Samhain to rid your home of negative deities. Create your own traditions and use sounds that make sense to you.
If you seek guidance, prosperity and stress relief, burn sandalwood. For a purifying and calming experience, allow the lingering smoke and therapeutic scent wash over you. The burning of sandalwood is often associated with Hindu temples. Its woody scent comes from trees native to India, Indonesia, Philippines and Australia. Sandalwood is well-known in the perfume industry, and can be very pricey. If you choose sandalwood as your go-to tool for purification, make sure to take your time with it and carve out a time for slowing down. Combining smoke and prayer is done in many religions. The Hindu religion is no different.
Last but not least is Frankincense. It is one of my favorite scents in the world. Whether I am burning a frankincense incense, resin or candle, the scent instantly transforms me to the small village where I grew up. Slovakia is very catholic and I grew up going to church on a regular basis. I even sang in the Church Choir. Needless to say, I spent a lot of my time enjoying the lingering scent of Frankincense. The Catholic Church might use Frankincense smoke in their religious ceremonies, but it is known for so much more than that. It has air purifying benefits, helps alleviate anxiety and depression, and taking it orally helps with arthritis and inflammation. Frankincense is made from the resin of the Boswellia tree, which is native to India, Africa and the Middle East. Ready for positive change? Study the many benefits of Frankincense, and try the magic of this ancient scent for yourself.
Main Image: Giulia Bertelli