“The ḥarmal does not grow, whether as a tree, a leaf or a fruit, without there being an angelic guardian spirit attached to it.” ~ Muhammed (a.s)
Throughout history, the burning of natural substances has been used for cleansing, healing and spiritual purposes. The Babylonians used smudge extensively while offering prayers or divining oracles, and so did the old Germans and Norsk tribes, as well as as the First Nations of the Americas and Austral-Asia. Whereever people make their habitat, smuding is part of everyday culture. In the regions of the Himalaya and the Indian sub-continent the incense trade started and via the Spice Route various religious ideas and incense came via Iran to Arabia and Mecca during the days of the prophet (a.s).
“In Islamic practise smudge is used to purify the house and a person, as addition to Ghusl (extended purification ceremony) and Wudu (daily purification before prayers).”
In Islamic practise smudge is used to purify the house and a person, as addition to Ghusl (extended purification ceremony) and Wudu (daily purification before prayers). Islamic ritual purification may vary between regions, different schools of thought as well as scholarly opinions.
Some ethnobotanists such as Christian Rätsch claim, that during religious ceremonies humanity uses traditionally psychoactive plants and substances to induce visionary states. In the Norsk and German tradition herbs such as Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) were used. In Iran the Esfand aka Syrian Rue or Harmal is used in religious ceremonies since pre-Zoroastrian days. Esfand has in my experience also in it’s smudged form some very mild psychoactive qualities and it is an excellent cleanser and we use it when the energy at home needs a lifting or we are feeling the onset of illnesses such as flu. Harmal’s uses throughout the Muslim world are manifold and it used against parasites such as flees and lice and is said to be an excellent Jinn repellent.
“Modern humans tend to be very unkind to their bodies and spirit and expect quick fixes.”
Without going into Jinns, as the subject deserves it’s own articles, I want to briefly talk about about mental distress symptoms such as anxiety, distress, hyper-activity, depression, paranoia, phobia and psychosis (including severely auto-aggressive mental suggestions or aggression towards others). Such states can be induced through modern lifestyles and self-abuse, stress, post-trauma and come in very severe forms as result from Psychiatric overmedication and withdrawl from Psychiatic meds. Severe mental distress has become unfortunately all to common in our (post)-modern society and are a problem that effects more and more people. The reasons for this are multi-faceted and plainly often avoidable if there would be generally a better spiritual understanding of life, and more good doctors and healers around.
My general observation in the treatment of mental unwell-ness is that a distressed mind responds always well to prayers, and additionally to leeching/cupping (Hijama), mineral rich diets, herbal teas, baths, and smudging. I therefore like to add clay or plain soil to smudges I compose for treatment. I am generally no friend of treating mental unwell being with high potent psychoactive substances – this can be dangerous and most people have little to no idea of potentially conflicting combinations between herbs and chemical remedies that can cause their condition and general state to worsen. Modern humans tend to be very unkind to their bodies and spirit and expect quick fixes. A mind that is prolonged in a state of distress, needs a complete change in life style and it needs most of all plenty of time and rest to heal. While the remedies I am proposing as “rescue remedies” can help to calm down accute states, the underlying causes always need to be addressed individually.
“To see and smell the smoke from the smudging is a very earthy, elementary experience.”
How to Smudge Yourself
When you smudge, the best way to start is to smudge to clean the space and your self (Wudu) and to offer prayers. Begin by placing your herbs or smudge mixture into a shell, or a fireproof bowl or dish. The mixture can burn quite hot so it is important that whatever is used can take the heat without cracking or becoming too hot to hold. Lit a piece of charcoal and start burning.
The smoke then rises in a richly scented cloud, in which you can wash yourself, other people, your room; the list is endless. To see and smell the smoke from the smudging is a very earthy, elementary experience.
A feather can be used as a sort of psychic brush with which you wipe away un-pure energy as if it was dust or cobwebs. Sometimes, rather than burnt as loose herbs, the mix is bundled together in a short fat wand often called a ‘smudge stick’. The leaves of the herbs are often bound with cotton thread.
Before and while you smudge always offer prayers and special zikrs and recitals, for example of the 99 Greatest Name of Allah.
A Simple Smudiging Recipe
I prefer to smudge in stages, meaning I burn herbs, raisins or mixtures of herbs in stages
1) Burn natural Champhor (subdues and cleanses air), 1-3 tea spoons
2) Burn Esfand seeds (Syrian Rue, Harmal), you can buy Esfand seeds at every Iranian or Middle Eastern shop, you need 2-4 tea spoons
3) Burn some clay or soil, 1-2 tea spoons
4) Burn herb/resin mix (such as Rose with Musk, or local herbs with resins – I personally also love to burn small pieces of Oud (Agarwood) which it is very special).
I also want to recommed very much the burning of Galbanum, which is is a Central Asian aromatic gum resin, the product of the Persian plant species Ferula gummosa. It is a wonderful mood lifting resin that never fails to amaze with it’s distinct deep smell and deep soothing effects.
Posts from this series:
Rescue Remedies against Mental Distress, Part 1: Take a healing bath
Rescue Remedies against Mental Distress, Part 2: Enjoy aromatic water
Rescue Remedies against Mental Distress, Part 3: Smudging