Ever have those times when everything seems to go wrong? Your computer crashes, you quarrel or argue with people in your life over small and nonsensical things, flights are delayed or cancelled, plans change without warning, and even Facebook seems to be against you? Chances are you are smack dab in the middle of a Mercury retrograde!
Our most recent retrograde started on August 12th–marking the third time Mercury has gone retrograde in 2017—and isn’t scheduled to end until Labor Day! So what exactly happens when Mercury goes retrograde? SWIHA Great Graduate Danielle Warford explains in one of her compelling blog posts on The Wild Feminine:
“It’s a time where the planet Mercury, for a three week period, appears to be moving backwards in the sky. Star-gazers have been watching this for millennia. The effects of a retrograde are universal, it seems, and if you begin to look at patterns of your life up against a calendar of retrogrades, you may find a pattern along with your frustrations.”
“Side effects” of this particular alignment—or misalignment—of the planets usually include glitches and misunderstandings in our communication and relationships that create a sense of unpredictability. In fact, even our electronic devices can have a tendency to go a bit haywire during this time!
Getting life and communication back on course!
If you’re looking to clear up some of the chaos that characteristically accompanies the retrograde, why not consider smudging?
Smudging is the ancient practice of burning sacred plants to drive away negative energies and restore balance to people and places. Smudging dates back millennia. In fact, most Native North American traditional cultures have age-old forms of cleansing and rituals involving the burning of sage, aromatic grasses, or sacred oils to right what energetically feels wrong.
Could there possibly be a connection between the anceint practice of smudging and the equally ancient movement of the retrograde? Could a smudging ceremony alleviate some of the side effects that the alignment of the planets has on us?
Using smudging as a tool to “clear the air”
In Jane Alexander’s book, The Smudging and Blessing Book, she explains the power of smudging lies in the subatomic world of subtle and spiritual energy. Homes, buildings, objects, and our bodies are not made up of purely physical matter; they vibrate with quiet, invisible energy. In cultures where this concept is understood and honored, people spend as much time on psychic cleansing as they do bathing and washing their physical bodies.
Jane Alexander, who is widely regarded as an authority on ancient native customs, goes on to explain indigenous peoples monitored the moon and stars to understand the best times for ritual and ceremony! Full moons, lunar cycles, and winter, fall, summer, and spring solstices were times when the earth’s natural rhythms were honored with ceremony. And yes, Mercury retrograde and Halloween were especially considered times of purification and renewal!
One of my favorite blog writers for Elephant Journal, Alex Myles , is also a yoga and Tibetan meditation teacher, Reiki Master, spiritual coach, and author of An Empath, a newly published book that explains various aspects of existing as a highly sensitive person. In one of her most recent blogs, she warns empaths (energetically sensitive people) to take note of when Mercury is in retrograde. Alex says aligning, rather than fighting against these periods, can save us an incredible amount of frustration and avoid many problems. Alex provides the following guidance:
“It is also important to take steps to protect ourselves, so that other people’s negative energy does not penetrate ours and trigger us to react easily. Mercury retrograde is strongly associated with confusions, delays and frustrations—it is the perfect time to take a look at our past. A lot seems to happen in a short space of time, which can overwhelm and confuse our internal processing.”
Alex also has this powerful spiritual coaching to offer: “[I change] my perception, and instead of allowing it to cause me turmoil, I instead look at things with a simplistic and carefree view—letting go of what is not meant for me and allowing other things to briefly return for moments of reflection.” She goes on to say, “It is a period of soul searching and one of reflection. One of accepting what is and releasing what isn’t.”
Coincidentally, at almost the same time Alex’s blog appeared on Elephant Journal, she published a blog on her own site touting the benefits of smudging – burning sage to clear and release what doesn’t serve us. One of the most interesting studies she highlights is that there is scientific evidence that medicinal smoke is a powerful antiseptic that can purify the air of 94% of harmful bacteria for up to 24 hours. Alex explains, “The electromagnetic field (aura) around our body, as well as the energy in our environment, can become blocked with harmful positive ions that can make us feel fatigued, sluggish, and burnt out. Burning sage or other herbs neutralizes the positive charge and releases large amounts of negative ions into the atmosphere. This means that our own energy, and the energy around us, will feel lighter and freer.”
While Alex doesn’t come right out and say it, doesn’t it make sense that smudging could help with the energetic and psychic “garbage” we get hit with during this super sensitive time?
So what do you use to smudge and how do you do it?
To answer this question, we can refer to yet another one of Danielle’s blogs posts. Danielle offers two powerful options for smudging: the use of sage or Palo Santo wood. Danielle explains, “Sage is usually the first choice people go to when they begin smudging. This may be due to tradition, or not knowing of other options.” She further advises, “You might like white sage with lavender, or blue sage with juniper.” Her invitation is to experiment with what you are intuitively drawn to.
Danielle also shares, “Palo Santo is wood that comes from the Palo Santo tree indigenous to South America. It means ‘holy wood.’ Using Palo Santo for cleansing yourself, your space, or your crystals will do the same as a bundle of sage would with a different, milder scent. It has a piney, mint smell to it that is intoxicating.”
Another one of Alex Myles’ blogs explains a smudging technique known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. She reports that the most common herbs used include cedar, sage, sweetgrass, and tobacco. Alex explains, “Once the sacred plant is burned, the cloud of smoke that emanates is used to prepare for prayer ceremonies, rituals, and purification. Smudging is believed to heighten the sensitivity of healers, or the medicine men, so that they achieve an enhanced state of mind and can effectively assess and treat illness.”
One of the best parts of this blog is the inclusion of studies that have also shown burning sage increases clarity and awareness, heightens wisdom, improves moods, enhances the memory, and quickens the senses. (It is no coincidence that the word “sage” is also used to describe someone steeped in wisdom and humility.)
In The Smudging and Blessing Book, author Jane Alexander also advises a large shell or symbolic blessing bowl be used– something that will withstand the heat from burning sage or other grasses. She highly recommends combining lavender and cedar bark as a potent mixture. In addition, she encourages those doing the blessings to have crystals, animal totems, and other sacred items within their visual sight to elevate the spiritual and energetic atmosphere. Her wise advice is, “Imagine you haven’t physically cleaned your house in years. It will take some time to clear and cleanse every single corner of the house. Take your time to remove every emotional cobweb as you smudge yourself, your home, or your attitude.”
Let’s apply this same advice to smudging during Mercury retrograde. Imagine you are going to create a cleansing ceremony to calm and balance the cosmic forces influencing you during this energetically active time. Prepare a place to sit for a few minutes; maybe even use the moonlight or the break of dawn. Gather with you sacred elements, such as your favorite crystals, oils, and oracle cards. Bring a sage bundle or a blessing bowl filled with herbs and grasses that you might light, or perhaps just sit in stillness as you take in their aromatic messages.
Call upon your guides, and consider using this prayer:
“Oh Great Spirit, as I pause today to present this gift of sage and earthy elements, I reflect on all that I am experiencing and ask for all the negativity to be cleansed from my heart, mind, and consciousness. Take away what is impure, unrighteous, and not serving the highest and best good for all. As I watch the smoke rise, I yoke with clarity and gratitude. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
Blessings as you begin a new tradition of smudging during Mercury retrograde!
Interested in learning about how to use herbs and botanicals to heal and energize others?