Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Welcome to week 6 of our '52 Traditions / Rituals in 52 weeks' this week we are bringing to you a 'Traditional Smoking Ceremony'

Indigenous Australian culture and its people are rich in ceremonial tradition and spiritual connection to their land. It is their spiritual connection to this land as ‘Mother’ that makes their ceremonies, rituals and traditions so absolutely spellbinding and magnificent. It is the perfect ritual to incorporate into a wedding ceremony.

A traditional ‘Smoking’ involves bringing together various native plants either in a fire or using a smudge stick and smoldering them to produce smoke. It is believed among indigenous Australians, that this smoke has cleansing and healing properties and also has the added ability to ward off any bad spirits that may be lurking around. Although performed at many events including building openings, births and deaths, it is a wonderful way of beginning a wedding ceremony, allowing the couple to go into the marriage feeling cleansed and free, with no bad spirits to bring them bad luck.

I (Susan) was lucky enough to see a ‘Smoking’ ceremony performed by an Aboriginal celebrant from the Northern Territory at a celebrant conference here in Adelaide a few years ago and its power was amazing. I immediately fell in love with the symbolism behind the ritual and its wonderful cleansing power.

There are a few options for conducting a smoking ritual as part of a wedding ceremony, however as many of us live in the city it can be difficult to find an adequate place to light a fire and we may need to consider an alternative.

Firstly, a ‘Smoking’ may be conducted by placing the chosen leaves on a small fire perhaps in a fire resistant trough or bowl and then allowing the smoke to cover the bride and groom and the other participants’ bodies, ridding them of what is not needed. The smoke can then be fanned around the area with the intention of also cleansing it before the marriage takes place.

The couple and their guests may feel a sense of leaving behind any troubles and beginning something new and the couple may like the Celebrant to say a few words about the significance of the smoking. There is no specific wording, but it is important to ask the couple what it means to them.

Another option is using a ‘Smudge stick’ (pictured left) which is a bundle of dried herbs, (quite often white sage and incorporating some other herbs or spices such as lavender and juniper, which give a pleasant odour when burnt). These are then bound into a small bundle with string and dried to later be used for the wedding ceremony. The ‘Smoking’ is conducted in much the same way as outlined above, however the celebrant may walk around the area spreading the smoke and wave the stick around the couple in order to cover them. Again the couple may like the celebrant to say a few words about the significance.

Conducting a traditional ‘Smoking’ is a great way of incorporating ritual in ceremony and regardless of your background or heritage, it’s significance crosses all boundaries of race or religion. If you are conducting a wedding ceremony in Australia or you are a bride or groom considering using a smoking as part of your ceremony, you may also like to begin the ceremony by paying tribute to the traditional owners of the land you are standing on. What a great way to enter your married life, with good luck, health and a clean slate. Only good can come of it!

Note: Smudge sticks can usually be purchased from stores that supply religious or ceremonial items or they can be made easily using fresh herbs. There are lots of instructional videos available on the internet.

The Wedding Gurus