Hello to all you Red Roosterers, we hope you enjoyed our workshops and also hope we’ve inspired you all to go forth into gardens, veg n’ fruit peelings and more to explore and experiment! So here are some pointers as well as areas we touched on for you from our Red Rooster Smudge Stick Workshop.
We (Kate and Jane Smith also our amazing Front of House!) based our workshops on the Native American method of smudging, it’s use and how to make a smudge stick - a bit of the practical and also how and why we came round to using Lavender and Rosemary……..
As our starting point we wanted something that’s accessible in the UK and looking into it we landed on Lavender and Rosemary for their multitude of uses and also their relation and link to smudging. Both are so common in the UK, we take them for granted but they have a wealth of history multiculturally through the ages to modern day from their associations and uses - ceremonial both spiritually and religiously, medicinal, culinary and so much more.
Our Smudge Workshop Lavender, Lavandula Angustifolia - all culinary - Folgate, Peter Pan and Hidcote
Our Smudge Workshop Rosemary, Rosemarinus Officinalis – all culinary - Haifa and we think Blue Lagoon, the name has been lost in time! But it’s survived my terrible gardening skills and is lovely for cooking!
A few interesting points on these amazing plants
Used in sick rooms in France to purify and cleanse the air.
Believed to attract faeries and good energies. It would be hung over a babies cradles to stop them being whisked away by faeries (the ones that are mischievous, naughty and a bit mean!).
Very good for muscular aches and pains.
In medieval times it would be carried to protect you from the Evil Eye.
A sacred plant in ancient Eygpt.
Considered a male plant.
Associated with Aphrodite.
A wealth of culinary uses from oils, flavouring, baking etc.
Commonly used in smudging.
Derives its name from the Latin Lavre to wash and was used extensively in Roman times to scent linen, clothes, beds, hair among others.
It was considered a holy and sacred essence. A spiritual blessing.
It has a multitude of medicinal and health uses – anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, soothing, aids sleep and much more.
As with Rosemary, a wealth of culinary uses, from flavouring (very yummy ice cream and cakes!), oils and the list goes on…!
Smudge Sticks and Smudging
As a very simplified explanation, smudging is a process of burning, going back thousands of years and though associated with North American Indigenous cultures it has been and is used worldwide, as a way to purify the body and environment, to root out and remove the negative energies.
The mix and use of herbs and plants in a smudge stick will never be accidental, they are chosen for their properties, associations/meanings as well as for their strong and pleasing smell when burning. Harvesting is also an important and relevant component and the time of harvesting may be chosen according to the time of day, night, month, year and or season.
Jane brought with her for the workshop her own (as in ones she made!) terracotta bisque fired pots, shell and feather. The reason for these are that they, along with the herbs, represent, symbolise and honour the 4 elements of
Water - represented by the shell and clay bowl
Air - represented by the feather
Earth - represented by the herbs
Fire - represented by the flame to light the herbs
Typically a prayer will be said during smudging, traditionally using a single or fan of feathers (they are believed to posses the spirit of the bird, to be the breath of life as well as connecting us to the heavens above and mother earth below) or a hand to waft or fan the smoking smudge stick. The smoke, symbolic itself, crosses our seen to the unseen world, raising and connecting us to the heavens.
Once the ceremony has been completed the remnants of the smudge stick are returned to the earth. We both love that circular and respectful process.
Jane also brought this lovely prayer with her that she sourced and the link to it is below. As an aside it also has a great description and history of smudging as well as a step by step on how to smudge!
A Native Prayer you may want to use while smudging:
Creator, Great Mystery
Source of all knowing and comfort,
Cleanse this space of all negativity.
Open our pathways to peace and understanding.
Love and light fills each of us and our sacred space.
Our work here shall be beautiful and meaningful.
Banish all energies that would mean us harm.
Our eternal gratitude.
The Medicine Wheel Garden, E. Barrie Kavasch
And now here’s the practical stuff but so so important!
Tips when making your bundle
1) Make from fresh herbs rather than dry. You want the bundle to remain firmly packed when tied and dried.
2) Tie up firmly, otherwise the smudge stick will crumble and burn more than smoke.
3) It can be visually lovely to have delicate fronds sprouting from the end of your smudge stick or bundle, but the big But is always trim to a flat stump before lighting as they will just flame burn rather than the desired smokey smoulder!
Smudge Stick You Tube Tutorials for you.
Visual smudge inspiration You Tube Tutorials, the below are more for inspiration and give you an idea on making up bundles for effect rather than a how to.
All dried plants will be more fragile and flammable. Some may be naturally rich in flammable oils which can be more concentrated when dry.
Always check how things burn before you use a smudge stick in a safe area where you can extinguish quickly and safely in sand and or water.
If using any smudge stick always carry a large plate with sand/earth or large bowl of water.
Be aware of any burning cinders or fragments as you move around any space indoors or out and be aware of any flammable household goods and upholstery.
If you’re going to burn your smudge stick, always remember to trim your ends before you light so you are lighting a level smudge stick and not creating a flame thrower!
Finally if you are returning your herbs back to the ground or anywhere else, please ensure and double check that the remains are properly extinguished, I leave in water. It’s so easy to think they are extinguished when they are not fully!
How To Dry
You may want to use your smudge stick for smudging, or you may want it for culinary use or just for a visual look. Remember drying is important as you don’t want to end up with mouldering herbs in the middle of the bundle and should you decide to burn you definitely don’t want to spread mouldy spores all over your smudging space or for that matter cook with them.
There are a variety of options and as much as I would love to be able to hang them out to dry, the good old British weather isn’t the most amenable so here are some options.
1) Oven - if you have a Rayburn/Aga or such like, they can be left in the warming oven. Otherwise put them on a tray and put on a low heat, until dry. This is very much a suck it and see. Be careful as you don’t want to burn them.
If putting an oven on for this length of time just to dry out a smudge stick is a bit much, try the options below. Always remember you want to dry the herbs rather than ‘burn’ and for this reason I prefer not to put onto a direct heat source.
2) Central heating/boiler cupboard - Lay flat or if you are able let it hang until dry. This may take a while depending on the level of the warm environment.
3) Radiator - Don’t lay directly onto a hot radiator, use a wooden board, folded towel to lay them on. Another option is to hang them from the radiator, for example, a radiator clothes hanger.
4) As another option think about where is warm, somewhere like a shed, greenhouse, attic where the warmth can really build up when the sun catches it.
Store in a clean, dry, cool and dark environment. If properly dry they will last over the year.
When I was looking for different natural fibres, twines and string to use, 1) I wanted it to look good and 2) be safe for burning, it occurred to me, what dye is being used on some of the ‘all natural’ twine? This led me to think about dying my own. And it was fun! I went onto google and found these 2 sites which are easy to follow and I feel is a good starting point.
The string and twine I used was from Wilkos and for dyeing I used onion peel, beetroot skin, avocado stone (whole not broken up) skin and papaya skin. The great thing when dying the string, was that I just used what I would have thrown away from the foods I was preparing at the time so didn’t go out and buy things specifically for dyeing.
In the information for fixing the dyes you can use vinegar or salt, I used the salt fix mix for everything. A good tip to remember - if you do use salt fix, make sure you use an old or find a cheap saucepan that you will only use for dyeing as the salt will react to the metal, or better still use saucepans that are unreactive.
And finally here’s the name of my gorgeous lovely book that Jane and her other half gave me. It’s a great one to dip in and out of as well showing clear step by step of how to .....
The Wild Dyer, A Guide To Natural Dyer & The Art Of Patchwork & Stitch By Abigail Booth. ISBN 978-0-85783-395-2. Publisher: Kyle Books
And a final finally to thank you all for taking part and to Evie for introducing us to what we have now officially called the Evie Method – instead of making a loop at the end to hang you smudge stick bundles, you tie the loop so the bundle hangs horizontally, genius!! We had a ball and hope you did too!
Jane and Kate X