“Fire is the breath and energy of the Great Mystery. It represents the life spark and out of all the elements, fire is most like a living being. It starts off as a small weak ember that needs to be nurtured or it can easily die”. Words of Spiritual Teacher and Shaman Eagle SkyFire.
I share the same belief about fire, that it is in fact a powerful spirit which holds consciousness, and must be approached with a lot of respect and care. The rewards of working with this particular element and invoking its ancient spirit are so immense, the evidence can be seen in just how many people in our modern world, are beginning to utilize the ancient practice of burning sacred wood such as Palo Santo and herbs such as Sage. But are they approaching this correctly? Are they being mindful of the sacredness of this process and following the correct steps towards the intended results?
Smoke and flames have been used for healing, purification and spiritual ceremonies since humans first learned to create fire. Today fire and smoke are still used in modern Shamanic healing, numerous spiritual rituals and other sacred practices. Millions of people in the west are now rediscovering the immense benefits of burning sage, among many other sacred herbs, incense and different kinds of resin. While this is very encouraging, there seems to still be a disconnect with the sacred aspect of it all, and not much emphasis is being placed on how to properly approach the sacred ritual of burning. Have you ever saged your home several times, and did not feel a change in the energy? If so, it is time to reconsider your approach and become more familiar with the importance of intent, attitude as well as the correct applications and steps of this very sacred practice.
When you burn Sage, Palo Santo, natural resin such as frankincense or copal, giving something back to nature is extremely important. This keeps the energy of give/take balanced, and also makes all the difference in the effectiveness of the rituals involving fire. If you approach this sacred practice of purification with gratitude, reverence and solid intent, it elevates it from just an ordinary casual act of cleansing, to much higher more powerful levels of effectiveness felt in the mind/body/soul. The intention alone is not enough to achieve this, which is one of the things I will be teaching you in this article.
Showing love and reverence, in addition to gratitude for mother earth while giving back is paramount. For example, before you burn the plant, mindfully holding it in your hands, deeply inhaling its scent to connect with its spirit and speaking to it are very important parts of the first step. The next one is giving proper thanks to all who are involved: Thanking the trees who gifted you the sacred herbs, resin or wood. Thanking the hands that planted, watered and harvested the plant. Thanking even those who arranged, packaged and delivered the sacred medicine to you is also important. In other words, setting our intention in itself is not enough so what are we missing? What is missing is the act of infusing the energy of love and deep gratitude into the entire process, which should begin with these two very essential steps mentioned above. The others that follow are equally important, and is what you will be learning here as I explain each of them in great detail.
Other points I will discuss are: How flames and smoke in particular are used to purify auras, spaces and objects with low or negative energy and as a divination tool. Sacred smoke is also used to facilitate meditation, altered states of consciousness, prayer and higher awareness in general. One such use would be in sweat lodges where it’s commonly used to cleanse the body, mind and soul for total transformation and healing. This has been practiced by the indigenous people on different continents for thousands of years, and in this article I will explain why showing gratitude to those who’s healing ways we have borrowed, is also central to the success of our borrowed practices. Without the incredible efforts made by most tribal peoples around the world, to preserve so much important and ancient spiritual knowledge, we would be lost today trying to reinvent the wheel, as we continue to expand our understanding of everything holistic and natural.
You will also learn about different plant medicines and resins widely used by region or continent. Copal for example, is a sacred resin gown and harvested in Mexico, and is used as a method of divination as shamans burn the incense and interpret the smoke. At other times, depending on his or her belief system, the shaman would cast grains of maize after holding them in the smoke and chanting. The Zapotecs in Milta, Oaxaca would burn the copal under water to find the cause of fright in a patient as it was thought the underside would reveal a picture. In my country of origin Morocco, women burn “Bakhoor” often along with a small special stone called “Hajara” to ward off evil, transmute negative energy and even determine who has cast ill will on them, by closely examining the color and consistency of the “Hajara” burned when the smoke finally goes out.
I use Palo Santo in my “Flame” readings, where I give you a piece to light after you have set your energy and intention correctly, then I observe the patterns made by the flame and smoke that follows. Many times, the physical and/or emotional state of the person will be revealed during this practice. Sometimes a specific life pathway for the person I am reading for, will be revealed in the smoke created when a thicker chunk of Palo Santo is burned. The accuracy has been astonishing, and this is absolutely one of my favorite divination tools second only to Numerology.
Also included in this article will be a list of animals and spirits that represent and associate with the element of fire, which you can get familiar with and even invoke in your next fire ceremony or burning ritual.
Full article coming soon.
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Cover Photo © Marco Boldrin
Photo © Alejandro Miranda