Herbs as Cleansers:
The disinfectant qualities of certain plants would have been of great importance to humans, and may have been one of the triggers for a recognition of the other medicinal uses of plants. A large number of ancient cultures used herbs and plants in the cleansing rituals and preparation of the dead. Throughout history, the burning of natural substances has been used for cleansing, healing and in spiritual ceremonies and rituals.
Smudging: Shamanic smudging or just ‘smudging’ is an age-old tribal tradition which has been used for centuries for cleansing and to create harmony and peace. There are many different shamanic smudging ceremonies, and different tribes use a variety of herbs for smudging. Smudging was used for centuries by the native people of both North and South America, Europe, the Middle-east, Africa, Asia and the Siberian shamans to open the doors of the soul to the spirit world. In all cultures, the burning of certain herbs and incense was seen as a way of gaining access to the soul and power of the plants for cleansing, purification, protection spiritual, ceremonial and magical use, the banishment of negative energies and creation of sacred space. In modern use, incensing is still used as a symbol of purification and sanctification.
One of the earliest recorded uses of smudging can be traced to ancient Egypt where herbs were burned in religious ceremonies, being mentioned on an inscribed tablet from Giza, Egypt, c. 1,500 BC. The Babylonians also regularly used smudge/incense extensively while offering prayers or divining oracles. It was imported to Israel in the 5th century BC to be used in religious offerings. It spread from there to Greece, Rome and India, where both Hindus and Buddhists still burn it in their rituals and at festivals. The smudging tradition dates back millennia and connects all traditional cultures, from the Native Americans to the Druids, from the Zulus to the Maoris, from Aboriginals to the Mayans, from the Chinese to the Balinese, which have age-old forms of cleansing and blessing rituals. Smudge (Incense) is widely used in Oriental religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Taoism) and in the ceremonies of the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches. Smudging can therefore be seen as a universal spiritual component that runs through and connects all the worlds great cultures and religions throughout time.
Read the entire article at the Source: Herb-Lore (Herbalism).