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-   -   Native American Smudging Ceremony (http://forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=104664)

Seeking33 Mar 23, '06 10:26 am

Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
I went to "stations of the cross" service last Friday night. Two native americans led the ceremony. I felt everything was done properly until the end when they asked if anyone wanted to be "purified" to come up and receive "smudging". About 98% of the congregation went ahead and left....I was struggling not to make perplexed faces and left also. What in the world? Why would that be allowed, when that is strictly not taught by the Catholic religion? There is no purification from sin except by the blood of Christ...

Does anyone know anything about this?

jbuck919 Mar 23, '06 11:31 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
I don't know anything about that ceremony, but it sounds as if, had it been a Mass, you could have submitted it to traditio.com for addition to their "enchiridion of messes."

ncjohn Mar 23, '06 12:01 pm

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Smudging, as you note, is a Native ceremony that usually uses sage or sweetgrass in much the same way we use the sprinkling of water during the Easter season.

I know it is often used in parishes with Native populations--I'm not sure if that applies to you. It is probably not the best thing to use ad hoc in a non-Native setting because of the confusion it might cause, but JP 2 himself was smudged when he visited New Mexico (or possibly Arizona?) and commented on the beauty of the ceremony, indicating that the Native people should be able to incorporate their rituals as long as they were appropriate and were not the products of superstitions or pagan worship.

Keep in mind also that Stations are not a liturgical setting so there is more room for some cultural adaptation, as if often seen in the form of the stations themselves.

Peace,

Seeking33 Mar 23, '06 12:43 pm

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
I'm in Alabama...so, I've not been exposed to any native american pratices. Even though Pope John Paul II had it done, I still just don't understand...it sounds like superstition to me. How could this be a form of purification? Maybe if had been prepared and informed beforehand that this was going to be done..I wouldn't have freaked out so bad. Since becoming a Catholic..I've had to deal with alot of "culture shock" inside the church since I'm coming from a Southern Baptist/Assembly of God background....so I try to keep an open mind about different traditions, but this one just sort of blew me away. It sounded "new age" to me. I think it may have bothered others as well since only about 4 or 5 people stayed to be smudged. I guess no one was prepared or informed. I guess I'll look online for more information. Thanks for your input!

empacae Mar 23, '06 1:59 pm

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Maybe it is pagan. But think of this. When an animal was roasted in sacrifice the Lord said that the smell was good. I seem to remember in a Northern Exposure episode that a native spirit talking with Ed wanted Ed to order a hamburger and fries, and when the food was put down in front of the spirit and Ed asked him why he wasn't eating it he said he just like to smell it. Something of this nature could be said about the burning of the sweetgrass, sage or cedar. Maybe spirits have an olfactory sense and that purification is the chasing away of evil spirits. But it still smells like superstition to me.

emp.

cheese_sdc Mar 23, '06 2:07 pm

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
I think of the burning of sage in much the same way as incense - it helps me concentrate on prayer and my wife hates normal "church" incense - makes her cough.

empacae Mar 23, '06 2:10 pm

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by cheese_sdc
I think of the burning of sage in much the same way as incense - it helps me concentrate on prayer and my wife hates normal "church" incense - makes her cough.


makes me cough too.

ncjohn Mar 24, '06 6:17 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Seeking33
I'm in Alabama...so, I've not been exposed to any native american pratices. Even though Pope John Paul II had it done, I still just don't understand...it sounds like superstition to me. How could this be a form of purification? Maybe if had been prepared and informed beforehand that this was going to be done..I wouldn't have freaked out so bad. Since becoming a Catholic..I've had to deal with alot of "culture shock" inside the church since I'm coming from a Southern Baptist/Assembly of God background....so I try to keep an open mind about different traditions, but this one just sort of blew me away. It sounded "new age" to me. I think it may have bothered others as well since only about 4 or 5 people stayed to be smudged. I guess no one was prepared or informed. I guess I'll look online for more information. Thanks for your input!

I agree with you that if something like this is introduced without preparation it is likely to cause concern and confusion. Many times people experience these kinds of things somewhere and then bring them "back home" for other people to experience, but without the people knowing what's going on it often backfires.

As to how it could be a form of purification, all rituals have effect only to the extent that people identify with them. Rituals are not objectively "right" or "wrong" in and of themselves, but have meaning within the culture in which they are performed. For Catholics, sprinkling with Holy Water is a form of purification. For the Jews, it was (is?) bathing in a mikvah (sp?) or a place with continually moving water. Each culture and religion has its forms of purification.

Like the rituals, the signs and symbols used also vary between cultures and are not objectively better or worse because of their matter. My understanding from talking with Native people in Christian Churches is that they recognize the purification aspect but because of their culture many associate that more with smoke rather than water.

To me, it's kind of like the way most people in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving by having turkey, theoretically symbolic of that first Thanksgiving dinner. Many however, for whatever reason, just use something else which is just as valid if the reason for the day--giving thanks--is still the intent.

At any rate, while agreeing with you that some education should have been done first, I don't think the ceremony itself was intrinsically wrong if the intent was a purification ritual. It admittedly might not be the most suitable in a cultural setting that doesn't identify with that form however.

Peace,

aimee Mar 24, '06 6:36 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ncjohn
I agree with you that if something like this is introduced without preparation it is likely to cause concern and confusion. Many times people experience these kinds of things somewhere and then bring them "back home" for other people to experience, but without the people knowing what's going on it often backfires.

As to how it could be a form of purification, all rituals have effect only to the extent that people identify with them. Rituals are not objectively "right" or "wrong" in and of themselves, but have meaning within the culture in which they are performed. For Catholics, sprinkling with Holy Water is a form of purification. For the Jews, it was (is?) bathing in a mikvah (sp?) or a place with continually moving water. Each culture and religion has its forms of purification.

Like the rituals, the signs and symbols used also vary between cultures and are not objectively better or worse because of their matter. My understanding from talking with Native people in Christian Churches is that they recognize the purification aspect but because of their culture many associate that more with smoke rather than water.

To me, it's kind of like the way most people in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving by having turkey, theoretically symbolic of that first Thanksgiving dinner. Many however, for whatever reason, just use something else which is just as valid if the reason for the day--giving thanks--is still the intent.

At any rate, while agreeing with you that some education should have been done first, I don't think the ceremony itself was intrinsically wrong if the intent was a purification ritual. It admittedly might not be the most suitable in a cultural setting that doesn't identify with that form however.

Peace,


burning sage smells a bit like marijuana...

Penny Plain Mar 24, '06 6:37 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
I have seen smudging ceremonies, and I think they're kind of neat. They don't do a lot for me, but they're not really supposed to, are they?

I come from what can charitably be termed a multicultural society. I think there are some real problems with shopping for cultural practices. I have had several Americans tell me they feel like they don't really have a culture, and that's just silly. Americans don't see their culture because America is so big -- it's like standing on the Spanish Steps and not being able to see Italy.

The result, though, is that Americans borrow cultural practices from other people because they think they're neat. Many times, they don't understand they don't understand the basis of the practice, nor do they understand the meaning the practice has for those to whom it belongs. In America, everyone is Irish on March 17, and so forth.

For some reason, the Kokopelli symbols really irritate me. I see them all the time, in people's homes and so forth. People don't know who Kokopelli is or why he's important, but they think he looks neat. He looks, well, Indian. I wonder how people would feel if non-Christians put up crucifixes as decorations.

It's funny. People mean no harm by it, but it is silly to take one people's traditions and adopt them without understanding them. Is it right for Native Americans to do a smudging ceremony? Up to them. For some tribes, it's deeply meaningful. For others, it has no meaning at all.

Is it right for a white African woman like me to do one? Well, no, not really. Not my tradition. Not my culture. Not something that has meaning to me or my people, and it's not right to do it just because I saw somebody else do one and it looked neat.

It's sort of the same mindset that leads people to drive out to gawp at the Pennsylvania Amish or go to the Hopi festivals and stare at the Kachina dancers. It's not evil, but it's discourteous and foolish.

ncjohn Mar 24, '06 6:56 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by aimee
burning sage smells a bit like marijuana...

Ummm.....I wouldn't know about that....... :whistle:

I've heard though that burning oregano does.....but I wouldn't know about that either....... :)

aimee Mar 24, '06 7:00 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by ncjohn
Ummm.....I wouldn't know about that....... :whistle:

I've heard though that burning oregano does.....but I wouldn't know about that either....... :)


:hmmm: perhaps thats it...oregano...thought it was something like that... :)

ncjohn Mar 24, '06 7:02 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Penny Plain
It's funny. People mean no harm by it, but it is silly to take one people's traditions and adopt them without understanding them. Is it right for Native Americans to do a smudging ceremony? Up to them. For some tribes, it's deeply meaningful. For others, it has no meaning at all.

Is it right for a white African woman like me to do one? Well, no, not really. Not my tradition. Not my culture. Not something that has meaning to me or my people, and it's not right to do it just because I saw somebody else do one and it looked neat.

It's sort of the same mindset that leads people to drive out to gawp at the Pennsylvania Amish or go to the Hopi festivals and stare at the Kachina dancers. It's not evil, but it's discourteous and foolish.

Very well put Penny. You summarized my problem with how this happens much better than I did. I don't have a problem with the ceremonies, but put in the wrong context by people who don't understand them or identify with them, they have no meaning and are disrespectful--an aspect I totally left out of my explanation.

In light of that, now I may need to take my little Buddha incense burner off my desk......... :o

Peace,

MercedesBents Mar 24, '06 8:08 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
This should be informative:

http://greenfield.fortunecity.com/dw...4/ceremony.htm

As described in this web site, smudging doesn't sound like it's in line with Catholic belief.

ncjohn Mar 24, '06 8:56 am

Re: Native American Smudging Ceremony
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by MercedesBents
This should be informative:

http://greenfield.fortunecity.com/dw...4/ceremony.htm

As described in this web site, smudging doesn't sound like it's in line with Catholic belief.

As described in that web site, I would agree. However the uses I have seen of it have not been in that context.

Here are a couple excerpts from an article http://www.indiancountry.com/content.cfm?id=1096410708 on JP 2's visit for the beatification of some Indian Martyrs:
Quote:

The service began with a reading in Nahuatl. Native women bearing a large censor and green branches brushed the pope with its smoke. The papers gave the ritual an indigenous Mexican name, but any North American Indian would recognize it immediately as a smudging. ...

...The message was clear and remarkable. With the blessing of Pope John Paul II, the church was following the path of the Rev. Paul Steinmetz, the famed Jesuit priest at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, who incorporated many elements of Lakota religion into his services. The indigenous road could also lead to eternal truth.
I remember seeing an aritcle in our Catholic paper at the time, though I probably wouldn't be able to find it again, that the Pope commented that the Native people should be able to incoporate their rituals as long as they weren't based on superstitions or non-Christian beliefs. I tend to believe that if the Pope was ok with it, I'm not going to second guess him. :)

That being said, as I said below, and Penny said even better, this is something that really needs to be done in the proper context by people for whom the ritual has meaning and not as a "spectator sport".

Peace,


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