Indigenous peoples have used many medicines over the centuries. While different people have different beliefs and uses for the medicines, one thing remains true for everyone: they are considered truly sacred.
It’s important to understand how to use these medicines AND how they benefit us as individuals before you dive in and start your journey toward a better you.
First, we will talk a little bit about what we mean by “sacred” and how it applies to each of these medicines. Then, we’ll talk about each of the four main sacred medicines, their uses, and many benefits.
Remember that traditions and beliefs vary between groups of people, but we will talk about some of the more common beliefs and uses -- and how we personally experience these medicines.
So, let’s get started.
How our sacred medicines became sacred
The sacred medicines were given to Indigenous People by the Creator. Tobacco was given first and the other three followed: sage, cedar, and sweetgrass.
These medicines are used as a way to communicate with the Creator. Each occupies a different direction on the Medicine Wheel, though their placement can differ from First Nation to First Nation.
The medicines are sacred not only because of their history, but because we have continued to use them in both everyday life, in smudging, and in ceremonies. They are an important part of Indigenous culture and legacy.
It is believed by Elders that spirits like the aroma of the sacred medicines and therefore they allow us to better connect with the Creator, Spirits, and even our Ancestors.
Each sacred medicine has different uses and different unique benefits.
Let’s talk about the first sacred medicine:
Tobacco was the first sacred medicine given to us by the Creator and is often thought of as the most powerful sacred medicine.
Tobacco sits in the Eastern door of the Medicine Wheel and is used as an offering for everything -- from ceremonies to thanking an elder or giving a gift.
Tobacco is used to open the door to communicate with the spirit world. This is because tobacco is believed to travel ahead as a messenger so that our words can be received in a kind and respectful way.
Tobacco allows our thoughts and feelings to pass through to our Creator as we pray for our family, relatives, or other loved ones.
Sage is the second sacred medicine and is believed to sit in the Western door on the Medicine Wheel.
Sage is most commonly used for smudging and is believed to be a potent cleanser for homes, sacred items, and even our physical bodies.
Sage is generally used to relieve troubles from the mind or remove negative energies from our hearts, minds, or homes.
Sage also has many medicinal benefits and has been used for healing for many generations as an antiseptic. It is also high in nutrients and vitamins and can be made into tea.
Cedar is the third Sacred Medicine and occupies the Northern door of the Medicine Wheel.
Like Sage, Cedar can also be used to purify the home. Cedar is connected to safety and protection. It is often used in sweat lodge ceremonies as a way to offer healing and protection to the ceremony and its participants.
Cedar is also very healing and can be placed in a bath to soak in for cleansing purposes.
As with many of the sacred medicines, cedar can be used as an offering or combined with other sacred medicines to promote clarity and communication with the Creator and the Spirits.
Sweetgrass is the final sacred medicine and is believed to lie in the Southern door of the Medicine Wheel.
Sweetgrass is directly related to Mother Earth and serves as a way of connecting with Her.
Sweetgrass can be used in a healing circle for a calming effect or in smudging as a way to promote peace, kindness, and purification.
While each Nation has its own teachings regarding the Sacred Medicines, the quartet of medicines works to establish a connection to the Creator and the Spirit World.
They are our most sacred medicines and while each teaches us a different lesson or offers us a unique benefit, they are all equally important to indigenous culture.
With this knowledge you can now move forward on your own personal wellness journey with a better understanding of the sacred medicines, how to use them, and their importance.
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