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When I first move into a house I do not smudge right away (or sage, as in its verb form, to burn sage) because .... Well, because I have this theory ....
So let me interrupt here with an apologetic parenthetical aside/ slash/ disclaimer before I tell you my theory about smudging --
Disclaimer (a.k.a. a probably unnecessary tangential footnote appearing at an inappropriately early point in the piece)
This is just a belief (or a behavior, really) based on personal observation. I know it's not The Norm and Most People may not agree with this and I would not doubt it for a second if you told me there's a traditional Native American shaman in a famous 1970s commercial somewhere with a big fat tear sliding down his cheek as he casts his gaze out over the way I have gutted and bent shamanic tools and techniques to my own eclectic 21st Century mixed Anglo-Cherokee Neo-Pagan Post-Modern Creato-Matic Magical Practice.
My theory is that smudging sedates spirits much like smoking subdues a hive of bees.
To clarify further: smudging clears energies; it does not necessarily clear entities.
It doesn't get rid of Anyone, it just might make them stoned, pliable, sleepy, unmotivated... (maybe they get the munchies; and so if you know it's not mice -- or really big cockroaches -- or a roommate/partner with an Ambien-induced sleep-eating problem -- then That's probably why you're hearing the rustle and ruckus in the kitchen cabinets late at night).
Who's to say the Things That Go Bump don't dig a fatty smudge bundle just as much as your deceased Aunt Clara, your childhood fairy companion Sarafina, or your Guardian Angel Fanciel?
You know, I'm pretty sure sage smudge is a Southwestern thing anyway (my life stories take place in either Tennessee or Georgia); we certainly don't use Southeastern tobacco in anything close to a traditionally reverent way....
My point is: it's all bastardization and customization.
Many of my theories and practices exist under a canopy of Personalization -- that your beliefs and your intentions literally create the power -- the force, the degree, the volume, and the outcome -- of any ritual.
Take it; tweak it; make it work for you.
A Contract with the Spirits
A medium friend of mine -- one of those guys you typically see accompanying paranormal investigators on those ghost hunting shows -- taught me this basic ritual for establishing a working co-habitation contract with any self-aware spirit entities who are bound to a specific location. Spirits may be attached to your house without being technically "earthbound" -- earthbound is an undesirable state of purgatory where the spirit is trapped and unable to cross over due to trauma, confusion, obsession; benevolent spirits dropping by a beloved past home in visitation are much more common.
Someone may have loved this house before you did (obviously, this is especially true with an older house). The original owner may have also been its creator -- he may have designed and built it to very personal specifications. It may have represented the single largest financial investment in his entire life. His wife may have given birth to children in this house; at the very least it is the place where they were raised. Some members of the home's original family may have died in the house -- not tragically, but as they most wished.
There can be enormous positive emotional attachments between spirits, memories, and places.
When you first walk through the space as part of your introductory ritual, listen for that history -- sense those personal stories. Recognize those who have gone before you. Honor their lives and respect their experiences -- this should be the foundation on which your own life story will be overlaid.
You are a new layer -- a palimpsest. In the eye-blink of the present, your breath, your thoughts, your emotions, your energy are scribbled on the walls of the past of all those who have walked here before you.
A Game with the Ghosts
We called this contract -- this ritual, this spell, this game, really -- a penny charm (in that obvious, childlike manner with which such things tend to be named).
The basic gist of a penny charm is that, before you move any of your belongings into the home, you greet the spirits who dwell there, you introduce yourself, explain who you are, how you intend to share the space, how you wish to interact with them, ask for their blessing, and invite them to provide security for you and yours.
If the spirits accept you as a new member of the family and agree to let you reside in their house, they will leave a coin (or coins) on the floor. The coin -- usually a penny -- will appear close to a door or window (sometimes, it may appear on the actual window sill).
You should express your thanks to the spirits and place the penny on the top of the closest door- or window-frame. (The trim around a standard door or window will comfortably hold a small coin, disguising it from view.)
The protection is not literal; it's not only active on a particular door as a physical lock or deadbolt might be; all physical and non-physical pathways into and through the space should be "covered." I have observed that the penny's placement might have something to do with energetic or spiritual -- more than physical -- portals. If you do find multiple coins as a result of the spell, just place them individually, according to the best/closest corresponding door or window.
Or spread them around the house. It's your ritual -- follow your instincts.
The penny acts as a symbolic charm of protection -- the coin itself has no power; it represents the signed contract that the spirits have agreed to provide protection, to the best of their abilities, in the dimensions which they can affect.
Fully expect the penny to (eventually) vanish.
(Shortly after placing it above a door or window, you may remember the charm and check to see if it's still there. At some point, you will forget about it... this is when it ultimately disappears. Then again, months or even years later, the coin may still be there. Who knows? Both situations have happened to me.)
What if you've already been living in your home for some length of time -- can you still do this spell? I've moved around a lot, always as a renter, so I've had plenty of opportunities to do this from Day One. I don't see any reason why you can't or shouldn't perform this spell right now if you wish.
A couple of things I would advise -- if it ain't broke, don't worry about fixing it. I also can't help but wonder how many of you, if you go feeling around the tops of your doors and windows, might discover these kinds of coins or talismans already in place. If you find something there, and you're not experiencing "negative haunting issues," I'd assume the charm is still active -- leave it alone or put it back.
If it makes you feel better, before returning a found coin that you suspect is already an active charm, you could always ask the spirits to amend the contract to include you.
Go ahead and check; I'll wait right here.
...Then I'll tell you what I found around the doors and on the floors of the Daniel House...
Image credit Tim Samoff via Creative Commons on Flickr
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