Tobacco is the first plant that the Creator gave to the Anishinaabe people. Three other plants: sage, cedar and sweetgrass are held sacred by the people. Together they are referred to as the four sacred medicines (Muskiiki). The four sacred medicines are used in everyday life and in all of our ceremonies. All of them can be used to smudge with, though sage, cedar and sweetgrass also have many other uses. It is said that tobacco sits in the eastern door, sweetgrass in the southern door, sage in the west and cedar in the north. Elders say that the spirits like the aroma produced when the other sacred medicines are burned.
Sacred tobacco was given to the Anishinaabe so that we can communicate with the Spirit world. Tobacco is always offered before picking other medicines. When you offer tobacco to a plant and explain your reasons for being there, the plant will let all the plants in the area know your intentions and why you are picking them. Tobacco is used as an offering, a gift, and is an important part of Anishinaabe ceremonies.
Sage is used to prepare our people for ceremonies and teachings. Because it is more medicinal and stronger than sweetgrass, sage is used more often in ceremonies. Sage is used for releasing what is troubling the mind and for removing negative energy. It is also used for cleansing homes and sacred bundles carried by people. It also has other medicinal uses.
Sweetgrass is the sacred hair of Mother Earth. Its sweet aroma reminds our people of the gentleness, love and kindness she has for the people. When sweetgrass is used in a healing circle it has a calming effect. Like sage and cedar, sweetgrass is used for smudging and purification.
Like Sage and Sweet grass, cedar is used to purify the home, it also has many restorative medicinal use. When mixed with sage for a tea, it cleans the body of all infections, cedar baths are also very healing. When cedar mixed with tobacco is put in the fire it crackles, this is said to call the attention of the Spirits (manitous) to the offering that is being made. Cedar is used in sweat lodge and fasting ceremonies for protection, cedar branches cover the floor of many sweat lodges and some people make a circle of cedar when they are fasting. It is a guardian spirit and chases away the bad spirits.
The above information was originally produced for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Children's Christmas Dreams calendar. The calendar is produced annually as a way to raise money for children's Christmas gifts for needy children in our community.