A guide for pagan parents, and how to protect our vulnerable family members while protecting our homes.
There’s not much information stated on this often enough to be common knowledge through the pagan or witchcraft communities, the hidden dangers of improper smoke ventilation during the ritual use of incense or potentially caustic herbs is clearly present, and often ignored. There is no form of smoke cleansing of any herb or material that is safe to do around babies and small children, and should be avoided while pregnant if you cannot ventilate your space, as studies have shown how smoke inhalation while pregnant can lead to future respiratory issues for the child, such as asthma and other more severe medical conditions. Always check to see if your potential offerings were chemically treated during their production, or simply are straight up poisonous. Such instances like cedar, while pleasant to smell, can be carcinogenic and easily mistaken for safe materials. There is the food-safe cooking variety of Western Red Cedar, and the highly toxic and not-at-all-safe-to-breathe Eastern Red Cedar.
Ventilation is in itself an important part of smoke cleansing. Even if you’ve done your research and vetted your incense, all materials intended to be burned for ritual usage should be utilized safely. Smoke cleansing rituals are as diverse a practice as they are the rich global cultures they spring from, and anyone can conduct their rituals as they see fit, but there is a general basic formula to the idea. When “cleansing” you clean away a foulness in some form or another, much like taking a bath, and when you are finished with a bath you drain the water to wash the muck away. By not ventilating smoke after a cleansing ritual, you retain that spiritual “muck” alongside with the actual danger of continuously breathing cloying smoke particles, and exposing it to yourself and anyone else who shares your household.
Our furry family are also those we must consider the safety of when conducting smoke rituals indoors. Their small size means they have just as much risk to experience the detriments of smoke inhalation as children, particularly sensitive pets like birds, or dogs who have up to 290 million MORE olfactory receptors than humans, each one dedicated to collecting airborne particles.
If you wish to do cleansing in a safe manner with or around your families, some suggested alternatives, depending on your needs, could be to make an herbal tisane or tincture and sprinkle it around your home, particularly on windows and door frames. Or you can simply hang fresh herbs like mint and basil in doorways to waft pleasantly around your home. Other suggestions I’ve heard are to use sound as a cleansing method instead of smoke or aroma methods, singing bowls are a popular means of accomplishing this, while I personally prefer singing.
Accomplish your spiritual needs while also doing double duty to protect your home with some safe alternatives!
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