Four Sacred Medicines - 'Muskiiki'
Tobacco is the first medicine given from the Creator. It is in the East and represents the promise that the Creator is always willing to listen. Yellow is the colour, spring is the season and childhood is the stage of life.
Tobacco is the first plant that the Creator gave to the Anishinabe 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 Anishinabe 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 Anishinabe ceremonies.
Sweetgrass is in the South and connected to Mother Earth. It has a shiny and beautiful side as well as a plain side, representative of youth. When sweetgrass is braided, it cannot be pulled apart. Likewise when your body, mind and spirit are solidly connected, you will be full and strong in your personal life. Red is the colour, summer is the season and youth is the stage of life.
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.
Sage is in the West. As we move into the adult stage of our lives, we always exit through the West and sage assists in that journey. The smell of sage is intended to attract the spirits’ attention. Black is the colour, fall is the season and adulthood is the stage of life.
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.
Cedar is placed in the North. While Mother Earth sleeps, cedar stays green, symbolizing that Mother Earth still watches over and protects us. White is the colour, winter is the season and Elderly is the stage of life.
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.