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Smudging Sage

Sage and other 'smudging' herbs are used in Pagan cleansing rituals. The Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance will host a 'Bless your Ride' event where they will cleanse transportation tools for anyone who wishes to attend.

CARBONDALE — Sunday will provide a unique opportunity in an effort to both contribute to the greater good and to tear down stereotypes as the Southern Illinois Pagan Alliance is hosting a Bless Your Ride event at Giant City State Park.

“We’re not running around in black robes and hats and turning people into frogs,” Eric Shelton, the event’s organizer, said. He was making the point that Pagans are just like everyone else. He also pointed out there are more of them than people might think.

Inspired by the annual Blessing of the Bikes event held at Bald Knob Cross — Shelton said he goes to this whenever he can — he thought it would be a good idea for his group to host something similar.

Paganism isn’t a myopic, singular faith, Shelton said, but more of an umbrella term. At large, he said, the belief system surrounds aligning energy and doing good for oneself and others. However, the practice can be as varied as Wicca and Druidism.

Sunday’s blessing will be ecumenical in this way, Shelton said. Using sage, bells, and drums, he said the group will be “smudging” out negative energy from a whole variety of transportation tools.

“Bring your car, your bike, scooter, tennis shoes. Whatever you use to get around,” he said.

“(We will) do what we can to try and cleanse the negative energy and get some positive energy on you,” he said.

Shelton said smudging is simply a broad way of removing negative energy from something. People do it to everything from houses to small trinkets, he said. However, there’s no specific prayer or deity used in the tradition. As he explained, it is just as personal and varied as Paganism itself.

“It’s just the negative energy you want to get rid of, and it could be however you view negative energy,” he said.

He used the example of road rage. In a moment of passion, you unload on someone cutting you off from the safety of your car’s cabin. This kind of negativity can stick to it, according Shelton, and this is something Sunday’s blessing hopes to alleviate. He said hopefully it can prevent a future blowup on the way to work.

Shelton said Sunday is also an effort on SIPA’s part to have some community outreach. He said while they want to help get rid of bad vibes, they also thought it would be a good opportunity to “meet your local Pagan.”

“There’s more around here than people imagine,” he said of Southern Illinois’ Pagan population.

However, in an effort to tread lightly on what he knows can be a sticky subject for some, Shelton called the organizers of the annual Christian bike blessing event and just let them know what SIPA was doing. He said their reception was one of curiosity.

Bless Your Ride will be held from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at Giant City State Park in Shelter 3. Shelton said the event is free, although donations are always accepted.

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On Twitter: @ismithreports



Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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