Genealogy Part 3 of 3


At last. The reason you had to suffer through Canadian history, geography, The Acadians, The Mi'kmaqs, and my Dad... to be included in a sacred Mi'kmaq ritual...

The "Smudging" Ceremony

When a native Mi'kmaq dies, a "smudging" ceremony is held in their honour. The purpose of the ceremony is to purify family and friends in attendance and give them the opportunity to communicate to the spirits by preparing them for the soul of the deceased. This rite of passage facilitates their transition from the physical to the spiritual world.
Dad's "smudging" was held just prior to his traditional Catholic funeral on a secluded hilltop, overlooking the Atlantic. It was a beautiful. sunny morning. My sister, Barbara (Bobbie) planned the smudging ceremony with the assistance of a native Mi'kmaq spiritual guide, a man named Scott Butt. There were only a handful of us - Bobbie, her good friend Porgie, my brother Vic, his sons Rob & Thomas, my cousins, Donna and Danny, his girlfriend Rhonda, my husband Doug and I.

Scott gathered us together into a circle and explained specifics of the smudging ceremony.
  • Laying a large caribou pelt on the ground, Scott placed a drum, a ceremonial staff and a 'smudge pot'. The smudge pot was made of clay and a mixture of sage, sweet grass and tobacco was set on fire. To The M'ikmaq, these objects are sacred and are only used for smudging ceremonies. Scott then recited a Mi'kmaq prayer to the rhythm of a drum beat.
  • A ritual 'cleansing' with smoke from the smudge pot was performed. Scott approached us individually and held the smoldering smudge pot in front of our faces. We were instructed to gently wave the smoke over our heads, eyes, noses and mouths then over our chest, arms and legs. The ritual would cleanse our spirit and help to remove any obstacles to speaking from the heart truthfully.
  • The ceremonial staff was a carved, length of wood that was about three feet long. Adorned with an eagle's feather and the claw of an owl, Scott told us that staff represented strength (wood), wisdom (owl claw) and communication with the spirits (eagle's feather). The eagle is known in Mi'kmaq culture to carry messages to the beyond.
  • The staff was passed from one person to the next. As one person held the staff, they were to speak the truth about the person who passed away. Whomever was holding the staff and speaking, was not to be interrupted. The staff was then passed to the next person.
  • Each one of us spoke of my Dad, his impact on our lives and what he brought to our world. For me, I found it to be comforting to know that we were introducing him to the spirit world.
The Smudging Ceremony was very powerful and a fitting tribute to my Dad. I recall while holding the ceremonial staff that I was overwhelmed by the parallel between the characteristics of the staff and the traits of my father. Strength, wisdom and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively were just a few of his assets. Not only did the ceremony validate Dad's strengths but it honoured him in a way that was so... him.

The Catholic Church in St. George's, Newfoundland

Genealogy Part 2

Genealogy Part 1

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