My mother wasn’t allowed to play cards as a teenager. Snakes and Ladders had evil connotations (the game’s called Chutes and Ladders these days). Heck, even thinking about sex was considered a mortal sin in Church of Christ PEI — something that was hard for a horny Island teenage boy to handle. There were rules. The world was all explained.

So I should have known better than to mess with the spirits. This week, my smudge went rogue.

An Aboriginal colleague at work recently smudged our office. She is studying with elders the age-old tradition of burning dried buffalo sage to rid a space of negative energy and old trapped spirits. Apparently, my space in the office was a hot spot. So was Dan’s. You can tell by how much smoke comes from the tightly wound bundle of dried sage as it’s carried from room to room.

So I decided to bring the ritual home, to smudge our new house.

Suzy had taken the kids skiing last Sunday, so I had the house to myself for a few hours. I picked up a bunch of smudge sage at the local holistic bookshop and lit it on the stove. As instructed, I carried it around in a bowl — my meditation “singing” bowl, in fact (yes, I have one). There was a lot of smoke. So much, in fact, that I was worried that the smoke detector would go off. So I stamped out the smudge.

That night I awoke at about 3AM to the sound of people running up and down the stairs. Then whining and moaning sounds, and children crying. I opened my eyes and saw a dark shape swirling erratically around the ceiling of my room. A moment after I noticed it, the shape came straight at me and swooshed at my head like it was trying to fly up my nose. Then it was gone. And the wailing and running sounds stopped.

I jumped out of bed, thinking that Simon or Jasper had fallen down the stairs. But they were asleep in their beds. And even Puddy the cat was undisturbed, asleep.

It took me hours to get back to sleep.

The next night, Simon awoke at about the same time in the night, screaming. When Suzy ran to him, he went right back to sleep.

Then, last night, Jasper was unable to get to sleep because he saw “visions” in his room.


Suzy says it’s all coincidence. I’m not so sure. My colleague at work says she checked with her elders; they’d heard of this before. There was something here, in this space, and I had almost let it go. Apparently I shouldn’t have snuffed out the smudge.

So, after school, Simon and I taped up the smoke detectors, and he walked through the house holding my little metal singing meditation bowl with a dried bunch of buffalo sage smoldering in it. We walked in circles in each room and gave thanks for what we have, for who we are, and for those who came before. He loved it. As I watched him, I remembered all those Sundays I’d sipped a bit of wine and eaten a morsel of cracker contemplating the “blood and body of Christ.”

Ritual is important. Belief is subjective. The thing is: I saw something flying around my room the other night.

We’ll see how things go tonight. So far, Suzy’s the only one who hasn’t woken up screaming since the smudge.

I love my wife, but I find it ironic that she may be closer to those in my past whose worldview held that there was evil in an ace.

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