Reaching Into the Universe

Four ways to use tobacco shamanically

MapachosMy perspectives on tobacco have shifted radically since my "Just Say No" upbringing. Tobacco is no longer a scary threat in my world but instead a powerful helper I am only beginning to understand and work with.

Here are some of the ways tobacco is used in the forms of shamanism I've had experience with:

  1. Offering
    Tobacco can be thought of the spiritual version of Popeye's spinach. It is like a nourishing food for energy. For this reason, it is left as an offering to trees and plants, or placed on altars for ancestors and spirits. It strengthens whatever it is fed or dedicated to.
  2. Protecting and cleansing
    In the same way that it strengthens spirits, it can strengthen energies of protection. It can help define and protect a sacred space by blowing tobacco smoke in a circle around the room before ceremony. It is used at the end of ayahuasca ceremonies to cleanse each participant and close the ceremony. It's also used on its own for cleansings called limpias.
  3. Empowering prayer and intention
    Tobacco is said to be a very strong carrier of intention. It's used to make the energies of one's prayers stronger, and to carry the prayers out on its smoke. In particular, I'm familiar with two ways to pray with tobacco, a smoking method and a non-smoking method.
  4. Purging illness
    Tobacco is sometimes added to ayahuasca during the brewing process, which can make the medicine more purgative. Smoking mapacho during ceremony can help make a difficult purge easier. In general, discomfort and illness can often be addressed with it.
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