Weengush, or Sweet grass is used to cleanse the mind, body and spirit. It is considered sacred because it is symbolic of purification. It represents the Northern direction and the body. The elders tell us that scent of these natural herbs is pleasing to the creator and will incline him to hear the ceremony with favor. The smoke is considered distasteful to all evil beings and thwarts their powers. This plant plays an important part in ceremonies of spiritual significance. When Weengush is used in ceremony, each person is to fan the sweet grass smoke, first to their heart, second to their mind, third around their body and lastly, return the smoke to their heart. The prayer said during this process is: "Great Mystery, please cleanse me of my negativity and fill me with the positive energies of love, so that, as I am healed so may I work for the healing of our Earth Mother."
Because it signifies the hair of Nokimis Akiin (Our Grandmother the Earth) it is usually braided. Each of the three sections that go into the braid have a specific meaning, being mind, body and spirit. Because the Anishnaabe people live life in a very sacred manner, when taking something from the Earth, they always explain to the spirit of the plant why it is being done and offer some tobacco in return for the generosity and help of the plant which shared itself so freely.
Many sacred and cultural objects re made with Weengush. The Men’s grass dance outfits are symbolic of the sacred plant. A braid of sweet grass was traditionally tied to the dancers' belts. The colorful yarn or fringe that sways from their regalia symbolizes sweet grass swaying in the wind. Weengush is also used to make coiled baskets, called unity baskets. These Unity baskets are not for sale. It is said that in the old days very small ones kept children's navel cords. Sweet grass is a very powerful herb.
The elders tell us that "Sweet Grass is the hair of our Mother, each strand alone is not as strong as when braided together." The braid represents to us the great strength a united tribe has opposed to a divided one.
Alot of New Age businesses have been harvesting sweet grass for commercial use. They have no respect and they pull it out by the roots and at the wrong times of the year so that the plant cannot grow back. When harvesting medicines, a traditional NDN shows respect by never taking more than 1 /10 of what’s there. Medicine is only taken at certain times of the year and tobacco is always given back in gratitude. No one should buy sweet grass unless they are absolutely sure that the earth hasn’t been "strip-mined" to get it. Collecting medicines is a long complicated process. It mustn't be done haphazardly for commercial profit. Great care must be taken in harvesting by an elder who understands the plant and can develop a relationship with it. This cannot be done as quickly and efficiently as most consumers would like. The roots of a sweet grass plant are very fragile and can be easily uprooted in the harvesting of the grass. There are places in the Northeast where sweet grass can no longer grow because it was not harvested in a good way by hundreds New Agers. If you don’t know for sure that care was taken gathering sweet grass, don’t buy it. The herb should always be treated with respect and dignity. New Age practices such as selling sweet grass Christmas wreaths is sacrilegious. Don't support it.
Think about it. Our sacred Weengush represents the hair of Nokimis Akiin! Do you really want anything to do with hair that’s pulled out from the roots?
We must always remember that the ends don’t justify the means. Some of these New Age seekers are overly concerned about where they can buy sacred objects. They don't understand that the object isn’t sacred. Only sacred plant is addressed in a Native language, by an elder who is entitled to do so, does it become sacred. NDNS and nonNDNS alike need to learn that they must pay attention to the whole process! It must have integrity! The planting, the harvesting, the giving back.