Many of us are feeling a sense of loss and despair. Ever since the terrifying bushfires of 2019 we have collectively wrestled with one event after another, testing our resilience and community cohesiveness. We have lost many valued members of our community too soon, while watching the very community we all love seemingly change before our eyes.
Gumbaynggirr man Rob Canning (pictured above) knows loss. But he also knows the power of healing through coming together in ceremony. He is generously offering a smoking ceremony on behalf of the Gumbaynggiirr nation “to smoke and heal the people, animals and the land,” says Rob.
A smoking ceremony is an ancient aboriginal custom in Australia that involves burning various native plants to produce smoke, which has cleansing properties for the soul and the land.
“Traditionally a smoking ceremony is used to ward off bad spirits from the people and the land and make pathways for a brighter future,” says Rob.
Rob, what is involved in a smoking ceremony?
Firstly you have to get the permission of a traditional elder of the land on which you are on. All tribes have different processes and leaves they use. The person doing the smoking ceremony would personally prepare himself by connecting to his ancestors, mother earth, and the animals around him.
A fire would be lit, he would be the first to be smoked and the last, with his choice of leaves on the fire. He would smoke those who needed to be smoked. People who are getting smoked would need the smoke to cover all of their body.
Why have you chosen to conduct this ceremony now?
I am doing a smoking ceremony because I feel guided by my ancestors, and then I have spoken to the community about it they support it 100%,. The community put a strong message to me to do more meaningful gatherings after the Australia Day morning service, so I am going to work with the community and try and do monthly gatherings.
How powerful can a smoking ceremony be for those who participate?
Extremely powerful. It detaches any bad spirits that are connected to you. It can also be used in a house or on piece of land to rid the bad spirits that are hanging around. It is able to produce a deep sense of healing for those who participate.
You have mentioned that this smoking ceremony is for healing those who are grieving. Does this type of ceremony also play a role in the healing process between the traditional landholders and the non indigenous?
The smoking ceremony is just one part in a process of healing when it comes to grieving. Aboriginal people of Australia are all about sharing and caring. If we can teach some of our cultural practices to others to learn, to use it in the right way, it can only benefit and bring the cultures closer to becoming one. With love and respect, we all can heal each other.