Smoking ceremony

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Smoking ceremony during Aboriginal Welcome to Country in Townsville, Queensland

A smoking ceremony is an ancient custom among some Aboriginal Australians that involves smouldering various native plants to produce smoke which they believe has cleansing properties and the ability to ward off bad spirits. Smoking ceremonies were traditionally performed following either childbirth or initiation rites involving circumcision.[1] More recently, elements of such ceremonies have been incorporated into Welcome to Country performances.

Research has shown that heating the leaves of Eremophila longifolia (commonly known as the Berrigan emubush or dogwood), one of the plants favoured by Aboriginal people for smoking purposes, produces a smoke with significant antimicrobial effects. These effects are not observed in the leaves prior to heating. Fumigating a newborn infant, a mother who had just given birth or a boy who had just been circumcised would therefore assist in preventing infection. The research appears to support the traditional belief that the smoke could ward off bad spirits.[2]


  1. ^ Flood, Josephine (2006). The original Australians: story of the Aboriginal people. Allen and Unwin. p. 149.
  2. ^ Sadgrove, NJ; Jones, GL; Greatrex, BW. "Isolation and characterisation of (-)-genifuranal: the principal antimicrobial component in traditional smoking applications of Eremophila longifolia (Scrophulariaceae) by Australian aboriginal peoples". J Ethnopharmacol. 154: 758–66. doi:10.1016/j.jep.2014.05.003. PMID 24837304.