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Jagdhausalmen Alpine Pastures, Defereggen, East Tirol, Austria, Europe

Magical Christmastide – with “Smoke Nights” and other wonderful rituals

Updated on 20.12.2017 in Arts & Culture, Photos: Marlena König

Plaats: St.Johann i.T.
Plaats: St.Johann i.T.

The seemingly impossible becomes possible during the nights from 24th December to 5th January. All you have to do is perform a few rituals, and truly believe in their effectiveness.

“Smoke Nights”

A centuries old tradition in Tirol, it was intended to soothe the angst-ridden souls of a hugely superstitious folk. The gateway to the “Other World” is said to be open particularly wide during “Smoke Nights”, granting access to all kinds of dark forces. Every effort was made, therefore, to prevent misfortune from knocking on the door in the first place. Superstition lurked in every corner, not even laundry was left on the clothesline overnight, as people believed evil spirits would get “caught” in the sheets. It was also quite common to urinate in front of stable doors, to keep phantoms at bay. People used to dip their quills in blood to write during this dark period. They hung bundles of mugwort, a local herb said to protect against disaster, upside down above stable doors to banish dark presences. And of course they “smoked out” every room, outhouse and stable, sometimes right up to the property boundaries with a burning mixture of herbs and incense. This was standard behaviour and considered to be quite normal only one hundred years ago.

“Smoke Nights” today

Shaman, natural healer and herbal medicine expert, Gudrun Kofler from Silz, finds it a shame that people now seldom practise this tradition of “smoking”. And the few that do, often use pungent incense from the Orient. “Many local herbs with enormous cleansing and purification powers grow all around us,” says Gudrun. “The act of cleansing negative energy and purifying living spaces is very important (e. g. to clear the air after an argument), as bad energies often linger. People know instinctively when a room or place feels uncomfortable, but often cannot pinpoint the exact reason. We all have the power to do something very effective about this – by “smoking” (burning dried herbs and resins).”

Gudrun, who lives in a 200-year old farmhouse, tells me how she felt when she first entered this old building. „I felt so uncomfortable, I wanted to leave right away! It was obvious to me that many people had come and gone over the years, leaving a residual sense of suffering, quarrels and possibly deceit. I had to get rid of it all!” I can feel for myself that she has succeeded in eliminating this negative energy. Sitting in her Energy Healing Center named “Freya“, which is located within these walls, I feel extremely well. My interest is piqued and I want to know all about the ancient tradition of smoking. And which herbs are used for it.

Many powerful herbs grow in Tirol

Many common herbs are suitable. If you missed out on harvesting your own herbs in the summer, or are unfamiliar with herbalism, you can purchase chopped, cut or powdered botanicals over the counter. Gudrun has given me a few examples of effective domestic herbs, although there are many others to choose from.

Angelica Root: is effective in combatting fear and anxiety
Mugwort: has antiseptic properties, combats fear and anxiety, aids new beginnings and prevents bad fortune in general
Verbena: aids happiness, mental clarity, creativity, helps you remember dreams
Spruce resin:  has the ability to cleanse the surrounding air of harmful bacteria, dark thoughts and any unwanted energies or emotions such as jealousy and envy. Burn this if you move into a new home!
Lavender: has antiseptic properties and is burned for cleansing, purification, protection, relaxation, and mental clarity.
Rosemary: used to sweep negative energies from your home and stimulate enthusiasm, creativity, and mental clarity
White sage: has bacteria-killing and strong cleansing properties – especially good for removing old memories, brings peace and harmony, helps one to breathe deeply
Juniper: burn this to keep unwanted influences away from your home and property. Protects you and your home from evil forces and attracts good, healthy energies.



Angelica RootAngelica Root

And this is how it is done

Gudrun says: “Preparation is important. We should be aware that, despite all our good intentions, we also have the power to awake dark energies within the spiritual world! You should prepare the space for ceremony and incorporate the use of various aids that will strengthen the outcome of your undertaking. Such aids can be things we associate with the four elements, also known to have purifying effects. You could, for example, place a bowl of salt in the room for a few days and then dispose of it outside the property boundaries, as a sign of completing the ritual. Alternatively, you can use a jug of water or a burning candle. Rely on your intuition here and use what feels best”. “Smoking” symbolizes the fourth element of air.

There are many vessels in which you can place this burning mixture. You won’t need any at all, however, with a “sage stick”.There are many vessels in which you can place this burning mixture. You won’t need any at all, however, with a “sage stick”.

As one can imagine, there are also many methods of “smoking”. “I place a piece of charcoal in a fire-proof bowl filled with sand and light it. When the charcoal has turned white, I place a mixture of the herbs and resins on the coal and it begins to smoke. I then walk from room to room in an anti-clockwise direction, allowing the smoke to waft freely. Windows should be kept closed. Corners are particularly important, as they tend to accumulate stagnant energy! Once the smoke has filled every room, I open the windows and give the room a good air. You can actually see the smoke leaving and removing negative energy from your life and home”.

When the charcoal has turned white, add a small amount of the herb-resin mixture. Tiny spoons can be purchased for this very purpose.When the charcoal has turned white, add a small amount of the herb-resin mixture. Tiny spoons can be purchased for this very purpose.

The cleansing effects are immediately noticeable on an emotional level. This cleansing procedure can be safeguarded by “smoking” again with a fragrant herbal mixture, walking this time in a clockwise direction. Windows should be kept closed afterwards so the harmony produced remains in the room.  You can use this time to think of your own wishes, the good that will come, of beautiful things. You could even trace the shape of a recumbent „eight“ with the incense burner, as this figure has a particularly strong protective quality.

This ritual is not only confined to the traditional “smoke nights”, it can be repeated whenever you feel the need and is especially important when moving into a new home.

Dream Diary

The dreams we dream on “smoke nights” are often messages from above. They can provide clues as to what the next year may bring. Be sure to write them down! You may want to put a pen and paper next to your bed so you can jot them down straight away, as these dreams are often fleeting and easily forgotten. What you dream on the first “smoke night” from the 24th to 25th December is said to signify what will happen in the January of the following year, the second from 25th to 26th December dictates February’s happenings, and so on. It is exciting to interpret dreams and, with a little practice, you will know what message one’s Higher Self is trying to convey. These messages are incredibly valuable, because the Higher Self is never wrong.

The really interesting part happens a year later. Which dreams delivered truly relevant messages?The really interesting part happens a year later. Which dreams delivered truly relevant messages?


A specific topic can be dealt with especially well on every “smoke night”. If there is a topic that is of particular importance to you, meditation, rituals or specific wording can help one come to terms with oneself.

The diverse themes are…

24th/25th Setting the tone for the magical time
25th/26th Inner voice and guidance, one’s Higher Self
26th/27th Opening of the heart, allowing miracles to happen
27th/28th Release of blocked energy flows
28th/29th Friendship, solidarity, family
29th/30th Cleansing, release
30th/31st Letting go of old and stressful things, preparing for the new
31st/1st A new year of life begins
1st/2nd Blessings, wisdom
2nd/3rd Saying goodbye to stubborn, old routines, preparing for the new
3rd/4th Cleansing, transformation
4th/5th Rebirth, celebration, new beginnings
5th/6th Wishes for the New Year

Look into your inner being… Yoga is perfect for thisLook into your inner being… Yoga is perfect for this

Wish List

“Smoke nights” are the time to manifest your heart’s desires! These should be addressed sooner rather than later. The door to your higher being is open, you could even call it a direct connection. There is a nice ritual associated with this, one I practiced myself last year.

It is a way of coming closer to the realisation of your dreams.

I write a personal request on small pieces of paper. I phrase them in a positive manner – as if my wish had already been fulfilled. One for every “smoke night”, in other words, 12 small pieces of paper, which I scrunch together and put in a glass. A 13th wish is then written on another piece of paper and added to the others. I then shake them all up thoroughly.

From the 24.12 onwards, I pull one of the slips of paper out, just like an Advent calendar. I don’t look at what is on the note, but give it to one of the four elements. I actually threw mine in the Inn River during my daily walks. But you could equally burn or bury them. I think simply throwing them away works too – what matters is that you believe in what you are doing, not necessarily how you do it.

Then we get to the most interesting part: one of the slips of paper is left over after the final “smoke night”. What should we do with it? Open and read it. Because this is the wish for whose fulfilment I am responsible – the others will be taken care of by the universe…

Be your own lucky fairy for the coming year!Be your own lucky fairy for the coming year!

I wish you a wonderful Christmas with many magical moments.

And may all your wishes come true.

A brave mum to two wild boys, Julia König explores the great outdoors with her family in tow. She is always ready to attempt new challenges and explore new places, providing inspiration, tips and reviews for families.

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