Smudging, or the ritual art of burning herbs, resins, and incense for cleansing, healing, creating sacred space, and other spiritual purposes, is common to many cultures of the world and across ages of time. Druids considered sage a sacred herb and burned it, along with oak moss, for medicinal purposes. Native Americans burn sage, cedar, tobacco, and other natural substances in order to placate spirits or bestow blessings. The Babylonians made extensive use of incense during prayers or while divining oracles. Hindus and Buddhists burn incense and herbs in their rituals and festivals. Incense, in the form of frankincense and myrrh, was presented to the infant Jesus by the three astrologers from the East. Modern pagans use sage, Palo Santo wood, sweetgrass, and other herbs for smudging to rid houses of sickness and negative energy or spirits.
Traditionally, white sage is used to drive out evil spirits or negative thoughts and feelings. Other substances used are cedar for purification; sweetgrass for blessing and goodness; lavender for restoration of balance; mugwort for psychic awareness; white copol for cleansing; and tobacco for connection to Spirit.
Smudging is effective for house blessings, depression, anger and resentment, arguments, and illness. The space or the person can be smudged, as needed, as well as objects such as crystals, altars, sacred texts, or any other spiritual item. Why smudging, though? Or, really, why SMOKE? The smoke is representative of the air elemental, which symbolizes communication, inspiration, and connection to Spirit. The smoke not only symbolizes the sacredness of the person or occasion (a house blessing, for example), but also carries their prayers up to Spirit. The smoke attaches itself to negative energy and takes the negative energy with it as it rises, releasing it into another space to be regenerated (Science class taught us that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so it has to go somewhere…). Other components of smudging represent the basic elements:
- A shell, representative of the element of Water. Most folks these days use an abalone shell, and you certainly want one large enough to hold your herbs/resins/incense, plus some sand, salt, or earth for heat dispersal. Always burn on a safe surface! If you don’t have a shell, any suitably heat-safe container will do, a chalice of your choosing, if you will.
- Unlit herbs, incense, or resin, representative of the element of Earth. These can be obtained online, in local shops, your kitchen, or in nature around you.
- Fire, representative of the element of, well, Fire. Remember to burn safely and with all needed supervision. I prefer to use a candle flame for smudging.
- Smoke, representative of the element of Air, from the lit smudging materials.
- Once lit, the elements are transmuted to the fifth element: life energy. No, this has naught to do with Leeloo’s Multipass.
- The Smudging and Blessings Book: Inspirational Rituals to Cleanse and Heal
- Smudge Kit-CALM bundle
- Sage Smudge Stick Kit
- Palo Santo Incense Sticks
- Smudging feather
- Premium Abalone Shell with Natural Wooden Tripod Stand
Before you begin, make sure the area is well ventilated. Open doors and windows if possible. Not only does the negative energy need a place to go, but this also ensures that everyone present can continue to breathe freely and enjoy optimal after-smudging survival. NEVER leave burning smudge materials unattended, for any reason. Remove any unnecessary clutter from the area, and it’s a good idea to vacuum and dust. Meditate and focus on your intention. Gather all of your materials. When choosing smudge materials, it’s helpful to be mindful of who else will be at the smudging. Some people are sensitive or allergic to sage, cedar, and other materials. Always have a fireproof container and fire extinguisher handy for emergencies. And, as my Mama would say, “Y’all act like you’ve got good sense!”
Once you’re ready to begin, bring your focus back to your intention, holding it firmly in your mind. Be as clear and specific as you can. You may want to invite any helpful Spirits for guidance. Ready to light up? It’s easier to light your smudge materials from a candle flame, as it’s stronger and steadier than using a lighter. Once there’s a good flame (no need for conflagration), wave the flame with a feather or your hand to put it out; it’s the smoke you’re after here. While the herbs smolder, keep your intention focused in your mind, and allow the smoke to circle in the air. Concentrate on corners and behind doors, where negative energy tends to collect. Envision the smoke lifting away the negativity, sickness, or psychic pain. You can speak affirmations and blessings as desired, simple or complex, such as, “I release all negative energy from this space. May it now be filled with peace, love, and light.” If you are working in a space with stairs, work upstairs, then down, directing the smoke towards the open doors. Don’t forget to smudge the stairs!
Once you’re done, tamp out the unburned smudge material in sand or soil. Always make sure the material is extinguished COMPLETELY before leaving the space. Let all of the smoke dissipate from the space and close any doors or windows. If you have any unburned smudging material left, don’t throw it out; save it to use for the next smudging!
With few necessary supplies, smudging can be carried out quickly and effectively, at any time, and without special training or dogma. You can even invite a friend along to help if you want. You can smudge any time you like, just to lift your mood, or for needed occasions, such as a home blessing, illness, full moon, new job, or after a breakup or argument. Smudging your space helps bring feelings of peace, joy, safety, positivity, creativity, rest, light, and balance.
Note: If you are sensitive to smoke or need to smudge a smoke-free area (like your office cubicle), try making a smudge mist using spring water and a few drops of organic sage essential oil. Shake it well and use it as you would the smoking plant.