Smudging is a sacred tradition that has its roots in the indigenous cultures throughout the world. It has been passed down via the ancestors and many variations on the tradition exist. However the common thread is that, the smoke from sacred herbs can be used for purification and spiritual preparation.
Smudging is used to clear and ground ourselves and purify our intentions before and after healing, initiation and ritual.
The smoke helps purify our ritual tools and other sacred objects.
Smudging is used to clear rooms and create sacred space.
The herbs can also be burned to give thanks and to aid us in our prayers.
There are many ways to actually perform a smudging.
One ancient way is to start by drawing on the power of the five elements, by burning your smudging herbs in a shell. The abalone shell is considered to represent Water, the power of emotion and change. The sacred herb is seen as a gift of Earth Mother and represents her creativity and strength. The lighting of the herb evokes the element of Fire and the smoke that rises from the burning herbs represents Air, carrying and releasing our cleared intentions and prayers. Through our deliberate thoughts and actions, we ourselves bring the fifth element: ether, spirit or life energy,
The offered the smoke to the seven directions: east, south, west, north and up, down and center.
Returning to center it is time to purify ourself. Start by holding the shell in front of you and gently fan the smoke up to your heart. Pass the shell up along the center of your body, encircling your head. Be aware of how you feel through out this process. Are there places that you feel a desire to clear and honour? It is important to follow your own inner guidance in this.
To cleanse ritual items, passing them through the smoke, in a spiraling or a figure eight motion can clear any residual energy Both are sacred symbolic movements: a spiral represents an ever expanding and focusing energy; a figure eight on its side is the symbol of infinity.
Sacred spaces are created by passing the smoke around the perimeter of the room, moving sunwise (deosil) the directoion of the movement of the sun throughout the sky (please note this differs from northern to southern hemisphere)
As with all Pagan practices - this is only one of the ways that you may perform a smudging. As always trust your inner feelings and allow yourself to create what is sacred and meaningful to you.
There are many herbs and resins used for smudging.
The most common herb used today is sage, but sweetgrass, cedar and juniper are also popular. Resins like copal, frankincense and myrrh are also used in a slightly different manner.
Of the over 200 types of sage, there are only a few generally used for smudge. The most common types of sage in magic are culinary sage, white sage, desert sage, clary sage, and diviner's sage. With so many types of sage, it is usually best to buy based on the scientific name. This is listed in italics after the most common name.
Also known as: Garden Sage, Kitchen Sage, Common Sage
This is the type of sage you will find in most grocery stores. It is sometimes used in essential oils, but clary sage is more common for this use. Culinary sage is an acceptable substitute when other types are not available.
Also known as: Bee Sage, Sacred Sage
White sage is considered sacred by many Native Americans. It is used to cleanse a person or space of negative energies. White Sage may be bundled into a wand or stick, or burned loose. Many Native American tribes still use the stems and leaves as smudge during purification ceremonies. The practice has been adopted by many Pagans for their own spiritual uses. Most traditions consider Sage to be a masculine, God oriented Energy.White Sage (Salvia apiana) This sage is used just like desert sage, but many people prefer White Sage because of the sweeter aroma it gives off.
Also known as: Desert Indigo Sage, Arizona Sage
This is commonly used as a substitute for White sage. It is most commony bought in bound bundles, unlike White Sage which is frequently sold loose. The longer stems and smaller leaves of Desert Sage make the bundling process easier.Desert Sage (Artemesia tridentata). This plant will drive out negative energies, spirits and influences. Use this as a smudge to purify people and places before any sacred ceremony.
Also known as: clary
This is most often used in perfumes and essential oils. It is grown mostly in Western Europe.
(Salvia Divinorum [previously Saliva Spendens])
Also known as: Ska Pastora, Shepherdess's Herb, ska Maria Pastora, yerba de Maria, Salvia
Isolated groups of shamans in Mexico are said to use this to induce a visionary state. It is also used to alter consciousness during spiritual healing. Diviner's Sage is generally smokes or chews the leaf to achieve this effect. contains Salvinorin A, a psychoactive chemical that appears to be unique to this plant. While it remains legal in most countries and the majority of the United States, its effects have not yet been accurately studied.
(please check local laws in relation to Salvia as many countries have recently added this to the restricted plants listing. These laws criminalize Diviner's Sage, and many state laws regarding inhalant abuse can apply this as well. This is one of the few herbs whose use I do NOT recommend. If you do decide to use it, do so only under the supervision of an experienced shaman, and only with pure spiritual intent).
Other Herbs for Smudging
Also known as sweet grass, buffalo grass, bison grass, holy grass (UK), manna grass, Mary’s grass, seneca grass, vanilla grass)
Sweetgrass, like white sage, is widely used by Native Americans. Sweetgrass leaves are often dried and made into braids for storage and/or sale. Sweetgrass is used most often in peace and healing rituals. Many find it to be a useful aid for entering a meditative state. Sweetgrass is a more feminine, Goddess oriented Energy.Sweetgrass (Hierochole odarata) This is one of the most sacred herbs used for smudging. This herb is used to bring positive energy in after negative energies are banished by using sage.
(Lavandula angustifolia, [also Lavandula spica, Lavandula vera; previously Lavandula officinalis])
Also known as: common lavender, true lavender, English lavender
Lavender is used for dozens of different purposes. Besides being used in food products and in essential oils, it is also a claming addition to smudge. Lavender should not, however, be used by itself for this purpose.Lavender (Lavandula officianalis) This herb will restore balance and create a peaceful atmosphere. It will also draws loving energy and spirits.
(Calocedrus decurrens [also Libocedrus decurrens)
Also known as: Incense Cedar, California Incense Cedar
Flat cedar is used in much the same way that White Sage and Sweetgrass are, and for many of the same reasons. Unlike Sage and Sweetgrass, rather than just purifying, also attract positive energy.
Also known as: Alpine Juniper, Coommon Junip[er, Gin Berry
Although better known for the medicinal and sacred properties of its berries, juniper branches and/or leaves may occasionally be added to purifying adn cleansing herb blends.
Juniper (Juniperus ssp.) This herb is also used to purify and to create a safe and sacred space. Juniper was often carried in a medicine pouch or a pocket for protection.
Also known as: Moxa, Traveler's Herb, Artemis Herb, Felon Herb, Muggons, Old Man, Sailor's Tobacco.
Mugwort (Atemesia vulgarus) This herb can used to stimulate psychic awareness and prophetic dreams. The Lakota also believe that when Mugwort is burned it "makes the bad spirits sick", and they move away from it.
Also known as: Mountain Balm, Bear's Weed, Gum Plant, Consumptive Weed, and Sacred Herb.
Yerba Santa (Eriodictyon californicus) This herb can be used to purify and to set and protect boundaries. The name of this plant reflects it's nature. Yerba Santa means sacred herb.Yerba Santa has many uses medicinally. Burn it to nurture and protect that which is ancient, sacred and wild within yourself. Use it when you need encouragement or courage.
Also known as: Liquorice root, Porter's lovage, Porter's licorice-root, lovage, wild lovage, Porter's wild lovage, loveroot, Porter's ligusticum
Osha (Ligusticum porteri) The root of this plant can be burned as an incense or carried for good luck and protection from bad influences. Osha is also a preferred gift for Native American elders.
Resins:Copal Frankincense Myrrh
All three of these resins have been used for purification in Native American (Copal) or Indo-European (Frankincense and Myrrh) Tradition.
Unlike fresh or dried herbs, resins require charcoal or and existing fire to burn properly.
Copal (Bereseru microphylla) This resin was used by the Mayans as a food for the Gods. They believe that as the smoke of the Copal would rise, it would carry their prayers to the ears of the Gods. Copal is used in divination and in purification ceremonies. Copal is the Frankincense of the Western Hemisphere. Some smudge sticks will have a copal powder mixed into the center or them.
Smudging is a good way to cleanse a sacred space, ritual tools, homes and people. Traditionally smudge sticks are made of sweetgrass or sage for these purposes.
Smudge sticks are available commercially, and are fairly inexpensive, however it's easy to make your own if you've got herbs growing in your garden, or if there's a place nearby where you can go 'wildcrafting' and by creating the sticks yourself, you can be sure the herbs have not been sprayed with chemicals or hold negative residue from handling during production.
You will need:
WARNING!! Safety tip: Some plants may have toxic fumes. Do not burn a plant unless you know it is safe to do so.
Important Notes to consider: