Smudging is one of my favorite ways to cleanse my space and my being, so I thought I'd break this ritual down to a few simple tips today on my blog. You might have heard the word "smudging" used and you may have seen what looks like dried leaves tied together with string in WholeFoods or your local apothecary. If you have, and you've wondered what that's all about, read on. Smudging is the term for clearing lingering energy (of a space or a person) by burning various healing herbs. The idea of purification by smoke can be traced back to Native Americans, though many cultures around the world have rituals using herbal smoke mixtures, including some from China, India, Southeast Asia, and Europe.
Benefits of smudging:
Smudging has been known to cleanse or purify energy, whether it is that of a person or a space. Essentially, it does the same thing for the person or space that hitting "reset" would do for your cell phone. Native people believed the smoke ascends to the heavens, or the world of spirits, acting as a spiritual messenger. For those of you who like a dash of solid science with your woo woo, I recently saw this article citing studies on how smudging cleanses the air of harmful bacteria and can be medicinal.
Ideas for when to smudge:
- Ending a job and preparing for a new job
- Ending a relationship
- Returning from travel
- To cleanse and bless a space/house/apartment/office you are about to move into (and even the space you've just moved out of, to prepare it for the next person.)
- After an emotionally difficult day, an argument, etc
- After a therapy/healing session (whether you're the healer or the client.)
- To mark an occasion or crossing a threshold (New Years, birthday, a birth, a death)
- Celebrating seasons (solstices and equinoxes) and other earth cycles (full moon, new moon)
- When you want to feel more centered or protected
Simple smudging tools: (You can purchase these tools via the Amazon affiliate links in text below.)
- Smudge stick - Bundle of dried, cleansing herbs of your choice. You can also create a bowl of the loose leaves, though when they are bound together with a colorful string, they are much easier to use. (earth element)
- Large feather - Used for wafting the cleansing smoke around the person or space to be purified. Use the underside of the feather when moving smoke around, as the underside of the bird's wing is what faces mother Earth when flying. (air element)
- Abalone shell - Used to catch ashes that fall and also to tamp out the flame or smoldering embers. Some shells even come with a great little wooden stand. (The shell represents water element, though one can also use a small ceramic or stone bowl for the same purposes.)
- Lighter/Matches/Candle - Used to ignite the herbs (fire element)
How to smudge:
You will simply light the bundle of herbs, then tamp the flame so the dry leaves are just smoldering. The smoke is what you want to use here to clear the air. You can wave it around yourself or in the corners of the room with your hand or more traditionally with a feather. When doing this, you can set an intention to cleanse away anything that is not yours and is not serving your greatest good (or any verbiage that makes sense for you.) If you have smoke alarms in your space, keep your window open while smudging. For you visual types, here's a short Vimeo video by herbalist Maia Toll showing you how to smudge with a bundle of sage.
Guide to common smudging herbs:
- Sage: Used to heal and bless. Drives away negative energies, old patterns, influences that do not serve your greatest good. This is a great herb to burn on the full moon, when we enter the period of waning and shedding. I wrote a blog post about rituals for moon phases with more on this piece at this link.
- Cedar: Used for protection. This is a wonderful one to use when moving into a new home, apartment, or office.
- Mugwort: Used for protection, well-being, and endurance. It is said to be "the traveler's friend." It is also helpful for tapping into your dream world or bringing about lucid dream states.
- Lavender: Calls in spirit guides and is said to guard against negative spirits, and was used in Egypt for mummification.
- Sweetgrass: Attracts positive energy after negative energy has been banished, and invites in the essence of the feminine. (Wonderful for new moon rituals.)
- Palo Santo: Calls in new, manifesting energies (Also great to use during the new moon) The sticks of this tree are the part that is usually burned, though you can also find bundles of its leaves at times.
If you'd like to learn more about the ritual of smudging, google has so so so many links for you to peruse. Happy cleansing!