Let’s start with the basics: What is “Smudging?”
What is Smudging? Smudging, or more correctly known as “smoke clearing” or an “incense blessing,” is both a spiritual practice and a general term for such smoky rituals. The word “smudging” has become popularized in recent years but it originally comes from Native American religious practices in the USA. However, using different kinds of aromatic smoke for energy clearing is a global practice in many cultures. Incense has been used since 2345-2494 BC with its first recorded use during the Egyptian Fifth Dynasty.
Depending on location and traditions, these smoky rituals can range from burning a juniper leaf in Scotland or Tibet, to burning a tiny chip of wonderful-smelling wood in a Kōdō appreciation ceremony in Japan. The Roman Catholic Church burn incense to symbolise prayers rising to heaven and the Indian, Hindi and Chinese, Buddhists burn meticulously blended incense sticks to purify and as an offering. Many cultures burn a bundle of herbs or small pieces of fragrant herbs and resins on an open fire, on a charcoal disc in a cauldron. You don’t need to be aligned with a specific religion or culture to still participate in this ancient practice.
Why do we smoke cleanse?
Our physical eyes can’t perceive the invisible toxins and disturbing energies that are hanging around in our home or our physical body, but very often our soul can sense it. Ever been into a home and just felt a bad vibe? That’s your sixth sense telling you something isn’t quite right. Energy can build up in a space much like a gas leak and when opening up the windows isn’t enough then a smoke cleanse is the perfect way to dispel those toxins and bad vibes.
What plants do you use to smudge?
You can use a variety of plants and woods to perform smudging and smoke cleansing ceremonies including White Sage, Yerba Santa, Sweetgrass, Cedar, Palo Santo, and Mugwort. Each has its own unique physical and metaphysical properties:
White Sage is the mother of all smudge bundles. It is renowned for its healing, benevolent energy. The scent calms the mind and purifies the body. Sage smoke is believed to have the power to carry prayers to the heavens, to remove spirits, and cleanse ritual space making it the ultimate demon detergent! The most-used types of sage have proven antimicrobial properties. Burning them to purify the air is a centuries-old tradition which we now realise can actually help keep infectious bacteria, viruses, and fungi at bay. White Prairie Sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) is both antimicrobial and antibacterial while White Sage (Salvia apiana) is also antimicrobial.
Yerba Santa is psychic stuff! It is a sweet and minty herb which is burned to honour ancestors, enhance psychic abilities and bring healing and protection. Keep it around the house simply for its natural crisp scent or light it up in a smudging ceremony.
Sweetgrass is said to be the hair of Mother Earth and is a female medicine. There are 28 strands in a Sweetgrass braid to represent the female cycle. It is calming and soothing. Sweetgrass has a unique vanilla-like scent – one of the most beloved of all Western plants for smudging. Sweetgrass is usually used after other medicines or clearing your space with White Sage. It brings in positive energy to you and your space. It is also known to bring harmony amongst discord in your home. It has a deeply feminine energy, with a soft, sweet scent, perfect for boosting your girl power.
Cedar is a true a medicine of protection, to purify and return balance. Cedar trees are very old, wise and behold powerful forest spirits. Cedar is used to heightening positive energy, to uplift feelings and evoke positive emotions. Cedar is very high in Vitamin C and also makes a great healing tea.
Palo Santo is a sacred wood that has healing properties and is native to the coast of South America. In Spanish, Palo Santo means “holy wood” or wood of the saints. It is a strong medicine that has been popularized for its heavenly presence in keeping energies grounded and clear. The aroma is just incredible, very fresh with hints of mint and citrus, proving to be one of the most fragrant woods. It confers extraordinary blessings to those who use it.
Mugwort is used as incense for magical practices such as spell work or divination and is said to enable connections to the other realms. Also known as Black Sage it has powerful natural antimicrobial properties. Often used to relax the mind and calm the body it has been traditionally burnt in smoke cleansing ceremonies or kept near the bed for protection while you sleep. A must have for any witch, wizard or voodoo priestess.
Your Smudging tools checklist
- Smudge bundle of your choice
- Heatproof dish
- Smudge fan. This can be a feather, bundle of leaves or branches or you can use your hand as a fan to guide the smoke
- Source of fire. You will need to light your plant bundle/ wood so you will need a small gas lighter, matches or a magick fire spell 😉
What is Smudging Step-by-Step Guide: How to Perform your Smudging or Smoke Cleanse Ritual
- Layout all the things you need to perform your smoke cleanse. Your chosen plant bundle/ wood to burn, heatproof bowl, fire source, smoke fan (can be a feather or just be your hand).
- If you are indoors open a window so that the energy (and any excess smoke) can flow away.
- Light the plant-based bundle or the wood and allow it to catch a flame. Once it is burning very gently blow out the flame. It will then begin to smoulder and give off smoke. You may need to relight and repeat this step during your Smoke Cleanse.
- Walk around your space, waft the smoke with your hand (or Smudge Fan) making sure to get into all the nooks and crannies. Take your time to do this and make sure your actions are filled with intentions. Think about the energy you want for the space and imbue that into all of your actions.
- Once you feel you have altered the energy in the way you wished, place the smouldering bundle into your heatproof bowl and allow it to cool. You will find that most will stop smouldering quite quickly.