Smudging, an Herbal Remedy for the Spirit

Smudging is the ancient practice of burning aromatic herbs to produce a smoke that many believe has spiritually healing and cleansing properties.  In one form or another smudging has been a part of most religious traditions of the world since their beginning.

Many people are familiar with incense and candles being used during certain church ceremonies, and also have at least a vague recognition of the shamanic healers of Native American and other indigenous cultures burning herbs during spiritual ceremonies. But even apart from these formal religious and spiritual contexts, almost everyone has used decorative and fragrant candles or various forms of incense in their own homes at one time or another.

A group of candles around the bathtub or at the dinner table creates an instant relaxing mood in the room.  A simmering pot of apple and cinnamon potpourri communicates comfort and welcome to anyone crossing your threshold.  Pine scented candles burned during the winter holidays creates an instant festive atmosphere.

Smudging is simply an extension of these familiar practices, one that adds an intentional spiritual dimension, all within the protective walls of your own home instead of in a church or other group spiritual gathering.

Instead of an herbal remedy for the body, smudging can be thought of as an herbal remedy for the spirit.

As Jane Alexander, author of The Smudging & Blessings Book, writes, “Homes and bodies are not just made of purely physical matter; they also vibrate with quiet, invisible energy.  Cleansing a space or our bodies with techniques such as smudging clears away all the emotional and psychic ‘garbage’ that may have gathered over the years…”

How to make a Sage smudge stick

Sage smudging is said to banish negative energy, clear the mind, assist in healing, and carry your prayers to the Great Spirit.  Many varieties of Sage are used in smudge sticks, but common garden sage (culinary sage) works just as well as any of them, as does most any aromatic herb.

To make a smudge stick you will need cotton string and stalks of fresh garden sage cut to approximately equal height. Hold the stalks together in a bunch and begin wrapping them together from the top down with the string.  Wrap very tightly, as when the herb dries it will shrink and the string will become looser.  When you get to the bottom, tie off the end of the string and then hang the bundle upside down in a dry airy place in your home.

How to use your smudge stick

After the bundle has dried (usually several weeks) you can then use it for smudging.  To do so, light the end of the bundle and then blow out the flame so it produces smoke.  Move the stick so as to let the smoke flow over around that which you wish to clear of negative energy… a room, yourself, a loved one.   

Breathe it.  Feel it.  Be intentional.  Verbalize your purpose for the smudging. This ritual is most effective when you are in a quiet, reverent, and/or prayerful state.

When you are done, extinquish the smoldering stick in water or sand.

Buying smudge sticks

If you do not have access to fresh growing sage, you can also buy pre-made smudge sticks.  They are often available from health food stores or other specialty shops that carry candles or incense.  There are also many online resources.

I hope you will get a chance to experience the spiritually healing properties of Sage.  In my next post I want to tell you about a common weed from your yard that you can use to create a wonderfully healing ointment.  More on that next week.

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