Many of us appreciate the benefits of a soothing bath or a vigorous shower to cleanse and refresh our body. Equally as effective but on the psychic energetic level is the practice of ‘smudging’. ‘Smudging’ is the common name given to the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, a powerful cleansing technique from the Native American tradition. However the burning of herbs for emotional, psychic, and spiritual purification is common practice in many religious, healing, and spiritual traditions. It is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place or an object of negative energies or influences. The theory behind smudging is that the smoke attaches itself to negative energy and as it clears it takes the negative energy with it, releasing it into another space to be regenerated. Smudging is very effective when you’ve been feeling depressed, angry, resentful or unwell or after you have had an argument with someone. It is also great to smudge yourself, the space and all the guests or participants before a ritual or ceremony or celebration. You can smudge your home or work space as part of a general spiritual housecleaning and you can cleanse crystals or other objects of any negative energy with a smudging ritual. Any action, undertaken with intention and belief, can become a potent ritual, so consider your intention before you smudge and hold it clearly in your mind.
Fan the swirls of smoke around your body from head to toe. You may want to especially focus on areas where you feel there are blockages or where there has been or is physical, emotional, or psychic pain. Imagine the smoke lifting away all the negative thoughts, emotions and energies that have attached themselves to you. If you are feeling depressed for instance you could visualize the smoke carrying away all your feelings of depression.
It is often appropriate to smudge guests as they enter the space at a ritual, ceremony or special event. Smudge as if you were smudging yourself, fanning the smoke all over their body. You may want to speak an intention or a suggestion for the smudging as you do it. For instance: “Allow this sacred smoke to cleanse your body and spirit and bring you present and available into this moment”
Smudging a room or space
Light the smudge stick and walk about the perimeter, giving special attention to the corners and the places behind doors. You can also fan the smoke throughout the room with a large feather.
During healing work
During healing work the smoke may be fanned over the person either by your hand or with feathers. This clears out unhealthy energies and brings in the special attributes of the herbs. You may also direct smudge to each of the person’s chakras and as you do so, visualize each chakra coming into balance as it is purified by the smudge.
Cleansing crystals or other objects
Hold the objects to be purified in the smoke or fan the smoke over them. If you are clearing your crystals prior to programming them thank both them and the smudge stick for helping you to realize your goals.
Extinguishing the smudge stick
Have ready a fireproof receptacle such as a shell or a glass or ceramic dish to put the smudge stick in when you’ve finished. It’s ideal to damp the stick out in sand, or earth or you can just press it against the bottom of the receptacle. Always make sure that a smudge stick is out before leaving the room where you keep it. Whenever you feel the need to cleanse or purify yourself, a room, an object or another person, you can perform a smudging ritual. Smudging is a Native American ritual used in purification ceremonies to cleanse and balance the aura or energies of people, places and objects.
Types of Herbs to use:
There are two major genii and several varieties of each genus of Sage that are used for smudging. Salvia, or the herb sage used for cooking, comes in two major varieties: S. Officinalis, commonly known as Garden Sage, and S. Apiana, commonly known as White Sage. Salvia varieties have long been acknowledged as healing herbs, reflected in the fact that its genus name comes from the Latin root word *salvare*, which is the verb “to heal” or “to save.” Artemisia is the genus commonly considered “Sagebrush”, and is more common in the wilds out here in California. There are two major varieties to the Artemisia genus: A. Californica, or Common Sagebrush, and A. Vulgaris, or Mugwort. There are many other varieties of both Salvia and Artemisia, and all are effective in smudging. Sage is burned in smudging ceremonies to drive out evil spirits, negative thoughts and feelings, and to keep Gan’n (negative entities) away from areas where ceremonials take place. In the Plains Sweatlodge, the floor of the structure is strewn with sage leaves for the participants to rub on their bodies during the sweat. Sage is also used in keeping sacred objects like pipes or Peyote wands safe from negative influence. In the Sioux nation, the Sacred Pipe is kept in a bundle with sage boughs. I would think special crystals could be so protected this way as well.
True cedar is of the Thuja and Libocedrus genii. Some Junipers (Juniperus genus) are also called “cedar”, thus complicating things some. Some Juniper varieties ARE cleansing herbs, especially J. Monosperma, or Desert White Cedar. But for smudging, the best is Western Red Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and California Incense Cedar (Libocedrus descurrens). Cedar is burnt while praying to the Great Spirit (Usen’, the Source–also known to Plains nations as Wakan Tanka) in meditation, and also to bless a house before moving in as is the tradition in the Northwest and Western Canada. It works both as a purifier and as a way to attract GOOD energy in your direction. It is usually available in herb stores in chipped form, which must be sprinkled over a charcoal in a brazier. I like a piece of char-coaled mesquite for this purpose, rather than the commercial charcoal cake.
Very important to the Sioux and Cherokee nations, its botanical name is Hierochloe- Oderata. In these tribes, the sweet-grass is braided like hair braids. It could be burnt by lighting the end of it, or (more economically) by shaving little bits of it onto charcoal in a brazier. Again, use char-coaled Mesquite (I believe it comes packaged for barbecue use under the brand name “Red Arrow”) to burn it, not pressed charcoal tablets. Sweet-grass is burnt after smudging with sage, to welcome in good influences after the bad had been driven out. Sweet-grass is very rare today, and traditional Plains people have been attempting to protect the last of it. Myself, I believe that Cedar, which is not endangered, can safely be used this way. Also Pinon pine needles (used more frequently by the Southwest Teneh, like the Navajo and Apache as well as the Pueblo people and the Zuni) and Copal (used by the Yaqui and in ancient times by the Aztecs and the Maya) have similar effect. The three mentioned here are readily available either through gathering yourself or, in the case of copal resin, from any good herb shop.
Try this Beautiful Affirmation ~ Prayer
I will welcome Spirit into my life as I move through this week. I will give thanks for the abundance in my life. I will share the harvest of the earth with those I love. I will be open to the guidance of my Angels and Guides. I will sit in silence and appreciate the sacredness of my life. I will smudge with Sage transmuting all negative energy into love and light. And so it is.