The ancient use of aromatic plants goes back through traditions found around the world. When burned, these dried plants change their form into various chemicals of carbon, tar, oils and ash that form smoke. Aromatic oils and resins in dried wood, bark, leaves or herbs can provide a pleasant odor while spreading antibacterial elements to purify one’s home. One of the oldest recorded plants used for medicinal and cleansing properties is sage.
A Native American Tradition
The practice of burning incense or herbs to purify sacred space, create positive energy, or remove negative energy goes back beyond recorded history. Burning smoke was often thought to help carry prayers to the Gods, the Great Spirit or to Heaven, depending on which tradition was performing the ritual. Native Americans turned to a variety of sage called Salvia apiana, or white sage, and burned it to cleanse the spirit and purity sacred space. It is still commonly used in sweat lodges and other ceremonies. This practice has been adopted by millions worldwide and is commonly referred to as “smudging”. Bundles of smudge sticks, which can contain white sage, blue sage, lavender, palo santo, cedar and other herbs are commonly sold in health food stores, bookstores, and boutiques.
Smudging is the common name given to the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, a powerful cleansing technique from the Native American tradition using sage and other botanicals. Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred plants to drive away negative energies restoring all back to balance. It is used in almost all Native American ceremonies.
The Power of Smudging
Sage and other herbs used for smudging are considered to affect both our physical body and spirit. Smudging is commonly believed to uplift and purify our spiritual energy and our state of mind, making us more receptive to the work of spirit. This purification process is thought to transform old, stagnate, or negative energy and bring a sense of clarity and renewal to people and their surroundings. Cleansing a space or our bodies clears away residual emotional and psychic energy that may have gathered over time – especially when done with intention. This clearing allows us to start again from a blank canvas and build up the new positive energy.
A South American Tradition
Palo santo, literally means “holy wood” in Spanish. It is a tree that is found widely throughout Central and South America. In a manner similar to sage, palo santo is also used to combat negative energy and to cleanse. The ancient Incans used palo santo. In addition to using palo santo sticks to burn, palo santo essential oil was used by the Incans (rubbed on their bodies) for spiritual purification. This tradition has continued to this day amongst the indigenous people of Ecuador and Peru.
How To Smudge
- smudge stick
- matches or lighter
- a small ceramic bowl or a large shell
- large feather
- Light the end of your smudge stick and let it burn for a while until it starts to smolder. Then blow out the flame so it produces smoke.
- State your intension for the clearing. An example would be, "I wash away all negativity from my body." OR "I cleanse my home and remove all negative energy".
- Use the feather to help guide the smoke. If you are clearing your body, then use the feather to blow smoke over every inch of your body. (Do not forget the bottom of the feet!) If you are clearing your home, wave the smoke into all corners of each room, across doorways, and into shadow spaces.
- To maintain the atmosphere of ritual, keep repeating a mantra in your mind as you feather the smoke. This can be your intention in step 2 or you can create something else. Our favorite mantra for smudging is, "I remove all negative energy and only allow positive energy to enter".
- Once the space is cleared, allow the sage bundle to either burn out.