Smudging 101

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The term “smudging” refers to almost any type of spiritual or energetic cleansing that uses the smoke. The word comes from the indigenous North American tradition of burning dried plant materials to spiritually purify an object, space or person. Smudging is also viewed as a blessing of sorts, giving the gift of purification to a person in need.

Herbs for Smudging

White sage is commonly used and can be found as “smudge sticks” in most new-age supply stores. However, sage isn’t the only cleansing herb available. Braids of sweetgrass, bundles of dried lavender and resins such as copal and frankincense can also be used. Different plants are believed to have different energetic correspondences, so it’s important to know the “energy” of a plant before using it to smudge. For example, lavender is often thought to promote inner peace and harmony. Smudging with lavender could help “clear the air” after personal or group conflict.

How to Smudge

  • Choose your smudging herbs thoughtfully
  • Place a smudge stick or loose leaves in a fireproof vessel that’s safe to handle
  • Light the herbs with a match (if using a smudge stick, light the end), and blow out the flame to produce smoke
  • Take a deep breath and focus on your intentions, for example “I want my home to be peaceful,” or “I want to be cleansed of negative thoughts”
  • Use your hand or a feather to direct the smoke around the space, object or person being smudged
  • When finished, make certain there are no remaining sparks, and place the fireproof vessel in a safe place

Smudging is itself a spiritual ceremony that asks participants to be present in the moment, to allow a moment of communion between themselves and a higher power. Simply waving around a burning wand of sage and expecting the smoke to make things better is missing the point of this sacred act.

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