What is smudging?
“Smudging” is a powerful cleansing ritual used by many native traditions around the world. The burning of certain herbs such as sage, sweet grass or cedar has been used for centuries for emotional, psychic, and spiritual purification or as a blessing for a person in need. I have been smudged by shamans and friends, but have also smudged myself, the house, and even the chicken coop to shift energies, cleanse the air, and simply create a space of “new beginnings.”
The healing properties of sage
Because of its effective purifying energies, sage has been considered sacred by many Native American Indians. Sage can not only be used to cleanse your energy during a smudging ritual, but has also many other powerful healing properties.
Sage is a potent antiseptic, antioxidant, an excellent natural disinfectant, . My mother used to hand me a couple leaves of sage at the onset of a sore throat, chewing on them for several hours would most often relieve the sore throat. I love mixing sage into my osha honey and chew on both throughout the winter. You can brew sage tea, make compresses, and make your own healing salve. Maria Treben, a German herbalist, recommends making sage compresses when suffering from throat infection.
How to make your smudging stick
I feel really blessed since all the ingredients grow right outside my door. I have an abundance of wild sage and the wildflowers are going “wild,” so to speak.
To make your own smudging sticks you need
- Wildflowers (make sure those are not protected and/or toxic when being burned)
- Cotton Thread
I usually make anywhere between 10 and 30 smudging sticks during the months of June and July when the sage is growing nice and tall. If you are out in the wilderness to gather what you need, I would suggest you bring what you need to make your smudging sticks right there. The sage and flowers will wilt quickly and makes the process more difficult.
- You want to make a little bouquet of flowers so to speak, arranging the wildflowers in front of your sage
- Take your thread and wrap around the bouquet, starting at the bottom. Slowly move your way up and down the smudging stick, as tightly as you can. The thread will loosen as the sage dries.
- Once you have a nicely held together stick, tie the end of the thread.
Place to dry for at least several weeks, depending on the area you live in. I like putting a couple of drops of frankincense on my dried smudging sticks, a tree resin considered to cleanse and protect the soul.
How to smudge
It is beneficial to have some form of a bowl or container in which you can put the smoking smudging stick without having to worry about possibly causing a fire. I have an abalone shell that was given to me many years ago, but a piece of beautiful pottery serves the purpose as well. You might want to get a smudging feather or make your own smudging fan. The cleansing process does not require a feather, but is surely helpful when cleansing a room or space.
To me smudging has a quality of sacredness, presence, and mindfulness. I make time to be mindful during my smudging ritual, create a space of quiet and intention. It is a kind of healing prayer and I try to hold that space during the ritual.
To do a smudging ritual, you want to light the smudging stick at the top until you get a nice little flame going at which point you want to blow it out so that the smudge stick is smoldering, not burning. I like a candle since it can take a little bit for the stick to develop a nice flame.
If you are doing this ritual by yourself you can place the stick into your bowl and gather the smoke, bringing it to your body, rub your hands in the smoke, and be aware of areas that might need special attention (such as an area of physical injury, your tender hear, or your mind). I like gathering the smoke and guiding it up and over my head, bringing clarity to my thoughts, down around my arms, chest and legs.
If you are doing the ritual with another person, let the other person do the smudging for you. You can start at your feet, slowly moving upwards on your body, paying attention to both, front and back of your body. You might want to ask your partner if there are specific area he/she would like you to pay attention to. Always smudge a person with good intention and blessings in your heart.
If there is an emotion or experience that has been negatively impacting you, visualize the smoke carrying away any anxiety, depression, grief, energetic blockages, negative thought patterns, etc. I have been taught to also offer the healing smoke to the 7 directions – North, South, East, West, Father Sky, Mother Earth and the Great Spirit (or God, universe, consciousness depending on your spiritual tradition). That way I can express gratitude for the gifts given to me and balance the gathering of herbs with giving back healing thoughts to the Mother Nature, Father Sky, and the Great Spirit.
Don’t rush the smudging ritual, let yourself be held and healed by nature.