When my daughter Ciel was just four or five years old, we lived in a little, decrepit cottage backed up into a hillside. Ciel slept in the room in the back of the house, but during our first night there she woke up crying from nightmares.
“I’m scared in here!” she wailed. “I don’t want to sleep here.”
I rocked and cuddled her for a while, and she soon calmed down. But she still insisted that she did not want to sleep in her new room.
“It’s okay,” I reassured her. “We can smudge the room before bed and invite in your guardian angel.”
That night I lit some white sage. With a feather I blew the pungent smoke through each nook and cranny of that cold room. At her bidding, I opened the closet passed the purifying smoke through the inside of it. As I blew the smoke around, I sang a song to chase away any unpleasant spirits who may have lived there in the past, and to welcome all that was healing, hopeful and positive.
My daughter’s face grew visibly more relaxed. I climbed into bed with her to read a story as always, and she peacefully drifted off to sleep – this time untarnished by bad dreams.
Back then I was fairly new to this ancient technique of clearing energy. But it has served me well over the years, and I always keep a smudge stick on my altar.
But sometimes I forget about it. And that’s when things get kind of muddy – on the inside.
I mean I don’t totally forget. I might smudge during rituals, before a meditation, or when staying in a place that smells or feels stale and weird.
But I forget about the value of smudging my personal space on a regular basis.
And it’s so important! I’ve been away from home for the past weeks, spending lots of time behind the wheel. As often happens on long drives, hundreds of ideas and inspirations spin through my mind. It’s a new year and I have so many plans and goals. I started thinking, I wait to get to work!
But then, I pictured myself walking into my home, my little office, and my smile faded. Why did I suddenly imagine myself feeling stuck? Why wasn’t I thinking of my personal space as a place where I would feel motivated, cheered, galvanized to move forward?
The answer dawned on me the day after New Year’s: I haven’t been smudging!
It came to me sharply. I walked into a new friend’s herb shop and the first thing I saw were two smudge bundles nestled in a handmade basket. Light bulb! I remembered how we started and ended each day at Moonrise Herbs by smudging the entire store – more necessary there, granted, because of all the different people who passed through the door – but still, the simple act of purifying the space started the day on the right foot.
I realized I’d been neglecting this simple action in my home workspace. So that’s one New Year’s Resolution!
A thorough psychic clearing of your home and personal spaces is an excellent way to start a new year.
In fact my husband and I have a New Year’s Eve ritual of smudging the perimeter of our entire property (at least when we are home for New Years.)
What Is Smudging Anyway?
Different cultures and spiritual traditions use a variety of rituals for psychic, spiritual or emotional purification, and the Native American ritual of burning herbs such as sage, cedar and sweetgrass happens to be my favorite.
It is an intentional and focused way to cleanse negative influences from a place, object or even a person. It is also an effective technique to energize or bless the person, object or place.
The herbs are wrapped into a bundle, or burned loose in a clay pot or other vessel. American Indians used smudging as a religious ceremony, for clearing a space and for healing. Their prayers and requests were carried to the Great Spirit in the rising smoke.
I find that the ritual of burning sage (or other herbs) to be incredibly grounding. It helps to clear my own confused or stuck feelings, strengthens my intention and definitely dispels stale or dark energy from a room or any space. It’s wonderful for meditation or times when I want to transcend every day thoughts and access a higher level of consciousness.
I’ve participated in many rituals and celebrations where a smudge stick is passed around and everyone smudges each other in order to create a sacred space. It might be a new moon circle, a celebration of a young girl’s first period, a “blessing way” for a mother-to-be – or really any type of gathering where we are creating a sacred circle of energy.
On a personal level, smudging yourself can help to dispel feelings of resentment, anger, depression. It can help you to refocus after an argument or an unpleasant encounter.
How To Smudge
You don’t have to be a psychic, or Native American or into new age spirituality to benefit from smudging your space. It’s as practical as it is powerful.
Start with some smudging herbs. My personal favorite is broad-leafed white sage (Salvia apiana). It’s not the same as garden or green sage (Salvia officinalis) which is the stuff that comes in a bottle at the grocery store and you use to flavor the stuffing on Thanksgiving. White sagebrush (Artemesia ludoviciana and other species) is often used for smudging and to make smudge sticks, but I love the pungent scent of the broad leaf white sage. I also find that it burns more easily.
If you’re experimenting with smudging for the first time, the easiest thing to do is purchase a smudge stick – basically a bundle of sage, sometimes mixed with cedar or other herbs. The bundle of dried herbs is carefully wrapped twine or string, which makes it easy to grasp and burn.
You’ll find smudge sticks in herb and health food shops. Or order them from my new herbal buddy Jody at In Harmony Herbs – that’s where I got re-inspired to get smudging again!
Jody has wonderful sage, and often the smudge sticks are made by her partner, well known herbalist James Green.
You can also find a variety of smudge sticks and smudging supplies here.
And, of course, Moonrise Herbs always stocks smudge sticks. You won’t find them listed on the site, but just give them a call and let them know what you need. I know Irene will make sure your smudge stick gets right out to you!
If you’ve got some loose sage or cedar around you can put it in a fire-proof bowl or other vessel and simply burn it that way. Many people use abalone shells for smudging, and that’s what I used forever. However, some Native American sources say that abalone shells should not be used in water ceremonies rather than for burning. Since it is a tradition that comes from that culture, I’ve reconsidered my own use of abalone shells.
If burning loose sage or other herbs, you will probably need a feather, or something to help fan the smoke around. Traditionally a feather, or fan of feathers is used, even with a smudge stick. But I often ‘cheat’ and just use the smudge stick by itself.
Take your smudge stick (or bowl of herbs) and hold a flame to it to light the dried herbs. A candle flame works well because sometimes it takes a minute or two for the sage to really start burning. Apply the flame until the smoke rises, then wait till the fire dies down and the herbs are smoldering.
If you are smudging an entire room or house, you will be walking around with the smoldering bundle of herbs so you want to take some precautions to prevent sparks from flying out and starting a fire or burning a hole in your favorite rug. I usually use a small dish to catch the ashes, and you could even put a little water in it for good measure.
Move around the room in a clockwise motion, holding your burning smudge. Start at the door to the room and move around the room in a clockwise motion, paying particular attention to areas that might need more spiritual cleansing. You may want to speak or chant some affirmations aloud as you smudge, stating your wish that the room be cleared of any negativity and inviting peace, joy and calm into your space.
When you have completed one room, you can move to another if you want to smudge your entire home. Once you have finished the smudging process, be careful that you have fully extinguished your smudge stick. Sometimes you might need to apply a few drops of water to be sure the fire is completely out.
You can also smudge special objects – often people smudge tarot cards or other divination tools, crystals and altar objects. To smudge an object simply pass it through the smoke several times.
To smudge yourself light the stick or smudging herbs and move in small circles in front of you. Begin with your head and move down your body. Extend each arm and smudge them too. Move the stick so the smoke is rising in front of you and then step through the smoke.
To smudge another person hold the burning smudge stick about six inches away from their body. Start with the head and gently wave your stick or bowl back and forth, moving slowly down the back of the body. Then do the same with the front of the body, starting with the forehead. Hold each arm out and move the stick under each arm.
As I said, white sage is my smudging herb of choice. However, there are several other herbs that are used for this purpose, and each are thought to have subtly different properties.
Sage is the most traditional smudging herb and it was used in ceremonies to drive out bad spirits, feelings or influences. It was thought to prevent bad spirits from entering the ceremonial area as well.
Cedar is another commonly used smudging herb – but it doesn’t burn nearly as easily as sage. People usually use Eastern or Western red cedar, although any type of cedar works, and some even use burn juniper instead. I always had heard that cedar was added to smudge mixes specifically to invite in positive energies.
Sweetgrass is burned in braids, and again it does not burn as well as sage. However, the smoke carries a lovely, sweet fragrance and is thought to be attractive to good spirits. It can be burned at the beginning of a prayer or ceremony to attract a positive outcome. Both sweetgrass and cedar are often mixed with sage into a combination smudge stick.
Other herbs that have been traditionally burned as smudge, either alone or in combination with others, include mugwort, lavender and tobacco. Various resins are also burned for cleansing and purification, such as copal, frankincense and myrrh.
But I’m Allergic To Smoke!
Some people don’t like to burn herbs or use incense for purification because of health issues such as allergies or asthma. That doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the ritual of cleansing and purifying a space. There are several alternatives to burning herbs for ceremonial cleansing.
Instead of a smudge stick you can use a bell the dispel stale energy and bring in fresh, happy vibrations. Simply proceed around the room ringing the bell instead of waving your smudge stick. Any type of bell will work, as long as you love the sound of its chime.
Bells can be used to clear the energy in yourself and others as well. You might want to investigate bells that have traditionally been used for spiritual rituals such as the Tibetan chime called a tingsha.
Salt has long been used in purifying ceremonies. Fill a beautiful bowl with water and add some salt (any type will do, but you might want to try a special salt such as Himalyan pink salt.) Sprinkle the salt water throughout the space you wish you cleanse and/or splash yourself while affirming your intention.
Instead of burning dried herbs, you can place a few drops of essential into a diffuser and use that with intention to clear your space. Another good alternative, especially if you want to cleanse the energy in an entire house, is to mix several drops of essential with water in a spray bottle. Spritz each nook and cranny of the home, while stating your intention, shaking the bottle frequently to disperse the oils.
Try a mix of lavender, geranium and bergamot for an uplifting, revitalizing energy shift. Read more about essential oils and where to find them here.
How about you? Have you tried smudging to clear your psychic space? What tools do you like to use to clear energy in your home?
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