Smudging is an ancient purification ritual originally practiced by Native Americans. It involves igniting a bundle or braid of dried herbs and waving the smoke to purify people or spaces. Smudging metaphorically renews and cleanses the body, the mind and the spirit. Healers, feng shui practitioners and anyone looking to make peace with their mind may choose to adopt this practice.
Smudging creates a “cleansing” smoke bath which mystics say purifies the physical and spiritual body and brings harmony and emotional balance. It releases negative ions, which research shows creates a more positive environment allowing spiritual cleansing and connectedness with the spiritual realm. Some say burning herbs releases the scents and vibrations into the air, replacing negative energies with the healing properties of herbs from the earth.
Today, people commonly use smudging to break up “stuck” emotions by clearing and replacing a space’s energies. It is believed by Native Americans that every being and object has a spirit. Therefore, some individuals choose to smudge objects that hold energy, such as crystals. Smudging serves many purposes, and with positive intentions and consciousness, smudging can create significant emotional balance no matter how it is practiced.
Smudging can serve a significant role at important times. Many people choose to perform a smudging ceremony when moving into a new space, after an argument, or when they feel negative energy accumulating in their living space. It is also common to smudge during the change of seasons or during a new moon. For those who choose to smudge, it is recommended to practice every six months and is not uncommon to do so more often. Some individuals like to smudge their workspace to remove themselves from the workday and move into a relaxed state.
Here are some recommendations for those trying smudging for the first time.
Open all internal doors, cabinets, and drawers and begin with the intention of ridding your space of unwanted energy and making room for new spirits. To smudge, use a candle to light the bundle or pieces of dried herbs and burn until it smolders. The flame should go out on its own, but can be gently extinguished by fanning the flame. Blowing into the flame is not recommended, as it can take up negative energy from the breath. Start by waving smoke onto yourself to cleanse yourself of negative energy. Smudge with positive intentions and awareness. Take in deep and conscious breaths when cleansing yourself to clear negative internal energies. Then, carrying the bundle over a fireproof bowl to catch ashes, smudge your living or workspace. Begin at the front door and move in a clockwise rotation, waving smoke up into all corners and less-used spaces, focusing special attention on areas that seem “dark.” After an initial cleanse, most commonly using sage, some may choose to use cedar or sweetgrass to bring in more positive energy. When finished, open the windows and doors and send the smoke out. Leave the ashes on the doorstep to protect the entrance.
The most common herbs used to purify homes and workspaces are white sage, cedar, juniper, lavender, mugwort and sweetgrass. Each one has its own purpose and effect on the energies of a space, even in the happiest and calmest of spaces. When harvesting your own herbs, Native Americans believe it is important to make an offering of tobacco to the earth. When purchasing herbs, learn which companies harvest the plants in a way you find appropriately respectful.
Here at the Willy Street Coo-p we carry smudge bundles and braids from Juniper Ridge and Avonlea (East only) and Native Scents (West only). Juniper Ridge, based in northern California, harvests their plants from the mountains and deserts of the west. We carry their smudges in White Sage, Cedar, Mugwort (large and small sizes) and braids of sweetgrass. Avonlea sustainably hand-harvests plants in Balsam Lake, Wisconsin, according to lunar traditions. We carry a variety of their smudges in plant combinations which they’ve created based on Native American traditions, Celtic spirituality, ancient Druidic wisdom, European folklore and personal intuition. Native Scents is based in New Mexico and uses a blend of herbs in their smudges.
White Sage (Salvia apiana)
- Comes from the Latin word salvare, which means “to heal” or “to save”
- Drives out bad feelings, spirits and influences
- Repels mosquitos and other bugs when left to smolder
- Purported to drive out negative energy like sage
- Brings in positive energy/good influences
- Purifies and attracts good energies
- Helps people with upset stomach, flu, or vitamin deficiency
Sweetgrass (also known as Seneca grass)
- Purported to bring in good influences and spirits
- Works well after sage or cedar have removed negative energies
- Emits a sweet earthy smell
- Burns away negativity according to healers
- Protects against colds and flus
- Repels negative energies and calms nerves
- Stimulates dreams and visions when used before sleeping
- Provides an offering to the plant before harvesting herbs