The Art of Smudging

The Art of Smudging
Have you ever had an encounter with a person or experienced a situation or place that left you feeling unsettled? It happens to us often in the store. Or maybe you’re lacking focus and would like to clear your head and open your mind and spirit to connect with strength and light. Smudging, when practiced with honor and intention, is a tradition that offers numerous benefits to relieve our person and our space of negative energy.

If you are feeling stuck, negative, or fatigued, it may be time to shift your energy. Whether it’s your home, office, or your own physical or emotional state, burning sacred plants may cleanse your space and bless you with positive energy. Read on for a way to smoke out the bad and breathe in the good.


What is a Smudge?

Smudging is a practice intended to cleanse the energy inside and around you and can also be used as protection. Burning herbs to prevent illness, ward off negative energy, or cleanse a person or space is a practice that  Native Americans have used for thousands of years. Bundles of herbs – called smudge sticks – are burned to create a healing smoke that is wafted over a person or in a space using one’s hands or a feather (though not necessary).


Elements of a Smudge Ritual

  • Water
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Air

Traditional practices include the use of a shell to represent the element of water. The dried herbs of the smudge stick represent Earth, the flame that lights the herbs is fire, and the smoke that comes from the fire represents air. In indigenous smudging ceremonies, the presence of the four elements replicates how the ritual originated centuries ago.


What Do You Use to Smudge?

To honor the tradition of smudging, use sustainably sourced herbs in your  smudge stick. Are you looking to deepen your meditation? Try Yerba Santa. Whether your herbs are bundled together or come in stick form, remember the original intent of the practice is to cleanse.


Commonly Used Herbs for a Smudge Stick

  • Sage
  • Juniper
  • Sweet grass
  • Lavender
  • Cedar

Sage is used as an aid to clear negative thinking, while Sweet grass is traditionally used to bless marriages and childbirth and welcome in love. Juniper is believed to guard against evil spirits and illnesses and is frequently used for its healing properties. Lavender may clear conflict and emotional distress and Cedar represents strength and wisdom. When burned together, these herbs can leave a pungent smell, so consider adding spice such as cinnamon to help clear the air, leaving positive energy (and often nostalgia) in its wake.


How Do You Smudge a Person?

Start by recognizing that while any feelings of stress or unease are valid, it may be beneficial to do a mental detox of anything that isn’t serving us. Smudging can be used to do just that,  clear our minds of negative energy. Gather the materials and prepare your mind to be open and receive the positive energy and release the negative.


Steps to Clear Your Energy with a Smudge Stick

  1. Cleanse hands with smoke
  2. Pull smoke towards your body with hands or a feather
  3. Start at your head and move down your body, take off socks and shoes to allow smoke to cleanse your bare feet.

Light the smudge stick and blow it out, creating smoke. Using your hands or a feather, pull the smoke towards you to cleanse your body and spirit. Starting at your head, draw the smoke over all the different areas of your body. Once your smudge is complete, smother your sacred herbs until smoke is no longer present and place it on a heat-safe surface. Do not use water to extinguish your smudge stick. 

How Do You Smudge a Home? 

The first step to clearing your space is clearing your space! Give it a quick tidying up and open your windows and doors if possible. While you prepare your space for smudging, consider your intention in burning the sacred herbs. Light as described above and once your smudge stick is burning, move slowly through your home clockwise, letting the smoke drift into all spaces, including closets, nooks, and corners. Consider burning over a dish or shell to prevent embers from accidentally reaching the floor. Whether clearing a new home of the previous occupants' energy or just doing some housekeeping, this is a wonderful practice to cleanse a space.

Smudging a home while moving around your space is called “circumambulation,” and has been practiced for centuries. Ancient cultures performed this ritual to make a space more sacred. If you feel comfortable, you can repeat a mantra or soothing phrase that states your intention and invites positive energy.


Is Smudging Safe for My Pets?

Fluffy and Fido can participate in a cleansing, but maybe from another room. While the herbs in the smudge stick themselves aren’t harmful to our fur babies, the smoke could be irritating. Smudging in a well-vented space is perfectly safe, consider opening your windows so you can include the health and well-being of your furry friend in your intentions.

If you choose to smudge with pets present, keep the smoke as light as possible. Be sure to place the smudge in a bowl or other heat-safe spot away from pets when you’re finished.


Set an Intention Before You Smudge

Smudging is intended to connect people with a Higher Power and open their spirits to receive blessings. The smoke from the smudge stick purifies the body and soul, bringing clarity to the mind. Being intentional in the practice of smudging is essential to experience all the benefits while honoring the tradition.


Setting Your Intention

  • What is your reason for smudging?
  • What do you want to release?
  • What do you want to welcome in?

Mindfulness is an important part of smudging. Being aware of the sacred origins of this practice while spiritually and emotionally clearing up our physical and mental space is what gives this ritual purpose. Be very clear with your intentions as you go into a smudge.


Why Set an Intention Before Smudging?

Intentions give the act of burning the sacred herbs a purpose. Thinking through your intentions gives respect to the tradition and prevents the act from being hollow. You aren’t just going through the motions of cleansing your body or space; you are harnessing your internal power and taking control over the positive energy you receive and welcome.

Smudging can be a powerful practice when you use the energetic clearing in an intentional way. Release what no longer serves you and welcome in all that you wish to be in your space. There are no limits or rules to smudging. Just respect its sacred origins and open your mind to all the positive possibilities these herbs and plants have to offer.

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