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Sage & Smudge Guide

Sage & Smudge: A How To Guide

 Smudge smoke ritual with white sage and palo santo wood

What is Smudging, and where did it originate?

Smudging is a Native American term for a cleansing and purification ritual using the smoke from a burning plant, wood, or resin, usually white sage. The word "smudging" has, over time, been adopted as the common name for any kind of smoke cleansing ritual. The practice of using smoke to cleanse and purify actually has much older origins. It is known that the ancient Egyptians used smoke cleansing rituals as far back as 4500 years ago, while the Celts had their own version of a smoke cleansing ritual where juniper was burned. Amazonian shamans used palo santo wood sticks to conduct healing and purification rituals, a practice still common today in the remaining tribes. While the tools, plant matter, and the specific way the ceremony is performed differ between the different ancient cultures, the purpose of the ritual was generally the same—protection, healing, purification of space, person, or object, and warding away evil spirits.

Today, the ritual of smudging or smoke cleansing is undertaken for the same reasons. For example, I never move my furniture into a new home before I have "saged" the entire space to cleanse away residual negative energy from the previous owners. This does not imply that the people who lived here before me were bad people. It is just an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes bad things happen; arguments are had, illness comes to visit, relationships break up. The energy from traumatic events is heavy and settles into a home. Smudging is a great way to make sure that the energies from these past events are released. I will even periodically smudge my current home and workplace if I feel that the energy is becoming stagnant or heavy.

What can I use to smudge?

Two sticks of white sage

White sage is commonly used in a smudging ceremony. The variety of sage "Salvia Apiana" is sometimes called sacred sage or bee sage because the bush itself blooms beautiful purple flowers to which the bees are attracted. White sage is a bush or shrub that is native to the southern U.S.A and northern Mexico. A lot of white sage sold commercially is farmed in southern California.

Palo Santo wood for smudging

Another popular option for smoke cleansing is palo santo wood. Palo santo is sold in small sticks/chunks that are perfect for a smoke cleansing ritual. It is from a tree that is in the same family of trees that produce frankincense. It is native to South America, translating from Spanish to "holy wood" in English. When burned, the wood produces a very fragrant resin. While palo santo has been used medicinally for centuries, we focus on its use in smoke cleansing ceremonies.

A note on cultural appropriation:

There is the discussion that using the term "smudging" or engaging in the ritual itself is a form of cultural appropriation. While the word itself is of Native American origins, the practice spans many cultures over many thousands of years. If this is something that is of concern, we would recommend taking a moment at the commencement of your ceremony to honour, acknowledge and thank the Native American elders for their guidance and wisdom.

Equipment needed for a smoke cleansing ceremony:

Having your own cleansing ritual actually doesn't require much in the way of equipment. Firstly, you will need your sage, palo santo, or other material for burning. If using something different than sage or palo santo, make sure it is safe and non-toxic. You will need a dish or bowl to catch the ash or embers. Some people like to use a decorative shell, but any bowl will do if you don't have one at hand. In traditional smudging ceremonies, a feather is used to wave the smoke around the space. Unless the Universe has gifted you a feather, we do not recommend buying one as it is hard to know how it has been obtained, and you definitely do not want to be using a feather that has been cruelly removed from a bird for the purpose of sale. Alternatively, you can use a fan or your hand to move the smoke around. Finally, you will need something to light the material.


Materials For Smoke Cleansing

Sage, palo santo wood, or other plants and herbs

Dish, bowl, or decorative shell to catch ash

Fan to move smoke (you can skip this and use your hand)

Matches or a lighter

(Optional) Crystals that you may want to use during your ceremony

(Optional) Any item that you may wish to cleanse in the smoke


Steps to complete a smoke cleansing ritual for a house:

  • Ensure that you will not be distracted for the duration of your ritual.

  • Open all doors and windows if it can be done safely.

  • Open all cupboards, drawers and wardrobes.

  • Start at the back of the house and work towards the front.

  • Before you light your material, you may wish to set your intention by asking the Universe or your spirit guides to help you cleanse the negative energy from this home.

  • Prepare a simple mantra that you will repeat as you move through the rooms. This can be something like " With this sacred smoke, I cleanse and release all negative energy from this space."

  • Light your material until it begins to burn with a flame.

  • Allow the flame to burn for a moment to establish the smouldering of the material.

  •  Gently blow out the flame. You should have a nice steady stream of smoke.

  • Move through each room, sweeping the smoke into the space as you go. Pay particular attention to the corners as this is where negative energy tends to accumulate.

  • Wave the smoke into cupboards and drawers as you go, making sure to cover the whole space.

  • Repeat your mantra as you walk through each room and remain focused on your intention.

  • When you have cleansed every room, make your way to the front door of the house where you will finish.

  • Imagine yourself sweeping the last of the negative energy out the front door of the house.

  • Thank the Universe or your spirit guides for working with you today and extinguish your material by either stamping it out in the dish or using some cold water.

  • As a final safety step, ensure that your material is fully extinguished and has cooled before you put it away.