Smudging is the common name given to the sacred smoke bowl blessing.
Smudging with sage is a powerful cleansing technique from the Native North American Tradition. Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred plants to drive away negative energies and restore balance. It is the art of cleansing yourself and your environment using simple ritual and ceremony. For thousands of years smudging has been a part of Native American tradition but now its power of cleansing is available to everyone.
How can smudging be so powerful?
The answer lies in the subatomic world of subtle or spiritual energy. Homes and bodies are not just made of purely physical matter; they also vibrate with quiet, invisible energy.
Cleansing a space or our bodies with techniques such as smudging clears away the emotional and psychic ‘energy debris’ that tends to collect or hang onto us. It is a like spiritual spring cleaning.
The effects of smudging can be surprisingly swift and dramatic. The rituals can help you banish stress, attract love, sooth you, or give you energy.
They can bring your family closer together and let you adjust to the healing seasonal rhythms of the year. Above all they can turn any space, however humble, into a soothing sanctuary – a place of renewal and happiness.
The History Of Smudging
Smudging may seem a very modern practice. We read about city dwellers using it to sell their apartments or improve their business luck. But smudging has been used for thousands of years. When you light a smudge stick you are connecting with a spiritual tradition that originates from the depths of time.
A Tradition From The Mists Of Time
It is impossible to say for certain when smudging began. Perhaps early civilizations came to realize, through sheer trial and error, that the smoke generated by setting alight particular herbs had beneficial effects for humanity. Certainly many cultures have an old tradition of driving animals through smoke to kill off pests and diseases.
Nowadays modern science has proven that certain herbs do indeed have cleansing powers, acting as strong pesticides.
Aside from this beneficial and practical aspect of burning herbs, humans have become aware that smoke ascends to the heavens – to the world of spirits – almost as if it were acting as a spiritual messenger.
The idea of purification through smoke is certainly not the sole preserve of the Native North Americans. Most rituals have some element of cleansing, and incense or herbal smoke mixtures that are burned. Around the world – from China, India, and Southeast Asia, to Europe and the Western world- many countries have used some form of smoke or smudging for ritual and clearing.
The Native American Way
Originally, mixtures of sacred herbs and resins were burned in a special bowl. Smoke was then wafted around the person or place needing purification and cleansing. However, smudge sticks (bundles of dried herbs tied together with colored thread or a strip of hide) offer an easier way of smudging that is just as effective.
The herbs most often used in smudge sticks are sage and sweet grass. Sage drives out negative thoughts, energies, spirits, and all influences. Sweet grass is used to attract positive energy after all the negative energies have been banished by sage.
Native Americans see smudging as a way of shifting between various levels of reality, connecting us here in the material, physical world to the subtle realm of spirits.
How to Smudge
- An abalone shell is the accustomed Native American vessel to use for holding the sage. However, any small, flat, heat-proof container will do.
- Leave the sage as is, tied with the string in the bundle. Light the sage and let it flame for a minute or so. Extinguish the flame so the sage is smoldering and smoking.
- Take the smudge container and using circular clockwise movements, encircle yourself with the smoke. The Native American custom is to use a very large feather from a poultry bird, such as a turkey. Using the feather, fan the smoke all around the room going around windows and doorways. I always say a prayer as I do this asking for all negativity be released, opening up for all that is good and holy. If possible, open some windows and doors to allow the smoke to leave.
- You can do this for the whole room and even the whole house. Start at the most northerly room and working again, clockwise, through your home, let the smoke from the sage permeate throughout. Try and finish off the smudging process by ending up at an open door. You should have come full circle around your home.
A note of interest. Whenever I have done this, it has never set off any of my smoke alarms, which I have found very strange indeed. Now it MAY set off yours, so be prepared to disconnect it during your smudging and be SURE to re-engage it upon completion of your smudging.
I say a little prayer over and over as I do my smudging, asking the ‘powers that be’ (Spirit of the sage) to remove all negativity and unwanted energies.
When first doing this on a regular basis, you may find yourself feeling agitated or uneasy and not sure why. It is because you are ‘clearing’ with the help of the smudging. This would indicate that there is a lot of ‘negative’ energies in your environment. I do not have a set amount of times to smudge. You will find your own feel for how often for yourself.
Sage is the most potent herb for smudging but you can also use cedar and sweet grass.
Enjoy your new found source of clearing yourself and your environment!