What is Smudging?
Smudging is the Native American practice of purifying and cleansing an area with the smoke of sacred herbs. This ancient practice is performed as a sacred ceremony to clear negative and stagnant energy, but there are even more benefits. Modern science has proven that the burning of herbs releases negative ions in the air which results in positive mood improvement as well as cleans the air of harmful bacteria. Stagnant or negative energy can have extremely detrimental effects on our mental and physical state and can result in manifesting things like lack of happiness and success, or pain and disease into your life. Stagnant Energy symptoms can include feeling:
There are several reasons why you would want to Smudge an area or your own energy field. Energy exists everywhere in our atmosphere and can have a positive or negative effect on our lives depending on the types of energy that we are surrounded by. Smudging gives us some control over how energies impact our lives. For example, if you've just moved into a new home, it is wise to clear any old energy produced by the former inhabitants. If you work with the public (especially in the Health Care industry) you are coming into contact with numerous energy fields constantly. If your work environment also happens to be stressful or negative, then it is imperative that you smudge yourself and your environment regularly. The same is true of your home environment, our homes should be considered our own sacred space where we can find reprieve from our daily routine. If there has recently been an argument or other negative experience in your home, then it is crucial to literally clear the air.
According to The Sage Goddess' Athena Perrakis, Smudging is critical to begin and complete any sacred ritual, even if that ritual is simply meditating. Smudging clears low vibrations and offers us a vehicle to connect with ancient lineages. But before you Smudge, it is important to understand that this practice should be done with reverence to those lineages.
How to Smudge
Spirituality and Health Magazine printed an informative article on The Ancient Art of Smudging that perfectly explains the importance of honoring this Native American practice appropriately. According to Cat Criger, aboriginal elder-in-residence at the University of Toronto, one need be respectful and learn how to handle the sacred herbs used in Smudging according to traditional protocol. When done properly, it is a ceremony to connect with the Native American culture and the Great Spirit. To understand protocol means to learn about aboriginal peoples. Native American medicine needs to be treated with reverence and there are spiritual practices that are involved that should be adhered to in order to honor these ancient cultures who developed this sacred art form.
Grandmother Wapajea Walks on Water who descends from lineages of the Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee tribes explains Smudging and the proper process as follows:
"The goal of Smudging is to make a place clear of lingering energy that is different from what you may be intending for that space. You want to prepare the space for ceremony the way you would clean your house, cook, and decorate when your family comes for a holiday. We are welcoming Great Spirit, angels, and ancestors to come and share clean space with us as well."
Different plants have different properties and benefits, so choosing the appropriate herbs to use in your Smudging Ceremony depends on your specific intention for doing this ritual. If you are drawn to a particular herb, trust that intuition as there is always an underlying cause and purpose. Grandmother Wapajea says that what you use to clear a space depends on your location and what plants you have access to. According to her, people on the East Coast use tobacco, cedar, sweet grass, juniper, pine needles, deerstongue, cypress, and sage. Out West they use tobacco, pinion, desert sage, and sweet grass. Traditionally, sage and cedar are used to purify, tobacco to send our prayers, and sweet grass to attract angels and sweet-spirited ancestors. It is also helpful to use sweet grass to bring ease to a space when we need to discuss something that is difficult to say.
For indigenous people, Great Spirit is in all of nature and creation, each thing representing a different aspect of divinity and sacredness. Therefore, they honor the elements and all things natural, from plants and minerals to animals and people.
Because of these beliefs, it is important to respect some basic protocol for this sacred ritual:
What you will need:
The Smudging Process:
Before you begin, be sure to:
There are different ways to Smudge, here we offer a couple of options but the core concept is always the same: to work in the same direction (counter-clockwise to remove negative energies), repeat your prayer or intention as you go, and before you smudge anyone or anything else, it is important to start with yourself. You can smudge your entire body/energy field, or use a simple traditional method: to waft the smoke up over your head three times. To do this properly, begin with your hand palm facing up to capture the smoke at chest height, begin to sweep the smoke upwards then slightly bow your head. With intention, direct the smoke up over your head and behind you, repeating this last step three times consecutively.
Basic protocol according to Cat Criger:
Four Direction Ceremony according to Grandmother Wapajea
The Chopra Center has some amazing tips for the Sacred Art of Smudging that I would like to share:
May your hands be cleansed, that they create beautiful things.
May your feet be cleansed, that they might take you where most need to be.
May your heart be cleansed, that you might hear its message clearly.
May your throat be cleansed, that you might speak rightly when words are needed.
May your eyes be cleansed, that you might see the signs and wonders of the world.
May this person and space be washed clean by the smoke of these sacred plants,
And may that same smoke carry our prayers, spiraling to the heavens.
Courtesy of The Sage Goddess, Scott Cunningham, and other reputable resources, here is a list of some common sacred herbs:
Alfalfa – associated with psychic abilities, and attracting animal spirits.
Allspice – for uplifting and increasing energy, and determination.
Amaranth – for healing, protection, vulnerability, especially healing of broken hearts.
Amber - for love, comfort, happiness and healing.
Aspen – for ascension, protection, and overcoming fears.
Basil – for attracting love, happiness, peace, and money; steadies the mind.
Bay Leaves – for psychic power, divination, success, and money; invoking wish magic.
Blue Spruce – the symbol of pure intentions, generosity, and giving.
Calendula – for love and constancy.
Catnip – attracts good spirits and great luck. For love, beauty, and happiness.
Cedar – banishes fear and enhances psychic powers.
Chamomile – for protection and purification.
Cinnamon – when burned raises high spiritual vibrations and aids healing.
Cloves – for protection and exorcism; attracting opposite sex.
Coastal Sage or Artemisia Californica – for clearing negative energies and healing holes or tears in the aura.
Dandelion – for divination, spirit calling, and wish magic.
Deerstongue - for psychic awareness.
Dill – for protection, luck, money, and lust.
Dragon’s Blood - for protection, strength and extra energy or power added to a working; to dispel negativity, exorcise evil supernatural entities, courage, purification, attract love, and restore male potency
Eucalyptus – for healing and protection.
Frankincense resin – reduces stress, eases tension, and connects you with Source energy.
Gardenia - burn for peace, love and healing.
Ginger – adds power to any magical activity, speeds things up; brings passion.
Hibiscus Flowers - burned to attract love, lust and also for divination.
Honeysuckle - burn to attract money, happiness, friendship and healing.
Jasmine - burned to attract love and money, and also to induce dreams of a prophetic nature, purification, wisdom and astral projection.
Juniper - for protection, purification, and healing.
Lavender – brings peace, relaxation, and restful sleep; purity and love.
Lemongrass – for cleansing and purifying, removing obstacles, and opening doors.
Lilac – for protection and exorcism.
Mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris – brings clarity and develops/deepens psychic abilities.
Myrrh resin – for physical healing and grounding.
Palo Santo – for deep healing to the physical body; can be used to clear a home of energies associated with illness; removes and protects against malicious entities.
Patchouli - burned to attract money, love, growth, mastery, sensuality and also to promote fertility.
Peppermint – for purity, protection, release, and renewal.
Pine - for healing, purification, protection, physical and magical energy, and money.
Pinon Pine resin – protective, healing, and nurturing.
Rose - for love, peace, sex, and beauty; it is burned to increase courage, induce prophetic dreams, house blessing, fertility, healing and to attract love.
Rosemary – for removing negative energies associated with sickness, and clearing; use for memorial purposes (rosemary for remembrance); it is burned to purify, aid in healing, prevent nightmares, preserve youthfulness, dispel depression, attract fairy folk, and promote restful sleep and pleasant dreams.
Sage Flowers – for cleansing and releasing negative energies; brings wisdom and purity.
Sandalwood - for general spirituality, meditation, sexual purposes, and healing; it is burned to exorcise demons and evil ghosts, conjure beneficial spirits, and promote spiritual awareness
Thyme – excellent for releasing ceremonies; allows us to recall the past without pain.
White Sage or Salvia Apiana – used to clear negative energies from objects, space, or people.
Update: Here is even more extensive list of the properties of incense by Raven and Crone.