What Is A Smudging Ritual?
Smudging is an ancient spiritual ritual, associated with Indigenous communities of North America. During this sacred ceremony, specific purifying herbs are burned to rid a person, space or object of negative energies.
Smudging is most commonly performed by burning sage, although alternatives can be used. When you burn sage, the smoke fills the space or surrounds the person, purifying the area.
As the smoke swirls into the air, it takes with it your positive intentions and manifestations, breathing it into the universe. The smoke acts as a connection between humans, Earth and the greater powers that surround us.
Benefits Of Burning Sage
There is a science behind the ceremony: smudging herbs has been proven to literally clear the air. White sage is antimicrobial, while white prairie sage is antimicrobial and antibacterial.
Apart from these actual purifying properties, a lot of the benefits of burning sage are connected to spirituality. Tradition suggests that when you burn the herbs, you relieve stress, improve your mood and rid yourself of past traumas. A 2016 review of studies on smudging found that it may even improve cognitive function.
When To Sage
There are no rules about burning sage, but in certain instances, your intuition may tell you it is time to clear your space or yourself.
People who practice this ritual tend to burn sage sticks when:
- Moving into a new home
- Moving out of a home
- Going through a transition in work or life
- After a divorce
- After a big argument with a partner or loved one
- When visiting a new space, for example, a hotel room or self-catering cottage
Materials Needed For Sage Cleansing
To get started, here is what you will need for a herb-burning ritual:
- A kind of vessel for burning your herbs. This can be a ceramic bowl, abalone shells or any other fireproof container.
- Sand to place inside your container and for extinguishing the herbs.
- Sage – this can be a California white sage bundle, loose-leaf, or a sage spray or sage incense if the smoke causes allergies.
- A fire source (protection candles will further banish negative energies).
Colleen McCann, an energy stylist and founder of Style Rituals, explains that you can also use something to spread the smoke: “use a feather to fan and spread the smoke around the space once the herbs are burning.” That way, the smoke will go into every corner of the space.
Before You Begin, The Sage Cleanse
The most important thing when burning herbs is to not be rushed. Don’t undertake the practice of burning cleansing herbs if you know you have to be somewhere or do something shortly after. In that instance, you won’t be in the right mindset.
Before you begin, take a few minutes for meditation. Focus on your breathing and clear your mind.
If there are other people around, ask them how willing they are to join you in the ritual. They can either walk around and burn the herbs themselves or use other clearing tools like sound bowls or bells.
Make sure you clearly set your intention for the ritual. What are your wishes for the space or for the person you are cleansing? Once you begin to cleanse, a vacuum is created as negative energy is banished – you want this vacuum to be filled with good intentions and positive manifestations.
How To Sage Cleanse Your House Or A Space
Once you have meditated and set your intentions, you can begin the practice.
1. Gather your tools
Make sure you have all the required tools on hand. Gather your loose-leaf sage in a bowl or place your bundle in a container with sand.
Make sure to open a door or window to allow the bad vibes (and smoke) to escape.
2. Say your mantra out loud
Decide on a mantra or prayer that aligns with your intentions.
You can simply repeat your mantra in your head, but speaking it out into the universe has a much more powerful effect. You can come up with something yourself, although a popular mantra is a variation of “I am letting go of what no longer serves me.”
3. Light the flame
Once you feel like you are ready, hold the sage bundle at a 45-degree angle and carefully light it with a candle or match. If you are using loose-leaf sage, light it in the abalone shell or ceramic smudge bowl by dipping your ignition source into the leaves.
Allow the sage to burn for about 20 seconds before carefully blowing on it to create smouldering embers.
4. Walk around the space
Begin to walk around the room or home. Allow the sage smoke to waft into the corners. Make sure to guide the smoke – and the unwanted energy – towards the open window or door.
Make sure to pay attention to the corners of the room, as dark energy tends to lurk there. You can use a fan or feather to spread the smoke. Doorways and high-traffic areas like an entrance hall or foyer should also get extra attention.
Some practitioners also sage their technology or phones by holding the herbs underneath it.
5. Be present
It can be easy to lose yourself in the spiritual practice as you move about the house. Make sure to remain present, keeping an eye out for embers that may fall toward the ground.
Although the smoke is purifying, it is also best not to inhale it directly. Keep the burning herbs away from your face as you move around the space.
6. Extinguish the burning sage
Once you feel like the entire space has been cleansed, you can extinguish the sage by dipping the burning tip into your fireproof bowl or some sand. Hold it until you don’t see any smoke.
Make sure never to get the sage wet. Otherwise, you won’t be able to use it again.
How To Sage Yourself
Smudging a person is similar to cleansing a room:
- Stand with your arms out in a T-shape, with your legs open slightly.
- Take the smouldering smudge stick and keep it at a distance, working up from your legs.
- Move the burning sage across your entire body.
- Repeat the prayer or mantra as you move the herbs across your body.
- Envision how the smoke is clearing away any negative energies, stress or trauma.
How often should I cleanse my space?
There aren’t any rules. You can use a white sage stick to cleanse your space or yourself when the need arises, like if you are experiencing a massive transition, moving into a new space or when you feel a negative energy in your home.
What are alternatives to a sage bundle for smudging?
Burning sage may not be for everyone – but there are alternatives:
- Use a sage mist or incense stick or cones
- Purple sage – a mixture of sage and lavender
- Sweet grass
- Rose petals
Burning cleansing herbs is beneficial for clearing your home or yourself from any negative energy that may lurk there. This tradition, practised by Native American cultures, is a way of promoting spiritual hygiene by introducing positivity and an uplifting mood into any space.