Smudging 101: What is smudging? How does smudging work?

Smudging originates as a North and South Native American ritual to cleanse and purify before or during ceremonies, and to call for balance and harmony. This technique has been done for centuries and is still done today. However, smudging has adapted into a technique the every day person can use to purify the air inside the home, or clear negative energies. The ritual of smudging has been related to “spiritual house cleaning.” Smudging is even suggested for cleansing healing crystals to clear them before use.

How does it work 

“Certain plants when burned release a high vibrational energy through the fragrance and their smoke is used as an offering to create harmony and peace, purification and healing protection of physical and spiritual bodies, banishment of negative energies and creation of sacred space. When the herbs are burned it is thought that the soul of the plant is released to aid its energies for a particular invocation. In theory, the smoke attaches itself to negative energy and as the smoke clears it takes those negative energies with it and releases it into another space where it will be regenerated into positive energy.”

To use a smudge stick it has to be dry or it will not burn. Hold the handle end, and light the far end. Let it flame for about 10 seconds, blow it out so that you only see embers before you begin (similar to incense.) The smoke is what is used to cleanse. Walk around with a bowl or clay pot for ashes that may fall. Walk around the area you are purifying. I like to move the smudge stick in a clockwise direction because this ties into many traditions (called circumambulation). When you are done push the end into the bowl to put out the embers, do not wet it or run the end under water because this can create mold in your smudge stick and burning mold or mildew can cause allergies.
How to make your own
Most traditionally white sage and cedar are used for smudging. You can clearly tell the different between white sage and other sage classifications because of the color and the texture (white sage is white and fuzzy.) But, other plants can be a good option when white sage isn’t available, theses include: juniper, other types of sage (check to be safe), flowers (typically the ones that are also edible are best to burn because you know they are non toxic), thyme, lavender, mint, and other evergreen trees. Always check before you grab.
  • Harvest all plants on the day you plan to make your items, and preferably on a warm non-damp day, because you want to avoid excess moisture from the process.
  • Select your mixture, pull off any dead or decayed leaves, and make all ends (from the handle side) even, tie your string (about an arms length I find) around the end and knot it.
  • Begin to wrap up the stick tightly and work your way up it in a criss-cross pattern then work your way back down.
  • Tie your string end to the original end (and make a loop at the end to hang from).
  •  Clip any excessive shrubbery from the top of the stick and trim and edges that are sticking out too far from the sides. You’ll want to keep the string as tight as possible because it will shrink in the drying process.
  • From here using a hook (or a bent coat hanger) and hang the sticks upside down in a dry place in your home. A window with sunlight is a good option if the window does not get excessive moisture. Keep these away from moist, damp, cold environments. 
Note: be selective with what string you choose because remember this will burn as well. I suggest testing a few, or using hemp twine.
For a helpful guide on plant selection please visit: http://www.ecologyofthespirit.com/_infoexchange/articles/Smudging.htm
More helpful links on smudging technique: http://worldpsychic.org/how-to/proper-use-smudging-purification-healing/
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For more on smudging and clearing work check out the Crystal Healing Course.

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