Go Smudge Yourself (or Your Space!)

Is your space feeling a bit stagnant? Build up of negative energy or spiritual presences can cause the vibes in a room or home to feel heavy causing low motivation, energy depletion and brewing frustrations. If this sounds like you, it may be time for your space to get a quick clearing.

Whether the season is summer, spring, fall or winter, it is a good idea to clean the air in your home regularly to get rid of germs and all the other unhealthy things you don’t want your family to breathe in. One great way of cleaning the air around you is by burning sage. This practice has been around for hundreds of years, but many people have discounted it in the past as an old wives tale. However, recent research has proven that you can clear bacteria from the air by burning sage herb.

Moving furniture around, adding plants, and circulating the air are usually what people turn to first when things feel stagnant. But sometimes that’s just not enough. Regularly cleansing and protecting your space with crystals and herbs is a great addition to your routine to encourage good vibes and renewed energy by releasing stagnant energy. 

Smudging may be used as a ritual tool to rid yourself — or your space — of negativity. This could include past traumas, arguments in the space, bad experiences, or negative energies from others. If you just bought a new house or moved to a new rental, this is a perfect time to sage and release any of the previous tenants’ energy. It doesn’t mean that the people there were negative but we all have good days and bad days and that energy can build up over time and it’s a great way to have a fresh start for yourself and your family.

This may help you establish a positive environment for meditation or other rituals as well. Choosing to sit and let go of negative thoughts in a ritual like this sets your intention and dedication to self-improvement. Choosing to engage in ritual can be the beginning of your change in mindset and help in boosting your mood & energy, relieving stress and even improving your quality of sleep. 

What is Smudging?
Burning sage — also known as smudging — is an ancient spiritual ritual.

Smudging is the ancient practice of burning dried herbs or Palo Santo sticks and allowing the smoke to cleanse the air. In addition to the ritualistic purpose of this, there is a scientific side as well. The most-used types of sage have antimicrobial properties which means they keep infectious bacteria, viruses and fungi at bay. 

White Prairie Sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) is both antimicrobial and antibacterial. White sage (Salvia apiana) is also antimicrobial. And both have been shown to repel insects.

It turns out that sage may help clear the air of lots more than bugs and bacteria. Though scientifically unproven, burning sage is thought to release negative ions. This is said to help neutralize positive ions.

Common positive ions are allergens like: pet dander, pollution, dust, mold

If this is the case, burning sage may be a blessing for those with asthmaallergiesbronchitis, and other respiratory conditions. But inhaling the smoke during the smudging can aggravate any respiratory condition. Wait until the smoke clears before going into the room.

Smudging has long been used to connect to the spiritual realm or enhance intuition.

For healers and laypeople in traditional cultures, burning sage is used to achieve a healing state — or to solve or reflect upon spiritual dilemmas.

This may have some scientific basis, too. Certain types of sage, including salvia sages and white prairie sage, contain thujone.

Research shows that thujone is mildly psychoactive. It’s actually found in many plants used in cultural spiritual rituals to enhance intuition.

For some, this may be the best of all benefits: Sage is a lovely incense with a divine aroma, pure and simple. It also works great as a chemical-free air freshener or odor controller.

What you need
The practice of burning sage or smudging is fairly simple, with few necessary tools.

Basic tools include:
a sage bundle (or smudge stick)
some recommend a seashell or bowl of ceramic, clay, or glass to hold burning sage or capture ash
some recommend matches over a manufactured lighter
• optional feather or fan for fanning smoke

There are many types of sage usable for smudging.
Traditional examples include:
• White sage (Salvia apiana)
• Other Salvia species
• white prairie sage or estafiate (Artemisia ludoviciana)
• Other Artemisia species
(See separate post about different types of sage and smudging tools)

How to Smudge
Before burning sage, some recommend setting intentions if smudging for spiritual, energetic, and negativity clearing purposes. Remove animals or people from the room. It’s also important to leave a window open before, during, and after smudging. This allows smoke to escape. Some believe smoke also takes impurities and negative energy with it — so don’t skip this step.

To use sage (whether a bundle or loose), simply light it, wait for a moment, then blow it out. The tips of the leaves should smolder slowly, releasing thick smoke. Direct this smoke around your body and space with one hand while holding the bundle in the other.

Allow the smoke to linger on the areas of your body or surroundings you’d like to focus on. Using a fan or feather can also help direct the smoke, though this is optional. Allow the smoke to waft through your space, guided by your hand or a feather. 

Practice fire safety by keeping these items away from flammable surfaces and never leaving them unattended. Using a bowl of sand or an abalone shell as resting places for your smudging tool is a common method of safety. Allow the ash to collect in a ceramic bowl or shell.

To smudge your home or living space, direct sage smoke over all surfaces and spaces in your home or living area. Be thorough. Open closet doors, direct the smoke to the ceiling and say something like “Please clear anything negative from this space.”

Some recommend working in a clockwise direction around your home, ending back where you started, especially for spiritual purposes. I like to begin near a door or window so I can end by clearing the smoke and energy OUT of the space. Others recommend counter-clockwise. Do what feels best for your situation and follow your intuition. There is no right or wrong way to go. Just hold your intention or clearing the space thoroughly. 

To smudge an object, direct smoke around and over the object of your choice. This can be done to a new item, such as jewelry, furniture, or clothing, to protect or dispel it of negative energy. Items related to negative experiences or memories may also be smudged. Some people burn sage over special objects, to acknowledge the object with sacred meaning.

What to do after a smudge
Make sure your smudge stick is completely extinguished. You can do this by dabbing the lit end into a small bowl of ash or sand.

Check the end closely to make sure there are no more embers burning. Once it’s completely put out, store it in a safe, dry place out of the sun.

Keep in mind: Burning sage is a sacred religious practice in some Native American cultures. Treat the ritual with respect.

Choosing Crystals to work with during Smudging (if you choose to)
There are a wide variety of Crystals and Stones that pair well with herbs for cleansing and protecting. My top favorites are:

Clear Quartz – Encourages mental clarity and general healing

Amethyst  – Clears negative energy and bad habits. Invites optimism and Spiritual awareness.

Himalayan Pink Salt – Emits positive ions that attach to negative ions in the air (from tiny particles of dirt, dust, debris, etc), causing them to be weighted and fall to the floor. They can then be vacuumed up. 

Selenite – Promotes harmony and peaceful energy

Citrine – Invites good fortune, luck, and abundance

Black Tourmaline/ Obsidian – Clears and blocks negative energy

Using Crystals
Place them in your space as manifestation tools/ reminders, decor, or as a Crystal grid- listen to your intuition and go with what feels right. Using them with herbs is the same. Program them to help with your cleansing ritual, protect your space, or motivate you to manifest your dream space.

Remember to put your crystals outdoors or on a windowsill during the full moon to cleanse and re-charge them! That’s also a great time to do a smudging ritual to start fresh, then put your crystals back after the full moon. 

FAQ’s About Burning Sage

Where can I find a sage stick?
Right here at Robin’s Center for Wellness. 😉

How much dried sage should I have to try this?
You will need about a fistful of sage to try the smudging method. Think of it as 2 servings of spaghetti and measure it the same way with your hand.

Is it safe for my kids and pets?
Burning sage herb is safe for both kids and pets. Your pet may not appreciate being in the same room since their sense of smell is much more heightened than ours, but it will not harm them.

Different Types of Smudging Materials

White Sage: Salvia apiana, also known as Bee Sage, California Sage

White Sage is the most common herb used for Smudging. It has great properties for removing negativity, cleansing, and protection. When burned, it breaks up negative energies in a person or room. 

Sage smoke is beneficial to breathe as it has many antimicrobial properties. Many times, if someone has a bad reaction to sage, it is more the reluctance of the negative energies. Once a person is cleansed (by any method) the aversion to sage goes as well.

The use of sage is for healing. The smoke is used to bless, cleanse and heal the person or object being smudged. Sage is often used to ‘wash off’ the outside world when one enters a ceremony or sacred space. Objects are likewise washed off with sage medicine smoke to rid them of unwanted influences. 

The plants that are called sage can come from very different families of plants. True sages are in the genus of Salvia; this includes Salvia Officinalis (garden sage) and Salvia Apiana (White Sage), also called California Sage and Sacred Sage. Many of the herbs called sage come from a completely different family of plants, the Asteracea family. This family brings us the genus of Artemisia from which comes New Mexico Sage (Artemisia tridentada), and the sage from the Dakotas (Artemisia ludoviciana), also called Grey Sage, Prairie Sage, Dakota Sage, Lakota Sage and mistakenly sometimes called White Sage. All of these sages (Salvia and Artemisia) are used for healing and cleansing. More can be learned from the book “Sacred Sage, How It Heals”. 

Black Sage: Artemisa Vulgaris, Mugwort, the dream herb, Magical Sage
Black Sage, also known as Mugwort is often used to protect one against evil spirits. Mugwort is well known as an aid to astral travel and dream Magic and is used in Shamanic journeying, and for protection during excursions. Mugwort also is used to dispel fatigue and aid in divination. This Smudge is often used before or during a divination working for this reason.

Black Sage is also the herb of introspections and inner healing. 

Why does it matter if you use White Sage or Black Sage?
The metaphysical properties of both plants are similar, but ‘sagebrush’ based smudges may also contain small amounts of thujone. This mildly trance-inducing compound is best known as the active ingredient in absinthe liqueur. Black Sage like we have here contains less thujone than the common herb Mugwort or wormwood. Black Sage won’t cause you to ‘trip out’ or wildly hallucinate. At most, it will intensify your efforts at visualization and vivify your dreams. 

Even so, some people, ie….pregnant women and persons with anxiety illnesses should avoid using Black Sage. 

Cedar – Cedrus Pinaceae
Cedar is another Great option for smudging. While the cleansing effect of Cedar is not quite as intense as White Sage, Cedar has other great properties. The cedar tree is a sacred tree believed to have healing properties. Cedar trees are very old, wise and powerful spirits. This makes Cedar a must use for healing and for ceremonial purposes. Cedar smoke has a friendly and healing energy that is a good alternative for those who have an aversion to sage.

Cedar is often used to cleanse a home or apartment when first moving in, inviting unwanted spirits to leave and protecting a person, place or object from unwanted influences. Cedar is used as a name for a number of different genuses of trees and shrubs. The primary ones are Cedrus, Thuja, Libdocedrus and Juniperus. The Junipers are not truly Cedars (scientifically) but are used as such by many people. Keep in mind that these scientific names have little meaning to the people using them as medicine in traditional ways. 

Along with Rosemary and White Sage, Cedar is one of the most aggressive cleansing smudges you can choose. 

Rosemary – Rosemarinus officinalis
You can use this as a substitute sage smudge if you have any concerns about cultural appropriation with Native American Culture. Rosemary is an Old World herb so it makes a guilt-free alternative for western Practitioners and carries the same cleansing properties as White Sage. 

Blue Sage – New Mexico Sage, Desert Sage, Grandmother Sage, Azure Sage, Pitcher Sage

Blue Sage has great medicinal and magic applications. Blue Sage provides spiritual strength and is sometimes used in Exorcism rituals to remove malevolent spirits. It has a lighter fragrance than white sage and is an alternative for rituals of blessing, prayer, cleansing and purification. Blue Sage is good for healing and cleansing rituals.  Its soothing, relaxing smell can be used to aid meditation, or burned simply for enjoyment. It’s not as pungent as White Sage, and is more agreeable to some folks who find the strong, bracing scent of White Sage overpowering. 

Mountain Sage  – Desert Mugwort

Mountain sage is a sage that grows in high altitudes in arid climates. It is good for adding strength and energy in rituals. Mountain sage does dispel negative energy as well. 

Balsam Fir 
The Balsam fir tree has many uses, and using the needles of this great plant as a smudge is just one of many. The properties as a smudge are calming and relaxing energies. The smoke is useful in detoxifying the respiratory system. This fir is the most common type of tree used as a Christmas tree, so for many, the scent evokes a happy time.

Juniper
Juniper is an excellent choice for use instead of a more standard smudge. Not only does Juniper clear negative energy like other smudges, Juniper can also create a safe, protective, positive, healing space when the negative energy is removed. Juniper is energetically and physically detoxifying as well as centering.

Lavender
Lavender is used as a smudge to bring out the powers of calming and cleansing. Lavender has a calming effect on the nervous system. Lavender brings a clean positive energy, opens the heart chakra and calms situations. Magically it can be used for protection and also for love as well. Some traditions maintain the scent of Lavender wards off evil. Lavender was an important herb used in mummification. There is a legend that the clothing of baby Jesus was laid upon a lavender bush and acquired the fragrance. Some Christians still regard the scent of lavender as a safeguard against evil. Burning lavender is best done on Charcoal Tablets. 

Pine
Pine ​smudge is a great stand-alone smudge for several types of rituals in addition to using to purify a space.  Pine is known to reverse hex or curses upon the recipient. During times of loss the burning of Pine is known to lift the spirits of those in mourning. Pine also helps with concentration.

Yerba Santa 
Yerba Santa smudge sticks are made from an herb that translates into ‘Holy Herb’. This is a great smudge to use when you are looking to start a meditation as it aids in finding your innermost self. Yerba is also great for burning before starting a spiritual journey. This smudge is also great for spiritual cleansing rites. The burning of Yerba can give one encouragement and courage to face what needs to be done.

Copal
This is tree sap from Mexico that is similar to Frankincense. When burned, it has a crisp, clean, sharp scent that is almost citrus-like. Copal is sacred to the native peoples of Mexico, as it is a gift ‘pleasing to the Gods’. Because copal is the blood of the trees, it is offered to honor the enormous gift given to us all by the tree people of our planet. Burning Copal is best done on Charcoal Tablets. 

Frankincense
At one time both Frankincense and Myrrh were considered to be more valuable than gold. Used to embalm the bodies of the Egyptian Pharaohs, this tree resin is considered to cleanse and protect the soul. Frankincense became important to most every major religion in the world and is still used in Muslim, Jewish and Catholic rituals. Frankincense is said to ease depression and promote clairvoyance. Burning Frankincense is best done on Charcoal Tablets. 

Myrrh
This tree resin is said to help one maintain a state of enlightenment. It also connects one to the spirit of youth and clears the path of debris that stands in the way of one’s truth. It is great to use doing inner child work. Burning Myrrh is best done on Charcoal Tablets. 

Sweet Grass – Hierochloe odorata (Hi-ra-klo O-da-ra-ta), known as Holy Grass

Sweet Grass is a long fragrant grass that grows across the plains. Plaines tribes have traditionally burned it to help drive out negativity and harm and allow benevolent spirits to approach. Ancient lore states that sweet grass is the hair of Mother Earth, and invokes love, kindness and honesty. It brings positivity into the place it is burned. 

Sweet grass is valued for its vanilla-like scent. This very special herb’s sweet vanilla-like scent is the breath of the Earth mother, bringing blessings of Mother Earth’s love. Sweet grass is burned to remind us of the essence of the feminine and that the earth provides us with everything we need. 

Clippings of sweet grass are usually braided and then dried prior to burning. When burned for healing or ritual purposes, the smoke from the braided sweet grass is thought to attract good spirits and positive energies. It is used as a smudging tool to purify people’s auras, cleanse objects, and clear ceremonial areas or healing spaces of negative energy. Sweet grass can be carried or worn as a protective amulet. The plant is also used in basket weaving.

Sweet grass smells of fresh hay with hints of warm vanilla. It induces a mellow state of calm when burned. It does contain coumarin, which is thought to be mildly psychoactive. Some prefer to burn sweet grass by shaving some blades into their smudge vessel and others prefer to burn the braid itself. 

Sweet grass can be unbraided or trimmed with a scissors and sprinkled on hot Charcoal Tablets. Allow the sacred smoke that follows to wash over the subject of the blessing. The sacredness of the sweet grass herb then sustains the smudging process.  

Ritual Uses of Sweet grass:

  • Burned as a special offering during sacred prayers
  • Burned for personal and home blessings
  • Burned or smudged for purification purposes
  • Incorporated into sweat lodge ceremonies
  • Carried as a protective totem
  • Kept in the home to attract positive energies

Palo Santo – Bursera graveolens (Ber-sara Grave-o-lens)
Palo Santo is a sweet smelling wood that is a natural incense. It is used to clear out negative spirits and energies, increase relaxation and bring joy and harmony to the home. 

Using Palo Santo is really very simple. You can use it either to clear a space of negative or unwanted energies; for meditation; or for cleansing your crystals. Take one stick and light it with a candle, match or lighter. Allow the Palo Santo stick to burn for 30 seconds to a minute, then carefully blow it out.

Clear, cleanse, and clarify your space with Palo Santo, meaning “holy wood.” The wood is burned to help purify air, release negative energies, enhance creativity, and increase good fortune. … Similar to smudging with sage, simply light your stick of Palo Santo, using a candle, match, or lighter.

Palo Santo is also used for protection for Shamanic Journeying and other Shamanic work. It is in the same family as Frankincense and Myrrh, but is only native to Ecuador, Peru and the Galapagos Islands. 

Let’s get to the real reason why Sage and Palo Santo are so widely used: their clearing and cleansing benefits of negative energy. Sage is said to clear ALL energy, the good and the bad. … Palo Santo on the other hand, is said to cleanse negative energy and bring in the good.

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