What is Smudging?
Smudging is the burning of Sage, Sweet-grass, or Cedar for purification. Smudging has been used as part of traditional religious ceremonies for thousands of years. It is an easy and safe practice that cleanses and clears old, stagnant energy and brings new, vibrant energy into a building, an outdoor space, or a person.
When to use smudging
- We recommend you smudge before, or during, a sacred ceremony to assist your mind and body to be more receptive to the sacred ceremonial process.
- We recommend you smudge when your home needs refreshing, after someone has been ill, or after you have completed renovations (as part of a House Blessing Ritual)
- We recommend you smudge new items you bring into your living space (new furniture, previously owned furniture, automobiles, clothing, etc.).
In general, you can smudge whenever you want, especially when you feel things aren't moving or are stagnant in some area of your life, when you want to bring new ideas or things into your life, or when you want to assist another to do the same.
We recommend smudging to cleanse and clear energy in a specific area, around yourself or another person, or around an item that is in your space. Smudging helps keep things fresh and keeps energy moving and flowing and in your life.
You will need
- Dried Sage, Sweet-grass, or Cedar (available in health food stores or New Age shops, expect to pay between $4 and $10 for a small bundle)
- ashtray (an abalone shell or other decorative ashtray is preferable, a 3-5" bowl-shape works best)
- small potholder or small cloth to hold the ashtray (if you are burning the pieces of dried herb in the ashtray for a long time, the ashtray can get very hot) Optional
- a feather for pushing and directing the smoke (a bird feather found on the ground works just fine)
- sand or soil for extinguishing the smudge stick when finished (if you chose to burn the smudge stick whole)
- a small piece of charcoal (the kind used for incense) to put in the decorative ashtray under the smudge to help keep the small pieces of dried plant lit (if you choose to burn the bundle in small pieces instead of whole)
Preparation-before you start
- Center yourself and quiet your mind. Take a few moments to become fully present. You might want to take several slow deep breaths or light a candle. If you already know a thought or activity that brings you to a place of internal, centered calmness, do that now.
- Gather the items listed above and set them out in a safe spot, away from children, pets, and breezes. If you are smudging indoors, and haven't already opened the windows, do so now.
- Prepare the smudge for burning. The smudge is often sold in bundles wrapped in string. You may burn it whole in its bundle, or, if you are concerned about the ashes and sparks, crumble it into pieces in the ashtray before lighting it.
- If you decide to keep the smudge stick whole, cut some of the string wrapping at the top so you can spread out the twigs and the air can feed the flame. (You might want a helper to carry an ashtray underneath the burning smudge, because your other hand will be busy moving and directing the smoke.) Take a match and light the top of the bundle, then extinguish the flame to create the smoke.
- If you decide to crumble the dried sage, sweet-grass or cedar into pieces, you may want to use a small piece of charcoal, the kind designed for burning incense. Light the edge of the disc-shaped charcoal. Wait a few minutes until the charcoal is turning red and hot. Then sprinkle the dried smudge on the lit charcoal. The lit charcoal will help keep the smudge burning, but it will make the ashtray very hot, so have your potholder handy. If you opt out of using the charcoal, you can still light the small pieces in an ashtray, but you will most likely have to relight the smudge pieces several times during the process.
- Create the smoke for smudging. After you've lit your smudge, either leaving it whole or in breaking it into smaller pieces in an ashtray, make sure to extinguish the flame so the dried, burning plants create smoke.
- Action. Hold the smoking bundle (or the smoking herbs in the ashtray) in one hand and take your feather in the other. Move your hand, or the feather if you have one, in a sweeping motion, guiding the smoke away from you and into the space, or around the person, you are smudging.
- You want to keep your thoughts focused on what you're doing. If your mind strays, gently bring it back to the present and the task at hand. It is a more powerful and successful smudging, if you can focus your thoughts. Imagine the smoke taking away the old, negative patterns and energies that no longer serve universal health and well-being.
- Remember to honor the people, building owners, or property owners by receiving permission before smudging their space, even if you are smudging long distance using a sketch you have drawn.
Smudging a person
Traditionally, smudging is performed moving in a counter-clockwise direction. If you are smudging yourself or another person, keep the smoke about a foot (25 centimeters) away from the body, especially around the face. Start above the head, at the top of the body and move the smudge in a soft zigzag from above the head to the ground, using your hand or feather to direct the smoke. Take a few steps counter-clockwise (to your right) and repeat, until the entire space around the body has been smudged. (Or the people being smudged can slowly turn in place to the right while you are smudging them.) After you have smudged counter-clockwise around the body, have the people being smudged lift each foot one at a time and guide the smoke to reach under the soles of the feet.
Smudging indoors in a room or building
Enter each room and hallway, stand in the center, take your feather and push the smoke away from you into the room. As you leave, remember to move counter-clockwise, so turn to the right as you exit. Do this in each room of the house/space. You may want to think to yourself or speak aloud words such as "I now release any old, stagnant, or negative energies." Be mindful of the ashes and sparks. You may either draw a sketch to represent large spaces or you may physically go into the building to smudge.
Either walk counter-clockwise around the property and any structures, continuing to push the smoke away from you with the feather, or move the smudge counter-clockwise over the sketch of the building and/or land that you have drawn. You may want to think to yourself or speak the words, "I now release any old, stagnant, or negative energies."
Smudging an item
To smudge furniture, automobiles, cars, clothing, crystals, etc. you may either move the smudge over and around the item, going in a soft, zigzag, counter-clockwise direction, or alternately, if it is a smaller item, move the item back and forth a few times over the smoking sage, sweetgrass, or cedar.
Grounding, Integrating and Closing
Be thankful. When the smudging is complete, thank the sage, sweet-grass, or cedar. Also thank anyone else who was helping you. Extinguish the smoking smudge. If you chose to burn the smudge bundle whole, press the smoking end of the bundle firmly into the bottom of the ashtray or abalone shell. Continue to exert pressure and roll it side-to-side until the embers are out. Alternatively, put some sand or soil in the bottom of a fireproof dish and put the smoking smudge stick, top down, in the sand or soil 20 seconds or more, until the smoking stops.
If you chose to burn broken-up pieces of dried sage, sweetgrass, or cedar in the bottom of the ashtray, take the end of a used match and push down on the embers to put them out.
Make sure the smudge embers are completely extinguished.
Take a few moments to notice the changes in the environment after the smudging is complete.
Congratulations! You have now completed the smudging ritual.