Smudging has traditionally been performed by Native Americans and is the ritual burning of herbs to create smoke to clear and purify a person or space. Ceremonies may begin and end with the burning of these sacred herbs. Herbs such as sage, sweetgrass and cedar are generally used.
Try to obtain and burn a variety of herbs to see what you like best. All three purify and remove negative energy. Obviously, if the smell of an herb turns you off, you shouldn’t use it for clearing negative energy.
Herbs are allowed to dry naturally and are either bound together in a bundle called a smudge stick or sold loosely. They can be purchased at many mind, body and spirit stores, at some natural food stores, at Native American Festivals, some alternative bookstores and online.
You can also grow your own herbs. This is especially nice, as you can form a relationship with the herb as it grows. When harvesting, cut what you need—allow the plant to regrow for the following season. Bind the herbs tightly together with string and hang upside down in a cool, dry area until they are dry.
Before you begin to burn your herbs, find a fireproof bowl to catch any sparks or to hold loose herbs. The Native Americans traditionally use an abalone shell for this purpose. Keep in mind that the bowl will get hot and that the herbs will continue to smolder following the smudging ritual—so plan on placing the bowl and herbs in your kitchen sink or fireplace when finished.
Light the smudge stick; when ignited, blow the flames out. The bundle will smolder, releasing the fragrant, purifying smoke. Hold the bundle with your dominant hand and hold the bowl under the smudge stick with your other hand.
If you use loose herbs, put your fireproof bowl on a fireplace mantel, stove or kitchen sink and light the herbs. Once they have caught fire, gently extinguish. Hold the bowl (you may want a potholder under the bowl if it tends to get hot) and wave the smoke with your other hand or a feather.
Begin by smudging yourself—you want to purify and remove your own negative energies. If you would like to perform the ceremony as the Native Americans do, you will want to honor Mother Earth. First, thank the Four Directions by beginning in the East, then South, West and North, working clockwise. Next, hold the smudge near the ground to thank Mother Earth and then above to honor Father Sky and the Great Spirit.
Next, allow the smoke to drift over your face and head. Continue to allow the smoke to cleanse your entire body. Think how the smoke is purifying you and removing any negative energy.
Smudge anyone else with you or anyone who will be entering the soon-to-be smudged space—they too should be purified. You can use your hand to move the smoke or use a feather—also a Native American tradition. Go down the front of the body from head to feet and then repeat down the back of the body.
You must be fully present when smudging—no conversation, picking dog fur off furniture and so on. Be focused and in the present when performing this ritual. By doing so, you will find that you just know which areas—on a person or in a room—need extra smoke. You may linger with the smudge around your husband’s feet or find yourself thoroughly smudging a linen closet. Go with whatever guides you.
Make a point to linger in the bedroom and around the bed; around your favorite seating areas and in the entryway to your home. Smudge your entire home—even an unfinished basement and attic and cupboards and closets.
When smudging the house, work with or without a feather. If you use a feather, place smoking herbs in a fireproof bowl and wave the smoke with the feather. If you choose not to use a feather, direct smoke by waving the smudge stick. Smudge each room starting in the east and working clockwise around the perimeter of the room. Smudge any individual objects that need it; then stand in center of the room and allow the smoke to drift.
As you smudge, keep your thoughts on the process; visualizing negative energies dissipating and the room becoming purified and filled with love. When you are finished, thank Mother Earth.
Excerpt From Harmonious Environment, copyright 2007.