Sunday, August 24, 2008

Smudging with Herbs

Smudging is burning herbs to create cleansing to purify people, spaces and and objects.

Burning herbs is held sacred by many cultures to banish negative energies. Smudging brings physical, spiritual and emotional balance.

Native Americans use a variety of smudging mixtures.

Sage, sweet grass, and cedar are burned to purify and protect living areas, self and sacred tools. Pure tobacco is used by Plains tribes, and copal in South and Central America.

Sage (Artemisia tridentia) is indigenous to the Americas.

There are several varieties of Sage used for smudging. Salvia comes in two varieties: S. officinalis, commonly known as Garden Sage, and S. apiana, White Sage. Salvia varieties have been acknowledged as healing herbs, its name comes from the Latin word salvare, "to heal". Artemisia is considered Sagebrush, more common in California.

There are two varieties of Artemisia: Common Sagebrush and Mugwort. Other varieties of both Salvia and Artemisia are effective in smudging.

Sage is burned in smudging ceremonies to drive out evil spirits, negative thoughts and feelings, and to keep negative entities away. In the Plains Sweatlodge, the floor of the structure is strewn with sage leaves for the participants to rub on their bodies during the sweat.

Cedar: Cypress and Juniper

True cedar is Thuja. Some Junipers are also called cedar. Some varieties are cleansing herbs, especially Desert White Cedar. The best is Western Red Cedar (Thuja occidentalis) and California Incense Cedar (Libocedrus descurrens). Cedar is burnt while praying to the Great Spirit in meditation, and also to bless a house before moving in. It works as a purifier and as a way to attract good energy.


Sioux and Cherokee nations braided it like hair braids. It could be burnt by lighting the end of it. Sweetgrass is burnt after smudging with sage, to welcome good influences after bad had been driven out.

Bay leaf is traditionally used to protect against colds and flu.

Fennel is effective in repelling negative energies and calms the nerves.

Mugwort is used for healing, divination and to stimulate dreams and visions. It can be burned before sleeping. It is slightly mind-altering,avoid its use before driving.


Mullien is effective for healing emotional trauma that originates from relationships with other people and it provides protection when beginning a new project. The smoke is very grounding and calming.

Orris root, when burned with Celery seeds, increases psychic gifts and concentration.

Copal is sometimes used by the Yaqui and in ancient times by the Azteca and the Maya.

Pine, Fir, Hemlock, and Spruce are burned for their purifying and cleansing effect. They are most effective in combination with other herbs.

Uvi Ursi was traditionally mixed with tobacco and used for smoking during peace pipe ceremonies. The fragrance and energy when burned are very calming and grounding.

Yerba Santa is used to nurture and protect that which is ancient, sacred and wild within yourself. Use it when you need encouragement or courage.


Rooms and tools, like crystals that hold energy, are smudged on a regular basis.

The initial smudging is for the purpose of purifying the space and participants and for banishing any unwanted energies.

Cleansing the ceremonial or ritual space before and after the event is an essential part of spiritual hygiene. The final smudge is to cleans any negative vibrations and energies attracted or created during the proceedings. It is also a good thing to do on a regular basis for both one's self and one's living space, to maintain individual and domestic harmony.

Loose dried herbs may be placed directly onto the burning wood in an indoor fireplace.

Ceramic or glass bowls with a layer of sand or salt work well. An abalone shell with a layer of colored sand in the bottom is even better. Remember that the container may be come warm enough to scorch a surface or burn your hand.

Burn herbs to release their energy and fragrance, not to fill the room or your lungs with smoke.

Make sure the bowl you use supports the heat produced so it will not crack. Burning excessive amounts can lead to respiratory distress or problems.

Avoid smudging in the room when infants, pregnant persons, asthmatic or allergy-prone people are present. Never leave your smudge sticks unattended, to avoid fire hazards.

When burning a smudge stick or braid, you need to put them out quickly. Tamp the end out in sand or soil, shaking off the excess.

All things are created from a form of electromagnetic energy. Auras merge to bring balance orimbalance. The aura and souls of the plants and people merge when smudging. Smudging, used by healers by fanning smoke over a person, use their hands, feathers or a fan.

This clears out unhealthy energies and brings in the special attributes of the herbs. There are prayers used during the healing.

A spiritual connection is made between the person and his spirit guides; and between the person and the spirit of the herbs to join and guide in sacred frequency work.

The spiritual work of the plant is to work with human spirits. With the intention to be partners, they work actively with you and their magic manifests.

The Fine Art of Smudging
By: Sam Stevens
An Aboriginal Canadian friend of mine who teaches at the Whispering Lodge in Toronto was explaining to me how physical or emotional healing cannot take place until the person is cleansed of any of the following conditions:

1) Emotional conditions such as resentment, bitterness, envy, jealousy and guilt.

2) Negative thoughts about others or one's past or future.

3) Negative emotions such as grief, hatred, desire.

4) Bad or evil spirits.

5) Attachments or negative energy sent to us from other people.

In most Aboriginal traditions, a sweat lodge, basically a tent or teepee or cave filled with smoke and heat, is used to remedy the sick person of these conditions. In ancient Rome, buildings called purgatoriums were used for the same purpose.

These smoke and heat filled places were considered sacred spaces in which the spirits or God could lift negative entities and energies from an individual without interference with others. Many indigenous cultures throughout the world use burning herbs, plants and resins to accomplish the same purpose. In some cultures the smoke is taken into one's hands and rubbed over the body to blacken it. This is where the modern day practice got its nickname -- smudging.

Below is a list of common herb, plants, grasses and resins that are commonly used in smudging ceremonies. You can light these substances yourself and carry a bundle of the substance around your home in a counter-clockwise circle to cleanse your space. I highly recommend cleansing the body outside, however, as I have found that sage can burn very fast and create a lot of rapid whirling smoke that easily sets off the fire alarm.

Sage Sprigs - the most common substance used for cleansing is sage. The word sage comes from the Latin word Salvia which means, "to heal." There are also varieties of sage, which are from the Artemisia family of plants. This includes mugwort which s used for cleansing and protection. White sage is used for cleansing and protection. Combining branches of pine and white sages together and burning them is used to attract prosperity.

Cedar and Juniper branches - These evergreen boughs have historically been used to help cleanse, purify and protect ones belongings. Sometimes brooms are made from them to use the smoke "sweep" to cleanse a home during a house blessing.

Sweetgrass - This musty smelling grass is used to drive out bad influences and draw good influences into the home. It is often used after a prayer or ritual to "hold" the magic" in its place.

Copal - this aromatic plant resin is mainly used in South American rituals. The touch of the strongly scented smoke from burning copal is thought to cleanse and purify any object or person.

Frankincense and Myrrh - these "biblical" resins are used in Africa, the Middle East and Europe for ceremonies and rituals. Burned together they are thought to balance yin and yang, or the masculine and feminine energies in a place or dwelling. Either is thought to draw blessings into a home.

Tobacco - Tobacco is burned to float prayers upwards to the Creator where they will be heard and answered. Burning a tobacco along with sage, cedar or sweet grass is thought to enhance the magical intentions of the smudge.

Smudges and resins can be bought commercially from occult, new age and gift shops. I usually put the branches, plants or resins in the bowl and blacken my hands and face with it. While doing this I pray for protection, purification and blessings from above. If healing another person or purifying a room I will sometimes use a feather or a branch to waft the smoke in the desired direction.

Smudging is not all hooey and voodoo. The practice is also thought to created negative ions in the air that remove static and create a positive atmosphere. Not only do people usually feel good afterwards, it also creates a space for the free flowing of positive energies and prayers.