July 25, 2016

A Beginner’s Guide to Herbs & Smudging.

Author's own photo

I believe everyone should smudge their space on a daily basis.

Here’s why:

Energy is real, and it vibrates. There are low, heavy vibrations, and there are high, light vibrations.

The high vibrations feel better, and we feel better when surrounded by them.

Smudging is an ancient practice that clears low vibrations and stuck energies. I smudge almost daily at home, and my space feels 1,000 times better than it did when I first moved in. Smells better, too!

I do this to purify my space before ritual or meditation. I work so hard to keep myself vibrating at a higher frequency in the world today by practicing meditation, yoga, and being of service that I don’t want my space at home to be polluted with dense, heavy energy from the world. 

There’s a reason people have been practicing this for thousands of years. Burning sacred herbs and resins is perhaps the most time-tested method for energetically (and sometimes physically) cleansing a space. For millennia, our ancestors have believed that sacred smoke raises vibrations and assists with magic. So when we smudge today, we also connect with our lineage in a powerful way.

Did you know that incense was, in fact, the first form of perfume? Perfume literally means through smoke.” Yes, our ancestors also used smudging as the primary way to scent their bodies. The Egyptians and Romans “perfumed” the air with the incense they burned. Frankincense was the most valued type of incense; it was rare, expensive, and prized. No wonder it was one of three storied gifts brought by the Wise Men to Christ’s manger; it was a gift fit for a king.

How to Choose Your Smudge

It is important to know that all plants are sacred, not just sage. Different plants carry various properties and benefits, so if you hold a specific intention for your smudging ritual, you should select an herb that resonates with said intention. If you are drawn to a specific smudge, trust that intuitive calling. There is an underlying reason and purpose.

If you are being called to practice smudging and you aren’t sure what combination to use, there are a wide variety of smudge bundles to meet your needs and intentions. Deep down, you know which it is you need. You just have to listen. 

If it’s physical healing you seek, Palo Santo offers a potent dose of botanical medicine. Palo Santo is an ancient and powerful healing wood from Peru that has been used by shamans for centuries—and it smells amazing. Sweetgrass purifies your space and energy, while invoking the Divine Feminine. Black sage offers protection. White sage purifies. 

I keep several smudge bundles at home so that I may satisfy any intention at a moment’s notice. I smudge my space frequently to keep the vibration high. It’s important for me to get the proverbial sh*t off of myself when I come in from dealing with the general public. 

Now, let’s discuss how to smudge.

>> Light one end of your smudge, allowing it to catch fire and burn for several seconds. Once the flame extinguishes, gently blow on the lit end to fan the embers; the smudge will begin to glow and smoke.

>> Lay the smudge on a heat-proof dish, such as an abalone shell, to catch the ashes as it burns. (Safety note: we should always respect the power of fire when using it in ritual.)

>> Fan the smoke over and around yourself and your space.

> As the smoke rises into the air, picture your intention, whatever it may be. If you are clearing negative energy, picture its density and see it lifting away. Healing? Then imagine the smoke cleansing any illness or injury. Whatever it is, envision it floating away on the smoke. You can pray or chant if you feel so called.

>> Continue to use your hands or a feather/fan to guide the smoke over yourself and around your space.

>> In Native American tradition they begin facing East, then South, West, and North before finally turning East again. After making this ceremonious circle, douse or extinguish the burning embers. I love honoring the directions when I smudge; it roots me to the Earth, and connects me to my Choctaw Indian ancestors.

>> When finished, extinguish your smudge or let it burn out on its own. It’s often said that it will burn as long and strong as needed to fulfill the intention.

Native American ceremonies begin by sprinkling the floor with loose sage. They then burn the sage, followed by a braid of sweetgrass. Finally, they burn a bundled sage stick (or smudge bundle), while washing the smoke over the body and around the space. 

The beauty of smudging is that it can be done any time, and as often as you need, no matter your background or culture. I mean, you can even buy smudges at Whole Foods these days. Personally, I enjoy making my own. 

Here are options for herbs you can choose from to make your own smudge:

Listed below are some basic properties for various herbs I’ve used. These herbs have been used for centuries in the Far East, Middle East, Native North, and South American cultures. Keep in mind, you can use these herbs for various other forms of aromatherapy, seasoning, cooking, bathing, skin-care, tea, ect and still receive the beneficial properties of them.

Alfalfa: Associated with psychic abilities, and attracting animal spirits.
Allspice: For uplifting and increasing energy, and determination.
Amaranth: For healing, protection, vulnerability, especially healing of broken hearts.
Aspen: For ascension, protection, and overcoming fears.
Basil: For attracting love, happiness, peace, and money; steadies the mind.
Bay Leaves: For psychic power, divination, success, and money; invoking wish magic.
Blue Spruce: The symbol of pure intentions, generosity, and giving.
Calendula: For love and constancy.
Catnip: Attracts good spirits and great luck. For love, beauty, and happiness.
*Cedar: Banishes fear and enhances psychic powers.
Chamomile: For protection and purification.
Cinnamon: When burned raises high spiritual vibrations and aids healing.
Cloves: For protection and exorcism; attracting opposite sex.
*Coastal Sage or Artemisia Californica: For clearing negative energies and healing holes or tears in the aura.
Dandelion: For divination, spirit calling, and wish magic.
Dill: For protection, luck, money, and lust.
Eucalyptus: For healing and protection.
*Frankincense resin: Reduces stress, eases tension, and connects you with Source energy.
Ginger: Adds power to any magical activity, speeds things up; brings passion.
*Lavender: Brings peace, relaxation, and restful sleep; purity and love.
Lemongrass: For cleansing and purifying, removing obstacles, and opening doors.
Lilac: For protection and exorcism.
*Mugwort or Artemisia Vulgaris: Brings clarity and develops/deepens psychic abilities.
*Myrrh resin: For physical healing and grounding.
*Palo Santo: For deep healing to the physical body; can be used to clear a home of energies associated with illness.
Peppermint: For purity, protection, release, and renewal.
*Pinon Pine resin: Protective, healing, and nurturing.
Rosemary: For removing negative energies associated with sickness, and clearing.
Sage Flowers: For cleansing and releasing negative energies; brings wisdom and purity.
*Thyme: Excellent for releasing ceremonies; allows us to recall the past without pain.
*White Sage or Salvia Apiana: Used to clear negative energies from objects, space, or people. (Endangered so please be very careful when purchasing white sage. If possible, grow your own!) 

*My favorites!

Make sure to fully dry the bundle before burning it, or it may just smell like weed. Do this by hanging it upside down for a few days after you’ve made the bundle.

If you’ve never tried smudging, what have you got to lose? Give it a try. I would love to here your experiences in the comments below!


Author: Lindsay Carricarte

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Emily Bartran

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