Smudging: History and Practice

Smudging is the practice of burning specific herbs and plants to bring about change and cleansing in a space or even within a person. Some cultures around the world use it during spiritual and religious rituals, while others still say that smudging blesses a specific space. Most commonly, smudging is performed with sage, an herb long believed to ward off evil and cleanse negative energy.

Sage, whose official botanical name is salvia officinalis, was known for its healing properties in the Middle Ages. Its name comes from the Latin word salvere, which means “to be saved”. Even today, studies have found that sage can increase cognitive performance, improving things like memory and brain function.

Sage was considered sacred by many Native American traditions and was said to bring about purification and healing. Though many cultures across the world smudge with different herbs or burn incense to cleanse a space with smoke (including the Hindus, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and more), sage is the most common today.

Aside from being used to cleanse spaces and ward off evil, sage has been used to fix everyday pains such as those from muscle pains and rheumatism. It can be used in aromatherapy due to its characteristically sweet smell, or even made into a tea, which can help with depression or clearer thinking.

It has even been used to treat those suffering from Alzheimer’s to combat the decline in brain function. Not only that, but it is a natural preservative that both the Romans and the Greeks used for meat, and it is still used in cooking today.

Smudging today is often performed with a smudge stick, which is a bundle of dried herbs that is then lit with a candle, put out, and allowed to smoke in the space to be cleansed. After it is lit, the smudge stick is often allowed to smoke within a container, such as a ceremonial bowl, and then fanned with a feather to disperse the smoke throughout the space.

In some cultures, it is considered disrespectful to blow on the smoke, which is why the feather is used. Loose leaf herbs can also be burned in the bowl to different effects, depending on the herbs.

Smudge sticks can often be used multiple times, with the burnt pieces being cut off at the beginning of each cleansing ritual.

Sage and Smudging

The Power of Energy and Cleansing

Much like dust and dirt accumulates in a space, the spiritual energy of a space can become “dirty” or more negative. If a space or your person has recently been exposed to such negative energy, it can produce feelings of depression, anger, or even make you physically ill.

Many things can cause a space to harbor negative energy – it can be stress, a bad experience, or negative emotions. Over time, a space can build up this energy just from not having been cleansed in a while.

The act of smudging is the act of cleansing away all of this negative energy including unwanted-paranormal entities, by taking it upon yourself to fill the space instead with a purifying substance, such as sage smoke. Other types of smoke can work as well, to different effects. Some smudge with cedar or sweetgrass. However, sage is traditional to both cleanse a space and bless it with some positive energy.

Smudging can even be performed as a ritual to attract positive energy, or provide protection to a space. There are many uses for the practice, and all are positive. When smudging, people often focus on the intent of their ritual to manifest their desires for the space more potently.

Other rituals for cleansing involve the use of essential oils and sea salt. Salt is often believed to neutralize negative energy by absorbing it as soon as it comes into contact with it. For this reason, it is often used in cleansing rituals or any other magical rituals. It is especially powerful in protection against negative psychic energy.

It is used in a number of ways – sometimes, in the formation of a magic circle, or even used in a bowl of water to absorb the negative energy from a room. For this reason, its combination with sage can make for an extremely powerful cleansing ritual.

In addition, the essential oils from sage and other herbs can be powerful, concentrated forces of each herb’s special properties. In the case of sage, the oil can be used for protection, or to enhance smudging rituals and elongate the effects of the ritual.

Some believe that the act of cleansing a space should be performed daily with a smudge stick, while others believe that it can be done only when one senses that a space has fallen out of balance and is more consumed by negative energy than positive energy.

Whichever the case, it is generally agreed that a full smudging ritual will clear away all of the negativity in a space and bless it with positive energy.

Generally, the items needed to perform a full cleansing include:

  • A smudge-stick or dried herbs of the material you’d like to use.
  • A fireproof container (the most common containers are clay or stone bowls, or abalone shells) for holding the smoking herbs.
  • Something to light the smudging material.
  • A feather to waft the smoke throughout the area.

All of these materials can be bought separately, or there are many kits available for a full smudging ritual.

The Complete Home Cleansing and Blessing Sage/Smudge Kit

Complete Home Cleansing and Blessing Smudge Kit

While there are a great many products on the market designed to fulfill the need for a “complete” kit to cleanse a home, this kit by Windfall Naturceuticals (currently under $35), combines the effects of three traditional cleansing practices to produce a kit that is extremely effective at dispersing the negative energy in a space and filling it instead with positive energy.

It then teaches you how to protect the space from negative energy, and allows you to revitalize yourself with the addition of a Dead Sea Salt facial mask.

Including a 5-inch stick of traditional dried white sage from California sealed in a bag, the kit follows traditional smudging practices by first having you light the white sage with the tea candle, put it out, and then allowing it to smoke from the included 5 or 6-inch abalone shell smudging bowl.

The bowl itself does not get hot during the smudging process, and does not have any holes, so that the debris from the smoking sage will all be caught in the bowl. The shell itself is harvested off of the Pacific coast, and is polished beautifully on the inside.

In traditional smudging rituals, a feather is used to waft the smoke throughout the room. Feathers are believed to have the ability to “comb” a negative aura, and some even believe that the type of feather can add its own effects to the ritual.

This kit follows tradition by including a 7-inch feather for you to waft the smoke throughout the space and effectively comb it of negative energy. You also won’t have to blow on the smoking sage, which is sometimes considered disrespectful.

Once the space is clear, the kit goes one step further by including a blessed oil which contains white sage oil, olive oil, and holy water. Once again, essential oils are believed to be more concentrated forms of the herbs from which they are made, and are often used to protect a space by dabbing it in windows, on doors, and more.

To further enhance the power of the cleansing ritual performed with the smudge stick, the white sage oil can protect the area from more negative energy.

The included Dead Sea Salt is used partially in the revitalizing facial mask, as well as used to absorb any residual negative energy in the cleansed space and further protect it. You can sprinkle it throughout the home and wait while it absorbs the negative energy prior to cleaning it up, or you can sprinkle it in a line at the entrances and even windows to create a blockade.

The uses of salt are many and varied when it comes to warding away evil and negativity, and coming straight from the Dead Sea (known for its hypersalinity), this salt will be more effective than common table salt.

The final step, the facial mask, includes the salt in the mask as well, allowing you to absorb any negative energy from your own body after you have cleansed your home (as well as give your face a good scrubbing!).

It also has lavender, which is known for its soothing effects, as well as peppermint oil and cassava root. If you don’t use all of the smudge stick, you can easily cut off the burnt pieces for use in your next cleansing ritual, and the gorgeous abalone shell has obvious future uses.

Overall, the kit combines many traditional forms of cleansing all into one, making it far more powerful than each method would be on its own. For a cleanse that is deep, healing, and protective, this is really the complete set, especially if you’re moving into a new space, have recently had a very bad experience that needs to be smoked away, or just want to add an extra punch to your regular cleansing ritual.


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