Author’s Note: The information contained herein is recounted as I remember it from the teachings given to me.
Smudging is a method that native peoples around the world have used to cleanse people, places, and items of unwanted energies. Usually, this is done by placing a sacred herb in an abalone shell, lighting the herb, and thereafter fanning the smoke of the burning herb with a special feather, usually, an eagle feather or a turkey feather (Note: It is the author’s understanding that it is illegal in the United States for any one to have an eagle feather in their possession unless they are of Native American ancestry). The smoke of the burning herb is fanned on, or around, the person, place, or item one wishes to cleanse. Many believe that the herb should be lit from a candle’s flame rather than contemporary means, or artificial, such as a lighter or matchstick.
Traditionally, Native Americans have used dried sage to smudge. There are over 70 varieties of sage, from white desert sage to California sage (also known as ‘Buffalo sage’). Sage is one of the four sacred herbs, or medicines, used by Native Americans, The four sacred herbs are sage, cedar, sweetgrass, and tobacco—one for each of the four directions of the Medicine Wheel. Usually, sage is the herb used in smudging, and although any one of the sacred herbs can be used, tobacco on its own is not used to smudge. Some people like to smudge by burning all four of the sacred herbs in the abalone shell, while others use any of the above, or a combination. The most common herbs that can be used in smudging are sage, cedar, braided sweetgrass, juniper, and lavendar.
Some people use a ‘smudge stick’ rather than loose sage in an abalone shell. When a smudge stick is used, it is often held in the hand that would hold the abalone shell, while the other hand fans the smoke of the burning herb. Smudge sticks tend to give off a LOT of smoke. Most loose sage doesn’t give off as much smoke as much as a smudge stick may, unless you burn a large amount of the sage. Which should you use? Whichever you prefer, you feel is ‘right’ for you, or is available. In some cases, where you feel or wish that a lot of cleansing, or smudging, is needed, you may prefer to use a smudge stick or light a large amount of dry sage in the abalone shell. If you are smudging indoors where there is a smoke detector, be aware that the smoke of the smudge may set off the smoke detector.
Smudge sticks, braided sweetgrass, or wreaths of sage can be placed around one’s home to bless, or protect, the home. Wreaths of sage can also be placed on the entrance to one’s home, on the door to a room, an arch over a doorway or opening, or simply placed on the wall of a special area. Often the sacred herbs are placed on a special display stand, such as an altar. A small representation of the Medicine Wheel, made with a base of braided sweetgrass formed into the wheel, is often placed or hung in a vehicle for safe travel.
When to smudge
1. Whenever you feel you need it.
2. Smudging is traditionally performed before beginning a ritual, ceremony, or making a prayer.
3. Smudging is an excellent technique tocleanse one’s aura. You can think of smudging as a ‘psychic dusting’ of negative energies.
4. Whenever you wish to cleanse an area or place of unwanted energies. For example, you may wish to cleanse your home before or after an event, or gathering.
5. Whenever you wish to cleanse an object of unwanted energies; for example, a crystal that you have recently acquired.
How to smudge
Smudging is a highly personal experience that can be very profound. When smudging is done in a group it helps to signify to everyone present that Sacred Time has begun. Please be quiet and respectful of others present in the Circle, or the group, while they smudge. Oftentimes a person says a prayer while they are smudging. Speaking, moving around, or making any noise can be disruptive to others during this special time.
To smudge an object:
1. If the object can be handled, pick the object up and hold it in the smoke above the burning sage, or herb.
2. For objects that you do not wish to handle, using a fanning motion, with either your hands or a feather, fan the smoke of the burning sage over the object.
To smudge an area (can be a place, a room, etc.):
1. Starting in the Eastern Doorway (the East), fan the smoke with your hand, or a feather in your right hand around the area from the burning sage in one hand (usually your left, or non-dominant hand).
2. As you fan the smoke, say aloud, ‘I cleanse this place of all negative and harmful energies.’
3. Move in a clock-wise direction around the area until you have smudged in all four directions (east, south, west, and north).
4. Many feel (and I do, too) that it is wise to light braided sweetgrass and fan its smoke in the same manner (starting in the East and moving clock-wise) after you have smudged an area. The smoke of the burning sweetgrass is to invite positive energies and/or the Grandmothers and Grandfathers into the area.
To smudge yourself:
1. Light the sage, herbs, or smudge stick. Once the herb is in flames, fan the flames so that the flame goes out, but the herb is still burning and smoking.
2. Lightly ‘wash’ your hands in the smoke.
3. If using a feather, run the feather through the smoke.
4. Fan the smoke over your head to clear your mind.
5. Remove glasses if you are wearing them. Fan the smoke to your eyes so that you will see clearly.
6. Fan the smoke towards your ears so that you will LISTEN to what you hear.
7. Fan the smoke to your mouth so that you will speak the truth.
8. Fan the smoke to your heart so that you will speak from the heart.
9. Moving down your body towards the ground, fan the smoke along the front of your body.
10. Fan the smoke around your feet, so that you can walk the good road. If desired, lift your feet and hold them over the smoke.
11. Finally, hold the burning herb behind your back for a moment.