The act of smudging

The act of smudging (burning bundles of dried herbs or wood) has been around for centuries and originated with Native Americans and other indigenous cultures.  Smudging refers to burning herbs and the smoke that arises from the burning bundles, and can be used for clearing negative energies, healing work, purification, drawing in positive energy and in sacred blessings or rituals.

There are many different herbs used in smudge sticks including sage, sweetgrass, lavender, tobacco, cedar and juniper.  Palo Santo wood is also commonly used.  The dried sticks are typically burned in a natural vessel (large abalone shell, for example) and the smoke is fanned with a single feather or small bundle of feathers.

To create your own smudge sticks, harvest the leaves (attached to the stems) of the herbs you would like to use.   Create the sticks the same day that you harvest them, to enable you to be able to roll the leaves tightly.

  1. Bundle the stems together, and use a natural fiber, such as cotton embroidery floss, to wrap the stems tightly together.  Knot several times, as tightly as possible. (You will be burning this later, so avoid any unnatural wrap such as nylon or treated twine in case of fumes or off-putting odors.
  2. Next, roll the leaves and stems tightly, and starting from the stem end, wrap diagonally around the bundle, leaving about a ½ inch space between wraps.  Again, you will want this very tightly wound (as the leaves dry, they will shrink, so to ensure a solid bundle, you want to wrap tightly). Once you reach the end of the bundle, wrap in the opposite direction, criss-crossing the original wraps, towards the stem end.
  3. Once you reach the stem end, again wrap several times to secure.  The stems should create sort of a “handle” for the bundle.
  4. Hang the sticks up to dry in a cool, dry place.  Allow approximately 2 weeks for them to dry completely.

To use, gather a fireproof vessel large enough to hold the whole stick, a large feather or clump of feathers to act as a fan, and your stick.   Light the top end (not the handle) on fire, and ensure it is burning well.  Carefully blow out the flames, so that the stick is smoldering and smoking.  Place in the vessel and use the smoke to “smudge” or cleanse.

Types of herbs, and their common purpose:

Sage (Salvia) – blessing, cleansing, healing

Cedar – protection

Sweetgrass – connection with the Earth mother, reminder that all good comes from the Earth

Lavender – spirit communication, invitation to spirit

Use of a feather

Using the underside of the feather is important, as that is the side that faces Mother Earth when the bird is in flight.  It provides connection.