The dictionary defines smudge as “a fire made to produce dense smoke and smoke produced by burning a material in containers, especially for driving away insects or protecting plants from frost.” However, this article is about the act of smudging to cleanse, purify, and protect physical and spiritual bodies, to banish negative energies from structures and vehicles, and to create sacred space for ceremonial purposes.
Common ways to smudge include burning smudge sticks (herbs that are tied into a bundle), braided herbs and botanicals, or loose herbs (burned on charcoal or in a fire pit). Smudging releases the energy and fragrance of the herbs and botanicals so they can heal, cleanse, and purify.
Great respect should be given to the process of smudging for a relationship is being formed between you, the plant spirits, the Ancestors, and the Great Spirit. Each tool in the smudging process is associated with a different element:
- The shell represents Water
- The unlit herbs and ashes represent Earth
- The lit herbs represent Fire
- The smoke represents Air
- Your prayer or intention represents Spirit
SPECIAL TIMES TO SMUDGE
Smudge at the new moon when you are starting a new project or celebrating a new beginning. Smudge at the first quarter moon when you are expanding your capabilities, increasing your prosperity, or taking action to change something in your life. Smudge at the full moon when you are leaving something or somewhere, moving, ending a relationship, or removing negative energies. Smudge at the last quarter moon to end a project, let go of a relationship, release karmic actions, or clear unwanted/unneeded energies.
TYPES OF SMUDGE
There are two main types of smudging materials: smoking (such as burning herbs and resins) and smokeless (such as sprays or unlit plants). Below is a list of materials traditionally used for smudging:
Sage is used to drive out evil spirits, negative thoughts and feelings, and to keep negative entities away. It is used as a smudge to purify the mind, body, and spirit before prayer, meditation, ritual, divination, or ceremony. Sage is also used to purify sacred items such as pipes, magical tools, tarot decks, crystals, and feathers. It can be used for individuals, vehicles, structures, and land. Sage can also be carried in a pocket or medicine pouch for personal and spiritual safety. White sage is considered the king if all sages because it has the strongest aromatic properties of all the sages.
Sweetgrass is used to bring positive energy in after negative energies are banished by using sage. Sweetgrass invites the good spirits, ancestors, and spirit helpers. It is sometimes called the hair of Earth Mother and is braided before it is harvested.
Cedar is used as a purifier, to attract good energy, for protection, and to decrease negativity.
Juniper restores balance; purifies and stimulates; attracts peace, happiness, and restful sleep; and aids in meditation, clairvoyance, and manifestation. Juniper can be used to call in loving energy and spirits. It was used to purify temples and to resist disease in ancient times.
Pinon is used to bring protection and to clear spaces of negative energy. A pile of needles can be burned in an abalone shell.
Tobacco is a very sacred botanical in the Native American tradition. It amplifies prayers, provides healing and purification, extracts negativity in spiritual healings, and allows communication with spirits. It is used in healing by lighting and blowing smoke over the client. Lighting tobacco should always be done in a ceremonial manner.
Palo Santo (holy wood) is a tree that inhabits the South American Gran Chaco region (northern Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil) and Ecuador. The tree belongs to the same family as frankincense and myrrh. Palo Santo is burned to guard against bad energy and in extraction of foreign energies from the energy body.
HERBS and FLOWERS can also be burned in smudging ceremony. Although less commonly seen, these plants all have beneficial properties:
Lavender is useful for attracting peace and happiness; aiding meditation, divination and manifesting; and to call in fairies and elves.
Yerba Santa Leaves are used for enhancing psychic abilities, magical protection, meditation, divination, and healing and spiritual strength.
Rose Petals are used for attracting love, conferring peace, stimulating sexual appetites, enhancing beauty, meditation, divination, increasing psychic abilities, contacting beings in other dimensions, and psychic communication. Rose petals are used to call in the power of the heart.
Hibiscus Flowers are used in divination, psychic communication, rejuvenating the senses, and restoring life force.
Osha Root (Bear Root) is used for self-confidence, strength, and to invite bear spirit medicine.
Mugwort is used for divination, dreaming, prophecy, and divinatory success. Native American tribes rubbed mugwort on their bodies as protection from ghosts.
RESINS are burned on charcoal in incense burners.
Pinon is used to cleanse, strengthen, warm, refresh the senses, and revive a tired soul. If is used by Native American cultures for its spiritual and healing properties.
Copal is used for divination and cleansing. Copal is used by the Mesoamerican peoples. Mayan shamans use it prior to ingesting mushrooms.
Myrrh is used for spirituality, meditation, happiness, release, transformation, strength, confidence, and stability. The Egyptians used myrrh in healing and passing rituals and to embalm bodies.
Frankincense is used for meditation, healing, and to confer divine blessings.
Smokeless smudging can be used in places where smoke is not appropriate due to fire laws or individuals who have allergies to smoke. The smokeless smudges include:
Florida Water (Agua de Florida) is a 19th century formula for eau de toilet that blends an array of floral essential oils in an alcohol base. The name refers to the fabled Fountain of Youth said to have been located in Florida. Florida Water is popular among South American and Caribbean cultures and is used in magical and ritual traditions including hoodoo. Other purposes it is used for are: phukuy (spitting with breath) to ritually clear individuals, objects, and areas; in scent bowls of water set out for the spirits of the dead; and in a spray bottle to cleanse the poq’po (energy bubble surrounding the human body).
Homemade Florida Water can be made by adding essential oils to a vodka base. The oils I use in my formula are: Angelica Root, Bergamot, Chamomile Roman, Clary Sage, Lavender, Rosemary Cineole, Rose Otto, and Ylang Ylang.
Freshly collected branches from Rosemary and Bay Laurel plants can be used to sweep or wipe down an individual, object, or area.
LIGHTING SMOKING SMUDGES
1. Light the plant and wait for it to smolder, letting the smoke start to rise as it begins to carry your prayers to Great Spirit.
2. If using a smudge bowl, rub your hands in the smoke to cleanse them. If using a smudge stick, use a feather to direct the smoke.
3. Scoop the smoke in the following pattern to the 9 Directions:
- To the 4 directions starting with the East, turning clockwise to the South, to the West and to the North.
- Downwards to Mother Earth.
- Upwards to Father Sky, Great Spirit, Grandmother Moon, Father Sun, Star Sisters and Brothers.
- Inwards to your heart welcoming Connection, Presence, Balance, and Oneness.
- Over the left shoulder to the Spirits.
- Over the right shoulder to the Ancestors.
4. Say a prayer asking Great Spirit to remove all negativity and unwanted energies (see prayer section below).
1. Breathe in the smudge, visualizing the smoke purifying your body from the inside.
2. Scoop the smoke to the following:
- To the head, so you will think good thoughts.
- To the eyes, so you see the truth.
- To the throat so you will speak always speak in truth, in kindness, and in non-judgmental ways.
- To the ears, so that you will truly listen and hear only the truth.
- To the heart so you feel connected to all living beings in a loving way.
- To the solar plexus so your emotions connect with the Earth Mother.
- [if female] To the womb, so your life giving energies go out into the world in balance and harmony.
- Under the feet to the dark side of your soul and to walk in peace.
1. The individual to be smudged should stand with feet slightly apart and arms spread slightly. They should remove hats. When you reach their feet, they should raise each one consecutively so that the smoke can swirl beneath the foot. Some individuals literally soak or bathe in the smoke.
2. With a feather, fan smoke towards the individual. Begin at the front at the head and work your way to the feet.
3. Repeat the process on the back of the individual.
4. You may want to end with a short prayer to Great Spirit for the individual.
1. Begin at the front door and work clockwise around the structure, through all rooms, opening all drawers and closets. Finish off the smudging process at the open front door. OR:
2. Come to the center of the room. Turn to the East and fan smudge out into that direction 4 times, saying: Spirit of the East, Great Spirit of Air, cleanse and inspire this space.
3. Turn to the South and smudge 4 times, saying: Spirit of the South, Great Spirit of Fire, strengthen and bring peace to this space.
4. Now turn to the West and smudge 4 times, saying: Spirit of the West, Great Spirit of Water, energize and protect this space.
5. Turn to the North and smudge 4 times, saying: Spirit of the North, Great Spirit of Earth, ground and cleanse this space.
6. Squat towards the floor and send smudge down to the floor 4 times, saying: Great Mother Earth, nurture this space from below.
7. Return to your center position and look upwards, sending smudge up to the ceiling 4 times. Say: Great Father Sky, guard this space from above.
Do not smudge where infants, pregnant women, asthmatic or allergy-prone individuals are present.
Avoid fire hazards by never leaving burning smudge or charcoal unattended.
Do not blow into a burning smudge mixture as it is seen as blowing in your one’s own negativity.
To extinguish a smudge stick quickly, tamp the end out in sand or soil. Do not use water.
FLORIDA WATER SMUDGE
1. Pour a small amount into your hand. Rub your hands together and clap loudly 3 times.
2. Inhale the vapors saying a prayer into your hands. Then brush these prayers over your body.
3. When done, blow the energy off your hands upwards towards Great Spirit.
Here are a few prayers you can recite during smudging ceremonies.
PRAYER 1 by Unknown
Great Spirit, may my prayers travel up this smoke to you, that you may bring blessing and peace to [fill in the blank]. I know the blessings travel down through this smoke to me and I give thanks for the blessings received.
PRAYER 2 by Unknown
From the Element of Fire
Comes this smoke, which is Air.
From the Element of Earth
Grows this plant, which is Water.
I call upon the Elements and the Blessings of Spirit
To please cleanse this [area, space, being, etc.]
For the highest good of all.
PRAYER 3 by Travis Bowman
Great Spirit I come before you with an open heart, I ask that you cleanse this space and make it sacred.
May our hearts be cleansed that you might hear its messages clearly.
May our minds be cleansed so that we can function from the highest vibration.
May your eyes be cleansed so that we can see the signs and wonders around us.
May our mouths be cleansed so that we speak only truth and loving kindness.
May our throats be cleansed that we may speak rightly when our words are needed.
May our hands be cleansed so that we may create many beautiful things in your name.
May our feet be cleansed so that they may take us where we most need to be.
May our whole beings be cleansed and bathed in your beauty so we can be more like you.
May all who commune here and this page be washed clean by these smudging prayer intentions.
And may these same intentions carry our prayers to the heavens, so that we will know your life, light, strength and protection.
So be it!
The Smudging & Blessings Book: Inspiration Rituals to Cleanse & Heal – Jane Alexander
Complete Book of Incense, Oils, & Brews – Scott Cunningham
Smudging & Incense Burning Essentials – Cassandra Eason
Incense & Incense Rituals – Thomas Kinkele
Sage & Smudge: The Ultimate Guide – Diane Ronngren