Sage, Palo Santo, and Cedar Oh My! What, When, and Why We Smudge! And is it wrong?
Smudging is the burning of a bundle of sacred herbs, in a ceremony with rituals involving clearing, healing, intention setting, and blessing. Various substances have varying metaphysical properties. Here are some common ones I know of, but did you know that there are more than 25 types of herbs/woods used to smudge with?
Here Are My Notes On Smudges
I know and have worked with these below, it is by no means extensive nor perfect, these are what I have found in my own personal research and through intuition.
Rose Petal Sage, Cedar Blue Sage, Palo Santo
Palo Santo: Palo santo (Bursera graveolens) is a tree that’s native to Peru, Ecuador, and other South American countries. It grows in dry tropical forests and produces very fragrant resin. In Spanish, palo santo means “holy wood.”
For thousands of years, wood, resin, and oil have been used for medicinal purposes. It’s mainly used to treat pain and stress. It’s also said to clear negative energy.
There isn’t a lot of scientific proof behind these benefits. Nevertheless, palo santo has been used by indigenous peoples for centuries.
Let’s explore the purported benefits of palo santo, along with its forms and uses. It is known to be a mosquito repellent, have anti-inflammatory properties, and ease stress.
Cedar: Raises prayers to Creator, drives out negative energy, and invites positive in.
Rose: Known to bring love and happiness, raise the vibration.
Sage: Energy Cleansing – Removes Negative Energy – Harmonizes the Mind
Sage cleansing is the quickest way to clear out negative energy from both objects and surroundings. It is one of the oldest and most well-known herbs for energy cleansing your home. Besides removing negative energy, using sage to cleanse a home helps to neutralize the energy of the space, enhancing your intuition. This helps to relieve your worries, open your mind, clear away negative thoughts and feelings and harmonize the body by releasing the stress of your spirit.
The use of sage to cleanse a home is deeply rooted in Native American history. They used sage for many purposes, including healing, energy cleansing, removing negative energy, and ritual ceremonies. Today, Native Americans use it in sage cleansing ceremonies for those who are seeking balance and pure thoughts.
There is controversy about smudging that I would like to share my take on, smudging has been appropriated from indigenous communities during the New Age movements. Indigenous cultures, various tribes, and nations have varying practices of healing, cleansing, blessing, smoke ceremonies. I don’t deny this to be true, I also don’t deny the harm that comes from the appropriation of spiritual practices around the world and that there are many ways we can do better as a collective.
My personal opinion may not be a popular one, it comes from my personal experience as a Medium and Empath first and a Healer second. I first heard about smudging when I was nearly 16 years old. I had been a medium my whole life though I was only partially aware of it, it lead me to seek comfort, answers, and support in the New Age community. I began to explore various world religions, looking for where the people ‘like’ me were, the people having trouble sleeping at night due to visiting spirits and varying other presences, the people who wanted to just be “normal” but didn’t dare talk about what they were experiencing and why I hated sleepovers as a child, teen, and even into early adulthood. What I found was that the Pagan, Wiccan, and New Age community had support for me, had room, acceptance, and even a bit of celebration of me, I fit. I had a voracious appetite and quickly looked into every resource I could get my hands on, at 16 I learned about Reiki although I didn’t get attuned until near age 28! I quickly learned that engaging in spirit work, consciously or like much of my early days unconsciously could come with certain dangers. I learned that crystals, incense, oils, and talismans could help me manage and protect my energy as I frequented the local spiritual shop my small town had.
Every time I walked in I could feel a wave of peace wash over me, a clear-headed and heartedness that I had sought for myself for what felt like my whole life. I would linger in the store as long as possible just to feel the ease of my energy and wellbeing. After conquering some extreme shyness I asked the owner what it was that she used in the shop, if it was incense, perfume, candles, it didn’t matter, I was ready to bring it home. The owner took her time and sweet patience to explain to me what a smudge stick was, how it worked, and how to care for my energy on my own at home. I had long used incense, my family always seemed to enjoy particularly when I was young, I can recall my mother buying incense cones and using them after cleaning our home. So smudging didn’t feel foreign to me in the least, the only difference I saw was that the ingredients were more raw and unprocessed. What I knew was that I finally received the help I had needed.
It was through the practice of smudging that I was able to become conscious of my spiritual skills and abilities and manage them in a more boundary and healthy way.
Later in life smudging was in nearly all the pieces of training I have taken, everything from Reiki, Mediumship Development and Training, Angel Intuition and other healing practices, Meditations, Yoga Classes, and more. Each place it was taught with respect, and sacredness.
We as humans are a balance of the elements, earth, air, water, fire, and spirit. We can save other elements like metal for a different chat! So the burning of herbs, candles, incense can be found all around the world in every culture, as can cleansing with water, invoking Spirit with prayer, affirmation, intention. It may look similar or greatly different from culture to culture but these are a point of unity between each of us.
As the world changes with the advances of technology, making the ease of acquiring harder to obtain things with a simple button click on a website and changes to the collective unconscious I have to wonder about the appropriation of spiritual practices and tools. It seems like that as the internet grew so did the collective unconscious, we as people become more sensitive, more aware, and connected. It reminds me of ‘The 100th Monkey Effect’, I will share a video in case you haven’t heard of this before.
The video can be found on youtube by searching "100th Monkey Theory", the video I'm referencing is made by LaOta OfTheSun youtube channel.
My viewpoint is that we as a species are one, we are one species despite our differences, such as skin color, practices, spiritual faiths, geographic origin, and resources. As the collective unconscious is accessed and grows, the blending of practices, faiths, tools will become more frequent. When I consider individuals that practice shamanic journey, channeling, and hypnosis, practices that take us into the realms of the unconscious and we return with insights, solutions, practices given by Spirit is that in my opinion, it is a natural phenomenon. Does this mean that all appropriation is, certainly not, I don’t deny that there are individuals and groups out there appropriating for the sake of financial gain, and within those circumstances therein lies a big problem. I feel the key is to have awareness, practice grace, give credit where credit is due, and when possible financially support those cultures of whom practices have been appropriated. In my personal life where Spirit has given me ideas, insights, solutions, and tools I will hold them as sacred, and continue to practice them, just with kindness and mindfulness.
Mindful Steps We Can Take
Find alternate tools, while burning and smoke are a means of working with the elements within us, we can use other practices such as essential oil sprays, flower essences, intention, prayer, affirmation work to name a few.
I seek to grow in relationship to the herbs I use, I seed, plant, and grow them to the best of my ability, you can also try your best to find local and sustainably farmed raw ingredients for your work rather than purchasing from those who would profit from appropriation. As much as I adore Palo Santo, I use it less than other items, one because it’s not local, it’s not something I can be sure what sustainably sourced. I do have some still and I treasure it for special occasions, instead, I use what I know grows locally such as lavender, rosemary, cedar, and sage.
Honor the sacredness, and the origins of your ingredients, spiritual practices, and tools. Pay homage and respect, if you are like me and teaching others spiritual practices and tools for self-care, healing, and working with the unconscious daily do so with care and great love in your heart. Challenge your students to do their research, and find ways to give back to the cultures that pioneered great works.
Search your heart and know what you value and move forward with love and respect for yourself and others.
Something I recommend is making your own smudge bundles, it is an uplifting and sacred process that is deeply initiating, intimate, and presence growing practice!
When and Why
To create a shift in energy, when you are observing intense patterns of negative energy whether that be mentally, emotionally, physically, in your body or in a physical location, in an object and want to create clarity, stillness, connection, and peace. If you have been stuck emotionally, or mentally ruminating on something, it’s a good time to step back, get some space, and explore your options, thoughts, and feelings more objectively.
If you are empathic and have intense feelings and thoughts but don’t know where in your life they are stemming from, are asking ‘Is this mine?’ it’s time to smudge, clean the slate and become fully present. When you feel overwhelmed, it’s a good time for a smudge.
If you are struggling to have clear vision, intention, goals, and move movement, smudge!
Creating sacred space, if you are doing deep spiritual work, holding space for another or even yourself, doing deep healing then its time to smudge. Create a clean and clear foundation to work off of.
We have all been places that have that oppressive foreboding vibe to them, those dense energies have been stagnant and are in need of smudging.
Purpose of Smudging
- Clear Energy
- Create Clarity
- Establish Energetic Boundary
- Uplift Vibration of Thought, Feeling, Being
- Release Foreign Energies (Empaths frequently absorb energy from others)
- Invoke the Sacred/Divine
- Repel Lower/Dense Energy
- Release Impurities and Improve Air Quality
I recommend using an Abalone Shell, one because of its ability to help contain ashes and sparks, reduces the chance of accidents and messes but two because of its vibration and metaphysical properties.
Abalone Shells Nickname: Mother of Pearl
Enhance feelings of peacefulness, beauty, compassion, and love. Ease turmoil, soothe nerves and give a larger perspective in communication. Detoxifying, strength, and stamina.
Affirmation: I am beautiful and see beauty all around me
Solar Plexus, Heart, and Throat Chakras.
Lit your smudge stick and let the smoke permeate and cleanse, think of a 360-degree wafting of the smoke. Some individuals like to work with the feathers, different feathers hold different qualities and help to direct and disperse the smoke. Work from one end of a room to another, from left to right, ceiling to floor, and typically having a direction where there is an open window or door is recommended. Once done, snuff out the fire against an abalone shell, store away in included pouch and save it for later use. I frequently use glass containers, they are sustainable but also keep the strong scent and vibration of the smudges clear and separate.
Set intention, use affirmation, and/or prayer. While you are clearing your space or your person, tools, and items, make sure that you keep a strong and focused intention in mind, and hold the vibration of love in your heart.
Another thing to consider is sound, using singing, a drum, a singing bowl, tuning fork, radio can have profound effects in shifting and changing energy, I suggest it after using the smudge to raise vibration even higher, create more joy and upliftment.
Please use common sense when working with fire, smoke, and the potential dangers of flammable items around you. Keep out of reach of children, animals, and people with sensitivities like asthma.