Regardless of where you are on the spiritual path, if you’re in contact with any part of our materialistic world, you are bound to attract or experience negativity in some form. After all, opposites attract; like moths to a flame, the light is powerful enough to draw out darkness from within and from without. Whether it’s your own shadow issues that surface in interactions with others, or someone else’s bad vibes or resistance you encounter along the journey, accumulated negativity in your space can adversely affect your thoughts, emotions and even your health. As such, it’s essential to practice regular cleansing rituals to keep your physical and energetic space clean and intact.
One of the best ways to cleanse energy is with regular smudging, a traditionally Native American practice of burning herbs and resins, which many healers use to offer blessings and purify people, places and objects. Although cedar, lavender and sweet grass are often used during smudging ceremonies for their ability to uplift, purify, and bring positivity into a space, the most common herb used is sage.
I first came in contact with sage during a spiritual sabbatical to Sedona, Arizona, where I worked with a Native American shaman who connected me to my long-forgotten Cherokee roots. Given its purity and potency, he preferred white sage as it most effectively repelled negative spirits and entities. Before, during and after each ceremony, he burned a huge bundle of white sage, spreading clouds of clear grey smoke into the heavens with his sacred owl feathers.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a shaman to use sage. We use it regularly as an essential spiritual tool to compliment our meditation practice and protect our energy fields. If you’re interested in cleansing your body, mind, aura or just your physical space, try these tips for honoring the sacred tradition of smudging:
Select Your Sage. You can find bundled sage at just about any health food store for about $10, depending on the size. Although white sage is the most purifying, some bundles include a mix of sage, lavender or cedar, which can be uplifting and relaxing. You can also grow your own from seed to save money and create a deeper connection with the energy of the plant. We typically harvest sage from our garden in the summer and fall and after letting it dry completely (takes about one week), we bundle it for burning in one piece or burn loose leaves in a fire-safe bowl.
Procure A Smudge Bowl. My first sage utensil was an abalone shell found on the beach. It was beautiful to look at, but often got too hot to handle once the sage was lit. As such, smudging is be best done in fire-safe vessels, like clay pots which you can find at just about any crystal/new age shop. Many have small holes built-in, allowing more oxygen to reach the flames and sustain the burning process.
Gather Your Feathers. Since feathers come from birds, they compliment the ethereal element of the cleansing process and help spread sage over a greater surface area during smudging. To ensure no animals were harmed with your feathers and maintain the sacred intention of the cleanse, use only sustainably harvested, found or reclaimed feathers for smudging. Turkey feathers are ideal because they are both wide and long.
Be Intentional. Before lighting the sage, be clear about what you’re looking to release or bring into your life or space. Clear your mind and allow yourself to enter a meditative state. Say a brief prayer of thanks, invoking God, the Universe or Spirit to guide your use of the sage and remove any unseen energies that no longer serve your highest and greatest good.
Open a Window. Although many love the smell of sage, according to Native American tradition, life-sucking energies and people carrying unseen negative entities in their aura are repelled by it. Give bad vibes a space to flee by cracking open a window or door before you begin and a few minutes after to help clear the space. You may also want to avoid smudging right next to a fire detector, or you can temporarily disable it before smudging and reset it after the ceremony is complete.
Light the Sage. Sage is slow to light, so it’s best to use a lighter or long wooden matches to allow time for dried leaves to ignite. Once the leaves catch fire, blow softly and slowly on the flame until it goes out. This will cause a soft gray smoke to billow from the sage, which you want to keep going by gently fanning the flames as needed, or moving the smudge stick around, as if you’re painting the air with it.
Smudge Spaces/Objects. It is recommended to regularly sage your space and treasured or frequently used items (e.g., your computer, cell phone, etc.) to keep their energy positive and vibrations high. To do so, slowly wave the burning smudge throughout your space, drawing attention to corners where energy often gets stuck or any areas that feel heavy or dark. For objects, pass them through or above the sage smoke to clear them of any lingering negativity. Since most people can’t “see” negative energy, you’ll have to trust your instincts on when to stop, which comes with practice. Often, the sage will glow, crackle or even extinguish itself when you reach heavy areas, so continue to smudge until the energy feels light and clear.
Smudging People. Sage can be passed through a person’s energy field, or aura, to clear negative energy. This is especially helpful after an argument, a night out on the town or to lighten a depressed mood. To smudge, have them stand in front of you with legs apart, arms open in a “T” position. Wave the smudge in soft, elliptical motions from the bottom of their feet to the top of their head, including legs, along each arm, under each armpit and entire torso. Have them stand on their tip toes or lift each foot so you can pass the smudge underneath for clearing. With the sage still lit, go around their back and smudge the head, neck, torso and arms using the same format. Unlike cigarette smoke which damages the lungs, sage smoke is not harmful to your health. You can also sage yourself in the same way. Allow the power of the plant to guide you. Trust the medicine.
Safely Extinguish Flames. To extinguish the sage, cover it with a flame snuffer or take it outside and cover it with soil. You can also run water over the burning embers, but remember you won’t be able to use it again until the leaves have dried completely. Once smudging is complete and the ashes cool, safely discard the remnants and clear all particles from the pot and your space with intention. This ensures you don’t invite old energy into your next cleansing ceremony. You may also bury the ashes.
Store Your Sage. Sage should be stored in clean, dry space. Some Native Americans believe storing sage in a drawer above waist height honors the sacred energy of the plant, helping it maintain a purified, elevated vibration which makes its cleansing properties more powerful.
Regardless of how and where you sage, your purity of intent is the most important factor. With regular practice, smudging can be a powerful tool for spiritual grounding, healing and rejuvenation.