Smudging is an ancient art that is believed to have been practiced by Native Americans for centuries. It’s the name given to the ceremonial, daily act of cleansing and purification which uses a selection of herbs, often sage, which are bundled together with string to form a smudge stick before being ignited.
The smoke that’s emitted from the herb bundle is believed to cleanse negative energy and purify living spaces, as well as people and even objects like tools, furniture, and home decor. Similar to one washing their hands before a meal, it helps to cleanse a person in an energetic bath of aromatic smoke.
In high enough concentrations, negative ions can clear the air of mold spores, pollen, pet dander, odors, cigarette smoke, bacteria, viruses, dust and other hazardous airborne particles.
Smudging your home, office, or even your body is kind of like taking an energetic shower, or perhaps even spending a day in the mountains, spending time breathing in the fresh air and scent of pine, which offers a direct positive effect on reducing stress levels.
Aboriginal elder-in-residence at the University of Toronto, Cat Criger, says that when done properly, smudging can also be a way to connect with Native American culture.
“To understand the protocol means you have to learn something about aboriginal people. So in a sense the medicines are working in a kind way, saying ‘learn about me and we can respect each other and we can walk together,’ ” he noted.
8 Benefits of Smudging
In addition to cleansing the air of unwanted bacteria, the benefits of smudging, and producing negative ions are many, including:
Increasing your sense of well-being and improving mental focus. Smudging removes the debilitating effects of excess positive ions in the air in a way that’s been described as a natural antidepressant
Clearing negative energy. The smoke helps to change the molecular structure of both the air and energy, which produces a cleansing effect. As the sense of smell is strongly linked to memory and instinct, smudging is very effective for combating feels of anger, fear, anxiety, grief and depression.
Clearing the air. In addition to bacteria, smudging can help clear the air of pollen, pet dander, dust, mold spores and other potential allergens to improve allergy symptoms.
Increased energy. Studies have found that the negative ions produced also help to normalize serotonin (that well-known feel-good hormone), in the brain, which can help boost one’s mood, improve focus and create a more positive outlook.
“Nature’s antidepressant.” It seems that the negative ions produced from smudging offer serious antidepressant effects – so much so it’s said to be at least as effective as a prescription antidepressant without the side effects. Dr Clarence Hansell, a research engineer who delved into the biological effects of negative ions in the air in the 1930s after noticing that the mood of one of his colleagues changed in response to ions being generated by their equipment, discovered that his colleague was more joyful when the machine produced negative ions and more sullen when it produced positive ions. In a controlled study published in 1998 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, focused on seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, that was an extension of Hansell’s work, researchers found fresh air charged with negative ions was an effective treatment and prevention method of depression, thanks to its effects on serotonin levels, similar to the way antidepressant drugs works.
Cleansing objects. Not only can smudging cleanse a room, but it can cleanse objects. Whenever you bring a new object into your home, especially something like an antique that’s likely to have been exposed to negative energy over the years, you can use a smudge stick, allowing the smoke to pass over the time to help clear it so that it doesn’t affect you or your environment.
Relaxing effects. Smudging can offer calming, relaxing effects that are known to help lower blood pressure, relieve stress and tension and normalize breathing rates, as the negative ions produced are absorbed directly into your bloodstream – they may even help to fight off damaging free radicals that can lead to premature aging and disease.
Improved sleep. An Italian study showed that negative ions can help improve sleep patterns, also have positive effects on regulating serotonin production.
How to Smudge Your Living Space
Now that you know why you should smudge your home, you probably want to know how to do it. While it may sound a little intimidating if you’ve never watched someone else perform a smudging ritual, it’s rather simple, uncomplicated and totally safe, provided you follow a few easy steps. Native American practitioners like Cat Criger, say it’s always important to be respectful, and learn how to handle the herbs according to traditional protocols.
“To understand the protocol means you have to learn something about aboriginal people. So in a sense the medicines are working in a kind way, saying ‘learn about me and we can respect each other and we can walk together,’ ” Criger advises. “Native American medicines must be treated with reverence, so once you’ve acquired the herbs, clear out a bookshelf or an honored place in your home that is above waist height to store them. You may want to find birch baskets to keep them in.”
It’s best to do smudging with full awareness, in a slow, mindful manner, so you may even want to practice meditation for a few minutes before proceeding.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Loose dried white sage, or a white ceremonial sage bundle, sometimes referred to as a wand and bound together by a thin string. You can usually find them at your local health store, herb shop, metaphysical store or even online. New Age sell a wonderful set of 3 long sage wands here on Amazon. If you have a sage plant, you can make your own. All you have to do is bundle it together with a string, tie it and hang it upside down in a cool, dark space until it has completely dried out.
- A fire, heat-proof burning surface, like a clay bowl or abalone shell – this is a really cool abalone shell.
- Matches or a lighter.
Just before you begin, open up a window for ventilation and then place the herb bundle onto your heat-, fire-proof surface. Light it with the matches or a lighter, and then gently blow out the flame, allowing the material to smolder. Focus your energy on the smoke. If a true flame appears, shake the bundle slightly, or blow on it until it turns to embers and smoke. You may need to re-light the bundle a few times during the smudging process.
Once you have a good amount of smoke going, use your hand or a feather to direct it over your body, moving from your feet all the way up to your head and back again, staying connected to your breathing throughout the session. You may also want to visualize the smoke removing negative energy from your life and home. If you feel comfortable with it, you can also repeat the following incantation: “Air, fire, water, earth. Cleanse, dismiss, dispel.”
This is considered to be a sacred sage ceremony that allows you to shift energy at will.
Now you’re ready to smudge your home.
Move clockwise around your house, starting at your front door. Gently wave the smoke into your air, focusing especially on the corners of each room, as they’re said to accumulate the most stagnant energy. The entire time, envision the smoke clearing negative energy, waving the smudge bundle up and down as the smoke fills the area.
Don’t forget about closed spaces, like closets and cabinets – open their doors and carefully smudge the inside too. Be sure to smudge all rooms, including your basement, garage, laundry room and the like. When you reach each doorway, ask that the room be sealed and protected from this point on while you smudge the outline of the doorway, passing through it to keep any more energy from passing while you conduct the clearing.
Move directly into the next room following either the floor layout along the walls. Remember to pass the wand over the edges of each window and door as you continue through each room of the house or workspace. In order for the smudging ceremony to be most effective, the smoke needs to cover every room, closet, door, vent, and window. The idea is to walk to each entrance, clearing every room so that you’re pushing all the negative energy out toward the front entrance. Since you want all of the negative energy to leave your home, think of it as trying to direct a fly outside your door.
Once you’ve smudged your whole house, allow the herb bundle to burn out. You may want to bury the remaining smudge in your garden, as a sign of completing the ritual.