Smudging is the ancient (indigenous American) practice of burning sage and other sacred plants to clear negative energy, purify and bless an environment.
What is Smudging?
Smudging dates back thousands of years. Many (though not all) Native American cultures burn sacred plants and use the smoke from the plants to remove negative energy and bring peace to a space.
You can use many herbs, plants, and even types of wood for clearing negative energy. Each of the smudging herbs have different properties and scents, but all are said to rid a space of negative energy.
Sage cleansing and burning Palo Santo are two of the more popular ways to smudge. As with everything in the metaphysical world, I encourage you to try different routes and methods to find what works best for you.
White Sage Smudge
There are hundreds of different types of sage, but for the purposes of this page, I’ll stick to sharing the kind of sage used for white sage cleansing.
White Sage – Salvia Apiana
Out of the many different varieties of the sage plant, I’d be willing to guess you’re probably familiar with garden sage which is widely used in cooking. While garden sage is delicious added to pasta dishes, it’s not the best type to use for smudging a house. The type of sage that is used in a smudging ritual is called salvia apiana, commonly known as white sage.
White Sage Smudge Stick
White sage is dried out and tied into sage bundles. These bundles are often referred to as smudge sticks, or as sage sticks. The terms can be used interchangeably – so feel free to choose your preference!
It’s common to have a sage smudge stick containing only white sage, but some contain an assortment of different herbs and flowers. Each flower or herb added to the bundle will give it an extra dimension. For example, adding lavender to a smudge stick gives it a calming quality in addition to cleansing the space.
Some metaphysical stores even tie a crystal (like Rose Quartz) to the smudge stick, as pictured in the smudging basket above. Take note that the crystals included in the bundles are not meant to be burned – they’re a compliment to the white sage smudge sticks.
The Benefits of Burning Sage
If you’ve come to this page chances are that you aren’t looking for a scientific dissertation on sage – you’re probably looking for a way to improve your living space and remove negative energy.
Below, I will provide the spiritual and scientific benefits of sage to the best of my ability. As with anything in the spiritual and metaphysical world there isn’t always evidentiary proof that it works, but those who believe in it swear by it.
Remove Negative Energy
Smudging has been used for thousands of years to remove negative energy and purify a space. This page focuses mostly on sage cleansing for clearing negative energy.
Smudging Reduces Bacteria in the Air
There are some reports that in addition to removing negative energy, smudging has also been proven to remove some bacteria in the air.
A 2007 report published on the U.S. Library of National Medicine reported burning medicinal smoke over the course of an hour resulted in “over 94% reduction of bacterial counts”. It went further to say “the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24h in the closed room”.
Note: I would not recommend smudging in a closed room because you want the negative energy you’re cleansing to have an escape path, and if there are no open doors or windows there’s no way for it to escape.
Burning Sage Lifts your Mood
Let’s talk about ions. There are two types of ions – cations (positively charged ions) and anions (negatively charged ions). Have you heard the term “opposites attract”? This is true for ions too! Since cations and anions have opposite charges they are always attracting each other in order to form ionic compounds.
Normally, a negative is a bad thing, but not in this case. Negative ions (anions) are produced by natural sources. A 2018 report states that negative ions are produced by sources like sunlight, waterfalls, thunderstorms, and plants.
I am in no way advocating smudging to replace modern medicine or a doctor’s advice. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your health plan – they are trained professionals and can help incorporate new practices if they’re right for you.
How to Burn Sage
Now that you know why using sage for smudging is beneficial, let me teach you how to smudge. It’s a simple practice, and requires very few ingredients.
You need a smudge stick, the intention to remove negative energy, a source of flame, a heat proof smudge bowl or abalone shell, and something to waft the smoke (I prefer using a feather, though some people use their hands).
Smudge sticks can be made of sage, palo santo wood, cedar, sweetgrass, herbs, or any other sacred plant you feel drawn to. Experimenting with all of them over time is the best way to find the type that resonates with you.
I started smudging with sage, but your smudge stick choice is completely up to you! If you’d like to know a little more about my journey with crystals, feel free to check out my about me page.
Having an abalone shell, or some type of heat proof smudge bowl is a safety requirement, and one you shouldn’t skip. When you’re done smudging a house (or yourself, or your crystals), you’ll want to have a way to extinguish the smudge stick.
To put out the smudge stick, tap the end on the abalone shell until all the smoke is stamped out. Make sure it is completely extinguished before putting your smudging tools away.
Source of Flame
Some people use a match to light their bundle of sage, but I prefer using a candle. Using a candle makes it feel like an intentional smudging ritual.
When I light the candle, I light it with the intention in my mind to cleanse and purify my space. I watch the flames dance for a few moments while taking deep breaths, and when I feel ready I light the smudge stick.
Let the smudge stick catch fire, when it does, gently blow out the flame. You’ll be left with a trail of smoke coming from your sage stick.
After you’ve lit your smudge stick you’ll want to move the smoke around the space you’re cleansing. If I’m cleansing crystals or myself, I don’t worry about using anything to waft the smoke, because the smoke doesn’t need to travel very far.
However, if I’m smudging a house I’ll use a smudging feather. Turkey feathers are the traditional feather for smudging. Some people use their hands to waft the smoke but I find a smudging feather to be more effective.
What to Say When Smudging a House
Many people who use sage to smudge, incorporate a smudging prayer as part of their smudging ceremony. To me, this step is optional depending on the type of cleansing you’re doing.
If I’m just cleansing a house with sage because I feel that it hasn’t been done in a while, or it feels like it’s overdue, I’ll forgo the sage smudging prayer.
However, if I feel that there’s a negative presence in my house, I will elect to say a sage cleansing prayer. I don’t have a set prayer that I say- instead I try to vary what my wording based off of the situation.
If I’m smudging a house for negative spirits, I’ll say out loud “This is my space. Any negative spirits are unwelcome and must leave. I do not welcome any negative spirits in my home. Get out now!”.
If I’ve had a large group of people in my home and feel a drain on the energy of my space (whether it be the entire home, or just a room), I’ll say “I welcome positive energy into this space. This space is beautiful, vibrant and energized. I embrace positive energy in this space”.
Your burning sage prayer is personal, and completely up to you. Listen to your instincts and know that if you’re speaking from an open heart and throat chakra, your words will be heard and listened to!
Some people use the words they say in their smudging ritual as smudging prayers for protection. I normally use what would be better described as smudging affirmations. However, as I mentioned before, this is YOUR ritual – do what feels right for you!
Types of Sage Cleansing
Now that you know how to burn sage, let’s talk about the different situations in which you’d use cleansing sage. For clearing negative energy, burning sage is a powerful tool. You can sage your home, your crystals, and even yourself!
How to Sage a House
When you sage your house, it’s important to open any windows in your home. Think of it this way – if you’re cleansing a space of negative energy, you don’t want it to stay trapped in your home so you need to give it an escape route.
Most people sage homes by starting at the front door and moving in a clockwise direction. I have a large sliding glass door that leads to my patio, so I like to start there and move clockwise.
Since sage uses windows and open doors to expel negative energy, I find starting by my sliding door to be the best course of action for me. I encourage you to look at your space and find the spot that makes the most sense to you.
Once you light your sage, use the smudging feather to waft the smoke. Be sure to do so while focusing on your intention to clear the space of negative energy.
Waft the smoke upwards towards the corners of the rooms. Negative forces can sometimes try to hide in the corners of the rooms, so make sure you feel those areas are clear before moving on.
As you’re moving around your house don’t forget areas like closets, basements, garages, and nooks and crannies (like behind shower curtains). Those areas need to be cleansed too!
Once you’ve cleansed the inside perimeter of your home and have returned to your starting point, extinguish your sage stick. Take a few deep breaths and say thank you to the the sage and thank you to your space.
Sage Cleansing Yourself
One of my biggest tips for smudging would be to begin (and end) your smudging ritual by smudging yourself. If you’re clearing your home of negative energy, the best place to start is with yourself!
Now that you’ve learned how to smudge your house, smudging yourself will be easy! Take your smudge stick and gently waive it over your body.
Start at your head and work your way down your body, making sure to cover every area, from the top of your head to the middle of your back and all the way down to the undersides of your feet.
Take deep breaths as you sage yourself, breathing in positive energy and breathing out stress and negativity. If it helps you, you can visualize a warm white light surrounding you – purifying and protecting you.
Cleansing Crystals with Sage
Smudging crystals is my favorite ways to use sage. I can always tell when my crystals need a little refresher, and sage is a great way to keep them performing at their highest potential.
Light your smudge stick as you would with smudging yourself or your home. If I’m smudging a lot of crystals, I like to use sage because it seems to produce smoke longer. If I only have a few to smudge, I’ll use Palo Santo because I love its sweet smell.
Hold your smudge stick under the crystal you’re cleansing and watch the smoke dance around the crystal. The amount of time you smudge each crystal is up to you – listen to your intuition. You’ll know when the crystal is clear and you’re ready to move on.
I like to cleanse mine for 10-20 seconds each, but again, it’s up to you. Experiment with different timings and you’ll find what works! I have full faith in you and know you’ll find the best way to smudge for you!
My biggest tip for you would be to breathe. Burning sage can seem like a daunting process, especially if you’re doing it to clear a negative presence. Trust in yourself and know that you can do this!
There is no “wrong” way to smudge. As long as you’re handling the fire with safety and extinguishing your smudge stick at the end of your ritual, you’re doing it correctly!
If you’re a crystal enthusiast looking for a refresher course, or a metaphysical newbie looking for a smudging for beginners guide, I hope you’ve been able to find something to help you in your journey.
I’ll leave you the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on smudging. Be sure to let me know if you have a question that isn’t answered in this post in the comments section – I’ll be happy to answer it!
Q: Does Smudging Smell Bad?
Well, this one is kind of up to you. I will say that burning sage smells pretty similar to weed. My boyfriend came home one day after I’d smudged the apartment and asked me if I’d been smoking weed.
I don’t mind the smell, but if you don’t like the smell of weed, you probably won’t like the smell of burning sage. If you don’t like the smell of sage, you can always burn something else.
I think Palo Santo smells lovely! Palo Santo wood comes from the the Palo Santo tree in Southern America. It literally translates to “holy wood”. This holy wood had a faintly sweet smell, and is less aggressive on the nose than sage.
Q: Does Smudging Make You High?
While we’re on the topic of weed, I thought it would be good to address this question. Smudging does not make you high. The property of weed that produces a high is called THC. There is no THC in sage, so you can’t get high from it.
Q: Is Smudging Religious?
Smudging is not considered a religious practice in all religions and cultures, but it is in some! Many indigenous American people burn sage and other sacred herbs – though not all do. The uses of herbs and meanings vary between different cultures.
Q: Does Smudging Invite Spirits? (and/or) Can Smudging Bring Bad Spirits?
The purpose of smudging is to drive out negative energy and spirits, and to cleanse a space, not to invite spirits in. Sage clears negative energy and makes space for positive energy, but it doesn’t call forward spirits.
I have never had any negative experiences with spirits being invited into a space after smudging. However, if it’s something you’re concerned about, be clear with your intentions when you smudge your space. If you do not want any spirits of any kind, say that out loud! They will listen.
Q: Can Smudging Be Dangerous?
Any time you’re dealing with fire, you should use extreme caution. Never let children near fire, and make sure when you finish smudging that you extinguish your smudge stick. As with any candles, incense, matches, or items that create smoke and fire, please use caution!
Q: Does Smudging Work?
My short answer is yes. I’ve worked with spaces that held extremely negative energy and once I smudged the space, the negative presence was gone.
My long answer is still a yes, but with an addendum. I believe that like anything in the metaphysical world, smudging is 50% action and 50% belief.
Do I believe the act of smudging drives out negative spirits and energy? YES. However, do I also think that you have to believe that smudging drives out negative spirits and energy? ABSOLUTELY.
The mind is a very powerful tool – however you choose to use it. Belief is just as powerful and doubt, and fortunately for us, this life is made of choices and we get to choose how we want things to play out.
A guide to smudging your home, crystals, and self. Quickly and efficiently remove negative energy from your life.
Active Time15 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Sage Smudge Stick
A clear intention
A source of flame (either a candle or matches)
Gather your materials: Gather your smudge stick, abalone shell, smudging feather, and source of flame.
Open a window: You want to have an escape route for any smoke and negative energy attached to that smoke.
Light your flame: You can use either a candle or matches. I prefer using a candle. Make sure when you're lighting your flame that you're concentrating on clearing your space of negative energy and removing unwanted and stagnant energies.
Light your smudge stick: (Please use caution during this step!) Hold your smudge stick over the flame and let the tip of it catch fire. Once it has caught fire, blow out the flame. You will be left with a trail of smoke coming from your sage smudge stick.
Waft the smoke with a smudging feather: Using your smudging feather, waft the smoke from the smudge stick. Let it move completely around the item you are smudging. *See notes section if smudging a house.
(Optional step) Say a smudging prayer: If you feel called to say a smudging prayer, you can say it during the time you're wafting the smoke with a smudging feather.
Extinguish your smudge stick: When you feel your crystals/home/self have been properly cleansed, extinguish your smudge stick by stamping it out in your abalone shell. No smoke should be coming from the smudge stick if it is fully extinguished.
Breathe: Take a moment to breathe, and feel the cleansed energy filling up your space.
*Special note on smudging a house: If smudging a house, don't forget the corners and closets! Start near an open window and move clockwise around the house.
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