The Essential Guide to Smudging


Smudging (smuhj-ing): the ritualistic burning of herbs and plants to purify and cleanse negative energy, bring good luck, and protect a person or place.


Smudging is an ancient practice that Indigenous tribes across the world have been doing for thousands of years.  As other cultures came in contact with Native tribes, they experienced the practice of smudging and incorporated it, or a variation of it, into their own rituals. Many say this is a clear cut case of cultural appropriation. Others have said the knowledge was freely given, as a gift from those ancient tribes.  They knew it was powerful, but were willing to share that power for the betterment of all human beings.  Smudging is all about positivity.  Cleansing, clearing, purification, healing, driving away evil, and everything groovy.  There’s no downside, bad side, or hidden trap with smudging, it’s simply one of the purest forms of renewal we know of.

Every smudging ceremony is different, but they all have a few things in common.  Usually there is a bundle of whatever the chosen smudge material is.  There is also a vessel, often made of a shell, or copper or brass, or some other unique and significant container.  Many fill theirs with clean sand. Some may use a lighter and continually relight their bundle. Small torches are very common plus they can be used to heat charcoal disks for scattering dry herb on. And lastly, most have some sort of fan device. A feather is quite common to see, as the design naturally moves air, or in this case, smoke.

Smudging a Home

There are many people who smudge their houses regularly to sweep away any perceived bad energy. After a party or holiday, the house may feel like its stuffed full with negative energy.  Arguments, drunken blather, stale odors, and baggage left over from the chaos of everyday living start to clutter up a living space. The natural and best way to eliminate the gunk is by smudging. Now the fun part begins. Prepare a mantra to say while you are smudging. An example might be, “Away with all that weakens me, I send you to infinity”. Make one you like as you’ll be saying it about a hundred times in a row.  Next, figure out a pattern in how you will cover each room or living space, including the garage, attic, crawl spaces, or any area that you can fit a person in.  Your goal is to move in such a way that you finish on the inside of your front door, which will be wide open. Yes, you literally drive them right out the door. I often move on the porch and widen my area into the front yard.

Depending on the size of your house, this might take some time. But that’s OK, because its time well spent. Work your map. Get to the furthest point from the door and light your bundle.  Really get it going, it will be red hot and quite smoky.  Using your feather, wave the smoke in each corner, up and down. Open all cabinets, closets, etc. and wave some smoke inside.  Work your way out of the room by pushing the smoke ahead of you; driving out the negative energy. Oh, did I say that you should be repeating your mantra over and over the entire time this smudging is happening. By the time you get to the door, you’ll be in a powerful and yet unencumbered state. Breathing the smoke, repeating the mantra, and methodically making sure you hit every corner and crevice with smoke puts you in a very serene state of mind. Being one with the smoke gives your limbs a light feeling and you feel engaged like you’ve never imagined.

The very act of cleansing your home is liberating.  It’s empowering. You’ve taken charge and swept away that which was no longer serving your needs or acting in your best interest. It’s liberating knowing that this simple action is accessible by anyone. If the stories can be believed, and those ancient tribes gave away this powerful knowledge freely, then we who are the recipients of this knowledge are truly blessed.

Smudging Yourself or Someone Else

Smudging a person is similar to smudging a house. You start in a way that you can finish in a way. Have the person stand facing you with their arms straight out and legs slightly spread. As before, decide on a mantra before beginning. For a person, a suggested mantra might be, “Be gone, Be gone, now move along, leave this body and leave this spirit, leave this minute, to return I prohibit”. You can decide on what you need to say, depending why you are smudging the individual. Start at the head. Wave the smoke into the body, go down each arm, torso, and each leg. Have the person life their leg to get the soles of the feet (many people miss this area). Once you’ve finished, have them turn around and repeat the process on the other side. Smudging yourself is similar to smudging another person.  Try to work the smoke around your entire body; carefully as to not burn yourself.

Depending on how you feel, when smudging people you could give them some information before starting. Easy stuff, like reminding them that being barefoot outside is the perfect environment for being smudged. Your body is connected to the earth’s electric and magnetic field. The air around you serves to bathe you in the smoke while the winds remind you of the power of the universe. The less you are wearing the better. Push the smoke to bare skin as much as possible since the absorption factor is much higher. The act of smudging is sacred. You are sharing a rite of passage that the ancestors of this world discovered and shared with us. Be respectful, be at peace, and be willing to trust the universe as it guides you through the process.


Common Smudging Bundle Materials

The following materials are common to smudging wands/bundles. They are readily available in most part of the country and certainly online. There is some controversy about the first and most common item on the list. White Sage is used more than all the other herbs combined for smudging. Some say that it is being overharvested. It is not endangered. I’m not taking a side on the matter, but I thought you should know.

White Sage – the most common smudging herb. White sage is used for clearing negative energy away. What’s really cool is this is scientifically supported. Tests have shown white sage smoke kills nearly all bacteria in the area smoked. It’s essential and beyond amazing as a cleansing tool.

Cedar, Juniper, Pine Needles, Balsam Fir – The family of pines has long been related to healing. Ancient cultures used the needles in cleansing rituals and for purification. Cedar is also used in America for protective smudging rituals.

Rosemary – this kitchen spice is commonly found in smudging rituals for calming and purification

Sagebrush – an umbrella term for wild versions of sage which are burned for wound healing, headaches, colds and headcolds. Smoke was waved continuously over the wound for lengthy periods.

Sweetgrass – this plant is believed to be the first plant on earth, as per Native American oral history. It is about strength and family, or more specifically, the family sticking together. More modern beliefs have it tied to general healing, purification, and overall positive energy.

Mugwort – this wonderful plant is both an honor to grow and an honor to harvest. Mugwort is a sacred plant which should be cut on the autumn equinox/Mabon. It is used for lucid dreaming, calming, and purification in smudging rituals. It is also known as one of the key witches herbs.

Lavender – fresh lavender can be found in most states. Flowering stalks are cut and dried to add to smudging bundles. The primary reason was for calming. It was often used in children’s bundles as a blessing herb and to promote focus and clear vision.

Peppermint – when the winter blues come a calling, peppermint is added to smudging bundles to fight off colds, contribute to overall healing, open breathing passages and for protection

Yarrow – this herbs serves a dual role. It aids in the elimination of toxins, plus it protects from negative energy. Some say it can be a key to unlocking control over lucid dreaming.

It’s Up to You

After participating on one of the two rituals you are no longer in doubt of the power of smudging. There is no need for convincing, for you are convinced by your own hand. You now know that the power of smudging is without question. If you’re not already doing it, then it’s time to start reading and learning the benefits of smudging. Take the chance and experience a deeper part of existence.

About Me

I have smudged more houses, campsites, ritual circles, and ritual attendees that I can count. I have been writing and leading rituals for full moons, pagan sabbats, weddings, spirit burials, protection circles, and even a few private parties. I own and write everything on this website. I try to find those things the world is losing and turn the trend around. I research odd topics and dig into American witchcraft history to make sure that the old ways don’t get forgotten. I’m a Green Witch, a poet, a thinker, and a collector of phrases and clauses. I’ve brought forth life as an herb grower, tasted magic as a steward of the full moon, and cannot escape the connection between mother earth and my bare feet.

Additional Reading

If you enjoyed this introduction to Smudging and would like to learn more mysterious places, strange objects, witchcraft, magick, and the unexplained, then I invite you to browse the complete list of articles on this site, The Gypsy Thread

If you are a fan of short stories, poetry, creative writing, and many other forms of writing, please visit the Creative Exiles website

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