Have you ever felt there was negative energy around you or you’ve just felt down for no apparent reason? Watching the news is enough to depress anyone these days but perhaps one story, in particular, got to you. Perhaps you’ve also noticed a few things going wrong. You didn’t get the job, you lost your keys or someone you love got caught up in something untoward. As we absorb the negative energies around us we can soon start feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
There was a time when I’d simply handle anything remotely stressful with a glass or two of wine but I have since become a convert to the power of smudging – and no I’m not referring to smudging black mascara all over my face – though I still do plenty of that too.
I’m talking about smudging, the ceremonial smoke variety.
I first became aware of smudging when a space clearing book landed on my desk back in the days when I worked on the Natural Health magazine. As I scanned through the pages, it occurred to me that I’ve probably always been drawn to smudging of sorts. I’ve always lit incense sticks to create a mood or ambience in my home. Sometimes I’ve used it quite subconsciously to promote a state of mind – normally relaxation. Indeed, there’s something quite powerful about smoke, smell and the effect it has on our emotions and our psyche. And I suppose those good Catholics have their own version of smudging wafting big wads of incense around in front of them as they see they send their prayers spiralling upward towards God. So as you can appreciate, perhaps it’s not such a leap of faith to use smudging in this ritualistic sense.
What is Smudging?
Most people believe smudging to be a Native American practice, though many indigenous cultures have their own version using plants and flowers native to their environment. Traditionally sage, tobacco, cedar or lavender is used. The Native Americans used sage for purification, and considered tobacco to be their most sacred plant, chasing away negative feelings. Though even the Native Americans were aware tobacco was a poison if it wasn’t treated with respect. Nowadays you can buy ready-made smudging sticks generally made of white sage.
A smudging ceremony is carried out to cleanse negative energy which can accumulate at home, in the office, or it may even settle around you. The purpose of the ceremony is to invite peace and harmony into your life and to clear your negative environment.
As is the way with energy healing, I find the ‘intention’ just as powerful as the ritual itself, so don’t worry about doing things in a strict and orderly fashion. The very fact you are focussing your energy in this way is a positive, clearing and healing step. Just be clear about what it is you want to accomplish and focus your energy on this thought.
For me personally, I may use smudging if I’m experiencing a creative block or if I’m experiencing an obstacle of some sort. I know if I start being clumsy or have near misses then I need to ground myself and dust away the cobwebs so to speak. Often when practising Reiki, it feels right to clear the space before and after a client as many things are released in the healing exchange (in addition to the energy clearing at the end of a Reiki session). There are any number of reasons you may want to conduct a smudging session but here are some good excuses to give it a go:
- When you move into a new home
- When you begin a new job or start your own business
- Before and after a guest enters your home
- Before and after a yoga or healing session
- Before meditation
- After an argument or any illness or any upset within the family
- Upon returning home from crowded situations
Think of it as giving you home or yourself an energy shower, a dust down and good cleanse. As well as feeling cleansed on a spiritual and healing level, there is scientific evidence to suggest when burned, sage and other herbs release negative ions, which research has linked to a more positive mood.
You will need:
- Smudge stick: If you feel creative you could make your own. Alternatively, visit your local hippy shop or Tree of Life if you have one near you. You can buy Sage Smudge sticks for under $10.00 (AUD).
- The vessel – a large shell (Abalone): If you don’t have a large shell use a heat resistant/fire proof container. This will be to catch any stray ash/embers and to put out your smudge stick when you’ve finished
- Candle and matches: Light a candle with your matches to begin your ceremony. You will light your smudge stick from the candle.
- Wing Feather: Used to ‘sweep’ or waft the cleansing smoke into the nooks and crannies of your home or office.
It’s fine to improvise when you are just starting out. My advice would be to keep natural elements in mind. You don’t want to use anything too manufactured or polished for your smudging stick in case the air becomes toxic (doubtful but keep it in mind). I have used large pebbles, sand, earth, kookaburra and peacock feathers and sometimes just simple T-lights. As long as you attach a sense of ceremony to what you’re doing you won’t go far wrong.
You will find many books and many rituals online depending on how you wish to use smudging but I will share a couple of pointers to get you started.
- Ensure you are in a good state of mind when you perform your smudging ceremony. It is not advisable to purge a negative situation with a negative mindset. Clear your mind, even do a short meditation beforehand. Be conscious of your breath and smile inwardly.
- Only smudge your own space – unless you have been specifically invited to do this for someone else. You will create anxiety for others if you stir up their environment. Remember this is a sacred ritual and should be respected as such.
- Light your candle and focus your mind. Become aware of the breath and allow yourself to meditate on what you wish to achieve.
- Go to the entry of your home, your room, or entry point to the space you are cleansing. You are going to start from here working your way clockwise around the room – paying special attention to the corners of the room where negative energy collects.
- Light your smudging stick. Once it is smouldering and you see the smoke rising, begin to walk around the room, using your feather to fan the ceremonial smoke upward. Keep walking around with a clear focus on your intention. Always complete the circle, coming back to your starting point.
- It’s up to you how you close the ceremony but I like to go back to my alter or candle and thank the Mother Nature, the Goddess and the Universe for blessing my healing work and rejuvenating my energy again. You will find something personal that will feel right to you. You will soon sense a shift in energy as you step back from your contemplative state.
When I first began smudging I wanted to use a chant or a small prayer as I cleansed the air – something short and simple that I could remember.
“Air, fire, water, earth. Cleanse, dismiss, dispel”
You can choose a prayer or a ritual that resonates with you. If you feel more closely connected with Native American Indian philosophies, you may prefer something like this.
- “We start in the East where the sun rises and brings us the opportunity to begin again with each new day. Breath.
- We go to the South and honour our creativity, our children, the child in us, our playfulness, joy, and hope. Earth.
- We go to the West where the sun goes down, and the blackness of introspection begins when the day is done. Water.
- We go to the North where our rest awaits us. Knowledge, stamina, compassion, silence. Fire.
There are many smudging prayers you can use, depending on whether you are clearing the energy in your home, the office or the energy around you. If you would like me to share some of the prayers I use, feel free to message me on Facebook at Gaia’s Light or contact me through the website.
I’ll end with a reminder to always extinguish your smudging stick in the sand somewhere safe. We don’t want to invite any negativity back to visit in the form of a burning home.
Good luck with your first smudging session. If you still feel like that glass of wine afterwards, then by all means. I’m all for whatever works.
I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with smudging, any funny stories, or perhaps inspiring stories of transformation.
Happy Smudging x