What’s the Deal With Sage?

If I was going to actually try and quantify all I know about smudging it would amount to zero. Zero things I know about smudging.

I do know that it is really trendy right now, and for whatever reason, you can purchase $195 smudging kit on Goop, or a $28 smudge kit at Jenni Kayne, or even a $10 smudge stick at Whole Foods.

I also know that for the most part smudging consists of burning sage.

That’s all I know about smudging.

Actually, I remember once having a conversation with one of my friends who was telling me about how their grandma decided to come over and smudge his new apartment for him. He said she performed this whole ritual and now it was ready for them to move into.

Ok. Ok. Aside from those things, that is all I know about smudging.

BUT in an effort to try and cleanse, one of those things I thought to cleanse was my house. So I began my research into smudging and here is what I found. Preemptively I apologize for the lack of information and if you have more information please feel free to comment and or email me with more.

1. The Purpose of Smudging

“Simply put, sage clears bacteria in the air. Sage smoke offers rapid delivery to the brain and efficient absorption to the body. Scientists have observed that sage can clear up to 94 percent of airborne bacteria in a space and disinfect the air. When sage is burned, it releases negative ions, which is linked to putting people in a positive mood. The Latin word for sage salvia stems from the word heal. Other qualities believed to be associated with sage when burned are giving wisdom, clarity, and increasing spiritual awareness.” – Colleen McCann

2. Where Does Smudging Derive From?

Although no one is necessarily clear on where it derives from, everyone kind of agrees it comes from indigenous Americans who used smoke and incense for various rituals. Although it also could possibly derive from Asia as well.

3. Why Should You Smudge?

Basically, people use it for all sorts of reasons but if you are feeling stuck, negative, sluggish, having bad dreams…it may be due to some bad energy. Smudging can clear emotional, energetic, mental, spiritual and physical spaces in order to allow you to start fresh and clear. In essence, this is perfect if you are about to start a cleanse.

4. What Exactly Do You Burn?

There are two common tools used for smudging. Colleen McCann, references these two tools for smudging, although I have read that you can infuse some of the sticks with lavender and other botanicals for different things.

Sage: Has an earthy (just-smoked-weed) smell and a feminine energy. If you’re using sage, look for California white sage (which is different from the sage you would cook with). Burning sage is one of the oldest methods of cleansing a person, group of people, objects, or space. The practice dates back to prehistoric times and it’s been used in every corner of the world. The Latin word for sage, salvia, means to heal. Burning sage has traditionally been associated with increasing wisdom, clarity, and spiritual awareness. When sage is burned, it releases negative ions, a natural way of putting people in a more positive mood. On a practical level, scientists have observed that sage can clear up to 94 percent of airborne bacteria in a space.

Palo Santo: If sage doesn’t speak to you, try palo santo. It has a masculine energy and its smell is reminiscent of a temple, with notes of pine and lemon. Palo santo is a sacred wood that grows on the coast of South America and has been used by the indigenous shamans of the Andes and the Amazon for centuries. (In Spanish, the name literally means “holy stick.”)

5. Ok. Ok. I Believe You, So How Do I Smudge?

Open a door or window so that the unwanted energy you want to clear has an exit, this will also allow fresh air to enter the space and clear out bacteria.

Pick your herb—sage or palo santo—and hold it as far from the burning end you are burning as possible, at a 45-degree angle. Light it, let it burn for about 10 seconds, and then gently blow out the flame so that it is smoking and you see orange embers on the lit end.

Place the herb in the abalone shell, if you don’t have an abalone shell a small bowl will do, just make sure it is clear of negative energy first and not used for anything except the smudging. The bowl is just used to hold the embers.

(If you’re “fanning” someone else, remind them to shut their eyes, and be mindful of your/their clothes, hair, etc.)

With your other hand, wave the feather near the smoke to move it around the room; or flutter the feather along the body.
For a body clearing: Bring the smoke around the head, down the torso, and toward the feet—first working on the front of the body and then the backside.
Be sure to get the crown of the head, palms of the hands, and soles of the feet.

Mantra time, either out loud or in your mind, just speak to the negative energy and tell it to get out through the window or door. This could also be a prayer or meditation throughout the ritual.

After you, your aura, and your space are cleared, put out the burning smudge stick by pressing it against a stone, fireproof bowl, or in dirt/sand until there’s no more smoke.

Finish the ceremony with a prayer or meditation, receive positive energy and emotions and welcome newness into your space.

There honestly is so much more on the topic of smudging.

As always, take everything with a grain of salt and in no way does this mean I endorse smudging, mainly I wanted to try it because Shoshanna Shapiro inspired me.


However, I do quite enjoy the smell of burnt sage and like walking around my home with smoke.
Try it for yourself, I tried it for two days and can honestly say the placebo effect did happen.

I’m ok with that, whatever works for you right. I mean, if it makes me think my space is clear of negative energy, therefore giving me more focus to work, then great. In no way does this mean sage is the end all answer to all things that need spiritual cleansing.

I also did find that a lot of other religions and spiritual beliefs have their own forms of smudging. Some Christian faiths believe in prayer and anointing oils, we Jews have our own long and Torah involved home dedication ceremonies and even Hindus.

All in all, give it a try, tell me what you think, and let me know if there are any other cool tricks I should try.

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