Essentials of Smudging 101
Benefits of Burning Sage
- It can be purifying. The most-used types of sage have antimicrobial properties. This means they keep infectious bacteria, viruses, and fungi at bay. White sage is both antimicrobial and antibacterial.
- It can help relieve the symptoms of some conditions. It turns out that sage may help clear the air of lots more than bugs and bacteria. Though scientifically unproven, burning sage is thought to release negative ions. This is said to help neutralize positive ions.
- pet dander
If this is the case, burning sage may be a blessing for those with asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions. But inhaling the smoke during the smudging can aggravate any respiratory condition. Wait until the smoke clears before going into the room.
- It can be a spiritual tool. Smudging has long been used to connect to the spiritual realm or enhance intuition. For healers and laypeople in traditional cultures, burning sage is used to achieve a healing state — or to solve or reflect upon spiritual dilemmas.
- It can help dispel negative energy. Smudging may also be used as a ritual tool to rid yourself — or your space — of negativity. This includes past traumas, bad experiences, or negative energies from others.
- It can cleanse or empower specific objects. Burning sage creates fragrant smoke central to smudging’s benefits. You can use this incense to smudge yourself or specific spaces. This can be useful with new purchases, gifts, or secondhand items. However, any item can be smudged. If you have any concern with negative history or energy attached to a new or unfamiliar object, smudging may help bring peace of mind and make the object more sacred to you.
What you need
The practice of burning sage or smudging is fairly simple, with few necessary tools.
Basic tools include:
- a sage bundle (smudge stick)
- a rare abalone seashell or bowl of ceramic, clay, or glass to hold burning sage or capture ash
- matches over a manufactured lighter
- optional feather or use your hand for fanning smoke
How to prepare for a smudge
Before burning sage, I recommend setting intentions if smudging for spiritual, energetic, and negativity clearing purposes. Remove animals or people from the room.
It’s also important to leave a window open before, during, and after smudging. This allows smoke to escape.
Some believe smoke also takes impurities and negative energy with it — so don’t skip this step.
How to smudge your living space, an object, & more
These steps apply whether you’re smudging yourself, your home, or an object. You can smudge any of these as often as you’d like.
- Light the end of a sage bundle with a match. Blow out quickly if it catches on fire.
- The tips of the leaves should smolder slowly, releasing thick smoke. Direct this smoke around your body and space with one hand while holding the bundle in the other.
- Allow the incense to linger on the areas of your body or surroundings you’d like to focus on. Using a fan or feather can also help direct the smoke, though this is optional.
- Allow the ash to collect in a ceramic bowl or shell.
- Smudge your home or living space
In this instance, direct sage smoke over all surfaces and spaces in your home or living area. Be thorough.
Do what feels best for your situation and follow your intuition.
Smudge an object
Direct smoke around and over the object of your choice.
This can be done to a new item, such as jewelry, furniture, or clothing, to protect or dispel it of negative energy. Items related to negative experiences or memories may also be smudged.
Some people burn sage over special objects, to acknowledge the object with sacred meaning.
You can also light and burn sage to improve odor, fragrance, and mood.
Simply waft sage smoke in and around your home. You can place the bundle in a fireproof bowl or burner and allow it to smoke for a while.
What to do after a smudge
Make sure your smudge stick is completely extinguished. You can do this by dabbing the lit end into an abalone shell, small bowl of ash, or sand.
Check the end closely to make sure there are no more embers burning. Once it’s completely put out, store it in a safe, dry place out of the sun.
Are there any side effects or risks?
When done correctly and respectfully, smudging is completely safe and the effects last after the smoke clears.
Be careful with sage when it’s lit. If you aren’t careful, burns and even fire is possible. Have water nearby.
Never leave burning sage unattended. Make sure to put your sage bundle out completely after every use.
Setting off smoke alarms is common. Consider this if smudging in a public building.
People with asthma and other respiratory conditions may be more sensitive to the smoke and have adverse reactions.
Always leave a window or door open while smudging.
Keep in mind: Burning sage is a sacred religious practice in some cultures. Treat the ritual with respect.