Crafting a Cleansing Ritual

Cleansing Rituals, aka Smudging, have been used for centuries, nay thousands of years. A way to shift energies, promote positivity, creativity, healing, and a way to cleanse away the bad or stagnant energies. The art of smudging is the burning of dried plants, roots, and resins, and calling upon the spirit and healing qualities of those plants which can be bundled or burned loose in fire or on a charcoal. It was traditionally used by Medicine men and women // shamans, there is much debate on where it started or by whom, but on a level of healers -this practice was conducted throughout the ages, shared by many different cultures, and done many different ways.

A smudge stick will vary, but the most common are:

  • White Sage Bundle

  • Braided Sweetgrass

  • Cedar

  • Mugwort

  • Palo Santo

  • Pine (Redwood Coastal, Blue Spruce, Juniper, etc)

Other Great Sacred Additions are:

  • Alfalfa

  • Red Clover

  • Amaranth

  • Lavender

  • All Spice

  • Chamomile

  • Aspen

  • Cloves

  • Cinnamon

  • Basil

  • Eucalyptus

  • Catnip

  • Rose

  • Frankincense

  • Rosemary +more!

The Native Americans most commonly used this practice to call upon spirits, cleanse the body  and to heal. The rituals varied from sprinkling loose white sage over fires calling upon the spirits for guidance, healing, or clearing. White sage was also bound and burned in addition of braiding and burning Sweetgrass to seal intentions. Once the smudge was lit, smoke trickles into the air, a feather or palm was used to woft the smoke around the space for clearing. The practice of smudging had no limits in the Native American culture, whether it was an elder to begin a discussion circle, a healing circle, ceremonial dances -a smudge was burned.

Like the Native American culture, there is much similarity in the South American culture when it comes to smudging. Most commonly used by shamans (but also the common people too!) Native plants were burned loose and bound to summon spirits, healing, and purification. As I have traveled around these lands I learned about the purification qualities of the White Sage they ritualistically burned. This was done not just to heal body auras or to clear stagnant energy, but a way to cleanse and protect their farm lands. The Eucalyptus which is prevalently grown there is used not just to easily start fires inside or out, but to clear a space, to offer new energy. And of course the use of Palo Santo, a beautifully smelling salvaged wood that is an instant energy shift with it’s first light.

The Neolithic, Celtic, Scythian, Norse, Anglo-Saxon and other Germanic peoples used loose herbs and through them onto fires or hot rocks in sweat lodges to purify themselves.

The Indian and Chinese have been using sacred incense and smudge for thousands of years for purification, energy release and shifts, ancestral communion, and more.

As you can see, across the globe a form of smudging and cleansing rituals have been conducted and all forms offer something beneficial as long as the right intention is there.

Awhile back I read an article from MindBodyGreen by Author Tiffany Maloney, and this line really stuck with me,

“Smudging is ritual alchemy — changing and shifting the air element, and transforming our current experience to a mystical one.”

How I love this, by adding fire to the air element, and as the smudge burns, the smoke transforms and transcends our current feelings into a whole new realm. A realm of ancestral communion, a realm of freeing thyself from feelings of negativity or sluggish boredom, leaving you feeling grounded, cleansed, and turned over a new. Ah Alchemy. Sweet ritualistic alchemy.

Crafting your own cleansing ritual doesn’t have to be hard, fancy, or expensive. If you have plants and trees growing around you, you have the ability to smudge. Check out the list above and next time you go for a walk, look at what you have available around you, nature is abundant and fulfills our every needs! Grab a few springs of a pine tree or pick up some dried sage at your local apothecary! Bundle it with string or you can keep loose to burn in a fire or over a charcoal. The most important part is cultivating an intention, an intention to heal, clear, or repel, this intention must be fused with your hearts longing, a present tense intention, ex: “I am clearing the current state of energy to infuse positivity with all that I do”.

Crafting a Cleansing Ritual:

  1. Establish + Get Needed Materials (Sage bundle, or your favorite herb bundle)

  2. Create your intention (Before I cook or make medicines I always smudge, my intent is to clear any bad feelings, negative energies, bad thoughts, I repel them using my sage. Then with a juniper smudge bundle I like to seal my intention, protect and infuse positivity in my space and concoctions). You can create your intention by how you are feeling at the moment or create a ritual (something always done before a specific event or matter, like how I smudge before I cook or work with plant medicines)

  3. Light your smudge and repeat your intention out loud or to yourself. Start at the east, work your way south, then to the west, then to the north, and finishing at the east. This technique varies, but is what I like to use and how I was taught. I also speak to the guardians of each direction as I walk through and smudge. A ritualistic ancestral communion.

  4. Seal your intention by a moments silence or a moments meditation focusing on your intention, and say “And so it is”  or “And so it will be”.

There you have it, four easy steps and a brief background on the ritualistic art of smudging. Now get out there and experience the powerful and sacred act of smudging -a way to instantly shift energies, clear stagnation, and communicate with our ancestors.

Ready to smudge, but don’t have the time or stuff? No worries, check the Apothecary for seasonal handmade with love and intention smudge sticks at affordable prices!


Abigail Cox