What Is Smudging?

The dictionary.com definition of smudging is “A traditional Native American method of using smoke from burning herbs to purify a space.” Smudging is also known as “smoke cleansing” out of respect to not trounce upon Native American traditions.

The origination of burning herbs and resins dates back over 4,500 years to the 24th and 25th centuries BC, during Egypt’s 5th dynasty. Archeologists have discovered incense burners that have been carbon dated to that time period. While history doesn’t show an exact time frame, smudging as we now know it, being used for spiritual rituals, dates back centuries and was associated primarily with northern Native American Tribes. Native Americans use the burning of herbs in ceremonies to purify people, objects, and locations of negative energy and for protection from said negativeenergies. The burning of herbs has also been used by the mindfulness community for such activities as meditating, yoga, and spiritual cleansing. Burning herbs is also done to kill bacteria in the air. A study completed by scientists in 2019 based upon the “Havana Sámagri” ritual, which is burning of herbs in the Hindi religion, found that burning certain herbs where smoke was present in the room for an hour would kill 94% of bacteria. Burning herbs can also be used to repel insects, give the room a pleasant scent, and while not scientifically proven it is believed that burning herbs releases negative ions which counteract positive ions which are known for allergens such as pet dander, dust, and mold.

How is smudging or smoke cleansing used in paranormal situations? Some people believe that the simple act of burning sage will drive away negative energy. They believe that the smoke will absorb the negative energy and carry it out a window or door. Others believe it will simply dissipate negative energy. Some people burn sage in concert with verbally stating an intent to clear the house of said negative energies and may use a scripted or generalized incantation. Some people use it as a focus object and rely primarily on using verbal statements to use their positive energy to dispel negative energy, as if the smudge stick was vessel to build up and direct their positive energy. Different beliefs have lead to different variations on how smudging is used.

I personally smudge my house weekly, usually on Saturday or Sunday for multiple reasons. Firstly it is to help purify the air of bacteria. Between the two of us and the clowder of cats I am sure there is plenty of bacteria in the air. I also enjoy the scent that can linger for a few days afterwards. Secondly I have found that using it as a symbolic tool to renew the atmosphere in my house on a weekly basis helps to bring a sense of cleanliness and a fresh start for the new week. While doing it I envision the smoke encapsulating bacteria and unwanted energy and carrying it outside the open windows. Do I personally believe that the smoke is absorbing negative energy and carrying it outside? No I do not, however the symbolism helps lift my mood, the mood of my fiancé, and gives us a fresh start to the new week. My fiancé’s family is of the Cherokee and Sioux tribes of Native Americans. Performing the smudging is also to honor that heritage and her ancestors. We both notice a positive feeling in the house afterwards, and house guests have commented on the positive feeling over the years soon after we preform the ritual, not knowing of our ritual for smudging the house.

We purchase our smudging herbs from a Native American tribe in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico which is where the oldest continuously inhabited Native American communities resides. We use a blend called “Seven Directions” which consists of sage, cedar, lavender, white sage, sweetgrass and copal honor. The Native Americans believe that each ingredient contains the following properties:

Sage: Healing

Cedar: Protection

Lavender: Safeguard against evil

White Sage: Bless & Cleanse

Sweetgrass: Energy Cleansing

Copal Honor: Energy clearing

Being an atheist I may not buy into the more spiritualistic properties of the ritual that some people believe in, however I still enjoy the symbolism and health benefits none the less. If requested I will complete the ritual at a client’s location and I do have a secular script that I can use for the ceremony. However if someone asks for a religious cleansing I suggest that they speak with clergy at their chosen house of worship.