Ever been over at a friend's place, admiring their carefully curated bookshelf and perfectly aligned knickknacks, only to rest your eyes upon a small bundle of...dead plants? I have. I wasn't sure if I should point it out in case it was a pile of weeds pulled from the back garden that she forgot to properly throw out—so I politely ignored.
But upon returning home and doing a little research, I found that those bits of dried up shrubbery were not only intentional, they served a purpose. I had been indirectly introduced to the world of smudge sticks, and I liked the way it sounded!
Smudge sticks are a bundle of herbs, traditionally sage, that are burned and wafted around a space to purify and cleanse it of negative energy. While many cultures practice burning incense (the Roman Catholic Church is partial to frankincense), smudge sticks originate from Native American and other indigenous cultures.
Sage, specifically, is a popular smudge stick ingredient for its healing properties. In fact, Salvia, its botanical name, stems from the Latin word salvere, "to heal." Other plants burned to drive away negative energies include juniper, lavender, sweetgrass, tobacco, and cedar—each with their own specific purpose.
So how exactly does one smudge? It's simple!
- Open all the windows and doors so the smoke (and negative energy) has an escape route.
- Light the smudge stick—preferably with a candle, as the herbs may take some time to ignite.
- Once the smudge stick is lit, blow out the flames so that it begins to smolder.
- Starting in the center of the space and moving counter-clockwise, walk around the room with the stick, being sure to get into the corners of each room and focusing on any areas that seem especially dark.
- If you want to fully partake in the spiritual side of smudging, set your intentions as you cleanse the space, concentrating on positive thoughts and performing the ritual with reverence and love.
- When you are done, put out the smudge stick on a dish or in a bowl of sand, and be sure that the smudge stick it is fully extinguished (important!).
The perfect time to begin smudging? The beginning of spring (or, right now in the Northern Hemisphere)—so open up the windows on the first warm days of the season and clear out any lingering negative winter air. Below, we've rounded up our top picks to get you started.