White sage (Salvia apiana) has been getting a lot of attention lately and for good reason. Besides being a pretty, evergreen sub-shrub that we can grow in the garden, it is a powerful healing herb.
American Indians considered white sage a sacred plant and have long used it in a ritual called the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. They believe that all plants and animals have a spirit and the spirit of white sage is dedicated to blessings, protection and the clearing of negative or stagnant energy (a new home you’ve just moved into, a sickroom, a space in which an argument has taken place). It can also smooth life transitions (leaving old relationships behind, celebrating the seasons, finding new love or friendships), and leave you feeling more centered and protected in the world.
If you have practiced meditation, yoga or tai chi you know that your body and the space that you occupy vibrates with invisible energy that can be affected by physical and spiritual energies. Ignoring negative energy can cause disruptions and illness in your physical body and emotions. This can even occur in positive people with the best intentions.
In a ritual known as smudging, you can remove all the emotional and spiritual negativity that gathers in your body and your space. Individual leaves or a bundle of leaves are burnt (often in an abalone shell) while reciting a prayer or stating an intention. Before beginning express gratitude for the service of the plant spirit. Light the leaves, blowing out the flame until the leaves are just smoldering. The smoke attaches to the negative energy and as the smoke dissipates so does the negative energy. This is replaced with the cleansing energy of the white sage, leaving you feeling more energetic, peaceful and happy. Many cultures and religions believe that smoke carries prayers and intentions to heaven.
Smudging is a relatively new practice to most western cultures, so it may seem strange and woo-woo to some. The tradition goes back thousands of years, so when you practice smudging you are connecting with a powerful, ancient and deeply symbolic spiritual ritual.
There are a number of situations where smudging with white sage can be helpful including to cleanse yourself, others and objects, bless a new home or new life, or just to re-center your emotions.
You can burn individual leaves of white sage or make bundles. Bundles (sometimes with other healing herbs included) are available at herb shops, organic grocery stores or online from a company such as Mountain Rose Herbs. It is very important that the herbs be organic as burning plant material treated with chemicals can be unhealthy.
You might want to include white sage as another tool in your health routine and to keep your home healthy too. It should be a regular practice for those who do healing work, meditate, practice yoga, are on a spiritual path, or just want to connect more deeply with the universe. The great thing about smudging is that anyone can do it and the benefits are practically immediate!
“Nature understands fire and smoke better than words.”
Alfred Savinelli, Plants of Power
How to Perform a Cleansing with White Sage
1. For safety, close any windows and doors and turn off any ceiling fans.
2. Say a prayer to your higher power and clearly state your intention. It can’t be emphasized how important and powerful a clear intention is when cleansing with white sage.
3. Light the very tips of the leaves and quickly blow out the flames to allow the leaves to smolder; it’s the smoke that allows the cleansing energy to be released. Hold the sage over a bowl, plate or shell to avoid dropping ashes.
4. Using smooth movements drift the smoke using your hand, a feather, small fan, or just move the sage up and down.
5. Cover the area thoroughly, continuing to pray as you go. When complete, express your gratitude to the spirit of the sage and set the bundle down in a fireproof receptacle and allow the sage to burn out naturally. There is an understanding that the spirit of the sage know how much to clear and will burn accordingly. It is better to light a small amount at a time; you can always light more.
6. Finish with a prayer of gratitude.
When blessing a home or releasing negativity, it is best to start in the back of the home and work your way forward. If the home has multiple levels, start at the bottom and work your way upstairs.
Begin in one corner and move methodically around the room. When you reach a door or window, release the smoke beginning at the bottom left and move in a clockwise direction. Open closets and release the smoke. Push the smoke up towards the ceiling and down to the floor from the bottom to the top. Try to send the smoke behind furniture. The last room should be the one with the front door. When you’re finished, move outside and go around the four corners of the door.
When blessing a person or removing negativity, begin at the feet and work your way up along the body towards the top of the head. Stand in place while the person turns in slow, clockwise circle. Be sure to hold the clear intention throughout the process. When finished, close with a prayer of gratitude.
Sage is the most commonly used herb for smudging, but consider mixing it with other herbs for additional benefits:
Balsam Fir cleansing, purification
Bay protection, healing, calming, success, anxiety reducer
Clove drive away hostile forces, produce spiritual vibrations, purify
Cedar protection from unwanted spirits, renewal and grounding
Dandelion divination, spiritual calling
Desert Sage ward off bad feelings, clear negative energy, protection, calm
Ginger powerful protection
Holy Basil (tulsi) purification, calming
Juniper cleansing, purification
Lavender calming, safeguard against evil, attract friendly spirits
Lemon Balm spiritual cleansing, calm
Lemongrass purifying, cleansing, promotes clarity and focus
Mugwort lucid dreaming, purification, brings clarity and intuition
Mullein cleansing sickrooms, heals/improved respiratory function
Peppermint healing, protection, refreshing, soothing
Pine Needles cleansing, purification, prosperity, good health, new home
Rose Petals meditation, calming, attract love
Rosemary protection, soothing, removes negative energy
Sagebrush to treat wounds, for headaches and colds
Sweet Grass healing, purification, brings positive energy and love
Yarrow eliminates toxins from the body
How to Make Smudge Sticks:
1. Cut stems of the plant material you are using and allow to wilt overnight
2. Measure a piece of thin cord four times the length of the stems
3. Bundle the stems together
4. Starting at the base of the plant material wrap the cord around the bundle while applying firm pressure to keep the plant material together. Wrap until you reach the tip and then work your way back to the base
5. Tie the two ends of the cord together at the base
6. Trim the edges
7. Set the bundles in a basket to dry or at least 7-10 days before using