Sage “Smudging”: The Practice of Cleansing Space

 by Sue DeGregorio-Rosen, RN, CLNC, Contributing Editor

There is a Medieval cleansing of space ritual that is referred to as smudging. And it’s been often thought of as a practice used by those of us that are interested in occult practices, magic, and a tradition used by indigenous people that involves burning herbs, Sage in particular, is used to cleanse and bless a home, an object or ourselves to rid us of negative energies viewed as some sort of magical practice.  Recent studies have shown that smudging, the burning and simmering of the smoke from sage, can clear the air of 94% of the bacteria that has been lingering for 24 hours.  This is real good energy, folks!

Burning sage has been recognized and used because what it does is it causes large amounts of negative ions to disperse into the air around us. That allows our energy, and the vibrations and frequencies around us to cleanse.  It turns positive ions back to negative ions, thus allowing for purification within the atmosphere. 

We have all heard the term ” bad juju”.  Burning sage and/or other herbs helps heighten our nature and allow for better assessment of ailments due to poor air quality.

The aforementioned studies and scientific research has proved the benefits of this ritual.  Incense is commonly used and burned by many for a variety of reasons.  I was raised in the Catholic Church where frankincense is burned as a part of a religious practice.  The Three Kings that made a journey to pay homage to the birth of Jesus Christ brought gifts of frankincense and myrrh.

The Native Americans ritualistically smudge using sacred herbs, and their technique is known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. The most common herbs used include cedar, sage, sweetgrass and tobacco—and they are known as the Four Manido.

Once the sacred plant is burned, the cloud of smoke that emanates is used to prepare for prayer ceremonies, rituals, and purification. Smudging is believed to heighten the sensitivity of healers, or the medicine men, so that they achieve an enhanced state of mind and can effectively assess and treat illness.

Not only is smudging used in spiritual practices, but it can also have medicinal benefits for those who are affected by poor air quality. This means it can help those who suffer from asthma, headaches, lung problems, and respiratory issues, as well as general coughs and colds.

Sage is one of the most popular herbs used for smudging. The word sage stems from the Latin word salvia, which translates to “healthy” or “to heal.”

Studies have also shown that burning sage increases clarity and awareness, heightens wisdom, improves moods, and enhances memory, and quickens the senses. (It is no coincidence that the word sage is also used to describe someone steeped in wisdom and humility.)

How to smudge with sage:

Burning sage is known to dispel negative energy—or to cleanse, purify and protect our body, mind, and spirit, as well as our environment.

Bundled white sage is the easiest to use and is available for purchase online, or from most local herb or health stores.

The smoke from the sage attaches to any negative energy in the air, and as the smoke dissipates and clears, it carries the energy with and transmutes it from negative to positive. Sage changes the ionic composition in the air, so we will sense the difference in the atmosphere immediately.

Before burning sage, we can keep in mind the intention of what we want to achieve. If there is a particular energy we want to erase from the atmosphere, we can focus our awareness on it, so that the cleansing is strengthened and the protection is enhanced.

When we light the sage, a flame might occur. If this happens, we can gently blow on the flame or waft your hand near the flame, until only the embers are glowing and the sage is producing a smoky trail. The smoke is what clears and removes negativity, not the flame. It is common to have to relight sage a few times during the ritual. Once we have lit the sage, we can first smudge ourselves by slowly waving the sage around our body, starting at the floor, and then moving it up over our head and around us in circles. When finished, the sage can be placed with the burning side facing down in a fireproof bowl. We can allow our intuition to guide us to where the sage needs to travel.

As we walk around each room, we may find we are compelled to remain in certain areas longer than others. This is where the energy is densest. This practice shouldn’t be hurried so allow the sage to remain burning for as long as it feels necessary. Sage needs to be burning for approximately one hour to be fully effective.

When moving with the sage, we can pay extra attention to windows, doors, and any other openings. We should ensure we don’t directly inhale the sage while we are moving around. If we don’t wish to walk around with the sage, an alternative option is purchasing a sage holder to rest the sage in while it burns.

I would recommend burning sage at the beginning of each new week to clear out the old and make way for the new. We can also burn it at the change of a season or at the start of the winter or summer solstice. Leave at least one window or door open to allow the smoke to pass through.

Sage has a masculine energy, and incense has a feminine energy, so once we have burned sage, we can light an incense stick to balance the two energies.