Smudging - The ancient way of plant lore

Posted on January 20, 2016 at 11:45 AM


Smudging is a cross cultural practice that has been practiced for aeons since prehistoric times.  Herbs or incense are burned and the smoke is washed over a person, item, area or space.  This process of smoke washing is used to clear and cleanse negative energy and is practiced prior to meditation or ceremony to consecrate the space and the participants for ritual purification.


When researching the origins of smudging it is clear that many indigenous communities across the earth have used this practice to help create a sense of sacredness in their way of life, within their day to day lives as a form of connection to the divine.  They made offerings to their Gods and Goddess, to Creator, to Source, and Spirits of nature by using gums, resins and fragrant herbs to bring them closer to the divine and to give fragrant wings to their prayers.


Thinking back to the first peoples and their deep connection, their interwoven thread with the heartbeat of the land, their understanding of the plants in their surroundings would be second nature.  Eating certain plants would bring different effects and their understanding of which plants could be eaten safely as opposed to those which were poisonous, needing a different medium of use would over time be an incredible wealth of knowledge. These wisdom keepers would have been our earliest shaman’s, medicine people, midwives who cultivated the plant wisdom knowing how each plant needed to be used.  The deep listening and learning required from the plants I imagine would have been an integral part of their lives.


The use of tree bark, leaves, seeds, resin, herbs, blossom, and grasses would have developed from the particular community’s landscape.  The traditional use of smudging was unique to the native flora in that area and the ceremony around the practice would also be just as unique depending on who the community wished to make offerings to.  Each plant has the ability to work in very different ways energetically and the spirit medicine from the plant brings more than just the physical presence of smoke or chemical constituents of the plant.  The plant spirit medicine element of smudging is seen as divine and would be key in choosing the plants to use.  These plant energies are seen as allies to work with for healing and vitality of spirit.  I like to think that plants not only connect us back to the earth, but to our ancestors too, and therefore back to our natural selves.


The necessary ritual surrounding the use of the herbs depends on the background of the user.  Smudging is well known in the Native American tradition however it is not solely credited to these people.  It has been practiced across many cultures for thousands of years.  The ancient Hindu texts reveal this was practiced 6,000 years ago with the burning of incense.  Smoke purification was performed in Egypt, with well-known sacred resins such as Frankincense and Myrrh.  It was practiced in Babylonia, Greece, Rome, Japan, Tibet, China, Mexico, among the ancient Hebrews, and among indigenous tribal cultures around the world.  Catholic and Orthodox Christianity use incense in religious ceremonies, which grew and evolved from the European Celtic practices who revered plants as gifts from the Earth Mother, where use of herbs was an integral part of their lives and sacred practice.


In general the use of smudge helps to bring people back into harmony by clearing negative energy, attachments such as anger frustration or emotional imbalances.  The smudge helps to wash away negativity so as to connect to the universal energies of healing in preparation for sacred work.   The cleansing smoke of the sacred herbs is used to purify the psychic space and creates an aura of protection.  The many varied plants provide different energies and are used to honour certain deities or invoke a particular quality necessary for sacred magical work.


Ways you might use smudge –

  •  To clear old stagnant energy when moving to a new house.
  •  To cleanse a room for healing or theraputic use.
  • To cleanse difficult charged situations and bring fresh energy into the space.
  • To cleanse second hand items to clear psychic imprints from previous owners.
  • To create a sacred protected space for yourself and your family or home.
  • To support in times of low mood, depression or challenge to clear negativity.
  • When there is sickness that is ongoing or difficult to shift.
  • In preparation for ceremonial or sacred energetic work, healing or meditation.
  • To cleanse crystals, sacred tools, totems and other altar items.
  • As an offering to your preferred deity or spiritual practice or process of prayer.
  • To invoke certain qualities or energies working with the Plant Spirit Medicine Ally.


Indigenous peoples have used smudging as a way of cleansing historically; the common understanding on smudging is how the practice banishes bad vibrations, clearing dense negative energy.  Science has shown in recent studies done in 2007 that it also clears air born bacteria effectively too.

‘We have observed that 1hour treatment of medicinal smoke emanated by burning wood and a mixture of odoriferous and medicinal herbs (havan sámagri=material used in oblation to fire all over India), on aerial bacterial population caused over 94% reduction of bacterial counts by 60 min and the ability of the smoke to purify or disinfect the air and to make the environment cleaner was maintained up to 24h in the closedroom.. and up to 30 days for other pathogenic bacteria’. (source NCBI )

It is important to check if there are any allergies or issues with specific herbs especially if pregnant as some have contraindications.  Some herbs are also more prone to drop ash, so being mindful to use with a smudge bowl or abalone shell will ensure no burn holes in carpets or clothing.  Some types of incense require charcoal discs to burn; often these are blends that have lots of resin which come from sacred trees. Charcoal discs need to be used with fire proof containers and should never be held when being lit as they are self-igniting and will burn.


There are so many different wonderful plants which can be used for smudging, beyond the traditional and more commonly used such as  White Sage and  Palo Santo.  I like to blend herbs and resin myself for specific issues, intentions or processes.  I especially like to combine resins with herbs for their fragrant smoke and ability to really shift the energy in a space.  My favourite ingredients have been blended into the ‘Clarity Vibration Space Clearing Incense’ which has been made available for you to use and can be purchased from the webshop. (COMING SOON)  I hope you enjoy using it as much as I do.

Blessings Clare


Categories: Energy Clearing, Herbs, Ritual

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