Smudging is wonderful. Truly. Try it and youíll become
a convert, Iím almost willing to bet. I love it
because itís the simplest yet most incredibly
effective form of space clearing available. It takes
just five minutes to learn the basics and youíre off.
Obviously the more you do it, the more sophisticated you
become, but it really is entry-level metaphysics,
esoteric practice condensed into a few fool-proof
actions. Most importantly it really works.
powerful experience of smudging came when I visited
shaman Leo Rutherford in London. I had moved out of the
city quite a while before and had totally lost the
"street savvy" sense you have when you live in
a big city. Consequently I was feeling pretty nervous
about stepping out into an unknown (and slightly rough)
neighborhood on my own at night. Leo must have guessed
my apprehension, because he said, "Hold on, Jane.
Just need to give you a quick smudge before you
go." I stood, in my coat and with bag in hand, in
his hallway while he wafted smoke around me with a huge
eagleís feather. It felt like having an energy shower
Ė tingles ran all over my body in waves. I breathed
deeply and it was as if someone had fired up every one
of my chakras. I gave Leo a hug and walked out, totally
forgetting my fears. I walked through the dark streets
feeling totally invincible. It was as if I had a cloak
of power surrounding me.
If youíre not familiar with it, smudging is the
common name given to the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, a
powerful cleansing technique from the Native American
tradition. Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred
plants to drive away negative energies and put you back
into a state of balance. It is the psychic equivalent of
washing your hands before eating - and used as an
essential preliminary to almost all Native American
I use smudging to cleanse myself (particularly if Iíve
had a lousy day or have had to deal with difficult or
unpleasant people). I use it as a prelude to all kinds
of spiritual and magical work (itís like a kind of
spiritual power shower). I use it to cleanse my home and
office. I use it to mark the seasons and as part of
other rituals. Basically I use it all over the place, at
all kinds of time Ė it is totally adaptable and
practical, a really user-friendly soulful tool.
But how does smudging work? The answer lies in the
sub-atomic world of subtle or spiritual energy. Homes
and bodies are not just made of purely physical matter;
they also vibrate with subtle, invisible energy (you
might know it as qi or chi, prana, quwa etc). Cleansing
a space or our bodies with techniques such as smudging
clears away all the emotional and psychic
"garbage" that may have gathered over years or
even hundreds of years. Itís like spiritual
These ideas are not new-fangled nor are they
airy-fairy New Age waffle. Native American tradition
dates back millennia and most traditional cultures, from
the Zulus to the Maoris, from the Chinese to the
Balinese, have age-old forms of cleansing and blessing
ritual. Even the West retains relics of it, although we
have long forgotten the true purpose behind many of our
rituals and ceremonies. The incense wafting through a
church or temple is cleansing the atmosphere just as
surely as the medicine manís bowl of sacred smoke, or
smudge. The bells that ring out on Sunday morning were
originally intended to purify the whole parish through
sound and lead the community from everyday space into
worship - just as the shamanís drum can lead us on
sacred journeys into the world of the spirits.
OK, Iíve gone on about how wonderful it is for long
enough. Letís get smudging. These exercises come from
The Smudging and Blessings Book, a simple DIY guide to get you started.
BASIC SMUDGING FOR SELF-CLEARING
There are many ways to use smudging. I suggest this
as a simple way to get started. As you become more
proficient, you may well find you want to use different
words or actions. Thatís fine Ė just be guided by
your intuition. But always treat smudge with great
YOU WILL NEED: smudge stick, matches, a small
ceramic or stone bowl, or a large shell (a saucer will
do), a large feather.
- Light the end of your smudge stick and let it burn
for a few minutes until the tip starts to smoulder. You
may need to fan the flames for a while to get the smudge
really smoking. Then extinguish the flame so the smudge
- Call on the spirits of the smudge to cleanse and
protect you, saying: "Sacred Sage, drive away all
negativity from my heart; take away everything unworthy
- First waft the smoke towards your heart. Hold the
smudge stick away from you and use the feather to waft
the smoke towards you. Then take the smudge smoke over
your head, down your arms and down the front of your
body. Imagine the smoke lifting away all the negative
thoughts, emotions and energies that have attached
themselves to you.
- Breathe in the smudge, visualizing the smoke
purifying your body from the inside. (Note: be careful
if you suffer from asthma or respiratory difficulties.
- Now bring the smoke down the back of your body
towards the ground. Visualise the last vestiges of
negativity being taken back into the earth, away into
- Repeat your smudging once again, this time calling
on the spirit of Sweetgrass in this way: "Sacred
Sweetgrass, bring me the positive energy I need to do
this work. Help me to come into balance. Purify my
soul." As you smudge, imagine yourself being
surrounded by gentle, loving energy. Breathe in
positivity, courage and love.
USING SMUDGING FOR SPACE CLEARING
Smudging not only cleanses people: it can also clear
a room or area of any old or stagnant energy. All rooms
need cleansing - just as much as they need physical
cleaning. If your life feels stuck or things just arenít
going according to plan, you may just find that simple
space clearing solves the problem. Clearing the space
around you is also an important part of most rituals and
YOU WILL NEED: smudge stick, bowl or shell,
- To cleanse the space in which you are working, light
your smudge stick as described above (Self-clearing) and
smudge yourself and anyone with you.
- Walk around the room wafting smoke into each corner.
Call on the spirit of Sage as in the Self-clearing to
drive away all negativity from the room. Then repeat,
asking the spirit of Sweetgrass to bring harmony and
balance to the room.
- Come to the centre of the room and stand quietly for
a few moments. Turn to the East of the room and fan
smudge out into that direction four times, saying:
"Spirit of the East, Great Spirit of Air, cleanse
and inspire this space."
- Turn to the South and smudge four times, saying:
"Spirit of the South, Great Spirit of Water,
strengthen and bring peace to this space."
- Now turn to the West and smudge four times, saying:
"Spirit of the West, Great Spirit of Fire, energize
and protect this space."
- Turn to the North and smudge four times, saying:
"Spirit of the North, Great Spirit of Earth, ground
and cleanse this space."
- Return to your original position and look upwards,
sending smudge up to the ceiling four times. Say:
"Great Father Sky, guard this space from
- Now finally squat towards the floor and send smudge
down to the floor four times, saying, "Great Mother
Earth, nurture this space from below."
- Put down your smudge stick and stand quietly with
your eyes shut. Visualize the great spirits you have
summoned standing guard around your room. You could
imagine them as the great archangels or the four animal
spirit keepers of Native American tradition (Buffalo -
North; Eagle - East; Coyote - South and Grizzly Bear -
West.) Visualize the loving energy of the Mother and
Father Spirits above and below you. Give thanks to all
Note: You should also smudge anything you will be
using for your blessing - ie crystals, candles, flowers,
MAKING YOUR OWN SMUDGE STICKS
Although smudge sticks are now readily available from
shops specializing in New Age and Native American
artefacts, you can easily make your own. Making your own
smudge allows you to make a deeper connection with the
spirits of the sacred plants used in smudge - and so can
make your rituals and ceremonies even more meaningful. I
think itís a great idea to use plants which are local,
plants you know and with which you have a connection. I
tend to use sage, lavender and rosemary a lot Ė as
they are herbs which grow around my house and which have
powerful cleansing properties as well. They also smell
YOU WILL NEED: A selection of your chosen
herbs - see list below; colored cottons (embroidery
threads work well); a little tobacco or cornmeal; candle
- You really need to be able to pick your plants, or
at least the mainstay of your smudge stick, fresh from
the wild. It is unusual to find the length of herb
needed from shops - and dried herbs will flare too
easily. However you can combine fresh and dried herbs if
- If you are picking your herbs from the wild (or your
garden) ideally you should gather them as they come into
bloom during a waxing moon. Approach the plant with
respect and ask its spirit for its permission to be used
in your smudge. When you feel it is right, cut the plant
with a sharp knife (you will need pieces around eight to
twelve inches long). Only take what you need and give a
pinch of cornmeal or tobacco with your thanks.
- Gather your materials together. Light the candle and
quietly center yourself, asking the spirits of the
plants you have gathered to help you make a powerful
- Take a sturdy stick as a base. Arrange the other
stems around it. If you are using a combination of fresh
and dried herbs, keep the dried, more fragile herbs on
- Take a piece of cotton or hide and tie it around the
stick, starting at the bottom. If you want to add dried
herbs which are powdered or crushed, you can add these
on the inside of the smudge stick as you start to bind
- Tie your smudge stick quite firmly - the cotton
should reach about half way up the length of the stick.
- Now hang your smudge stick up by its bottom end (the
tied end) somewhere warm and dry until the plants are
almost dry - but not totally moisture-free.
MAKING A SACRED SMUDGE BOWL
Native American shamans do not always use smudge
sticks: equally common is a loose smudge mixture, which
is placed in a bowl or shell and lit. This is easy to
make and especially useful if you do not have access to
fresh herbs. It also has the advantage that, as you
become more experienced and intuitive, you can alter
your mixture to fit each individual ritual.
YOU WILL NEED: your choice of dried herbs and
resins; a shell or bowl; self-igniting charcoal blocks;
candle and matches, feather, sea salt.
- Sit down with all your ingredients. Light your
candle and center yourself. Ask the spirits of the
plants you are using to give you their help.
- Take a bowl or large shell - it needs to be able to
withstand the heat of the burning charcoal. Ensure it is
clean and cleansed by washing it in water to which you
have added a little sea salt.
- A basic smudge mix would include a tablespoon of
crumbled sage (either sagebrush or culinary sage) plus a
teaspoon each of cedar bark and lavender. Mix the herbs
together. See below for other ideas.
- Place a charcoal block in your container and light
it. Wait until the charcoal stops sparking and has
- Add a few pinches of your smudge mixture. It will
- Use your smudge bowl in exactly the same way as you
would your smudge stick - hold up the bowl and use a
feather to direct smoke towards you, someone else or out
into the area in which you are working.
- You will need to add more smudge from time to time.
As this is October, I thought it would be good to
share a simple ritual for the festival of Halloween (October 31) Ė this celebration is so
often misunderstood and mistrusted, itís nice to have
a chance to redress the balance. Basically it is the
ancient pagan festival of the Dead and the Unknown. Itís
a time to confront our fears, face our demons
(figuratively speaking!) and prepare for the dark cycle
of the year. So, itís not surprising that it includes
ghoulish and ghostly figures, witches and warlocks (our
perennial childhood fears) Ė but it is most certainly
not about black magic! In Native American tradition it
is The Frost Time, a time to clear away the old and
unnecessary. This quiet ceremony provides a balance to
all the wild Trick or Treating!
YOU WILL NEED: Smudge stick, bowl or shell,
matches, feather; candle; paper and pen.
- Light your candle - let this be the only light in
- Smudge yourself and any others present.
- Sit quietly and think back over the last year. What
mistakes did you make? What do you regret? Write down
- Now take another piece of paper and think about the
year ahead. What are your fears? Now think of life in
general: what makes you frightened and scared? Write
down all your fears.
- Now call on Bear who can bestow strength and
courage; and Buffalo who teaches acceptance of things we
canít change and letting go of things we donít need.
Ask these two great teachers to help you release your
fears and accept those which cannot go away. If you work
with angels or other spirit guardians, itís fine to
substitute these Ė or simply pray to your God.
- Feel the gentle strength and love of these spirit
guardians around you. Offer some smudge to them in
- Now carefully commit your papers to the flames.
Watch them go up in smoke and imagine your fears
disappearing with them.
- It is traditional to leave your candle burning all
night to guide the souls of the dead. But make sure it
is safely in a bowl of water or sand and out of reach of
children and animals.
I hope this introduction to smudging helps you. Do
take the time to just try this wonderful ritual. If
nothing else, I think taking five minutes out of a
hectic day to center oneself, breathe and just be, has
to be therapeutic. If you want to find out more, Iíd
suggest you delve further into The Smudge Pack. My book
The Illustrated Spirit of the Home gives instructions on
basic space clearing (and smudging). I outline a
shamanic weekend, using smudge, in The Weekend Healer.
Denise Linnís book, Space
Clearing, is totally wonderful and highly