Smudging is a traditional Native American practice that is used to create sacred space and to spiritually cleanse objects, people and places. It involves directing the smoke of a burning smudge stick, which is constructed of one or more herbs, while invoking a blessing or a purification.
The traditional method also calls upon the four cardinal directions to assist, starting in the East where new life emerges, proceeding South and West where spiritual and emotional growth take place, and ending in the North, where ancestral wisdom and the afterlife reside. The Sacred Hoop, later dubbed “Medicine Wheel” by 19th century European settlers, depicts a circle with spokes, like a wheel. Because it has no beginning and no end, the circle represents the Circle of Life. In the middle is The Creator, who is at the center of all things. From the four directions come energies to help one walk the circle, or live life, in a meaningful way that is in harmony with others and with nature.
As a side note…
If you are Pagan and/or Wiccan, you no doubt recognize the similarity of the Medicine Wheel to the Pentagram, although the cardinal attributes and color associations are only slightly different and also vary among tribes. While the Pentagram represents North (Earth/Green/Grounding), South (Fire/Red/Passion), East (Air/Yellow/Communication) and West (Water/Blue/Emotion) with Spirit as the fifth point (and when encircled the entire thing becomes a Pentacle), the Medicine Wheel pairs a strong body with North (White), a strong spirit with South (Red), a strong mind with East (Yellow) and inner peace with West (Blue). This is according to Cree and Algonquin tradition. The Lakota Medicine Wheel features white (North), red (South), yellow (East) and black (West).
Most people think of sage when it comes smudge sticks. True, white sage is the most popular material, followed by common sage. However, other herbs, such as sweetgrass, cedar, mugwort and juniper are also used. Sometimes, other dried herbs, such as lavender or rosemary, are woven into smudge sticks.
Make Your Own Smudge Sticks
Gather your herb of choice in the morning, after the dew has dried.
Cut sprigs at least 8 to 10 inches in length, remembering to ask permission before (and listen!) and to offer thanks afterward.
Bundle a few sprigs together (more for thin stalks, less for full and leafy stalks).
Tie off the cut end with hemp or cotton string, then proceed to wrap the thread around and down the bundle in a crisscross pattern.
Hang the bundles to dry in a place where they’ll be away from drafts and direct sunlight. The smudge sticks will be dry and ready to use in 5 to 7 days.
Note: As an alternative, sacred herbs can be burned on charcoal bricks -- not the kind used for BBQ, but the kind used for burning incense powders and resins. You can find them here.
How to Make Smudge Spray
If you or someone in your circle has allergies or asthma, a smoke-less smudge spray is a great alternative. And very easy to make and use:
Fill a small (2 ounce or 4 ounce) amber bottle with mister three-fourths of the way with filtered water. If you have blessed full moon water or something similar, this would be an ideal time to use it. To the bottle add:
1 teaspoon witch hazel
8 drops sage essential oil
4 drops cedar essential oil
3-5 dried juniper berries
½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
Small quartz crystal (optional)
Cap the bottle with the mister and lid and shake a few times to blend. Be sure to shake before each use, too. Before the first use, spend time "charging" your spray with your intent to foster harmony and peace and to dispel all negative vibrations.
Suggested Uses for Smudge Spray …
Mist the corners of each room of your home while chanting or reciting a prayer or blessing to repel stale, negative energy and invite fresh, positive energy. Pay special attention to areas where trauma, despair or arguments have taken place.
Lightly spray bed linens to promote peaceful, intuitive dreams.
Spray three times with the direction of the wind outdoors to carry your intention, blessing or distance healing to the four directions.