Smudging Basics

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How to smudge and what to use.

Smudging is an ancient practice of using the smoke from burning herbs as a way to cleanse the body, objects, or an area of any negative influences surrounding it. These same herbs can be used in warding and banishing ceremonies as well, if used properly. The three types of smudge material I use the most for are sage, cedar, and sweetgrass.


Salvia, or the herb sage used for cooking, comes in two major varieties: S. Officinalis, commonly known as Garden Sage, and S. Apiana, commonly known as White Sage. The Salvia varieties have been used as healing herbs for hundreds of years. Artemisia is commonly considered ''Sagebrush'', and is more common in the wilds out here in my native California. There are two major varieties to the Artemisia : A. Californica, or Common Sagebrush, and A. Vulgaris, or Mugwort.

There are many other varieties of both Salvia and Artemisia, and all are effective in smudging. In my Cherokee/Sioux heritage, sage is burned in smudging ceremonies to drive out evil spirits, negative thoughts and feelings, and to keep any negative entities away from areas where the ceremonies are held. In a traditional Plains Sweatlodge, the floor is generally covered with sage leaves so that those participating have them readily available to rub all over their bodies during the sweat.

Sage is also used in keeping sacred objects such as pipes or Peyote wands safe from negative influences. In the Sioux nation, the Sacred Pipe is kept in a bundle with sage boughs. I also protect my ceremonial crystals the same way.


Some Junipers are also called ''cedar'', which complicates things a bit. Some Juniper varieties ARE indeed cleansing herbs, especially J. Monosperma, or Desert White Cedar. But for smudging, the best is Western Red Cedar and/or California Incense Cedar. Cedar is burnt while praying to the Great Spirit or diety of choice while meditating.

Cedar properties work in two ways; to purify and to attract GOOD energy in your direction. Cedar may also be used to bless a house before moving in. It is usually available in herb stores in a chipped form, which I sprinkle over a hot charcoal disc. You can also use mesquite charcoal if you are out of discs.


Sweetgrass is very important to the Cherokee and Sioux nations. We braid the sweetgrass in the same fashion as hair braids. We then burn it by lighting the end of it, and smoking the area, item or person needed. You can also shave the sweetgrass and use a charcoal disc or mesquite to burn it, which helps you use less.

Sweetgrass is burnt AFTER smudging with sage, to welcome favorable influences after the negative influences have been driven out. Sweetgrass is pretty hard to find these days as there is not an abundance remaining. The good news is that there are plains cultures who are protecting what is left so it may still be obtained.

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Jan 21, 2019
Ooooh we have a sweet grass field in the community where I live.... Every summer or fall or something a lot of elders and their kids or grandkids pick it and then braid it it's such a nice smell^^

Apr 04, 2019
I don't have any of this where I live because I live down south on the Earth.

Apr 04, 2019
You can buy them online.

Feb 24, 2020
I have red juniper in my back yard, and can collect sweetgrass next time I visit my grandparents. The lake helps it grow plentifully. I've been looking everywhere for how to smudge with sweetgrass. Thanks!

Feb 25, 2020
Smudging is not as simple as burning the herbs. There is a ritual to it that should not be ignored. If all you want to do is burn the herbs, call what it is 'incense'.

Jan 27, 2021
do you have any links to a real smudging ritual, I can't find any and I want to learn how to properly use it.

Jan 29, 2021
''Smudging'' is a native ritual cleansing using a bundle of herbs [usually white sage] to cleanse a space. Many in the Pagan and New Age communities are trying to move away from the term and use of ''smudging'' as it's part of native cultural practices. You can use a smoke cleanse on your home that doesn't involve a smudging ritual. You can purchase a stick of cleansing herbs, or use a loose mixture in a fireproof pot. Light it, and once the smoke begins [don't expect flames, it should be like incense] walk clockwise through your room/house wafting the smoke from the herbs through your room [be sure to get into corners and areas you don't normally clean as energy can become stagnant in these areas] If you wish to say a protection or cleansing chant while doing this you can.

Nov 07, 2020
Smudging is a term meant only to be used by indigenous peoples; please use smoke cleansing or saging instead

Jul 02, 2021
We have sage here known as Kapur, which we get in the form of balls and cubes. Can I use that for smudging???

Jul 08, 2021
If you are able to burn it yes. The means of burning will be different than a smudge stick. Placing the cubes into a bowl that is firesafe or small cauldron and using charcoal disks like you would loose incense will work. In this way you could place the bowl down and waft the smoke with a feather in the space. If you need to carry the bowl, I suggest oven mitts and carrying and placing the cauldron on table tops that are safe for it. It could be done, granted one does it safely and properly.

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