“So you’re a witch now?”
That’s the question I got when I made smudge sticks for the first time! It made me laugh out loud, because that we had just learned that the tiny town we moved to is rumored to have a huge witch population! Weird, but cool! ?
Unfortunately, I only aspire to be cool enough to be a witch someday! The real reason I made smudge sticks was because we had sage growing out our ears! I had already dried and preserved about 5 mason jars worth for tea and still had tons left over. Making DIY smudge sticks to use throughout the year seemed like a fun new way to preserve the sage and create a handmade gift to give to friends.
What is a Smudge Stick?
A smudge stick is a bundle of tightly wrapped herbs that is dried and then burned to “cleanse” an area.
Most famously, Native American culture traditionally burned bundles of white sage and herbs in spiritual ceremonies. The customs and rituals that Native Americans performed by burning sage were highly religious and were performed for a variety of reasons.
I always try my very best to understand as much as I can about other people and cultures, while realizing everyone’s experiences are different from my own. Over the years, I’ve realized that smudging can often be considered a form of cultural appropriation. To be honest, this makes sense because very little of our modern day use of smudge sticks resembles the highly sacred tradition of the Native Americans. I would never want to try to copy such a special ceremonial practice when I understand so little of this heritage.
White sage, the herb traditionally grown and used for indigenous ceremonies, has been over-harvested in recent years because of the growing popularity of smudging. For this reason, I don’t grow or burn white sage which is considered a sacred plant for many indigenous people. I also now try to refer to the practice as “smoke cleansing” rather than “smudging” to ensure that it isn’t confused with the sacred traditions of indigenous people.
When to Use Smoke Cleansing:
Smoke cleansing can be used to symbolize anything you want. It can be used to mark a mental starting point after a particularly hard time or break up, to promote “good energy” in a new home, or to perform a blessing. There is even evidence that is now suggesting that smoke cleansing may help clean the air in your home!
For me, smoke cleansing is a way to practice mindfulness. Smoke cleansing at the start of a new season helps prepare my mind and spirit for the changes that are to come. It smells delicious, which is always a bonus – especially after a good spring cleaning! I always feel a little fresher, lighter and more focused after taking a couple of minutes to smoke cleanse my home while breathing deeply and slowing my mind.
How to make your own smudge sticks using garden fresh herbs:
Smudge sticks can be made in minutes and are a fresh new way to put your garden herbs to use. To make smudge sticks, you will need herbs, natural string (or twine) and scissors.
Some of the best herbs to use for smudge sticks:
- Garden sage
- Lemon balm
- Sweet grass
- Basically any herb or plant that smells delicious!
**Note: Everyone is different and may have allergies to different plants. Stop burning immediately if you notice a reaction to the herbs that were used.**
To Assemble the Smudge Stick:
1. Snip herbs at the base of the stem. You will want them about 6-8 inches long.
2. Bundle herbs together. I prefer to place smaller, more delicate herbs in the middle of the bundle and use the larger sage branches and leaves to wrap them up and hold them securely.
3. Secure the bundle by tying the string or twine in a knot at the base of the stems.
4. While holding the bundle in one hand, use your other hand to wrap the string/twine up the bundle. As the herbs dry over time, they will decrease in size so it is important to wrap the bundle tightly.
5. You can then wrap your way back down the bundle and tie the string off at the base of the bundle. I like to create a little “handle” by wrapping the string around the stems several times. The handle will not be burned (but it is completely compostable!)
6. Once you have assembled your smudge sticks, allow them to dry completely in a cool, dry area with good air flow. Store in a cool, dry location.
How to use your herbal smudge sticks for smoke cleansing:
Hold the “handle” portion of the smudge stick and use a lighter or candle to light the top of the bundle. Let it burn for a couple of seconds and then carefully blow out the flame. Allow it to smolder as you cleanse the desired area of your home.
As always, be smart and please don’t light your house on fire. Hold a fireproof ceramic bowl under the smudge stick to catch any embers that may fall. Once you are done burning the smudge stick, extinguish it by compressing the smoldering end against the bowl.
You can save any unused portions of the smudge stick to burn at a later date. Relax and enjoy!