All about smudging

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What is smudging?

Smudging is the common name of a traditional, spiritual ceremony, where you use the smoke from sacred plants like Palo Santo and Sage to drive away negative energy and to restore balance to an individual, a group, space, or all three.  The ceremony is very simple and very empowering, and you don't need a lot of expensive equipment to start doing it in your own home.

The words of the intention can be spoken into the smoke and sent to the "Light" with a gentle upward sweeping motion with the use of a feather or your hand.

MORE: How to Clean Your Home, Body and Spirit with Palo Santo

How to smudge – the Ritual

1. Open door or window as the unwanted energy you are trying to clear must have a path to get out. Leave the door or window open for about an hour after clearing your space.

Examples of unwanted energy: getting toxic energy out of your house after a weekend rager, or an intense meeting at work. 


2. The tools: Remember, you are playing with fire, so the right container for your smudging tool is key. Traditionally, people use an abalone shell to hold the sage, this is not mandatory when you smudge with Palo Santo sticks. You can use a feather to fan and spread the smoke around the space when burning it. Feathers help to remove dense energy from the body and energetic field.

Nevertheless. I’ve used nothing but my hands as tools so far and that worked fine.

3. Dress code: Consider your black wardrobe as you’re fanning lit herbs very close to your body. 

Ritualistically, shamans wear black when performing rites/rituals/ceremonies/house clearings/exorcisms/healings to help the shaman remain invisible to the spirit/entity, and prevent anything from “sticking” to the spiritual practitioner. 

From a psychological point of view, wearing black provides the feeling of being calm, in control, protected, and grounded—exactly how you want to feel when you’re throwing the bad juju out.

4. Light up: I use a candlelight, because a lighter gets too warm and a match is too short for the purpose. Grab your palo santo as far from the burning end as possible. Hold it at a 45-degree angle, light it, let it burn for about 10 seconds, and then gently blow out the flame so that you see orange embers on the lit end. 

5. Walk and Fan: Walk slowly through the space while holding and fanning the smoke around the room.

Push the smoke to each place in the house. As you pass by an open door or window, you may push the smoke outside, carrying with it the negative energies.

Don’t forget doorways and window frames – some stuck energy might need to be smoked out from there too.

If you start to see the glow of the embers fading, gently blow on the end that’s lit or relight it. 

6. Clearing energy off yourself or someone else: Be conscious of skin, eyes, hair, and clothing—sometimes ash will fly a bit. So, pull your hair back into a bun or ponytail, if relevant. It's customary to smudge yourself before moving on to someone else. When “fanning” someone else, remind them to shut their eyes.

Start from the top, and bring the smoke around the head, down the torso, and toward the feet (front first then back ). Don’t forget to get the crown of the head, and the palms and soles. You can use the feather as a fan to help keep the smoke going and to direct it.

7. Say a Mantra: Once the area is ventilated and the herbs lit, you can tell the unwanted energy to leave the space—out loud. Like: “Any energy that is not of my highest and greatest good get the fuck out. Please exit through the open window/door”.

8. Lights Out: The best way to extinguish the palo santo stick is by leaving the burning surface firmly against a stone, fireproof bowl, or in dirt or sand until smoke no longer rises. Don’t use water to extinguish the hot embers—it will ruin the tip of the stick and it makes it harder to light next time. 

Keep your stick in a bowl or plate until you are ready to use it again: Make triple-sure that every bit of fire and smoke has been extinguished and rest the stock in the shell or non-flammable container.


How can smoke be purifying?

You wouldn’t usually put the word cleansing and smoke in the same sentence. But when smoke comes from certain plants like Sage or Palo Santo, it’s defined as medicinal smoke, because it can kill bacteria and charge the air with negative ions. 

Negative and positive ions

Have you ever noticed how you feel when you stand near a waterfall or walk in a forest? You breathe in that fresh, clean air and you feel energized yet calm, alive, vibrant, refreshed. That’s negative ions at work. 

When indigenous people, shamans or people, in general, talk about negative and positive energy it might refer to negative and positive ions.

A molecule with more positive electrons than negative carries a positive charge. When there is an extra negative electron, it has a negative charge. We call these positive and negative ions.

Positively charged ions concentrate indoors. Electromagnetic fields, fluorescent lights, carpet, aircons, metal, plastics, and air pollution all increase the number of positive ions in an environment. Positively charged ions have a negative effect on our physical and mental health, and they are associated with an increase in allergies, infections, lethargy, depression, anxiety.

Negatively charged ions have a positive effect, and they are abundant in nature with the highest concentrations forming near moving water (waves / waterfall) and old growth forests - especially pine forests carries a vast amount of negative ions. They elevate our mood by increasing serotonin levels, and they help stabilize blood pressure, improve the body’s alkalinity, strengthen bones, heighten immunity, accelerate physical recovery, they purify and clean the air and more.

In nature, negative ions are formed in a variety of ways. Airflow friction, falling water, and plants all produce about half of them. For example, they stream off the leaves of plants, most notable pines, and asparagus ferns.

If you don’t have access to a pine forest or live near falling water, smudging can do the job too. Burning Palo Santo, sage or other herbs neutralizes the positive charge and releases large amounts of negative ions into the atmosphere.
- and maybe all that alpha-terpineol that Palo Santo contains - just like pine trees do have something to do with it too (but that's just my reasoning).

The cleansing smoke

Not only can medicinal smoke charge the air with negative ions, recent studies have also shown that medicinal smoke can be a powerful antiseptic that can purify the air within confined space of 94% of harmful pathogenic bacteria for up to 24 hours. 

How smoke, smell and essential oil affect the body?

The limbic system in the brain supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and operates by influencing hormones and the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system regulates functions like heart rate, digestion, breathing, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal, and is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response.

The limbic system in the brain supports a variety of functions including emotion, behavior, motivation, long-term memory, and operates by influencing hormones and the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system regulates functions like heart rate, digestion, breathing, pupillary response, urination, and sexual arousal, and is the primary mechanism in control of the fight-or-flight response.

Essential Oils Absorbed Through the Skin

The molecules in essential oils are small enough to allow them to penetrate through the skin. 

The molecules travel through the top layer of skin (the epidermis) reaching a deeper layer of skin (the dermis) to the blood vessels allowing them to circulate through to all body areas.

All information in this blog is strictly for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. The statements made in this blog have not been evaluated by The Danish Health Authority. The products linked to in this blog and any information published in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information provided on this blog is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with your physician, and should not be construed as medical advice. The entire contents of this blog are based on the opinions of Hanne Robinson. By reading and using this blog, you agree to only use this publication for personal informational use and not as a substitute for medical or other professional advice.