smudge sticks: it’s easy to make your own

 

Smudging is a beautiful, spiritual Native American tradition. Bundles of fragrant herbs, grasses and tree branches are burned in a ritual to purify and cleanse a space or a person. Although I am not Native American, I enjoy the peaceful process of gathering, braiding and wrapping the herbs. It is customary to say a small prayer when gathering your plants—ask the plant for permission to use its healing power, and show gratitude by leaving a small token of appreciation, commonly a bit of tobacco. I leave a lock of hair because it’s a gesture from my person. A bit of flour or cornmeal may also be a traditional offering.

Different plants have different meanings and the meanings vary by Tribe or Nation. The most commonly used plants are white sage, cedar and sweetgrass, but many garden herbs can be used. Please make sure, though, that you don’t choose toxic plants or plants that create toxic smoke when burned. (Check under the menu item Urban Foraging 101 for links to lists of toxic plants if you are unsure.) Pick your herbs on a dry and sunny day because moist branches may get mouldy when wrapped. The ideal branch length is 8-12 inches.

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I gathered the above from my garden: cedar (blesses and offers protection and grounding), sage (cleanses negative energy), rosemary(heals and offers remembrance), and thyme (spiritual cleansing in matters of love).

Divide your herbs into bunches for each smudge stick.

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Use a sturdily branched herb as the base and wrap or braid the other branches around it. Cedar burns quickly so it is best kept in the middle. Use the longest branches in the centre and shorter ones on the outside. Use only natural fibre or string; red is traditional, but it’s up to you. Tie the string fairly tightly up to almost the top and back downward, wrapping several times around the bottom of the bundle to create a handle.

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Wrap the finished stick in brown paper to keep the herbs from fading, and hang upside down to dry for a week or two.

When you are ready to use the dried smudge stick, light it with a candle. As it begins to smoke, keep it over a fireproof container at all times. Move the stick to direct the smoke toward whatever is being smudged. In traditional ceremonies, smoke is often fanned with an eagle feather.

To smudge a house, carry the stick and move clockwise around each room, filling corners and blocked areas.