In many ancient cultures, including Native American traditions, herbs were burned in the ritual cleansing of a physical space, objects or individuals. The idea is they by burning certain herbs in a space, the smoke generated attaches itself to the negative energy and as the smoke dissipates, so does the negative energy. This burning of herbs can also be used for individual cleansing, after a particularly energetically depleting day or experience, for example or on crystals or personal objects used in ritual to ensure that they are not holding any negative energy.
People often cleanse themselves and their space after difficult events, when communication problems seem to be arising, when their feeling down or depressed, during times of meditation or other ritual. Deliberately clearing space of negative energy is a custom as old as time. To some, this is spring cleaning, a house warming party, or merely the creation of order our of chaos. Some associate this cleansing with ritual on a deeper spiritual level. Smudging is also excellent to practice prior to a gathering or ritual or as people arrive and before commencing a ritual or celebration. This leads to open minds and hearts and the eradication of any lingering negativity. Clearing space also renews old and stagnant energy in a space or person and replaces it with a lively vibrancy.
There are several herbs used commonly in “smudge sticks” or “smudge wands.” In such a stick or wand, the herbs are bundled together and often tied with string. In ancient native American traditions, special smudge bowls were used but now, most smudging herbs come in wants or sticks that are easy to use. Common smudging herbs include:
Sagebrush (confusingly, the “sage” used in most smudge sticks, is not culinary sage but sagebrush): transforms energy and brings change.
Sage (the culinary herb): brings wisdom and is calming and healing.
Sweetgrass: attracts positive energy.
Lavender: restores balance and creates a peaceful atmosphere. Lavender also attracts loving energy and spirits.
Cedar: deeply purifying, especially for clearing negative emotions and for healing and as a way to attract positive energy. Also used to bless a home before taking residence there, a tradition dating back to the Northwest and Western Canadian Native Americans, and believed to aid clairvoyance, revive the tired mind, body, and spirit, and stimulate contact with other worlds.
Mugwort: stimulates psychic awareness and prophetic dreams. It also banishes evil spirits.
Juniper: used to purify and create a safe and sacred space.
Yerba Santa: used to purify and to set and protect boundaries.
Rosemary: a powerful healer that brings clarity to problems.