Last week Kitchen Witch HQ hosted a live chat on our Facebook page with a Q&A. One of the lovely people that attended our chat asked if we made our own smudge sticks or did we buy them? It was a very interesting question with contributions from a few people saying they made their own and ingredients used.. I say ingredients – we are kitchen witches after all 😊
What is ‘smudging’? Smudging is a powerful spiritual cleansing technique used to ward off negative energies from an individual, a group, a room or space and restore balance within. It works with the magical properties of the herbs and plants to allow them to penetrate your energies and those of the energies around you, dispelling the negative and bringing a calm, stress free positive energy.
Smudging is an ancient ritual that has been practiced for thousands of years. The word ‘smudge’ is derived from the word ‘smogen’ from the late middle English – 1400-50, but ‘smudge’ is generally used today worldwide to describe the practice. From Asia to the indigenous Americans, it was used for cleansing, prayers and rituals. The first smudge items were comprised of dried herbs and resins in a vessel or bowl and lit. The smoke would rise upwards and this had a symbolic meaning – that the smoke would travel upwards toward the heavens and this way, any prayers or intentions would be taken to the Gods with it. Many different ways of smudging have been documented over the years. Herbs or plants such as sage – to drive away negativity, sweetgrass – to bring in positive energies, lavender – to bring blessings, and cedar – to ward off sickness, are some of those used in smudging ceremonies. These dried plants were placed in a special container or bowl and lit, the smoke wafted with a feather, a fan or with the hand. Abalone shells were sometimes used by some cultures as the vessel – the shell representing the element of water to tie in with the other elements of fire, earth (plants) and air. The herbs could also be tied together in a bundle and lit (smudge stick). The tightly lit bundle would just smolder and this could be used in the same way as the loose plants.
You can buy ready-made smudge sticks today from all ‘new age’ shops, online and at most witchy/pagan markets – most of them are white sage - but it's just as easy to make your own. The beauty of that is that you can make smudge sticks for your own intents working with what you have growing in your garden. The main intent of course is cleansing and purifying, but you can add a little extra in for other magical purposes, for example, before a ritual or spell work. I have common garden sage growing in mine, as well as lavender and rosemary. All of these produce the sort of woody stems needed to be able to make your smudge sticks hold together and of course, they will be slow burning as well as fragrant! Last year, I harvested my large overgrown sage shrub and made several smudge bundles with them. Take a few bunches of even length and using a thin natural twine, by that, I mean cotton etc. - not plastic, start at the bottom where you are holding the bunch and wrap the twine or cotton string around it. Space the cotton out so to keep the bunch together and work it around the bunch until you have reached the other end. I usually come back down to the bottom again before tying a loose-ish knot. The reason I tie a loose knot is as the bundle dries, it will shrink and the twine will become slack, so you will need to re-tie it. You can of course, dry your herbs first then tie them, it's up to you but I find it easier to do it when its first harvested. You can make sage smudge sticks, lavender ones or rosemary or a combination of two of them or all three. Thyme and rose petals can also be used. You don’t want your smudge sticks too thick or they will take an age to dry out. You can dry them out in a warm place like an airing cupboard, or on a warm sunny windowsill. When they are completely dry, they will be ready to use. Light the end of the smudge stick until it produces a waft of smoke.
Here are some properties of some of the plants which can be used in smudge sticks:
Sage – purification, protection, success, wishes
Rosemary – purification, protection, love, healing
Sweetgrass – cleansing, purification, uplifting
Thyme – healing, purification, peace
Rose Petals – protection, healing, friendship, abundance
Lavender – protection, clarity, strength
Heather – protection, cleansing, luck
Tobacco – purification, protection
Sources: A Kitchen Witches World of Magical Plants and Herbs
Spiritual Scents – History of Smudging