Having a degree in anthropology, I am attuned to the practices of people across the globe. There are many instances where people will burn herbs or plant resin in a ceremonial way. It may be one of the things witchcraft, christianity, and buddhism all have in common.
The act of burning a bundle of herbs is called smudging. This practice is most often associated with the Native Americans, who use white sage and other plant materials to assist in a spiritual cleansing.
As autumn is in full swing, some sage still lingers in the garden waiting to be used. Freeze some in little bundles straight from the garden to use in soups throughout the winter. Use the rest to make your own smudge sticks to keep the evil spirits away.
Like me, you probably planted some variety of culinary sage rather than white sage that the Native Americans use for smudging. The scent will be different as well as the texture. However, the mechanics and intent of the smudge bundles will be similar enough.
Things you will need
- Fresh Sage
- Cotton Twine or String
- Dried Lavender
- Dried Rosemary
The dried rosemary and lavender may be used together or separately. If you wish to have all sage, you may use some dried sage in the middle of the smudge stick and fresh sage for the outer wrapping. The inside herbs should be dry, otherwise you may end up with a moldy smudge stick that will bring more evil to you.
Benefit from my learning curve:
Originally, I had struggled by piecing each sage leaf and using some very odd hand maneuvers to secure them around the dried rosemary sprigs.
Instead, lay out the fresh sage leaves so that they overlap one another.
Place the dried rosemary and lavender onto the blanket of sage so that the sage has room on all sides to cover the dried bundle inside.
Fold the fresh sage blanket over the dried rosemary and lavender on all sides. It helps to roll the bundle as you transition from folding one side to the other.
Hold it tight, squeezing it slightly, to help keep the sage in place to allow you time to begin wrapping the cotton string around the bundle.
Have the string going lengthwise from the stem area, up and over the top of the bundle, back down to the stem area and begin wrapping upwards from the bottom, going around the outside of this first string setup. (Sorry my hand looks so strange here.)
Once the string has been wrapped at the top, cut the string so that there is excess as long as twice the length of the bundle. Tie the string at the top of the bundle and then proceed to wrap it back down and tie it at several points before finishing with a knot at the bottom.
On some of my smudge sticks, I did not do the tying method going down the bundle. Instead I simply tied at the top. It seems as though the herbs will stay in place, but to be on the safe side, it is probably best to tie the string intermittently throughout the bundle wrap.
Once your bundle is all finished, it does help to put it in the microwave for about twenty seconds to get some of the excess moisture out before allowing it to dry completely until using. The fresh sage will essentially boil itself and burn in the microwave if it’s left in too long (any guess how I know this?) so monitor it closely.
To burn your smudge stick
- Light the top of it, holding at the stem, until it is on fire.
- Quickly blow the flame out, so that it is simply smoking.
- Fan the smoke with a feather or by gently blowing on it.
- Say a chant or mantra to kick out those evil spirits.
It is also helpful to have a ceramic or glass bowl to put your smudge stick in when you are finished with it. This same vessel can also help to contain the residual ashes from the smudge stick so that you are not left with a mess. Native Americans also believe that the ashes from a smudge stick hold onto the negative properties and must be properly buried to keep the evil at bay.
Happy crafting and smudging! #sageamerica
What evil do you want to cast out? Leave me a message in the comments below!