How to Perform a Sage Cleanse
Sage Burning: Indigenous Americans and Beyond
Many cleansing rituals and ceremonies are performed today by new-age, spiritual groups that have adopted traditions originating in Indigenous American tribes. Historically speaking, tribal elders were trained or apprenticed in various healing arts. These people served as herbalists, healers, medicine men, and spirit communicators.
Healing practices and spiritual ceremonies that used sage varied from tribe to tribe. Sage was used in sweat lodge ceremonies by the Lakota tribe, for instance. Sage was sprinkled over hot stones during sweat lodge ceremonies according to Erika Brady in Healing Logics: Culture and Medicine in Modern Health Belief Systems. The Ojibwe people burned sage, along with cedar, sweetgrass, and bearberry, ceremonially in pipes or in earth depressions. The Ojibwe would burn sage and other herbs for prayers, weddings, naming ceremonies, and vision quests (Schmidt, 1990.)
Sage burning, also known as "smudging", is an old, tried-and-true method of cleansing a person, group of people, pets, sleeping quarters or living and working spaces. Indigenous American culture is the most commonly associated culture with the practice of burning sage in the U.S. Other cultures have incorporated this practice for many years. For example, Celtic druids used sage in conjunction with oakmoss not only for burning and clearing but for medicinal purposes.
Sage: What Does It Mean and What Is It For?
The Latin word for sage is salvia, from the root salvus, meaning healthy. What other benefits come from burning sage? Sage brings wisdom (old sage/wise), clarity, energy cleansing, and increased spiritual intuition. All one needs to do to gain these benefits is to burn it in their home, or any place needing cleansing.
If you have imbalances (physical, emotional, spiritual) in your life, it can negatively affect your overall health and well-being. The theory behind this burning ritual is that the smoke will attach itself to negative energy and as the smoke clears away it takes the negative energy with it, releasing it into another space where it can then be recycled into positive energy.
A Note on Cultural Appropriation
It is important, where possible, to support the people from whom this tradition originated. What this means in the case of sage burning is buying sage from businesses owned by indigenous peoples, and, when you can, learning about ceremonial smudging directly from indigenous peoples. This isn't possible for everyone, but it's important to remember to honor the origin of the tradition. Read more about the mass-marketing of sage in this article from the Huffington Post.
Why Burn Sage, or Smudge?
Burning sage or smudging should be done to keep yourself and your environment energetically balanced. It promotes maintaining a peaceful state of being, spiritual awareness, intuition, clears negative energy, and is especially helpful when you've been around people that are:
- emotionally unbalanced,
- mentally ill,
- emotionally or physically toxic, or
Smudging is considered a helpful exercise when you are feeling blue, or under extreme stress. Smudging creates a "lightness" of the atmosphere by removing that which is dark and "heavy". When you smudge on a regular basis, harmony prevails. It's simply great in a pinch to clear out negativity.
Don't be surprised if emotions or energy seems heightened following smudging, I've noticed that happens upon clearing. I believe every source/Christ-based lightworker should have some sage at home; it's a staple item really.
Other Popular Herbs, Grasses, and Resin for Smudging
- Desert sage
- Pinon resin
- Copal resin
- Sacred tobacco
- Palo Santo
Using White Broadleaf Sage for Cleansing
Acquiring sage and making smudging a habit can be one of the hardest parts about learning how to spiritually cleanse.
Where do I Purchase Sage?
My favorite sage to burn for spiritual cleansing is white broadleaf sage bundles. These are usually available at holistic wellness shops, some grocery stores, or online. I purchase mine from a shop I'm blessed to have near my home, Spirit Apothecary.
How Often Should I Smudge?
The burning aroma of this sage is extremely peaceful and relaxing. I try to smudge my home on a weekly basis, lately, at the very least, I do it every month. For me, I do it the same day our trash goes out (easy to remember). We take out the physical and spiritual trash at the same time every week!
What Does Sage Smell Like?
Primarily considered an air element, White broad leaf sage can also be used for four-element cleansing purposes (Earth, Air, Fire, Water). It is highly adored and respected for its strong aromatic properties, and considered supreme/premium of all the sages. Beneficial for divination, meditation, cleansing, and purification. My husband says the smell reminds him of his Uncle's cabin when he was growing up, a pleasant and uplifting memory. For me, the smell invokes fall, or the scent of a clean-burning fire, but refreshing and extremely soothing.
Steps for Sage Cleansing Your Space
- Before burning sage, state your intentions around burning it clearly. Whether that includes prayer, meditation, or simply stating your reason, do this first. Continue to hold the purpose clearly and concretely in your mind before and during the burning. Repeating a prayer, mantra, protection, or what you are trying to manifest while burning is also good.
- Place the bundle in a heavy earthenware fire-safe pot or abalone shell, light it and allow it to burn for a few seconds before extinguishing, allow the smoke to billow up. Some people like to use feathers to billow and maneuver the smoke. I use a goose feather, but many prefer a turkey feather because it is larger. Some believe that you don't have to light it like crazy. Let it light, and as it begins to billow, it will burn the exact amount in which you need. Some also believe that if you don't know what parts of a home need cleansed, to ignite it and allow the trail of smoke to lead you.
- Proceed to cleanse your space, or spaces, by slowly moving throughout your home, office, or near people or persons, allowing the smoke to go into each area you are cleansing. Start in a clockwise motion. Be sure to concentrate especially on high traffic areas such as doors, door frames, hallways, windows (thresholds where energy passes frequently) as well as corners and closets if you are cleansing rooms. Focus on high energy areas, home offices, kitchens, sick rooms/beds, pets (if they allow,) as well as their bedding.
- Burn incense immediately following a sage burning session. Many don't, but this is something I do each and every time I smudge my entire home. Sage is more masculine/yang energy and complemented by the feminine/yin aspect of incense. My personal favorites are Sandalwood, Nag Champa, Nitiraj, but any incense will do. Incense is not necessary but is lovely to burn after smudging.
- When feasible burn sage weekly in living spaces; you will notice a lightness of energy and calm come into your living quarters with this practice. It will clear old energy, allowing new to move in. Notice the immediate emotional benefits! If you're having a really hectic week, burn it more often!
Burning Sage for Yourself, People, or Pets
- Pray, meditate, and make your intentions clear.
- Light the bundle on a candle flame holding the stick in the flame until it produces a lot of smoke, using a feather or fan, gently waft the smoke onto your body starting at the head proceeding to the feet. Make sure to get the back of your body or those of others the best you can. Again clockwise.
- Finally, inhale a very small amount of the smoke.
- Make sure the bundle is extinguished.
- Burn some incense to complete the process.
Clements, W. (2001). The New Age Sweat Lodge. In Brady E. (Ed.), Healing Logics: Culture and Medicine in Modern Health Belief Systems (pp. 143-162). Logan, Utah: University Press of Colorado. doi:10.2307/j.ctt46nwrq.10
Lewis, H. (2018, December 3). Indigenous People Want Brands To Stop Selling Sage And Smudge Kits. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/11/29/indigenous-people-sage-and-smudge-kits_a_23602571/
Native Knowledge 360°: Did You Know? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/didyouknow#topq7
New World Encyclopedia. (n.d.) Smudge Stick. Retrieved from https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/smudge_stick
Schmidt, J. (1990). Ethnobotany of Contemporary Northeastern "Woodland" Indians: Its Sharing with the Public Through Photography. Advances in Economic Botany, 8, 224-240. Retrieved March 24, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/43927577
That's that! I wish you a happy, safe cleansing. Please leave questions or comments below. I'd love to hear your thoughts on sage cleansing and how it's improved your daily life!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.