Shamanic smudging—or just smudging—is an age-old tribal tradition which has been used for centuries to create harmony and peace. There are many different shamanic smudging ceremonies, and different tribes use a variety of herbs for smudging.
To define it more clearly, shamanic smudging is burning of herbs or incense for cleansing, purification, protection of physical and spiritual bodies, banishment of negative energies and creation of sacred space. You can use smudge sticks (herbs that are tied into a bundle for easier handling), braided herbs and botanicals (like sweetgrass) or loose herbs (burned on charcoal or mugwort, or in a firepit). Shamanic smudging releases energy and fragrance of herbs and botanicals so they can heal, cleanse and purify.
In many traditions, shamanic smudging involves a four directions ceremony or prayer, which sends specific kinds of smoke or prayers into four directions. Different tribes have different smudging prayers that “program” smoke to do a specific action, such as cleansing or aiding in divination.
In general, shamanic smudging can be used in daily life for practical purposes—to restore physical, mental and emotional balance; to shield against negative energies; to cleanse yourself, your magickal tools and your space; and to restore you sacred space.
<><><> COMMON HERBS USED IN SMUDGING <><><> Although different tribes and traditions use different herbs for shamanic smudging, some of most popular herbs include desert sage, white broadleaf sage, juniper, pinon (sometimes in resin form), sweetgrass, copal (in resin form), mugwort, lavender and sacred tobacco. Here are some general uses for different herbs often used for smudging:
- PINON RESIN Primarily fire element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. Has a pleasant and meditative fragrance. Is cleansing, strengthening, warming, and used by Native American cultures for its spiritual and healing properties. Produces a thick stream of smoke, and is excellent for refreshing senses and reviving a tired soul.
- COPAL GOLD RESIN Primarily fire and water elements though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. When burned, scent is sweet, resinous, slightly woody, mildly earthy and spicy. Was a holy incense used by peoples of Mesoamerica. Traditionally used as incense in divinatory and cleansing ceremonies. The resin contains aromatic chemicals called terpenes, which make it volatile and flammable. Used by Mayan shamans prior to ingesting mushrooms.
- MYRRH RESIN Primarily earth element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. Produces a lot of smoke when burned, very earthy, piney scent. Gathered from an almost leafless Middle Eastern shrub called Commiphora Molmol. It was used by ancient Egyptians in rituals of Healing and Passing. It is one of ingredients used by Egyptians to embalm bodies. Useful for spirituality, meditation, happiness, release, transformation, strength, confidence and stability.
- FRANKINCENSE RESIN Primarily fire element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. Is resin of an African tree and produces a rich, dense smoke when burned. Used extensively in meditation and healing. In numerous religious traditions, frankincense's spiritual scent was believed to confer divine blessing. Pliny Elder mentioned it as an antidote to hemlock poisoning.
- DESERT SAGE Primarily air element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. Has a somewhat sharp, light and refreshing scent. One of most sacred herbs among Native Americans. Used to purify mind, body and spirit before prayer, meditation, ritual or ceremony. Also used to purify sacred items such as pipes, magical tools, tarot decks and eagle feathers. Can be used for area, house and personal cleansings. Some people carry a small amount of Sage in a pocket or medicine pouch to insure personal and spiritual safety.
- JUNIPER Primarily fire element though can also be used as for four-element general purposes. Has a sharp, piney scent. Excellent to stimulate and revive when tired in body, mind or Spirit. Used in ancient times for ritual purification of temples. Smoke believed to aid clairvoyance. Also useful for purification and to stimulate contact with other worlds. Burned during Plague to resist disease
- LAVENDER Primarily air element. Has a light, aromatic and refreshing scent. Useful for attracting peace, happiness and restful sleep. Also reduces depression, grief and sorrow. Aids in meditation and divination, and often said to aid in manifestation. Known as Elf Leaf, Nard, Nardus, Spike and Lavandar. Traditionally associated with fairies and elves