From scents to the ingredients, smoke from incense and sage can really add more ambience, atmosphere and overall, seriously enhance your meditation sessions.
If you are new to burning herbs, smoke cleansing, sage or smudging, there are some things you should know before you get started with your rituals, meditations and ceremonies. Not only will we cover the basics of smoke cleansing and how to burn sage or herbs, but we’ll also talk about the magical plant, it's origin in uses, benefits and ways to use these elements in your everyday life. How do you energetically cleanse any object or space using smoke and why would you even do this?
Smoke cleansing is an ancient practice of clearing space with natural, herbal smoke and has been practiced by cultures around the world for thousands of years. Plus it's not just used in a spiritual sense, there is some good science behind it - smoke cleansing can drastically reduce the number of pathogens and bacteria in the air, by up to 94%, so was used to help stop the spread of disease and in health and healing rituals throughout Europe.
From my own perspective, Smoke, Sage and Herbal bundles have been used extensively in Pagan and Druid traditions, throughout the United Kingdom and connecting deeply to the earth and nature is something I am deeply passionate about. Ancient tribe in Britain would have walked these valleys and collected herbs and plants for healing practices. Where I live in Surrey is The Druid's Grove, where the Yew trees are over 3000 years old!
When we connect to our roots, our ancient practices (such as cleansing with plants and healing with nature) a whole new, holistic and vibrant side can be found, if you are curious enough to look for it! Druidry is a spiritual way and practice that speaks to three of our greatest yearnings: to be fully creative in our lives, to commune deeply with the world of Nature, and to gain access to a source of profound wisdom.
Smoke cleansing can be using any herbs and does not always have to be the White Sage variety. Sage is a mild, slightly sweet herb with a calming, earthy aroma that has been burned for centuries in spiritual and ceremonial purposes. You can also burn sage in your home or office to cleanse energy that may be residing there. Originating in Europe, Sage, part of the mint family, has been used for teas, tisanes, herbal remedy, smoke cleansing, rituals and ceremony and the true white sage is Salvia Apiana, has a delightful scent when burned.
'Smudging' is a common practice worldwide. It means to burn herbs such as white sage, which is said to cleanse a certain space with the smoke of the plant. Cleansing refers to "spiritual cleaning", so the expelling of negative energy. The word smudging has become difficult in some cultures which has challenged it's ancient meaning, a practice that has been used so universally, for thousands of years, it has some pretty deep roots. So we must understand our own spiritual journey, connections and what rituals we would like to create, not imitate other indigenous practices.
The people who spread this custom were mainly the Pagans and Celtic Druids in United Kingdom who spread throughout Europe, later onto Asia and the Native Americans throughout the USA, though many cultures throughout the world also use smoke to clear negative energy and for ceremony. So it's good to practice with your roots and cultural heritage to mind.
A little history: Ancient spirituality in Britain was influenced by the natural world and the threat posed by the elements. So if we go back to the tribal beginnings of British Isles, the deep love of mother nature is seen back 3,000 BC right up to the Iceni people and later with Boudicca and the Roman invasion. Though the Romans were very tolerant of ancient faiths and practices... the problem occurs when a new religion comes along telling people there's only one god and set Christianity on a collision course with the mighty Roman empire!
Circe Invidiosa by John William Waterhouse, A favourite art piece for pagan divine feminine. In mediaeval times, mystics are seen as remarkable for their freedom of expression; in 14th Century England, the resurgence began, mysticism gave voice to a section of mediaeval society that was effectively silenced by the Church = Women.
The Isle of Wight was the last area of English paganism until 686CE when, according to Bede, Cædwalla of Wessex conquered the island, killing its inhabitants or forcing Christianity in their place. This is why you will find so many Churches throughout the UK have ancient Yew Trees nearby or directly next to, the Yew Tree was a place for the pagans to gather and for ceremony, as these ancient trees offered shelter from the elements and connection to the earth... though eating a relatively small quantity of leaves can be fatal, so when connecting to the earth and foraging, you must learn to identify everything and never take any chances!
So that's a very brief look back at our British spiritual culture, Sage, Herbs, Flowers and Nature has been at the centre of UK culture for thousands of years, it is fascinating and these cultures have been pushed back and silenced throughout society for years, though the recent decline in modern religion is seeing a resurgence of ancient spiritual practices.
For those many people that admire the connection to the earth, to nature and spirit the act of smoke cleansing can bring, it is an added sensory experience to the practice of energy work and spiritual rituals. When the sage is engulfing the space it takes with it the energy of darkness, negativity and other stagnant or heavy energy.
Sage is often burned during cleansing and smudging rituals. White sage has longer-lasting burn time and an earthier scent that stands up well against stronger burning herbs, but you can use any combination of herb bundles for your rituals. I have made my own from mint, sage, basil and lavender mixtures.
If you’re going to be using sage regularly for cleansing, it may be worth investing in a high-quality bundles of white sage, where you can even add your own dried flowers or herbs from the garden. Always check the origin of your hand-tied sage.
When buying it is important to look at your supplier, as not all sage is created equal. We buy Organic (USDA) White Sage, directly from our native-owned farm in Upland, California. The USA has such a difficult and violent history, in regards to using Sage, we thought it best to make sure our Sage came directly from an approved farm and support Native American owned businesses. Our meticulously hand-tied bundles, use absolutely no pesticides or growth hormones/chemicals and are sun dried for a simply amazing all natural product, which takes longer to develop, but is worth the wait, burning a natural sage scent that is clean, using the suns energy.
Please be careful when sourcing your sage. The root must always be left in the ground and a prayer of thanks given for each harvest. From the time it’s harvested to the time the ashes are disposed of must be purposeful, intentional, and sustainable.
Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses, by John William Waterhouse, a favourite image of the divine feminine power and a moment of enchantment. Circe's forte was creating transformative elixirs from flowers and herbs, and the art of healing or hexing with herbs which so many pagan practices are rooted to in an empowering and positive way.
For thousands of years, white sage and herbs have been burned in ceremonial practices. Pagans, Druids and indigenous peoples all over the world have used it for cleansing and healing. You must respect that fact when you selected your sage, give thanks for it's medicinal properties from the earth.
When connecting to your own culture, you may find other herbs and flowers that are used for smoke cleansing as well. For example, my own culture is deeply rooted in the Druids (from the Pagan line, Britain (Isle of Wight and Somerset). In our culture they used to mix sage bundles with nettles or rosemary, rose petals and sunflowers for love and other English Garden picks.
By creating a calming ritual that helps to release the stagnant energy that can breed negativity, sage sticks can be burnt for many reasons including moving into a new home, after a period of illness, Equinox or Seasonal changes, starting a new chapter in your life or simply to refresh your energy before your daily meditation and connecting your your own inner magic. I will be sharing some practices from our British culture, but you should research and connect with your own journey. These are very effective prayers to use in rituals and as the Druid Prayer sites:
"By star and stone By the power of the land within and without. By all that is fair and free. I believe in and celebrate the spirituality of all life. I am one with the community of the Natural World And the ever-flowing tide of the seasons, Honouring all, past, present and future. My life is a journey, Seeking spiritual awakening, inspiration and wisdom through the Awen.
May there be peace in this place and throughout the whole world."
European Sage has a curlier leaf and a lighter sweetness when smoked, Cedar and Orange is a divine combination to try using in your cleanses.
How to use Sage Effectively
White sage is an herb that can be burned (in a safe way) in order to create smoke to cleanse an object or a space around you. Many people have also used it for healing purposes, purification and protection. Here’s what you need to know about white sage and how you can use it safely at home.
Smudging, what does it actually mean?
Smudging is a cleansing technique which entails burning dry sage or other herbs to cleanse your home or space of negative energy, a word from Native culture. By filling the space or aura with the cleansing power of sage, and clearing that smoke it dispels negative energy with it. The smoke from smudging sticks carries these negative energies away while replacing them with positive ones. If the word Smudging doesn't fit with your culture you can use Smoke Cleanse instead.
If you’re lacking in sage and looking for good alternatives, you can use pine, lavender, roses, mugwort, cedar, basil, clove, mint, thyme, or another favourite is bay leaves. The truth is, it doesn’t really matter which herb you use, what matters is the herb’s effect and the practitioner’s intent. Some herbs having a calming effect, some cleansing, some invigorating. To decide which herbs are best to use, it is important to determine the purpose and desired effect of the ritual.
It’s said that a simple smudging or smoke cleansing ritual will leave your home feeling more open and peaceful. If you’re ready to give it a try, here’s what you need to know about how to burn sage safely.
How to Burn Safely.
Step 1: Open any windows and doors to allow any stagnant energy to disperse.
Step 2: Light your smudge stick over a flame-proof bowl or crumble your leaves into a bowl to light, until a small flame has caught. Blow out the flame, the sage should smoke gently like incense. Burn within sight and keep away from anything that can catch fire. Keep away from children & pets.
Step 3: Walk around your space clockwise, or from the ground up if you are cleansing your Aura, using your hand or card, some like to use a found feather to gently waft the smoke through your space.
With both hands, bring the smoke into your heart, over your head and down the front and back of your body to cleanse yourself. Pick up the sage and with one hand wave the smoke onto your body starting at the feet and working up to your neck.
Starting on the lowest level of your space, use your hand or breath to force the smoke into all corners. Move in a clockwise direction around your house (usually starting at the front door), and gently wave the smoke into the air as you move. Spend a bit more time smudging the room corners, as they tend to accumulate stagnant energy. Be sure to also open the closet doors and carefully smudge inside.
When you have finished your ritual and meditation, you can really feel the clearing of energy, make sure your sage and any ambers are fully extinguished. Put out your sage by gently pressing it into the fireproof bowl or plate. You may wish to fill your bowl with dirt or sand to help conduct heat better and for using to snub out the sage bundle. Return the sage to your altar. You can re-light your bundle as often as possible until it burns down too low to use.
Remember, safety first - don't bring a flame near any flammable materials, such as curtains or your clothes. Be careful and gently waft the smoke to fill your space.
Prayers for Protection and Cleansing
Sage is used in many other cultures, one being the Native American Nations. Knowing the significance of sage among Native American Nations is important to consider, as members of various Native cultures argue that there's a very fine line between appreciation and appropriation. Sage has been used by these communities for hundreds of years as well, for medicinal treatment of ailments, headaches and other treatments, and when you start to learn about your own roots and if you want to use sage, please take a moment to consider if it feels right for you, if it doesn't, if you have no connection, choose some other practices.
In the UK and Europe, Sage has been used for thousands of years and though there has been a rapid decline in Pagan, Romany and other cultures as religion pushed these practices out. I for one, am very happy to see them returning, our connection to the earth, nature and our own deep rooted culture is so important, perhaps it will help more people feel grounded in a hectic and vibrantly manic world. The world is so different to what our ancestors experienced and yet by grounding ourselves in ancient practices you can feel hugely connected to the very essence of being, of our ancient ways and feel the cord of connection.
Cleansing: Cleansing with sage involves more than just burning the dried leaves of the plant and waving it around.
A great one if you have been sick and finally are feeling better with fresh energy or have been grieving or dealing with heart break, to release that energy and move it out of your aura and out of your home.
Have you been plagued with doubts lately? Does there seem to be a cloud of negativity following you wherever you go? Then it’s time to consider performing a smudging prayer. Your intention, mantra or prayer, is a set of words that are spoken during the smudging ceremony that are designed to focus your mind on what you want the smudging ceremony to achieve, so your words should always be positive and affirmative.
Ithell Colquhoun (1906–1988), Dance of the Nine Maidens. 1940, © Tate.
Art and creativity are at the centre of Druid and Pagan tradition, in finding your soul and the divine feminine in Mother Earth. Colquhoun saw ancient megalithic sites around Britain as conduits for divine feminine energy, which is one way of interpreting this artist work. Although the stone circles predate Christianity and are not actually petrified people, there’s still potency in myth and legend.
1. Pagan prayers for cleansing and protecting your home
When creating a smoke cleansing prayer for the home, you will need to think about what you want to achieve – the more specific you can be the better. Do you want to be more productive? Do you want to clear negative energies after an argument? Has it been a very difficult time for you and your family? Or is it part of your daily ritual or welcoming the Equinox. I often cleanse myself if at home with rose water before delving deep in meditation or to cleanse my energy before painting, but I also cleanse my art studio regularly to clear energy and connect to my own innate divine power, so I can express my creativity fully.
It’s important to remember that every situation is unique so the more you can feel and adapt the prayer to your intention, the better it will be. However, if you are looking for a little inspiration here are a couple of mantras that you can adopt:
“Smoke, air, fire, and earth, cleanse and bless this home and hearth. Drive away harm and fear, only positive energy may enter here.”
2. Prayer for cleansing and protecting your self
Spiritual cleansing is important for many reasons. The first being that it purifies your aura, which can take on other energies, can build up and wreak havoc on your emotional body. In addition to getting rid of negative energies, spiritual cleansing also purifies your aura of harmful energies and spirits.
There are countless prayers you can use for protecting your own energy. It is best to think of one thing you want to get rid of, such as negativity or a bad habit, then make one positive affirmation to confirm your intention. Your words themselves do not necessarily work on their own, meditation on them is important as they are powered by your thought and feelings.
3. Prayer for protecting your friends and family
Smoke Cleansing prayers for protecting your family are particularly beneficial if you put your emotions into your heart and words... Have fears and negative thoughts towards a family member or friend? Worried about that time you raised your voice and had a blazing row and now your regret it?
Prayers can be used practically for any intent, from healing rifts between partners to infertility and idleness. This is an old Pagan prayer, that I love to use...
"Earth, Air, Sea, and Wind,
Bless my family and my friends.
Power of Love and Hope and Light,
protect me onwards through the night.
Guard my home against things that creep,
Good spirits watch us as we sleep,
by Fire, Storm, Earth, and Sea.
As I speak – so mote it be."
Here is also a Druid prayer you too can try:
4. Prayer for cleansing your surroundings
Prayers for cleansing your surroundings can be short or full of as many words as you need! Rhyming prayers are often easier to remember and many spiritual healers suggest that the process of rhyming can also raise more energy and resonance with your words. You may feel the need to cleanse your surroundings before performing a ritual, meditation, or even before you start on a new task, to ensure all negativity has been removed. A short cleanse could be something like the below:
“The negativity of this sacred space,
I expel you by using the light of my sacred grace.
You hold no right or power here
I face and stand you without fear.”
A longer cleansing prayer for your surroundings could be the above, followed by the below taken from the druid closing prayer. It is an idea to write your prayer out and repeat it many times taking in each word, you can then burn the paper as you close our your cleansing ceremony.
5. Prayer for attracting positive energy
The mind is incredibly powerful. Research shows that stating positive mantras or yoga prayers regularly can improve your positivity and increase feelings of self-worth. A great way to start the day, every day, positivity - feeding into your wellbeing and also can be great for use in smoke cleansing.
Furthermore, when you are feeling stronger and more positive, you are much more likely to be open to new experiences and attract positivity into your life, so let's all practice bringing more and more positivity into our lives!
"May the sage cleanse my hands, my feet, my heart, my throat, my eyes, and my soul. Thus, enabling me to see, feel, touch, and hear about the beauty of this world."
And finally, if you feel you would like to close your ritual with the druid prayer - you can recite the close below, feel the positive and fresh energy you have cerated and feel the love of peace in your heart:
Once you’ve cleansed yourself and space, the energy often relaxes. This is the time for you to fill the space with positive energy. You can do this with music or mantra chanting as you walk about. Some people like to spray rose water in the aura and atmosphere in each room. Rose petals we used to play with as children, making perfumes and teas, rubbing the petals on our skin, with my best friend in the garden, is one of my fondest childhood memories, carting around a buckets full of water and petals to bottle and gift to our mamas.
So fill your heart with love and find your connection within. Most people cleanse their space or themselves once a week. But, use your intuition and do it as often as you feel necessary or work with the moon cycles.
Connecting to your own spiritual side is something to embrace, if small ceremonies help you to disconnect from the world around you then hold on to these self care rituals and your own divine feminine power. Explore your spiritual side out of religious context to bless your surroundings and all that brings you, Pure Joy!
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If you are interested in learning more of our ancient cultures of Celtic and Druids, you can find resources listed below. The Beaverbrook in Leatherhead, Surrey, England also runs a deep healing in nature trail, which is amazing.
The Druid's Grove has a beautiful walk through ancient woodlands, if you are local take a trail to see the ancient Yew Trees.
Our Sage Kits are all sourced from amazing female-run Organic certified farms, dried in the sunshine only and hand-tied into dried bundles. Our European Sage Kits include Cedar which is collected from the fallen branches on the mountain tops of Crete, Greece, by farm owner and mountain top branch gatherer, Amy.