Some of my blog friends are not of the pagan persuasion, and probably sometimes wonder what I mean when I’m carrying on about smudge sticks. So, for those of you who really have no idea, I thought I’d give you some information. If you’re a seasoned user of smudge sticks, please feel free to skip this post, or just look at the pretty pictures.
A smudge stick is simply a bundle of dried herbs, bound with some form of string or thread, that is smoldered for energetic or ceremonial purposes. Many different spiritual traditions use scented smoke for purification and/or blessing.Wikipedia actually has a pretty decent entry on the subject–if you want more detailed information, go check it out.
I come from a neo-pagan perspective, so my use of smudge sticks might be slightly different from those of people from a different path. I use the smoke not only to clear away unwanted energies, but to create a specific energetic atmosphere. Sometimes smudging is all the ceremony there is: I might, for example, smudge my entire house after a particularly stressful day. Or if I might use plants associated with visions or divination while I’m preparing to do a Faeries’ Oracle reading. I think many pagans have expanded the use of smudging to include purposes besides purification.
I like to make my own smudge sticks. White Sage and Desert Sage–the two most common plants used for smudging–don’t grow in my area. The climate is all wrong. So I use plants that grown on my land–Artemisia, Bee Balm, Catnip, Garden Sage, Hawthorn, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Mint, Mugwort , Red Cedar, Rose, Rosemary, Sweet Woodruff, Willow, and Yarrow. The result is wonderful fragrance and energy.
I’ve said it before: I believe the plants we use for ceremony (and magic, if we choose to practice it) work best when we have a relationship with the plant. After all, to truly understand the energies of a plant, I need to see the plant in its home soil, and watch the way it changes with the seasons–to interact with the plant while it’s alive, so that even when I smell the fragrance of the dried plant I know the energy I’m working with.
Sometimes I feel like it’s a bit ironic that I ship my smudges all over the country, when I’m so focused on magic rooted in my locale. On the other hand, I know that people often find themselves in situations where they can’t work with local plants–and where there is no local shop offering a quality smudge stick. So I keep doing what I do, and it feels good to share a piece of this beautiful place I live with others.