DIY Sustainable Smudge Stick
Posted by : Mary Wutz /
I want to share our DIY sustainable smudge stick recipe with you. Before I do I need to talk with you about a few other things.
Although on the one hand, it’s exciting our modern culture is becoming so interested in spiritual hygiene practices, on another, it’s deeply concerning as it’s causing a big problem for the sacred plant we call White Sage, or Salvia apiana.
If you’re reading this article, you have probably been aware of the recent commercialization of White Sage. Whether it’s on the shelves of popular stores like Urban Outfitters, or being used as a gimmick on Reality TV, White Sage has been in the spotlight. This has caused the plant to be put on the endangered species list because of overharvesting. Additionally, the ethics, ecological, and cultural awareness surrounding this plant is completely absent from marketing.
To find out more about this issue, please read this article by United Plant Savers.
In light of this issue, we’re offering an updated “DIY Sustainable Smudge Stick” post utilizing plants that can be grown in your garden, or that are more readily available in most growing zones. The protocol of gathering these plants with intention, reverence and gratitude still applies. However; using medicinal plants that are native to your area has a lot of great benefits. One of these benefits is cultivating a deeper relationship with the spirit of these plants, which can allow their medicine to be received more fully.
For those of you just joining the smudge bandwagon, let's back up a minute and talk about smudging and what exactly constitutes a smudge stick:
A smudge stick is made up of a particular dried herb or herbs, usually bound with string into a small bundle. It is traditionally used to purify or bless people and places. With some plants that are difficult to gather into a bundle, or when using resins like Copal or Frankincense, or the bark of a tree-like Palo Santo, the plants are burned on top of a coal or Charcoal Tablet inside an Abalone Shell or smudge bowl.
Ideally, a healing intention is set, and gratitude is offered to the plant before beginning the ceremony. The smoke is wafted, or “washed” over the person or object that is being cleansed with the underside of a Feather or by fanning the smoke with one’s hand. It is traditional to use a bird’s feather to brush the smoke over the person or object being blessed. The intention is for the smoke of the plant (traditionally sage) to pick up the “negative energy” and transmute it up to the heavens to be returned to “source energy”.
As mentioned, Sage was/is traditionally used in smudging ceremonies when the intention is to purify. The plants that are called sage can come from very different families of plants. True sages are in the genus of Salvia. The Latin name for sage is “salvia” which means “to save or heal”. Purifying with smoke is a practice used by many cultures and religions such as Buddhists, Catholics, Maoris, and Native Americans. The Europeans used it to purify the air when someone was ill in the home. Modern Science has proven this to be a useful practice, as many of the plants used for smudging have antimicrobial properties.
For more information on the sacred practice of smudging, check out the book, Sacred Sage: How It Heals
Now that we’ve covered the basics of smudging, let’s get to the plants that can be used to responsibly smudge!
SMUDGING HERBS YOU CAN GROW IN YOUR GARDEN:
Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia)
Indicated for times when you want to clear and uplift a person or place. This plant has many wonderful attributes. Energetically it can be used to gently purify and protect. It vibrates with the frequencies of serenity and healing, which makes it a wonderful smudging herb.
Although it can be added in with other smudging plants in a bundle, it is best burned on a Charcoal Tablet, as it contains a lot of essential oils which make it crackle and pop.
In ancient times lavender was an important herb used in mummification.
Rose (Rosa spp.)
Indicated in matters involving the heart. Rose is considered a heart tonic that can help you both give and receive love. Specifically, it can be used to heal a broken heart, connect to self-love, or bless a romantic union.
Historically, Rose is associated with Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of love and the archetype of Venus.
In Egyptian tradition, rose is also associated with Isis, the Egyptian goddess of magic, love, and wisdom.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalus)
Indicated for times when there is old, dense, sticky or stagnant energy that needs to be transmuted. This herb is a powerful cleanser and mover. It clears negativity and invigorates the mind and body.
Like Lavender, it has a long history of use in “Old World” herbal medicine, which makes it a “guilt-free” alternative for Western practitioners who prefer to avoid herbs associated with Indigenous cultures out of concerns for cultural appropriation (i.e. White Sage & Native American Cultures, or Palo Santo and South American Cultures)
Mugwort (Artemisia spp):
Indicated for times when you want to boost your dreamtime or meditation by inviting in dreams and visions. Mugwort is sometimes referred to as the traveller’s plant as it is believed to amplify one’s intention to go places. It is also used for introspection and deep inner healing.
Energetically it can be a little “witchy” so make sure to connect to the light and medicine of the plant before setting your intentions and smudging.
*Mugwort contains a chemical constituent called “thujone” which can be damaging to the liver in high amounts, it can also cause some to “trip” or hallucinate. If you are pregnant or have medical conditions which affect your liver or lungs, exercise caution with smudging this plant.
Tobacco (Nicotiana spp)
Indicated for times when there is dense, sticky or stagnant energy to clear. Can also be “programmed” to use for protection as well as purification.
Energetically, Tobacco can be a “shadowy” plant, so purposely connect to its light and medicine before setting an intention for clearing or protection, as well as offering gratitude to the plant.
Traditionally, tobacco is a plant used by many Indigenous peoples in sacred rituals as an offering, in addition to other purposes. Although the plant has been popularized and demonized within the western world, it remains a very sacred plant in many wisdom traditions.
SMUDGING TREES THAT GROW IN SEVERAL ZONES
Cedar & Juniper
According to the Encyclopedia, “The term cedar applies not only to the trees but also to the wood of any of these species, and especially the light and durable cedarwood of the Cedrus genus, and the aromatic, reddish, durable wood of the eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, the western redcedar (Thuja plicata), and the incense cedar (genus Calocedrus).”
The primary cedars used for smudging are Cedrus, Thuja, Libdocedrus and Juniperus. The Junipers are not truly Cedars (scientifically) but are used as such by many people.
Cedar trees carry very old, wise and powerful protective medicine. Smudging with Cedar is very effective when clearing people or physical spaces of others’ energies. It is used to invite unwelcome spirits to leave a person or place. Along with Rosemary and White Sage, Cedar is one of the most aggressively cleansing smudges you can choose.
Now to the creative part…
DIY Sustainable Smudge Stick Recipe:
· Healing Intention
· Offering for the plant you are harvesting (organic tobacco, prayer, etc.)
· Organic culinary twine or embroidery floss
HARVESTING: On the day you plan to make your smudge sticks (make sure it’s a sunny and dry day), go out to your garden (or to the woods) with your clippers and offering. Make your tobacco or prayer offering to your plant and thank it for its medicine. Cut the stems in a place where the plant can grow back easily and never dig up the root.
*If you use plants that are not fresh, it is difficult to make bundles that stay together.
*If you harvest on a wet day, plants can easily get moldy, which will ruin your final product.
CHOOSING STRING: Undyed, organic cotton embroidery thread is the best option as its thin and non-toxic. It can be found on this website by Organic Cotton Plus. Try to use as little string as possible. If you wish to add color to your smudge stick, red is the color used for ceremonial usage.
TRIMMING YOUR HERBS: Clip herbs so that they are the same length. Creating a thick bundle of herbs allows your smudge to burn longer, smolder more slowly and look better! Make sure to pick off any dead or diseased leaves.
BINDING YOUR HERBS: Grasp the bundle of herbs tightly and make sure they are packed as tightly as possible. Tie the clipped ends of the herbs together by wrapping the thread around the base of the bundle several times and finishing with a knot.
· After the ends of the herbs are bound together with your first few wraps and knot, begin to wind the string on an angle up to the tip of the bundle. Continue to grasp your bundle tightly. After you reach the tip of the bundle, turn the bundle around and begin winding down back to the start, creating a crisscross pattern with your string.
· If you have a particularly large bundle or plants that have a lot of “fringe”, you can choose to repeat the previous step before winding a generous amount of string around the base of the bundle to create a handle. Tie the string off and cut.
· When you are finished with your bundle(s), place them somewhere dry and dark with good air circulation. You can also lay them flat to dry on top of a screen or something that will allow for ventilation. In the past, I’ve pinned a tapestry to my ceiling (above where the windows allow light in) and use that as a drying rack of sorts.
· Although it may be tempting, wait until your bundles are completely dry (usually 2-3 weeks depending on your climate) before burning them.
~May the Plants Be with You