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  • Writer's pictureHeather Morrison-Tapley

Sacred Smoke: Sage, Palo Santo & Clearing Bad Energy




Burning of herbs is used by many cultures around the world to cleanse a person’s energy or to carry prayers to the heavens. I use smoke to clear my home of negative energy or just the energy of other people whenever I move, or after a big party, or even just to cleanse the feel of the house. My two favorite forms of using smoke to clean our energy are using sage, dried wild sage bundled with string is called a Smudge Stick, and incense.

Many Native American cultures have used sage for centuries to purify a person before an important event, clear energy and create a sacred space. I studied for several years under a Native American healer when I lived in New Mexico, but I do not claim to know all the meanings and uses of sage in native culture. Smudge sticks and Palo Santo are now used by people from many cultures and traditions and are available to purchase by clicking on the SHOP link above. To begin, you will need a smudge stick and a bowl or large shell. I like to use a large clam shell from my local beach. First, take a few grounding, cleansing breaths (ritual 1). Then, silently ask the smudge stick and the smoke if they will cleanse your energy and or the energy of the space you are clearing. Spaces filled up with other people’s energies feel dull, or unclean, or you can find yourself having lots of emotions that don’t relate to your life or that you don’t understand. The more sensitive you are to energy, the more you will notice energies left behind by other people. They aren’t even necessarily bad energies, but they are not your own and so it is important to cleanse your living and work spaces regularly. Children and animals are particularly sensitive to other energies, they have not lost touch with those senses as most adults have.

Once you have asked the sage and the smoke to work with you, light the tip of the smudge stick. As the sweet, aromatic smoke begins to rise, close your eyes and cup one hand near the smoke and pull the smoke up over your head. Do this several times, picturing the smoke washing away any negative energy or energy belonging to someone else. Then use your hand to cup smoke and bring it toward your body cleansing from head to toe. Once this is done you can walk around the room/home waving the smudge stick and picturing it clearing your home’s energy and leaving just pure, universal energy. Incense can be used in this same way, walking with three sticks of incense, I was told in China incense should be used or offered at temples in sets of three – 3, 6 or 9 sticks. You can also get an incense holder and light a stick to easily and gently clear and enhance the energy in any room at any time.

You can also use a feather, or tie together a few feathers, and use these to fan the smoke over yourself, another person, or a space. Ideal feathers for this are hawk or turkey feathers, though don’t harm a bird to get the feathers! Found feathers are wonderful, but you can even buy feathers online. You can bind the base of the feathers together by laying several feathers fanned out, but with their bases close together. Gently use long soft pieces of leather, or even just regular string, to tie the bases of the feathers together, leaving the tops of the feathers spread out like a fan. You can use even a single feather to “smudge”, or sage clear, an area. Or you can use several feathers to create an ornamental ritual object. You can decorate your feather fan with colored string, stones, paint or whatever brings you joy! They are wonderful, useful tools for spreading sacred smoke and clearing energy. One of the most important parts of this, and any ritual, is having a clear picture in your mind’s eye as you perform the ritual. Waving smoke around while talking on the phone or watching TV is not going to have much of an effect. Being present and quiet and visualizing the smoke cleansing the area is a powerful element of the ritual.

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