by Samantha Helgeson

Hello everyone!

So today, I wanted to talk about smoke cleansing. Burning herbal smoke can be used to cleanse spaces, facilitate rituals, and be incorporated into metaphysical practices, like shadow and dream work. With the explosion of New Age Spirituality, smoke cleansing has become quite popular.

Many people use the words smudging and smoke cleansing interchangeably; however, this is not accurate.

The Indigenous Corporate Training Inc says that “Many, but not all, Indigenous cultures in Canada smudge but may have different beliefs associated with the smoke, and different ceremonies and protocols.” Smudging is “traditionally a ceremony for purifying or cleansing the soul of negative thoughts of a person or place.” It is a symbol of culture, heritage, and faith, and it is necessary that those who lead the smudging ceremony are well versed in the ritual and in navigating the spirit realm.

Smudge stick – Courtesy of Terra

Therefore, if you are not taking part in a specific Indigenous ritual, you should not call it smudging, as the meaning behind your smoke cleansing is vastly different. Smoke cleansing is not tied to a specific culture or rite. It can be incorporated into your practice however you choose.

When incorporating burning herbs into our own practices, we should also understand the heritage and cultural importance of sacred herbs like white sage and Palo Santo.

It is essential to understand that the use of white sage is sacred to various Indigenous cultures, and the use of Palo Santo is sacred to South American cultures. Many spiritual people have begun to incorporate and use these sacred elements in their own practice, without understanding the history and cultural significance behind them, and have purchased these herbs from places that did not harvest them ethically and sustainably. Both white sage and Palo Santo are being commodified and sold for profit. As a result, they are becoming endangered and overharvested.

We should always be looking at making our practices ethical and sustainable. There are many herbal alternatives that we can use instead of appropriating these sacred herbs.

Pine and cinnamon prepared for smoke cleansing – Courtesy of Ann Mega

Below I’ve listed some of my favourite herbs to burn instead, along with their properties:

Rosemary – removes negative energy, used for uplifting, brings expansion and wisdom

Pine – brings serenity, purifies and cleanses spaces

Juniper – used for cleansing, protection, invigorating mind and body

Lavender – used for calming and relaxation, brings happiness, psychic protection

Lemon Balm – used for uplifting, inspiring creativity

Cinnamon – used to help focus, gets you energized

Mugwort – removes unwanted energy, deepens intuitive abilities & connection to the dream world

All of these herbs work well in bundles, wands, or loose. Remember to be mindful of where you purchase your herbs from and appreciate the practices rather than appropriate! 

~ Blessed Be