Chances are, if you're reading this right now, you've heard of sage smudging. Though it's been practiced in varying forms since ancient times, the modern practice of burning sage to clear energy blockages has made its way into the mainstream—and as a result, there's a good chance there's a lot that you don't know about the ritual and its benefits. That was definitely the case when we sat down with Naha Armády, the senior healer and teacher at our favorite metaphysical mecca in LA, House Of Intuition. Read on for everything you need to know about smudging.
What are the origins of sage smudging?
Using herbs on fire goes back to beginning of history—people have always burned herbs for ceremonial and healing purposes. Smudging, as it’s used today, stems from the Native American origins. Using sage in combination with an abalone shell as a vessel, they believe it clears away negative energy and spirits, and the smoke carries your prayers upward to the creator.
Especially now when everything is centered around technology, there’s something to be said for practices that get us back in touch with the four elements. Getting back to a simple practice of using something from the earth instead of chemicals. It's been scientifically proven that sage removes bacteria from the air—it literally purifies the air of contaminants. Negative energy is energy that’s stagnant while positive energy is in motion, so if you’re feeling like the energy in your house is stuck, it's very closely related to the physical realm.
What are the benefits of sage smudging in modern life?
It’s an earth-based practice that connects you with the four elements. The benefits are two-fold: it's getting negative energy to move up and out, and it also lifts the energy of the space. Sage is an astringent herb and it affects your awareness and elevate your energy.
Connecting with the elements is essential to the ritual: Obviously the fire used to light the sage symbolizes fire, the smoke symbolizes air, the vessel underneath (traditionally an abalone shell) is water and sage symbolizes the earth. Abalone also comes from Native American roots – it comes from the sea so it has a deeper expression of water energy and has the same energetic properties as crystals.
Putting it together is really a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing. You want to have all four elements to create a balanced ritual for the fifth element—the spirit—to come through.
Are their ideal times for sage smudging? Different rituals based on what you’re looking to cleanse?
Depends on the person, but having a routine of cleansing is ideal—think if you never vacuumed or did your dishes. The same rules apply on the energetic realm. I have two smudging rituals, one I think of as a deep cleaning another as a spot cleaning.
If you’ve had a hard day, had someone negative at your house, or an argument in your home, it's a great time to do a spot cleaning ritual. Solstices and equinoxes are ideal times to do a deep cleaning, where I open everything in my house—every door, closet, drawer, cabinet—and get into the nooks and crannies a bit more.
Take us through the steps of a basic smudging ritual.
Smudging yourself is great for clearing your energy so you don't bring any stagnant hangers-on from your environment into a sacred space. It's beneficial to do before smudging your home, meditation, yoga and other high energy practices. Smudging your space includes centering yourself, collecting your elements, opening your house to the best you can, then walking around in a counter-clockwise direction to clear negative energy from your home. A lot of people tend to sage after dark, though I recommend doing it during the day when the sun is out—the sun is so cleansing in itself that it will instantly transmute the discarded energy (i.e. take it from lower to higher vibration).
1. Take a few pieces of sage off of the stick, put it in your hands and rub back and forth to crumble it up
2. Put your hands up to your face and breathe in really deeply; That alone is very centering, instantly elevating your senses
3. Put it in a little bowl and light the pieces so it’s smoking
4. Pass the bowl over your body through your entire aura, wafting with your hand or a feather. Your aura extends past your feet, so make sure to lift up each foot and pass the sage underneath
Smudging Your Space
1. Light the sage, always keeping a vessel underneath
2. Starting at your front door, walk counter-clockwise around and fan the sage smoke with your hand or a feather, focusing on corners. Corners are the biggest space where energies accumulate.
3. If you can’t enter a space, you can send your intention to the edge of your space
4. After smudging, rather than just leaving things "empty", I like to put light back in. In other words, clear everything out, but then fill the space with light so it's not just waiting for everything to come right back. You can do this by lighting a candle in the evening, and circulating back around the perimeter that you smudged, this time in a clockwise position.
Any other words of wisdom for people who want to try sage smudging?
The most important factor to stay true to your intention and don’t worry about the ‘rules’. The more that you learn, the more you can apply. Don’t retroactively worry about something that happened in the past before you knew the technique.
And whatever you learn, don’t take anything at face value. One of my teachers told me: "Always question your teachers and want to know why."
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