Monday, May 3, 2010

Smudging: A way to Cleanse

It’s impossible to be part of the ghost hunting world without hearing about and sometimes trying cleansing techniques. My strongest talents in ghost hunting are psychically reading a place to find out where and when to use equipment or record, debunking, attracting energy, and counseling people to reframe their experience and take the threat out of it. These are all valuable skills, but sometimes the homeowner needs a little something extra.

The greater majority of homeowners who are uneasy about haunting activities are comforted by cleansing rituals, whether it’s Catholic-based prayer, Pagan-based spellbinding, or Native American smudging. Here in the Southwest, smudging is one of the most popular methods.

I’ve mentioned it before and it’s true. When I moved west, one of the most remarkable things I found is that the land here is haunted as opposed to in the east where buildings and battlefields are. Nearly all the ground here feels sacred and it’s as if the desert’s ability to preserve and mummify things has a miraculous ability to hold ancient people’s spiritual powers. Smudging does, in fact, make perfect sense here in cleansing an environment, as they believe that good and bad energy runs through the land. Given the incidence of hauntings along old HoHoKam canal ways, I think this is pretty accurate.

What is smudging? It’s the use of botanicals and incenses burned to cleanse an environment.

I admit I performed my own experiment with sage smudging. Being a general skeptic, I decided to try and get some verification if it did anything. I dowsed the entire house with my dowsing rods first and found the crossing points. A few days later, I had someone else dowse the house without telling her where they had crossed for me. She had the rods cross in the exact same places. I then proceeded to smudge the house with sage. I then dowsed the house again, finding the rods would not cross anywhere. I gave the rods to someone else and she could not get them to cross anywhere. This was perhaps not scientific verification but definitely intriguing. As someone who opens herself up psychically, I can say that I most definitely felt a difference and that wasn't just from inhaling the smoke, mind you. The feeling lasts a very long time.

Native Americans use the burning of sage to ward away bad spirits and they burn cedar to send their prayers to the Creator. When hoping to get rid of bad memories and events and scare off bad intentions, you can use sage. If you move into a new home or are having prayers with your maker(s), you would want to use cedar.

The order in which you do this doesn’t matter so much as that you burn the sage within the home. Everyone has their own technique and as a pagan in my spirituality, I realize that we all need to make it personalized for ourselves. This is the way I do it, but it might not be the way you do. I will give you an example of the process as I perform it. You may avoid showering, you may just wander around the house, you may use a traditional prayer from your religious practices. Just know that you will not be graded and you cannot get it “wrong.” You definitely cannot make the situation worse.

I begin with a shower. I light up the sage wand and set it inside an abalone shell, but you can use a bowl with tall sides to keep ash from dropping. I pass it around me to get the smoke all over me. I then walk out the bathroom in a clockwise position throughout the house until I end up back at the front door and I open it, letting the smoke out as I say a prayer to rid my space of negativity. I try to maintain happy and positive thoughts while doing this process to be a completely “unattractive” place and mindset for the negative. I like to let the sage burn itself out in the bowl near the front door but you can also just run it under water.

Word of warning: Burning sage smells a bit like you’ve been burning a doobie, so probably not a good thing to do before the boss comes for supper. On second thought, you might actually wait until he’s gone to drive away any bad spirits he leaves behind.

Some people in cleansing practices use a feather to blow the wind around, others use gemstones and crystals, salt, and many other symbolic items in the process. When it comes to cleansing a family’s home, it’s always important to inquire about their spiritual practices and how they feel about a cleansing. I never offer a cleansing, but people sometimes ask for one. I explain the method I use and ask if they would like to follow along and use their own family’s prayers or hold up a cross or whatever symbol has meaning to them.

The truth is that symbols have a huge power for people. Belief trumps reason in most human beings and so they will actually look for evidence that their faith is working which is a kind of optimism that is necessary in handling the unknown. Whereas I might use a pentacle symbol for myself, they might be more comfortable with a cross or Star of David. The cleansing is for them, not me.

I always honor everyone's spiritual practices because it helps them to be the one they are meant to be, given their life experiences and wisdom.

Place to find sage sticks online: I like this place. They have good ones and the very best prices anywhere at $3.95 each for Sage or Cedar.


  1. Hey Autumn,

    Just popping in with two links for you:

    First, Taos Herb ... I'm sure you have great access to supplies like this out your way. But back here, mail order is easiest. They have an interesting selection of supplies.

    Then ... I just happened to see this this morning and I thought of you. Wondered if you were familiar with their films (not sure if you've written about them). The Haunted Boy is their latest documentary (due in October) ... based on the diary of the "real" exorcist in the "real" case that inspired the movie. This is the trailer:


  2. PaleMother;
    Thanks. The link in my post was for Taosherb. They have good prices and quality. That's wild that of all the places you picked them too.

    I haven't heard of Haunted Boys, but I will definitely check that out. I love to find new haunted stuff, especially documentary format. Thanks!

  3. I have heard of this but have never been a part of any cleansing. Interesting that it smells like a doobie, but does it work the same, lol. Seriously, I know some that swear by this method and say that it works.

  4. When I do smudging I prefer to use sweetgrass so it does not make the house smell like "a doobie" as you put it. The four sacred herbs in Native American spirituality are sage, sweetgrass, tobacco and cedar. Any of these can be used.

    I have also often used salt in cleansings. And my friend uses an onion. She cuts it in half and sets it in the window sill of a house for 3 days to absorb all the negativity from the room. She has another cleansing in a book where it says you should strap 9 eggplants to you waste and run around the house naked while smoking a cigar and drinking whisky. As amusing as it sounds I don't think she has ever had the courage to try it, although it has become a bit of a joke between us.

    I like to use cleansings when I move into a new home to bring my energy and the energy of the house into better sync.

  5. Panademona;
    I agree, sweetgrass can work well and I've found that in places that have more recent issues, like having an angry family member living there or some kind of drama, sweetgrass seems to work well and Sage works better for just fleeting bad energy or bad ground... I don't use salt ever but that's a personal preference based on my logical Virgo side. Since salt activates water to make it more conducive to electricity, the concept of using salt is actually drawing in energy so I don't like to use it, but that's a personal preference. I've found it to stir things up more than it settles. There are so many great techniques. I do enjoy the use of symbols and gemstones too. In fact, in my house, above every door trim there is a pentacle drawn where no one can see it.

  6. dobbie doobie doo ... what would it say about your boss if he knows what a doobie smells like ...hmmmmm

  7. Barry;
    In my case, I'd be shocked if my boss came to eat over at my house--she lives in New Orleans--I work from home so no co-workers to complain either.

  8. Very interesting...I think intent can play a part in such rituals too. I think the heart needs to be in a ritual too for it to work...I doubt just 'going through the motions' would have much effect.

  9. Jeff;
    Belief is everything. You're right! That's why I always keep positive and happy thoughts in my mind while doing it. You make the environment in your home, heart, and mind unattractive to bad vibes.