Smudging is a cultural ceremony practiced by a wide variety of Indigenous peoples in Canada and other parts of the world. Although practices differ, smudging is used for medicinal and practical purposes as well as for spiritual ceremonies. The practice generally involves prayer and the burning of sacred medicines, such as sweetgrass, cedar, sage and tobacco. While colonization has repressed such traditions, the practice of smudging has survived to the present day. 

Smudging
Many Indigenous peoples use the tools shown here — a smudge stick, bowl and feather — to perform smudging ceremonies, which have spiritual, medicinal and practical purposes.

Definition and Origin

The word “smudging” comes from “smudge,” which is English in origin. However, the term has been used widely to refer to the smudging ceremonies of Indigenous peoples, in which sacred herbs and medicines are burned as part of a ritual, or for cleansing or health purposes. Indigenous peoples have their own terms and phrases for smudging, including atisamânihk (Cree for “at the smudge”) and nookwez (Ojibwe for “smudge medicinally”).



Practice

Although Indigenous nations have their own culturally specific smudging traditions, they typically share certain teachings. For example, all smudging ceremonies require some sort of vessel to carry the medicinal herbs, such as a special container, shell, smudge stick or ball. Burned in small amounts, the herbs contained in the vessel produce smoke that is said to have healing powers and carry the prayers of the people to the Creator. The smoke is wafted over the face and body of the person being smudged, either by a feather (ideally an eagle feather) or by hand. The person guides the smoke towards their body with their hands, inhaling as it comes their way.

When a room or place is being smudged, the smoke is directed around the location, while the person conducting the ceremony prays for the negative energy to leave and for positive energy to remain. The ashes of the burned medicinal herbs are not discarded in a typical garbage receptacle; rather, they are put outside, onto the earth, to signify that negative energy is placed outside of our lives.

Smudges are frequently led by an elder or spiritual leader, such as a shaman, though average citizens can perform their own smudging ceremonies when they feel the urge, and especially during times of prayer.

Purpose

Smudging serves a variety of functions in different Indigenous cultures. As a ritual event, it is considered significant to spiritual and theological beliefs, as are sweat lodges and sacred pipes in certain cultures. (See also Religion and Spirituality of Indigenous Peoples in Canada.) Smudging connects people to the Creator and provides communities with a way to gain spiritual protection and blessings, as well as to improve spiritual health. The smoke created by burning sacred herbs is thought to purify the body and soul, and bring clarity to the mind. In this way, smudging is also used to cleanse places said to hold negative energy. Consequently, smudging was (and still is) performed during times of crisis, ill health and death.

Smudging is also practiced to restore the physical self. Associated with targeted parts of the body, such as the head, feet, back and sensory organs, smudging provides the whole body with a renewed sense of self. According to some Ojibwe teachings, smudging the back allows for the release of troubles that weigh one down. Smudging the ears, eyes and mouth provides for better hearing, visual and language skills, and for a clearer understanding of one’s surroundings and place on this earth. Respect for the self and for others, including the earth, is central to various Indigenous spiritual teachings, and consequently forms the basis for smudging.

THE ANCIENT ART OF SMUDGING..
Clearing Negative Energy
Smudging  or clearing with sage can help clear or remove this negativity, and help you start a brand new day much lighter and brighter. Smudging is an ancient ceremony in which you burn sacred plants that are often bound together with cotton or something similar. The most commonly used is sage, to allow the smoke to clear and bless a space or yourself.

Smudging can sound a bit intimidating to many people. It can also look j pretty unsafe or super complicated to be practiced often. Rest assured this is not true. Smudging is not complicated, not hard and totally safe when you follow several very simple and easy steps that even my children can do safely. What is important to keep in mind though, is that smudging is an ancient and sacred ceremony, so when you do give it a try, it is best to do it with full awareness and in a slow, mindful manner full of strong  belief that what you are about to do is true, correct and for your highest good always with strong intent.

As even the happiest, bubbliest of  homes accumulate in time negative energy, it is good to smudge your home thoroughly at least several times a year or whenever you get that gut hit that it's the right time. You can also smudge your car, any technology you use such as cell phones, computers and your office space (not during busy office hours!); as well as use smudging to clear your own energy or the energy of other people that cross your path frequently.

I will give you my simple instructions on how to do smudging, and then let you in on  the most common concerns with smudging a house/office. You will also find here instructions on how to smudge yourself (or somebody else),

The most common smudging herbs.

SAGE - For driving out negativity and for healing, white sage is preferred.
The botanical name for sage is Salvia (e.g. Salvia officinalis, Garden Sage, or Salvia apiana, White Sage).  It is interesting to note that Salvia comes from the Latin root salvare, which means "to heal" .

CEDAR - Drives out negative icky energy and brings in positive balanced influences.
Cedar is burned while praying or holding intent either aloud or silently. The prayers rise on the cedar smoke and are carried to your higher power (whoever that is for you personally).  Cedar branches are brushed in the air to cleanse a home during the House Blessing Ceremony of many Northwest Indian nations.  In the Pacific Northwest, the people burn cedar for purification in much the same way as sage - it drives out negative energy, but it also brings in good influences. The spirit of cedar is considered very ancient and wise by Pacific Northwest tribes, and old, downed cedar trees are honored with offerings and prayers.

Cedar is primarily considered a fire element, though it is often used for general, four-element purposes.  It is known for its sharp, piney scent and is believed to aid clairvoyance, revive the tired mind, body, and spirit, and stimulate contact with other worlds. This one is one of my personal favorites for smudging my body as the smell is really nice.

SWEETGRASS - Sweetgrass is used for blessing after sage has been used.  It brings in the good spirits and the good influences.

Sweetgrass is an important part of Sioux and Cherokee ceremonies. One of the most sacred plants for the Plains Indians, sweetgrass is a tall wild grass with a reddish base and perfume-like, musty odor. It grows mainly on the eastern side of the Rockies in Montana and adjacent Alberta, Canada. It also shows up in some small areas of Wyoming and South Dakota. Its botanical name is Hierochloe odorata. Some common names for it are Seneca grass, holy grass and vanilla grass. A nice smelling alternative to sage, however if you really want a good deep clearing definitely use sage first and then sweetgrass or use sweetgrass on you personally.

On the Plains, sweetgrass is usually braided together in bunches as a person's hair is braided, which is often how it looks when you are buying it from a store, although sometimes it is simply bunched and wrapped in cloth..  Either way, it is usually burned by shaving little bits over hot coals or lighting the end and waving it around, letting the smoke spread through the air.  Elders teach that it is good to burn sweetgrass after the sage or cedar has driven out the bad influences.

As with cedar, burn sweetgrass while praying or holding intent sends prayers up to your higher power (whatever that is for you personally) in the smoke.  Sweetgrass is can also be put in pipe bundles and medicine bundles along with sage to purify and protect sacred objects.

MUGWORT - Mugwort is a variety of Sage (Artemisia vulgaris). 
Mugwort is used to promote physical wellbeing, endurance and protection. This ancient herb can also encourage prophetic and happy dreams and act as an aid to astral travel.

Also, when you want to cleanse the atmosphere of your space and need something super-heavy-duty, beyond normal white sage smudging, Mugwort is indeed the herb to use.

Mugwort is perfect for anyone wishing to develop their conscious or lucid dreaming experience.
What You Need
  • Sage or other sacred plants listed above. Sage represents the earth element and when burned, the smoke from it represents the air.
  • Abalone shell. This is meant to hold and burn the plants. The shell represents the water element. And it's pretty not to mention practical.
  • Matches or a lighter. These represent the fire element.
  • Feather. This represents the air element. Although I tend to use my sage sticks in a circular, clockwise motion.
  • Drum(s) or sacred drumming music, which represent the beat of the heart.

    All though you could have all of these if you wanted to make it easier again all you need is a smudge stick, lighter and fireproof container.

Clear your space of clutter and mess (a great time to salt your carpets and floors at the same time) and open up windows and curtains and allow for clean air to enter. Light your sage (or other herbs) on fire and then fan the smoke with your feather or slow clockwise circular motions around your body and anyone else in your space.  Don't forget your pets, but respect their space, a little distance is fine when held with strong intent to clear their energy.

SMUDGING IN FIVE EASY STEPS
  1. Place the candle/lighter/matches, the fireproof container, and the smudge stick on a table, desk or any other appropriate surface (I tend to use my fireplace because it's already fire-proofed in a way. It is best if you create a sense of ceremony when you smudge your house, as well as find time when you will not be disturbed; 10-15 min should be enough unless you have a really large house (don't forget the garage and car if you have time).
  2. Light the candle if you are using one and say a prayer or just focus your energy and set the intent of what you want to happen. Light the tip of your smudge stick with a candle light/lighter, then gently wave the stick in the air till the tip begins to smolder.
  3. Hold the smudge stick over the fireproof container at all times in order to avoid any lit herbs falling on the floor. You can use a feather if you have one, but usually just gently waving your hands to disperse the smoke is enough or rotating in a circular motion. Remind yourself to stay connected to your breathing throughout your smudging session staying present and calm (this is the energy you are manifesting into your house while removing the yucky, stuck energy.
  4. Stay connected to your breathing, keeping yourself calm  as you smudge all areas in a clockwise motion around your house (usually starting at the front door), and gently wave the smoke into the air. Spend a bit more time smudging the room corners, as they tend to accumulate stagnant energy. Be sure to also open the closet doors and carefully smudge inside. Do not forget about spaces such as the attic, laundry room, the garage or the basement and cars.
  5. When you have smudged all areas of your house, come back to where you began and gently extinguish your smudge stick (dipping it into sand while applying a bit of pressure usually works well, it's best not to use water if at all possible). Wait a bit, then pack your smudge stick, as well as the container, till your next smudging session. You can leave the candle going, if you have used one, to continue to purify the energy.

Clearing Your Body
Smudging is not only for spaces; it’s also for clearing your body, mind, and spirit of any negativity, stagnation, or energetic disturbances within or surrounding you. Make sure to invite the sacred smoke around your body from head to toe and front to back before smudging your space.

A Smudging Prayer for use on yourself - 

May your hands be cleansed, that they create beautiful things.

May your feet be cleansed, that they might take you where you most need to be.

May your heart be cleansed, that you might hear its messages clearly.

May your throat be cleansed, that you might speak rightly when words are needed.

May your eyes be cleansed, that you might see the signs and wonders of the world.

May this person and space be washed clean by the smoke of these fragrant plants.

And may that same smoke carry our prayers, spiraling, to the heavens.