History of Burning Sage: Ancient Native American Ritual
Be prepared to want to immediately start smudging after reading this! There are perhaps far more benefits than you might think. Native Americans are intuitive when it comes to medicinal and spiritual properties of Earth’s resources. Their connection to the Earth began centuries ago; the land was an important aspect of their spiritual beliefs. We have a lot to learn from ancient and modern practices—but here, we will discuss one practice in particular—which is the act of smudging.
What is smudging, you may ask? Smudging is the ritual act of burning an herb with a spiritual or healing intention. Smudging has been practiced for centuries because of its healing benefits, and today many people around the world preserve this age-old tradition for good reason.
Sage is one of several herbs that is commonly burned in smudging rituals. Burning sage dates back thousands of years and it is believed to have been practiced by Native Americans as a sacred ritual. Why sage? Due to its antibacterial properties, sage was viewed sage as a cleansing herb that helped connect people to the spiritual world.
Other herbs that are commonly burned are lavender, cedar, palo santo, and sweetgrass. Each herb has different properties that are believed to produce different results, but for the sake of this article, we will stick to sage because there are so many benefits to reap from this herb. It is also one of the most widespread herbs used in smudging rituals. Sage is known scientifically as Salvia, and its medicinal properties have been widely researched over time. Native Americans and other ancient cultures around the world have not only used it in a ritualistic way, but also as a way of healing illness.
Smudging is also known as the “sacred bowl blessing” in Native American cultures. The ritual of burning sage would have been accompanied by a ceremony or prayer. The intention of smudging
Burning Sage Benefits
Today, people from all different cultures burn sage for a host of benefits. Smudging is a form of purification to help people clear thoughts of any negative energy and replace it with positive thoughts and prayers for what a person is about to do. The first and possibly most apparent benefit of burning sage is to enjoy the pleasant aroma.
Sage is aromatically pleasing to most people, so it’s no wonder humans have been burning it for hundreds of years. Using sage for aromatherapy can be a healing practice. The scent of the herb has a grounding effect and promotes a sense of clarity and ease.
2. Purifies Air
Perhaps one of the most common intentions of burning sage is to purify the air. Real estate agents sometimes burn sage before selling a house to cleanse the air of any energy left behind from previous owners. Many people like to purify a room or space in which negativity was present, for example, if an argument took place in a room, one could smudge the are to cleanse it of negative energy. Smudging a room, a house, or any space is a way of resetting the energy of the room and clearing it out so whatever takes place next is not affected by its history.
3. Neutralizes Ions – Cleanses Negative Ions
This one of the more compelling scientific information behind the effects of burning sage. Did you know that too many positive ions
What about a modern workplace? There’s a good chance offices contain many more positive ions than negative. Anyway, here’s where smudging comes in. Burning sage changes the chemical make-up of the air—getting rid of positive ions and neutralizing the air. This doesn’t mean you need to immediately bring a smudge stick to work and start burning, but perhaps this brings the realization that we should be taking walks during the work day to relieve stress. Then when we go home, we can burn sage in our homes to increase those negative ions.
4. Promotes Mindfulness
When you picture someone performing the act of burning sage, you might imagine them as present—breathing deep, walking slowly, and acting consciously and intentionally as the sage burns. What you don’t picture is the person holding a phone in one hand or the TV playing in the background. This is because smudging is a mindful act. It should always be performed in the present moment, with one’s attention only focused on the task at hand—which is to cleanse, purify, and harmonize.
The consumption of the herb can help increase concentration, so we can hope that the burning of sage might possibly have a similar effect. It’s important to note that there are not many studies on the cognitive enhancements of breathing the smoke from sage, but there are several studies on the consumption of sage or sage essential oil. In one
Studies have shown that an increase
7. Boosts Energy
If burning sage can help relieve anxiety and stress, it is undoubtedly a useful tool for boosting your mood. The reduction of positive ions combined with the grounding aroma of sage make the herb a wonderful natural method of boosting one’s energy. One study showed that white sage has compounds that activate receptors in the brain related to mood and stress.
8. Spiritual Healing
The electromagnetic field surrounding the human body—also known as the aura—is an important part of overall health and well-being. When your aura lacks its true glow, to put it simply, you may feel out of wack, bad situations may occur in your life, or you may generally feel unhappy for long periods of time. Sage has been used for thousands of years to enhance intuition, thus improving your spiritual well-being.
Smudging sage is a great way to promote spiritual healing: If you are feeling stuck, in a low state of mind, mentally or spiritually, sage is a great way to lift off the old energies so the new can be created. With the right intentions, smudging can help brighten your aura and balance your chakras. Chakras are parts of the aura, known as the seven spinning wheels of light that span the length of your spine to the top of your head. When the seven chakras are aligned and our aura is bright, we can flourish—spiritually, mentally, and physically.
It’s no surprise that smudging can help improve sleep. When we are physically, mentally, and spiritually sound, problems relating to sleep are unlikely, as your body knows what it needs. Getting adequate sleep is an important part of your overall well-being.
How to Smudge
You just need a few items to start smudging. The first thing you’ll need is a bundle of sage, also known as a smudge stick, which you can purchase at many stores or online—or you can make your own. The second thing you need is an abalone shell or any bowl-shaped material that will safely catch the ash when it falls from the sage, such as a clay or glass. The last thing you need is a lighter or a match to light the sage. That’s it!
Once you have your materials, light the end of the smudge stick and blow on it so there is no actual flame, but so that the end of the sage is burning. To smudge a specific space, such as a room or your home walk around the entire area with the burning sage and shell in hand to collect the ash. Some people like to fan the burning sage with a feather so the smoke spreads more. You can also smudge yourself by waving the burning smudge stick around your body, including under the soles of your feet.
A note on obtaining a smudge stick: Some may view the construction of the smudge stick as an important phase of
During Native American ceremonies where smudging is performed, one person will typically walk around and fan the burning smudge stick with a feather. This person will smudge each person individually, after smudging him or herself. The experience is very sacred—done without distractions and with everybody’s full attention. In a way, it is like a meditation. Smudging should be performed with an intention: The purpose is to wash away impurities, sadness, anxieties, dark thoughts and any unwanted energies or emotions that may be clinging to
Smudging does not have to be performed in a ceremonial way, per se. You can smudge your house to get rid of negative energy or just for the aromatherapeutic effects of the smell. It should always be done with intention, nonetheless.
Now that you know the history behind smudging and how to do it, you will be blessed with the many benefits of burning this wonderful herb.