Having a strong Native American background, I never really thought much about smudging. It was just something that I knew of from a very young age. Native Americans have been burning bundles of dried herbs for centuries to purge negative energy and purify a room or space. Sage (and various other herbs) have been proven to release negative ions while burning, which in turn help to elevate your mood.
Smudging isn't simply grabbing a bundle of sage from your local herb store, lighting it up, and filling your house with smoke. To do it properly, you should learn how to actually connect with the heritage from which it originated. The Native Americans treat everything that comes from Nature with reverence, and that is how smudging should be treated as well. You need to know how to treat your herbs, and which ones to use for various situations.
Which Herbs to Use for Smudging
Now, before we get into HOW to smudge, let me go over the sacred plants traditionally used, and which situation would call for each one.
Tobacco: Pure tobacco (the kind that has NOT been tainted with man-made chemicals) is considered to be one of the most sacred plants among the Native people. It is used to communicate with the Spirit world, and is used as an offering when gathering medicinal plants. Before harvesting medicinal herbs, offer tobacco, and explain why you are there to harvest medicine. By letting the herbs know of your intentions, they are said to aid the body on a higher level. Tobacco is also offered at the beginning of ceremonies to let the Elders know of your intentions.
Sweetgrass: This is considered the 'hair' of Mother Earth, and is used to attract good spirits. It has a sweet aroma, and is used when love, kindness, and gentleness are needed. It is gathered, and braided to resemble hair, then burned in healing/talking circles. Sweetgrass can call Spirit, and has a calming effect.
You can find sweetgrass for your own use HERE.
Sage: This is the most well-known herb used for smudging, and the most readily available. It is easy to grow this herb in your own home, or find it in your local healthy foods store. Sage has stronger properties than sweetgrass, and is used more often. It is used for cleansing negative energies from sacred items and homes. Sage can also be used to help prepare for a healing ceremony.
You can buy the exact smudging kit I use in my own home HERE.
Cedar: Cedar is used to purify the home, and is also used to call Spirit. When mixed with tobacco and thrown into a fire, it produces a loud crackling sound, which gathers the attention of the Spirit to whom you are making an offering. Cedar is also used in sweat lodges, and chases away evil spirits.
How to Smudge
Now that you have the herbs of your choice, it is time to put them to use.
1. Open the windows in the room you are in. If you are going to walk throughout your home, open as many windows as you can.
2. Place your herbs in a clay bowl, or an abalone shell, and light them with a match. The herbs will burn, then smolder.
3. If purging negative energies from your body, make a 'washing' motion with your hands in the smoke, then waft it over your entire body, making sure to breathe in some of the smoke. Proceed with step 5.
4. If purging energies from your home, make sure that you also have your front door open as well as the windows. Start in one corner, and walk throughout your house in a counterclockwise movement. Proceed to step 5.
5. Once you are finished smudging, you should treat the leftover ashes with intention. They are the remains of the cleansing, and contain negative energies. Take them outside and bury them.
Storing Sacred Herbs
Herbs used for smudging should be treated with respect, and stored in a special place. Keep them waist-high or higher, on a bookshelf or other such place where they won't be disturbed.