Be sure to place a heat-proof vessel under your smudge stick to catch ashes.
Smudge sticks, those little bundles of herbs wrapped in twine, emit an earthy, aromatic scent and help purify the space you inhabit. Smudging is an ancient tradition used by many cultures throughout the world.
Whether you smudge to honor those traditions or simply to establish your own ritual, there are good reasons for smudging. As a ritual, smudging can aid relaxation, relieve stress and anxiety, dispel negative emotions, enhance spirituality or meditation. And reports of some scientific studies indicate sage, the primary ingredient in smudge sticks, is a disinfectant that can clear a space of 94 percent of airborne bacteria. White sage (also known as California or bee sage) is the variety most often used in smudge sticks, but common garden sage has its own benefits and can easily be substituted. It's easy to make your own.
How to Make a Smudge Stick
1. When there is no dew, gather stems of any combination of these herbals from the yard and garden: sage (of course), lavender, yarrow, pine or other evergreen needles, rosemary, mint, basil, lemon balm, or other herbs of your choice which are readily available.
2. Lay the stems in a single layer on a clean surface and allow them to dry a bit — maybe a couple of days. You don’t want them to be crunchy, but mold will form if the plant material contains too much moisture.
3. When it’s time to make your smudge stick, cut a length of cotton twine or hemp cord four times the length of the herb stems. Collect a few stems of each kind of plant material, cutting each stem to eight to ten inches. Beginning and ending with sage, layer the various stems.
4. Gather them into a bundle, about 2 inches thick.
5. Beginning at the stem end, wrap twine in a spiral around the bundle and toward the tip. Be sure to wrap press the bundle firmly as you go and wrap tightly, since the plant material herbs will shrink as it dries. Reverse the process back toward the bottom so you have a criss-cross effect.
6. Wrap the twine around the stems a few times and tie the two ends together. Cut off excess twine. If you want a neatly trimmed stick, clip away stray sprigs. Put your finished smudge sticks in a glass jar or lay them loosely in a basket to dry for a week or two before using.
As long as you're making e a smudge stick, you might as well make several.
How to Use Herbal Smudge Sticks
Do you know how to use a smudge, stick? It's simple. Just grab it by the stem end and hold downward at about a 45-degree angle. Light the other end and let it burn until it has a steady flame — about 20 seconds — before blowing it out, leaving the smudge stick smoking. Be sure to hold a fireproof receptacle (saucer, bowl, or the traditional abalone shell) under the stick to catch any ash or embers. Use your hand or a feather to wave the smoke around yourself or through the space you wish to cleanse, letting it waft into all the corners.
Carole Coates is a gardener and food preservationist, family archivist, essayist, poet, photographer, and modern homesteader. You can follow her Mother Earth News blog posts here. You can also find Carole at Living On the Diagonal where she shares her take on life, including modern homesteading, food preparation and preservation, and travel as well random thoughts and reflections, personal essays, poetry, and photography.
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