Smudging is the spiritual practice of using the smoke produced from burning plant materials such as leaves and barks as well as resins for various purposes such as blessing, clearing, cleansing, and purification. In North America, smudging is widely attributed to Native cultures. However, it was historically practiced by many African, Asian, European, and other cultures as well, many of which continue to do so to this day. Smudging has also been widely adopted by contemporary Pagans.
As with other magickal tools, the plant materials or resins you select for smudging depends on their magickal properties and your intentions. One or more plant or resin may be used to smudge, either loosely or in bundles. Either way, an eco-friendly fire-safe vessel should always be used.
Although you may purchase your smudges from metaphysical shops, you could also collect some resins or grow some plants yourself. These will give you the added magickal infusion of your own magick. If you have access to large pine trees, you may be able to gently collect some hardened resin from a tree’s trunk. Herbs and flowers can be grown in your garden but some smaller plants may also be grown in pots indoors in a bright sunny location. These include Dwarf Green Basil, French Lavender, Peppermint, Spearmint, and Spicy Bush Basil. If you grow your own plants, you’ll be certain that they are pesticide-free, which is especially important as you’ll probably breathe in some smoke during smudging.
CAUTION: Some studies show that certain resins such as frankincense may contain psychoactive ingredients that can affect brain chemistry when burned and then inhaled. As such, please consult your physician before burning, inhaling, or otherwise using any of the above resins, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, allergic, intolerant, or sensitive to frankincense.
The below smudges are by no means an exhaustive list of those used in magick. Rather, these are some that may be grown, harvested in the wild, and/or are typically available for purchase in Canada.
BASIL LEAVES & STEMS: Abundance; aphrodisiacs; attraction; balance; banishing; business; calming; clairvoyance; communications; concentration; dispelling; divination; emotional strength; fertility; financial gain; focus; friendship; good luck; harmony; home protection; honesty; intimacy; libido; mental clarity; money; passion; peacefulness; prosperity; protection; purification; repelling; romantic love; self-discipline; sensuality; stamina; success; trust. [Also known as Witch’s Herb.]
BAY LEAVES: Banishing; business; clairvoyance; confusion; curse removal; lucid dreaming; meditation; money; prognostication; psychic ability; purification; success; victory.
CEDAR LEAVES: Breaking spells; clearing; cleansing; compassion; grounding; healing; intuition; peacefulness; protection; purification; serenity; wisdom.
CHAMOMILE FLOWERS: Calming; divination; happiness; health; lucid dreaming; meditation; nightmare prevention; relaxation; soothing; sound sleep; spiritual clarity; stress relief.
CINNAMON STICKS: Attention attraction; business acumen; business success; creativity; financial gain; fire magick; intellectual stimulation; libido; lust; knowledge; money; power; prosperity; sexual love; success; winning.
CLOVE (WHOLE): Achievement; business success; comfort; compelling; creativity; curse removal; debt repayment; encourage action; financial success; intellectual stimulation; money; perceptions; prosperity; protection; safety.
COPAL RESIN: Afterlife transitioning; love; meditation; purification; spirit communications.
DRAGON’S BLOOD RESIN: Banishing; calming; dispelling; peacefulness; protection; purification; stamina.
EUCALYPTUS LEAVES: Cleansing; concentration; endurance; focus; health; illness prevention; physical energy; physical healing; physical strength; protection; purification.
FIR NEEDLES & RESIN: Banishing; celebrations; cleansing; healing; mental endurance; physical endurance.
FRANKINCENSE RESIN: Addiction; bad intentions; banishing; consecration of tools; courage; dispelling; happiness; protection; purification; spiritual awareness; spiritual clarity; spiritual development; tool purification. [This is the masculine counterpart to myhrr.]
LAVENDER FLOWERS: Anxiety; broken heart healing; calming; cleansing; depression; emotional protection; friendship; happiness; insomnia; lover attraction; magickal ability; magickal power; mental clarity; peace of mind; psychological healing; romantic love; soothing; stress reduction; wisdom.
LEMONGRASS LEAVES: Acceptance; clairvoyance; emotional clarity; intellect; intuition; knowledge; mental acuity; precognition; psychic abilities; sensuality; sexual exploration.; studying ability.
MYRRH RESIN: Breaking spells; consecration of tools; courage; fortitude; grief; meditation; mourning; psychic balance; psychic healing; psychic protection; spiritual awareness; wisdom. [This is the feminine counterpart to frankincense.]
PINE NEEDLES & RESIN: Betrayal; clairvoyance; cleansing; divination; grounding; home protection; knowledge; good health; mental restoration; negative energy repelling; physical healing; positive energy attraction; purification.
ROSEMARY SPRIGS: Blocking negative spells; breaking negative spells; clairvoyance; cleansing; dispelling; divination; healing; intellect; memory; mental clarity; mental energy; nightmare prevention; protection; purification; school grades improvement; studying ability; water magick.
SAGE [COMMON/GARDEN] LEAVES: Balance; honesty; grounding; longevity; mental clarity; truthfulness; wisdom.
SANDALWOOD CHIPS & STICKS: Afterlife transitioning; banishing spirits; clearing; concentration; consecration; focus; grounding; healing; meditation; mindfulness; peacefulness; prosperity; protection; purification; spirits communications; spirituality; wealth.
SPEARMINT LEAVES & STEMS: Calming; intelligence; meditation; memory; mental clarity; psychological healing; relaxation; stress reduction.
SPRUCE NEEDLES & RESIN: Balance; centering; clarity; emotional security; grounding; psychic protection; spiritual protection.
SWEETGRASS BRAIDS: Benevolent & helpful spirit attraction; blessings; deity communications, prayer & offerings; healing; positive energy attraction; protection; purification; spirituality; wishes.
THYME SPRIGS: Awareness; cleansing; concentration; focus; gentleness; insight; memory; psychic healing; purification; spiritual renewal; understanding.
WHITE SAGE LEAVES: Animal magick; balance; blessing; breaking negative spells; clearing; cleansing; dispelling; healing; protection; purification; spell breaking; strength; tool consecration.
CAULDRON: This is a three-legged cast iron pot that has a curved handle. A small cauldron may be used to smudge safely, especially in the case of loose smudges and resins, which are often burned with charcoal tablets.
FEATHER: These are used to help direct smoke during smudging as well as to represent the element of air on an altar or during spellwork. Almost any large feather can be used but it should be freely “given” by a bird during a moult, not plucked.
FIRE-SAFE BOWL: A soapstone bowl is excellent for this purpose. Soapstone is inexpensive, heat-resistant, and it has balancing magickal properties. A shallow tempered glass or ceramic bowl filled part-way with sand may also be used for smudging.
ABALONE SHELL: While very popular, it’s best to avoid using abalone shells altogether as some species such as black abalone and white abalone have been overfished and are threatened by extinction. While there are some abalone species that have not been overfished, they are smaller and not typically of a size used in magick or sold in shops. Green abalone grows to only up to 12cm (5″) and pink abalone are even smaller, growing to only 3.5cm (1.4″). However, any large shell that you find washed up on a shore, including abalone, can be ethically used for smudging.