Make Your Own Smudge Sticks

Woman performing a ritual cleansing by burning sage smudge sticks

Bec Parsons / Getty Images

Smudging is a great way to cleanse a sacred space, and most people use smudge sticks made of sweetgrass or sage for this purpose. Although they are available commercially—and are fairly inexpensive—it's easy to make your own if you've got herbs growing in your garden, or if there's a place nearby where you can go wildcrafting.

You'll need:

  • Scissors or garden clippers
  • Cotton string
  • Plants such as sage, mugwort, rosemarylavender, or juniper

Cut off pieces of the plants in lengths about 6-10 inches long. For more leafy plants, you can make the pieces shorter, but you may want to use a longer piece for a plant that has fewer leaves.

Bundle Your Herbs

Herbs for Smudge Sticks
Patti Wigington

Cut a length of string about five feet long. Put several branches together so that the cut ends are all together, and the leafy ends are all together. Wind the string tightly around the stems of the bundle, leaving two inches of loose string where you began. The smudge stick in the photos contains sage, rosemary and pennyroyal, but you can use any kind of herbs you like.

Although the use of wrapped smudge sticks is generally attributed to Native American cultures and practices, the burning of fragrant herbs in a ritual context is found in numerous societies throughout history. Herbs were burned in ancient Egypt, and the practice is recorded and documented in a tablet inscription that has been dated back to 1500 b.c.e. Many eastern spiritual systems, including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Shinto, utilize burning herbs – either loose or as compacted incense – in ritual practice. For the ancient Greeks, smudging was included in rituals to contact the dead, and often was used in tandem with ritual fasting.

Wrap Up Your Herbs

Wrapped Herbal Smudge Stick
Patti Wigington

Wrap the remaining length of string around the base of the branches several times to secure it. Then, gradually, work your way along the length of branches until you reach the leafy end. Return the string back up to the stems, creating a bit of a criss-cross pattern. You'll want to wind the string tightly enough that nothing gets loose, but not so tight that it cuts off pieces of the plants.

When you get back to the stems, tie the remainder of the string to the 2" loose piece you left at the beginning. Trim off any excess pieces so that the ends of your smudge stick are even.

Dry Your Smudge Sticks

Place the bundle outside or hang it up for drying. Depending on what type of herb you used, and how humid your weather is, it may take a couple of days or as much as a week to dry out. Once your smudge sticks have dried completely, you can store them in a bag or box in a dark cabinet until it's time to use them and then burn them in ritual for smudging simply by lighting one end.

Safety tip: Some plants may have toxic fumes. Do not burn a plant unless you know it is safe to do so.

 

Use Your Smudge Sticks for Rituals and Spellwork

Smudge Stick Burning
Patti Wigington

Dawn Combs over at Hobby Farms has some great tips on nine different herbs you can burn as incense – and if they're safe for burning as incense, they're safe to burn in smudging ceremonies. Dawn recommends you burn your herbs, whether incense or sticks, using "a heat tolerant vessel. Traditionally this is an abalone shell with a bit of sand in the bottom. You might also use a charcoal disc beneath the herbs to keep them smoking, especially in the case of resins."

For many people, the simple ritualized act of cleansing can be a perfect way to create a sacred space. You can take a room that gets everyday usage, and by ritually cleansing it, turn it into a place of magic and tranquility.

The purpose of smudging is to use smoke to carry negative energy out of the area. When you light your smudge stick, allow it to flame for a moment and then blow out the flame. This will leave you with a burning bundle of herbs which will create smoke. 

Feng Shui expert Rodika Tchi recommends

"Go clockwise 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 laundry room, the garage or the basement."