Aug 14, 2010

How to Make a Smudge Stick and What to Do With It


I just got a bunch of fresh sage from my Mom's garden today -- I mean there's a ton! My plan is to make a smudge stick -- or several! A few weeks ago I got two fairly big stems of sage (also from my Mom's garden) and dried them in the 'traditional manner' by hanging them upside down for several days in a well ventilated place. To do this, get some thread or string that's thick enough to work with easily; yarn is what I used to hang mine. Wrap the stems of the sage with the yarn several times and tie together tightly. Flip the bundle upside down, and string it up someplace out of the way so you aren't running into it all the time! Hooks or rods, such as for many curtains, are good places for this. In several days, your sage will be dried and ready to use. The first time I dried sage, I just chopped it up, and placed it in a mason jar to either burn on charcoal (for incense) or use in a smudging bowl with other herbs. Either way, sage is excellent for protection and clearing away negativity. Make sure you label your jars or bottles clearly so you don't accidentally forget what's inside!

A Bit of Folklore
Traditionally in the old days, people would use the kitchen area for drying herbs and the like. The hanging of garlic was customary to ward off evil spirits -- hung above or near a doorway, it was thought to form a protective barrier between you and anything trying to gain entry that you desired to keep OUT. Smudging with sage, cedar, or sweetgrass can accomplish this, also. The smoke produced is very cleansing and liberating for mind, body and soul. It can be used to mark a barrier (like your property line) if burned as you walk the perimeter of your home. Sage is also excellent in meditation, holiday celebrations, house blessings/cleanings (or, just because you feel like it!). Sage has long been used in Western magical traditions to aid in both ritual and worship. Of course, sage always makes me think of Native American Indians, whose great Earth wisdom originally taught us the secrets of sage. Tobacco is also considered a sacred plant, and was used for smoking and ritual in much the same manner.

How to Make a Smudge Stick
You will need:
Twine or string, color of your choice
Scissors
Sage, cedar, or other herbs of your choosing
Newspaper (if using for drying)

1. Decide how long you want your smudge stick to be. For a 5" smudge stick, you will need to cut about 10 1/2" of string for wrapping. Having a little extra means you can always trim away the excess string at the end!

 2. Select two, three or four fairly long branches to use for your stick (about 4 - 5"  for a large one or 2 -3" for a smaller one).  If your sage is longer than that, you can cut it to the length you want. The number of branches used is entirely up to you -- it's really about significance or just personal preference. If you want a very thick smudge stick, you may need even more branches!

3. Leaving the leaves attached, place the thickest branches together in the middle, with most of the leaves facing outward. Putting the branches together in the center will allow the smudge stick to have more stability once it dries.

4. Wind the string tightly around the bundle, starting at the bottom and working up to the top. As you do this, use the hand not holding the string to lightly squeeze the bundle, flattening any leaves down. It also helps if you periodically rotate the stick as it comes together, making the wrapping process altogether much easier. Squeezing also keeps any stray leaves from coming loose or sticking out the sides of the bundle. **Leave a bit of space (about an inch or so) at the top so you can easily light the tip of the stick without catching the string on fire!**

5. Then, with the remaining length of string, wind back around the stick (rotating it as you go) in a criss-cross manner, until you reach the bottom again.

6. Wind the string around near the bottom several times so it doesn't come apart. Tie the two string ends together, or just overlap them as you wind it, making certain they are secure!

*EXTRA STEP*   7. Lastly, trim the top portion of your smudge stick flat with scissors or a knife: this supposedly helps the smudge burn easier, although I'm guessing this depends on personal preferences yet again  :)  I left my first stick in its 'natural' state, which I sort of like -- it's a bit more organic that way!

As you read above, you can dry your new smudge stick either by hanging it upside down, or by wrapping in newspaper for several days (sometimes as long as a week, depending on humidity levels).

How to Burn your Smudge Stick
Light the tip of the stick well. Make sure the sage has plenty of air for the flame to really get going. Allow the sage to smolder. Use a feather or other fanning device (your hands work just as well) to direct the smoke where you'd like it to travel. Inhale the smoke lightly as you visualize all negativity leaving your body and environment.

To easily put out the smudge, have a plate (or traditionally, an abalone shell) filled with a bit of sand nearby. When you are finished, put the sage out in the sand by lightly tamping it down until extinguished. Stored properly, a sage stick can last for years of use!

Some Ways to Use Your Smudge Stick
Burn to help guide you in meditation
Use during ritual, worship or prayer
Cleansing yourself/others
Cleansing your home indoors
  Cleansing your property outdoors
  Sage is a wonderful offering for your god/dess , as are many fragrant incenses

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