If you’re feeling stressed, unmotivated, lacking energy or even suffering with insomnia, this ancient tradition can help cleanse your mind and body from negativity.
We live in a highly stressful world.
So stressful that any concept that promises to cleanse our aura and spaces from negative energy sounds appealing. Cue: sage burning, or sage smudging.
What is sage burning, or ‘smudging’?
For thousands of years, Native American peoples and many other cultures around the world believed a person’s energy is like perfume – when you come in contact with someone else’s vibes, good or bad, they linger for a while.
In order to cleanse other people’s negative vibes, shamans would burn sage over a fire, which would also promote healing, wisdom and longevity. This ritual is what they called ‘smudging’.
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Sage belongs to the Salvia plant family, derived from the Latin word salvere, which translates to “to heal”.
“We love sage for its ability to clear, cleanse and purify spaces, energies and items,” founder of Venustus Jeannie Bourke, tells body+soul. “It is a powerful herb that when burned or ‘smudged’, can produce an instant ‘energy shift’ that often translates into feeling ‘lighter, clearer and calmer’.”
From a scientific point of view, a number of studies have shown that burning sage has antimicrobial and antibacterial qualities, can serve as an insect repellent, improve mood and cognition, release negative ions, and even ease insomnia. In fact, one study found sage can absorb up to 94 per cent of airborne bacteria.
But the spiritual benefits of sage burning is what it’s best known for.
“If there is tension or a heaviness in the air, if you or the people around you are misaligned, sluggish, unmotivated, stressed, irritable, simply out of sorts, or if you are just not your usual energetic self – ‘smudge’”, Bourke adds.
How often should you do it?
Before you burn sage, ask yourself, ‘what is my intention?’
“Have an intention when burning sage,” Bourke notes. For example, “I put loving energy into this space”.
Once you have an intention, Bourke says use it weekly to “notice a lighter energy and calmness,” or “use in your home or office space to clear any negative energy and cleanse the space”.
At her beauty and body lab Venustus, Bourke likes to “use sage around clients out the front before they enter their treatment rooms, to clear and cleanse them prior to their treatment.”
How do you smudge?
If you’re new to the practice of smudging, here’s your 101 guide on how to do it properly.
First thing’s first: it’s important to follow safety instructions.
“Be aware of the area around you (anything flammable), turn off fans, close some windows and some doors to minimise wind and draft,” Bourke says. “Remember you are using fire so use respect and common sense.”
Once you’ve done this, here’s what you’ll need to get started…
- A sage bundle
- A fire safe bowl such as a seashell or bowl of ceramic, clay or glass
- A fire source such as a long match or candle
- Feather or fan for fanning smoke (optional)
1. Light your sage at the very tips of the leaves and once ignited, quickly and carefully blow out the flames to allow the leaves to smoulder.
2. Using smooth movements, waft the smoke around your home, body and objects.
3. Once smouldering, hold or rest on fire safe bowl so you don’t drop ashes on yourself, home or nature.
4. Do not leave unattended. If you want to sage to keep smouldering, you need to stay with it, or alternately, after use, run under water to put out and let dry out.
5. Store on a flameproof dish away from wind.
Jeannie Bourke is the founder of Sydney-based beauty and body lab, Venustus. Find her on Instagram @venustus_australia.