Meaning of Smudging and How to Smudge

Meaning of Smudging

Last Updated on January 23, 2022 by Avia

This article explores the meaning of smudging (also known as saging or smoke cleansing) and how to smudge.

In a nutshell, the meaning of smudging is about purifying our space and energy by using smoke. Cleansing energy by using smoke is a ceremony that has been practiced by ancient cultures all around the world. So why would we want to smudge?

Life leaves a trace.  Why?  Because life is all about energy.   It’s never destroyed. Only recycled.  That means, there is always a fingerprint left behind. Sometimes this fingerprint leaves an uncomfortable impression upon the places we live and work, and in our energy. This is especially true if there is a lot of negativity surrounding us.

Should you be worried or concerned?  No, I don’t think so.  If you are functioning well in your environment…if you are happy and feel secure….keep calm, and carry on!

However…for those of you who are uber-sensitive…those of you who feel a need to swoosh out some nefarious badies in your pad, or office space…this post about how to cleanse your space is for you.

Smoke cleansing is also known as smudging or saging.

The techie definition and meaning of smudging is:

A ritual purification by means of smoke. A common practice performed by ancient cultures as well as Native American Indians, and modern-day practitioners of sacred practices. It is thought that the smoke lifts out any possible negative energy in a space or object. White sage is commonly burned for smudging purposes.


Definitions aside…we also smudge to make a bold statement…to the gods, goddesses, elementals, spirits…and to ourselves. 

The act of “smoking out” is spiritual, personal, and relevant.  Not only does the act prove to the Universal energies that we’re serious (demonstrative action), it also makes purification a physical process for us humans here on earth.

Meaning of Smudging and How to Smudge
Tips About the Meaning of Smudging and How to Smudge

Some quick tips on how to smudge with style…

1)  Get the proper music-mojo.  I have no doubt you all have an infinite source of musical goodies.  Something smooth, non-distracting, non-verbal, luscious and wavy.  Consider sounds that connect with your astrological sun-sign (air: wind, fire: crackles of fire, water: whale song, earth: rustling of leaves).  You get my drift….soft and pleasing.

2)  Ambiance!  Light some candles. A total must!  It would be lovely to have your home in amber waves of candlelight, but if you ain’t got that many…no sweat…just light one – that suffices.

3) Say a few words – be intent, be focused – hone yourself within your words – feel the purpose of your steps and actions within your home.  Know this exercise is valid, virtuous and vital.  Pray to the deities that dig your groove, and express gratefulness in their presence in your essence.  Know that each syllable and consonant you utter is heard, validated, loved and reciprocated by the glorious Universal flow.

Now for your options:  You can burn whatever flicks your Bic.  I use white sage.  I’ve also used stick incense (love myrrh or frankincense or even my stand-by patchouli).  Use whatever is most pleasing to your senses.

Suggestions about items you can use to smudge your space

-Sage (holy white sage is best, in my opinion)
-Herbs (whole fresh herbs are best too)
-Candle (whatever you got)
-Paper (write your intentions on it and burn it as an offering while you do your cleansing ceremony)
-Feather or Fan (to move the smoke)
-Bowl or Shell (to catch your ashes)

What to do with the ashes? No worries.  Use a vessel that means something special to you to capture the burn-off from whatever you’re using to smudge.  I use a lovely abalone shell.  The opulence and swirly-twirly of the colors kinda set me free as I’m dowsing the place with smoke.  I sometimes use an ashtray my grandma had.  I have also used a bowl made for me by a 12-year-old sweetie – I love that her teeny-tiny hands made that bowl, and are a part of this special ritual.

I’m the queen of clumsy – so, at this point, I would be asking: “Which hand do I hold the vessel, and which hand do I hold the smoke-stick!?

Depends:  Left hand is yin: Feminine, Receiving, Soft, Mothering.  Right hand is Yang: Male, Giving, Assertive. Lean more about symbolic hand positions and hand meanings here.  It’s your choice.

Before you set your fire stick aflame…open a window.  It may be a wives tale…but baby, that’s some of the best wisdom, EVER!  The idea of opening a window before smudging deals with having an opening for negative energy to exit.  Smart advice!  Thank you old wives!

Don’t overlook corners in rooms… Negative-nellies love corners, for some reason.  Smudge up and down in each corner. 

Also it’s good to pay attention to the direction we move smoke in our home’s nooks, crannies. We have to consider where to start and how to swirl those smoke tendrils around your home.

I’m sure there are other ways to do this, but I like simple.  Start north, and move clockwise.

Stand in the center of your space- arms spread with fire-stick and ash-capturing vessel in hand.  Move north.  Say a devotional for the awesomeness the northern energies provide. From north, you’ll go clockwise to east, south, west and back to north again.

Meaning of Smudging and How to Smudge
Meaning of Smudging and How to Smudge

Cultural run-down of symbolic directions which may help with your smudging ceremony:

In Chinese Feng Shui, each direction correlates to the Chinese zodiac animals:

•North =  Rat: Adaptability, charm, creativity, sociability, wit.

•East = Rabbit: Trust, sincerity, love, compassion.

•South = Horse: Physical strength, health, adventure, loyalty.

•West = Rooster: Confidence, business, energy, persistence.

In ancient Celtic symbolism and tradition, the cardinal directions were acknowledged in several ceremonies and festivals.  Hand-fasting ceremonies and other earth-based belief systems (pagan) still honor the directions today.  Here is a brief outline of these directional representations:

•North = earth, home, security, fertility

•East = air, communication, new beginnings, new growth

•South = fire, energy, passion, creativity

•West = water, emotion, psyche, movement

In certain divinatory practices the directions represent time phases:

•North = Infinite Possibility (no-time)

•East = Future

•South = Present – Now

•West = Past

Native Americans have their own meanings of cardinal directions.  The Lakota, for example hold to the following guideline:

•North = wisdom/thought

•East = salvation/spirit

•South = beginnings/purity

•West = conclusions/fullness

The astrological zodiac provides yet another aspect of the four directions and their symbolism:

•North = Air corresponding with Aquarius

•East = Earth corresponding with Taurus

•South = Fire corresponding with Leo

•West = Water corresponding with Scorpio

Don’t get caught up in these segmented definitions of compass assignments.   What matters is you feel the jive in each direction.

When you’re done smudging, dowse your smudge stick (sage stick or incense) in a bowl of distilled, purified water.  I use holy water from Our Lady of Fatima Shrine.  This action is a respectful wink and nod to the fire, smoke and energy that helped to contribute to a nice, clean space.

Store your fire stick in a sacred place too.  Use it again when you feel the urge, or every equinox and solstice.

Last Thoughts About the Meaning of Smudging

If you liked this, you might also like a few other offerings I have for you.  Check out this article about smoke cleansing and smudging tips to round out your understanding of the meaning of smudging in practice.

I hope you enjoyed this article on the meaning of smudging and tips on how to smudge. Furthermore, I hope your own smoke-cleansing experience gives you a fresh boost of energy and renewal.

As always, thank you for reading! If you liked this, I would be delighted if you shared it on your socials!

Happy smudging!

Mighty brightly,

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