top of page

Cleansing with smoke and the great smudging debate

The burning of herbs for psychic and spiritual cleansing is found in many religions but the term smudging which is often used, seems to now refer to the Native American practice that uses herbs that are burnt and waved through the aura to cleanse the energy field if a person, object or room.

However, on doing some research, I found the word ‘smudge’ comes from the old English word smogen. It is cited in several dictionaries (such as Merriam Webster, Collins, and as coming from 1400-50 late Middle English. It means to smear, blur, obscure, to smother with smoke, to use dense smoke to protect an area from insects. Another meaning is also ‘taken by surprise’. In English the term ‘smudge’ also means to smut or dirt. It has been in use since the 15th century, and first appeared after the Norman conquest, so it’s certainly of Germanic origin.

The theory behind this type of cleansing is that the smoke attaches itself to the negative energy and as it clears it takes the negative energy with it. It is a good idea to perform this ritual on yourself on a regular basis as well as your home and workspace. Make it part of your weekly housework. After you’ve dusted and vacuumed smogen your home and yourself with an incense of your choice.

Many indigenous peoples of the Americas used sage, sweetgrass or cedar to make a smudge bundle, but you can use whatever you have to hand. Ancient Vikings used mugwort. I use whatever I have in the garden, which is often garden sage, lavender and rosemary. You can make your own bundle by cutting stems of the plants, tying them together with wool or twine and leaving them to dry. Once dried, it is ready to use.

Please try not to import dried herbs from across the globe. Use an herb or plant that grows locally to you. A local herb will have more personal energy but will also be far more eco-friendly without all the transportation damage.

Light one end of the bundle and then blow out the flame so it is just smouldering, it is wise to hold the bundle over a bowl to catch anything bits that may fall off, it saves burning holes in the carpet.

You can guide the smoke over yourself by using a feather or your hands (whichever you prefer). Bring the smoke up over your head, down your shoulders and your arms. Around your torso and your back, down your left and your feet, not forgetting to do the soles to ensure that you walk on the right path. Visualise the smoke lifting away all the negative energies, thoughts and emotions that have attached themselves to you.

When you are smogening your house make sure the smoke gets into all the corners, around the windows and doors, and if you want to be really thorough you can waft it in all the cupboards and drawers too.

MAKE IT A RITUAL WITH INTENT, it is not just wafting smoke around and you are done. It needs to have the structure of intent and be a ritual that you care about. Whether you are cleansing yourself or your home this needs there needs to be a structure to this. It becomes a bit of a ritual. Just wafting smoke around haphazardly won’t do. You need your will and intent behind it and some effort. Decide whether you want to go around the room clockwise or anti clockwise. Really think about your actions and the way you waft the smoke. It helps to have a chant to go with it. You can say what you feel, but make sure you have real intent behind it. Or write out a proper chant to use each time. Follow a pattern and make it a bit ceremonial. The end result will be much better if you have made some effort with it.

When you have finished make sure your herb bundle is extinguished using a bowl of sand or earth. Make sure the herb stick is completely out before leaving it.

Of course, if you are like me then you will find the herb bundle a bit awkward to use sometimes and that’s when you can use loose herbs on a charcoal block or for even more convenience a shop bought incense stick will do the job just as well. It is your intention that is important.

Incense sticks and cones work really well and don't produce as much smoke as loose incense. Do check the ingredients as some of them are stuffed full of chemicals.

If you can’t stand the smoke, then try with an oil burner or scented candles. You can also pop loose incense onto an oil burner, allowing the candle to just warm the mix without the smoke. If you can’t work with smoke or scent, then perform the same ritual but use salt or saltwater.

Here are some smokeless options:

Smokeless incense oven

This is just pure genius. Discovered on a recent trip to Glastonbury in the Fairyland Aromatics shop. Beautiful glass incense oven. You pop a tealight in the bottom, a small amount of sand in the top and sprinkle the loose incense in. The heat from the tealight warms the incense and releases the scent without the smoke. One was added to my collection…and I have used it regularly ever since. You can use the same process with an oil burner.

Oil burner

You are probably all familiar with the oil burner. A tealight goes underneath and essential oil in the top. The heat from the tealight warms the oil and releases the scent. The first time I used one, it burnt. Lesson learnt, I then added water in the top with the oil in. Although the water evaporates quite quickly too. Further experimentation and I now pop a bit of candle wax in the top and add the essential oil to that.

Wax melts

Used in the oil burner mentioned above. A lot less fuss and no worry about it burning! There are some lovely scented wax melts out there. Be wary of purchasing those with synthetic fragrance. They smell of chemicals and I am pretty sure they are full of them too, you don’t want to be inhaling that! Also some scents are harmful to pets.

Smokeless oil burner oven

A homemade version of the smokeless incense oven. Using an oil burner, pop your tealight at the bottom as usual. Then sprinkle a thin layer of sand in the top dish, pop loose incense on the top and et voila!

Scented spray

You can make your own cleansing and purifying mist by using a spray bottle filled with distilled water (boil the water in your kettle and let it cool) and adding a few drops of essential oil to it and popping a rosemary, sage or lavender sprig into the bottle.

Microwave incense

Let’s get techie…pop a heat proof bowl of water in your microwave, add a good dash of something like lemon juice and heat for a couple of minutes. It fills the room with a gorgeous scent. You can add lots of different ingredients, cinnamon and clove work well too. Just make sure you have plenty of water.

Simmering incense

Using the same principal as microwave incense, fill a saucepan with water and add your ingredients. Items such as cinnamon sticks and slices of citrus fruit work well. Simmer gently to fill the house with a lovely scent. More details can be found here


A piece of kit you will need to purchase, it has a water reservoir that you add a few drops of essential oil to, you plug it in and switch it on and vapour/mist is released into the air.

Scented candles

A good reliable option to get scent into a room. As with the wax melts, I would personally check to make sure the scents are natural.

Salt and Herbs

Salt or salt water or dried herbs can be sprinkled around rooms and into the corners (be careful with animals and children)


Whether you sing, bang a drum, shake a rattle or play heavy metal music at top volume. Sound vibrations are really good at clearing out negative energy.

Note: Please be careful when using any oils or scents, some of them can be toxic to your pets.


If you would like to watch a replay of my talk on this subject, click the link below:


Recent Posts

See All


2023 www - Logo.png
bottom of page