Let’s be real, the world today is totally screwed up. With all of the negativity and madness we’re constantly seeing, hearing, or reading about, we could all benefit from cleansing ourselves from bad energy and vibes every so often. That’s where the act of smudging comes into play.
While smudging rituals date back to ancient Native American culture, they have gained a lot of popularity lately. The ancient practice consists of burning a special bundle or stick—which can contain a number of different plants or herbs, depending on which properties appeal to you—and using its smoke to cleanse and protect yourself or the objects around you.
Even if you’re not already familiar with smudging, chances are you’ve seen bundles of sage and Palo Santo for sale and wondered what they are for and how to use them. Today, you can purchase these tools pretty much anywhere and everywhere—from small neighborhood shops to Etsy and CB2.
With that being said, we thought How fun would it be to make our own? We’re obviously always down for a little DIY action, and with the holiday season now in full swing, what could make a more perfectly thoughtful and unique holiday gift for friends and family?
We reached out to Ally Sands, the brains behind crystal-infused apothecary Aquarian Soul and smudger extraordinaire, to give us the lowdown on creating our own smudge sticks. In addition to her array of healing facial, body, and bath products, she also carries a variety of gorgeous floral smudging sticks and bundles, which are a far cry from common sage and Palo Santo. These colorful blends of dried flowers and herbs are as stunning as they are healing, and we couldn’t help but feel inspired to create our own.
Below, Sands shares with us her step-by-step guide to building beautiful smudge sticks. It’s easier than you think!
Swipe to page through gallery.
Click arrows or click & drag to page through gallery.
Gather your supplies First things first, you’ll need to gather all of your supplies. Below, Sands outlines the most common tools and plants you’ll need to create your smudge wand:
Sage (white sage is most common, but any type of sage you have growing near you, like black sage, desert sage, or even common culinary sage, can work in a pinch)
Sands recommends opting to only use plants that you grow yourself or that you can sustainably harvest. However, store-bought roses will work if that’s all you have, as the flowers serve more of a decorative purpose compared to the herbs.
The traditional elements of the smudge stick are the sage, cedar, and mugwort, with white sage being the most common. “It’s been used by Native Americans to clear the air of negative energies and prepare for ritual for centuries,” says Sands. “However, it’s becoming more and more scarce as irresponsible wildcrafters pillage white sage without picking properly. If you must use wildcrafted sage, pick only the tops of healthy, mature plants and never ever uproot the plant or take more than two pieces per plant.”
Mugwort serves as a protective aid and will improve sleep and dreams, making it a great choice during a ritual. While cedar is equally protective, it’s also fragrant and grows in abundance. That being said, Sands recommends using it as the “backbone” of your bundle.
Lavender and roses are optional, but they sure make your bundle a lot more beautiful. Lavender also contains calming, sedative properties, which will help relax you during your ritual.
Begin building your bundle As you get started, cut your piece of sturdy string, embroidery thread, or twine. Sands says to cut a piece a bit longer than you think you’ll need. For the above, she used about five feet. Fold the string in half, and set aside.
Next, you’ll begin to build your bundle by layering all of your elements together, starting with cedar. Over the cedar, place larger pieces of sage (as a base), gradually adding smaller pieces on top and down the length of the bundle. “You can position the roses and lavender any way you find pleasing to the eye,” she says. “It may difficult at first to hold everything together, so you can add one rose at a time, moving downward as you tie the bundle.”
Tie it all together To begin tying it all together, place the string with the center point directly under the bundle, about an inch or so from the top. With one hand holding the bundle tightly, use your other hand to cross the string from one side to the other, and then from the opposite side across. Then, flip over and repeat the same cross on the back. “You’re basically forming an X with the string,” says Sands. “Pull it tight enough to be taut, but don’t pull so hard that you’ll rip through the roses.”
Continue this until you get down to the last two inches, where the ends are mainly stem. Take one string and wrap it tightly in one direction, and do the same with the other until both ends meet in the back. Tie them securely, cut off the loose ends and excess stems, and voila—you are done!
However, you’ll need to leave the bundle to dry for about a week or so before use. Sands recommends doing so in a dry, cool place, preferably upside down. “You can use a cooling rack or an herb rack if you have one,” she says.
Start smudging! Once you’ve let your smudge stick dry out, it’s ready to be burned.
So, when and why should someone smudge? “Smudging can be done for a variety of reasons, whether you just want to smudge yourself to cleanse and protect from having a bad day, to smudge away negative energies from objects—especially thrifted clothes—when moving into a new home, to cleanse your crystals, or to prepare for a ritual or meditation,” says Sands. “I like to smudge before reading tarot cards, after really negative arguments, after buying brand-new crystals, or before spellwork. It not only cleanses the air of negative energies, but it sets a protective space for you to work in.”
While a ritual or ceremony may seem like a big ordeal, it’s actually quite simple. All you’ll need is your new smudge stick, matches, and an intention. With a clear mind and your intention as your main focus, light the top of your smudge stick and quickly blow out the flames. “Let the smoke first pass over your body, and then move onto your objects and environment around you,” says Sands.
“You may ask the spirits to protect you and your space,” says Sands. "The smoke connects us with the spirit realm and allows us to extract negative energies from ourselves and the space around us. It’s a sacred ritual, which can help us feel a connection to both the earth and the mystical realm that exists all around us in nature.”