Smudging is a way to purify or cleanse a space or person spiritually using herbs or other materials. This method has traditionally been used by indigenous peoples from all over the world for thousands of years as part of their sacred traditions. In modern times, people in Western society have adopted smudging as part of their spiritual practices as well. The first thing which springs to mind with most people who are at least a little familiar with smudging is sage. Sometimes though, you may feel as though you would like to use something entirely different or add another substance to use in addition to sage, depending on your mood or intent/needs.
In Native American traditions, the three herbs which are used in smudging are sage, sweetgrass, and cedar. First things first, we can start with sage. It is often sold in bundles which you can light at the end and carry it around, or take apart and burn in some sort of heat resistant container. Once you get the sage lit, you will extinguish the flame by blowing on it or fanning it when the sage is glowing in order to wave the smoke around the area or person which you are smudging. If you let the sage burn for too long, the smoke can be a little overpowering. Experiment until you find the amount of smoke which you’re comfortable with.
Sweetgrass is typically sold in braids and can be used in a few different ways. You can either snip off the tips and light the end of the braid and carry it around to smudge, or you can snip some of the braid off and put it into a heat resistant container either alone or with other sacred herbs.
Cedar is sold in a few varieties and it is up to you how you would like to use it. It is sold in chips which can be placed in a heatproof container and either lit enough to smolder or placed in with other herbs which are already lit as a bed for the cedar to rest on. You can also purchase dried, green cedar tips which can be lit and allowed to smolder in a heatproof container either alone or with other herbs.
A few other herbs which come to mind for use in smudging are mugwort, juniper, and lavender which you can easily look up to learn the proper ways to use them and the specific uses for them. In addition to herbs, some people like to use the fragrant wood palo santo which is sold in small pieces and lit to smolder. It goes out relatively fast, but I have found that a little of this goes a long way for me. There are also a few resins which come to mind for smudging purposes. I’ll list the ones I’m most familiar with and leave it to you to look them up to see which ones seem like they’d be a good fit for you.
The main three resins which I’ve used in smudging are dragon’s blood, frankincense, and myrrh. Copal is another one which is pretty popular, but I haven’t used it. Resins are used differently than herbs or woods. A common way to use resin is to get some charcoal discs which are sold where you can buy incense. Place the charcoal disc on a heat safe plate, light it and let it burn until it starts to glow. Blow out the flame and fan the disc so that it glows well, then drop a few pieces of your resin into the center of the disc.
With all of the materials for smudging, you will want to be sure that you use something that you can safely carry around to allow the smoke to reach all of the areas which you wish to purify or cleanse and never leave burning materials unattended. Keep in mind that unlike incense which most of us in the Western world use for their scent, smudging materials aren’t always the most pleasing aromas. It is because they are being used for spiritual purposes rather than aesthetic reasons. Many of these substances smell very nice, but it is always good to know that it isn’t going to be the same as going to your local incense shop and picking up perfumy sticks which smell like flowers, musk, or fruit.