Why smudging is not a space clearing technique

Smudge stick for smudging

What is smudging?

Smudging is a purification practice that comes from indigenous American Indian traditions. It involves lighting a smudge stick made of dried herbs (usually sage or cedar) and wafting the smoke around. The aroma and the upward motion of smoke is believed to energetically cleanse a person or space. It’s inexpensive and anyone can do it. No special skill is required.

However, it is not a space clearing technique, and how it ever came to regarded as one is a complete mystery to me.

Why smudging doesn’t clear energies

When I first started developing space clearing back in the 1970s and 80s, I meticulously researched the effectiveness of hundreds of different types of joss sticks, resin incenses and smudge sticks. I discovered that some aromas can help to lift the energy of a space, and the best I found was a very pure resin incense called Basilica, made by the monks of Prinknash Abbey in England. It is particularly good for lifting the dense stagnant energies in a cluttered home to make it easier to do space clearing.

However, aromas of any kind do not bring about permanent change. As soon as the incense smoke disappears from the air, any uplifting effect is lost. The professional space clearing practitioners I train have never used smudge sticks and no longer use incense of any kind. There have been so many developments in my space clearing techniques over the last twenty years that incense is no longer needed.

Why smudging and space clearing don’t mix

If you add smudging to the space clearing ceremony I wrote about in my first book, Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, or the updated version of the ceremony in the new space clearing book I am writing at the moment, it will have the opposite effect to the one intended. It is not compatible with the ceremony and will actually drag the energies of a space down rather than lifting them up. I never burn smudge sticks in my own home or any other enclosed space.

Do smudge sticks have any use at all?

Well, not to me, they don’t, and certainly not for space clearing. But if you happen to like the smell and find it helpful to use them in other types of rituals, that’s entirely up to you.

Related article
Some facts about incense that you may not know

Other space clearing myths
Why singing bowls are not designed to do space clearing
Space clearing and salt

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Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2009, updated 2018


About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is the world's leading authority on space clearing and a leading expert in clutter clearing. Her first book, Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, has sold over one million copies in 16 languages, and her second book, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, has sold over two million copies in 26 languages.

8 Responses to Why smudging is not a space clearing technique

  1. Rebecca C says:

    Hello,
    You write that using a smudge stick will have the opposite effect on space clearing, that it will bring down the energy instead of lifting it up. Why would that be?
    Thank you.

    • It depends on the ingredients of the smudge stick that is used but the aroma of the common type (the ones that smell a lot like marijuana when burned) will pull an atmosphere down rather than uplift it. They create a lingering heaviness in the space, which is the exact opposite of the lightness and clarity that is the hallmark of a successful space clearing.

  2. glen s says:

    I have noticed a number of article that show sage reduces bacteria for a long time after smoke has disappeared. http://rhiannonskauaispirit.com/alchemy-magic-ceremony-priestess-goddess-kauai/smudging-with-sage-reduces-airborne-bacteria/ . My thinking is what happens in the physical world is also represented in the spiritual world on some way. These latest studies show bacteria reduced for a while and this would indicate smudging smoke would do this to. I think the smoke particals reduce bacteria by sticking to objects and walls and reduce bacteria and spiritual negative energies. I know that professionals in this area do not need smoke to clear things but was thinking the beginner could benefit from the practice of regular smudging to reduce harmful energies.

    • Hi Glen – If you re-read the article you’ve provided a link to, you’ll discover that the material used in the study was havan sámagri. I purchased a copy of the study and discovered it consisted of over 60 ingredients and did not include sage at all. A number of New Age websites have incorrectly cited this study as proof of the effectiveness of smudging with sage, and it is very misleading.

      It also does not follow that a substance that has antibacterial properties is necessarily an effective space clearing agent. The physical realm and the energetic level at which space clearing is done are very different.

  3. Pamela says:

    I just purchased your book on creating sacred space and I see you have stated how out dated it is. Are you saying the techniques are no longer of value?

  4. Many says:

    Sage has been proven to clear up 94 percent of toxins in the air of the space in which you burn it. Also, it is an anti bacterial and the smoke aids in brain lung and skin function. I’m confused as to how you could discredit such an amazing plant with an extensive list of physical benefits along with the spiritual ones. The main focus of sage is cleansing of the person, area and group. Please tell me why you discredit it?

    • I think you must be referring here to the study titled Medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria that was published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2007.

      The material used to produce the smoke in this experiment was havan sámagri, a mixture of aromatic wood and medicinal herbs that is widely used in rituals in India. The particular mixture used in the study consisted of over 60 ingredients and was found to reduce 94% of airborne bacteria in one particular room in a one-hour period. The study has since been hijacked by a number of New Age websites and incorrectly cited as evidence for the effectiveness of smudging with sage when in fact no sage was used at all.

      I also need to point out that space clearing is on an entirely different level to physical purifying so it would be wrong to assume that any substance that has physical antibacterial properties has any purifying properties at the energetic level too. So even if the study were about sage (which it wasn’t), this would not prove that burning sage is an effective space clearing method.

      I hope this clarifies this for you. Sage has many well-documented medicinal properties. That’s not in question. What I am saying is that burning sage is not an effective space clearing technique.

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