Smudging with a sage stick or other fragrant herbs is not a space clearing technique, and how it ever came to regarded as one is a complete mystery to me.
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 an effective space clearing technique.
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 temporarily 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 helpful for lifting 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.
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.
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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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?
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.
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.
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?
Hi Pamela – I have replied to your question here: Space clearing books
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.
I totally agree with you. It happened to me twice. Whatever was going fine in my life, got stuck and big catastrope. Just right after the smudging. And I repeated once more a couple of months ago. Just right after that, one of my dog got ill and died. I was making a research on this and found your article.
Hi Melissa – In my experience, smudging pulls the energy of a space down rather than uplifting it, but not in such a way that it would produce the type of disastrous results you have described. It simply isn’t that potent.
An indigenous culture of 1000’s of years old seemed to think smudging was useful. But if you have no desire to experience the benefits they speak of then I guess you might not have any use for smudging.
Space clearing is the art of clearing and revitalizing energies in buildings made of solid materials such as brick, stone and wood. It is NOT the art of clearing and revitalizing energies in teepees made of animal skins or dwellings that are moved from place to place according to the nomadic lifestyle of the occupants.
I am not aware of any written records from those times so it’s impossible to know for sure, but there is no evidence at all that Native Americans ever used smudging to clear energies in buildings. It was only used as a personal purification technique. Modern day New Agers have decided to adopt the technique for use in buildings and it simply isn’t effective for all the reasons I have explained in my article.
I think perhaps that the attraction of smudging is that it is promises a quick fix and requires no skill at all. Anyone can light a smudge stick and waft it around in the mistaken belief that it will bring about a permanent change of energies in a space. But I have spent over 40 years developing the ability to accurately read energies in building and in my experience, it does no such thing.
I find it interesting and unfortunate that no alternative methods are provided here.. Sage is certainly more high vibrational than the tone of this article.
I wrote this article to save people time and money using an ineffectual technique. How to conduct an effective space clearing ceremony is described in detail in my million-copy bestselling book, Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui.
Good evening Karen,
Your articles do have a strong note to them, without much flexibility, however, I can appreciate someone who is passionate and confident about what they do and believe.
I am having trouble understanding though as your article lists one of the topics as “Why smudging and space clearing don’t mix”, but then it just states, “It is not compatible with the ceremony and will actually drag the energies of a space down rather than lifting them up.” It sounds like this is a ceremony that you came up with in the past 40 years, but if I understand correctly space clearing has been going on for quite some time? So did you invent space clearing? Does smudging work, but just not with your ceremony? Additionally, you don’t ever actually explain why smudging doesn’t work you just say that it drags the energies down rather than lifting them up, why is that? What is it about smudging that brings energies down? I’ve seen smudging listed for cleaning a number of other things, so I would just like to understand the Why it works for those, but doesn’t work for clearing spaces.
I have no preference on how to clear a space, as I am just learning about much of this, so debunking fads is useful to me as I prefer to go with accurate over faddish. However, it seems like space clearing would be very similar to much of the other metaphysical topics where that it is often based on what feels right to the user. So wouldn’t clearing a space “correctly” be more based on the person utilizing the space and what felt right to them to adjust the energies? What if the person doesn’t like bells or the sound they make?
Thank you for the article and your time, just looking for more clarification!
Hi Ama – If my articles have a “strong note” to them, it’s because I’m recognized as the world’s leading authority on space clearing and my followers look to me to debunk all the New Age nonsense about this topic. I appreciate the sincerity of your questions so will do my best to reply to you. You’ll be able to find more in-depth information in the new space clearing book I am writing at the moment, which will have an entire section about space clearing myths such as smudging.
As a result of the success of my books, the term “space clearing” has now passed into the English language as a generic term for all kinds of energy clearing techniques. Some, it must be said, are utterly fanciful and ineffectual. Others have some substance to them. However, I have yet to come across any other system that is anywhere near as effective or so applicable to twenty-first century living.
A form of space clearing exists in every traditional culture in the world, but it is never a series of mechanical techniques applied in a random order according to how someone feels. The techniques are always very specific, done in a specific order and connected to a specific spiritual presence. They work very effectively for the people whose lives are immersed in those traditions but they really don’t translate well to other cultures or to our modern times. The space clearing ceremony I’ve pioneered and developed since 1978 is designed for our era and can be used by people of all cultural, ethnic and spiritual backgrounds.
Balinese space clearing bells are the most effective clearing method available to people that can be used without any prior training. Aromas do not bring about permanent change so are not a form of space clearing at all. As soon as the incense smoke disappears from the air, any uplifting effect is lost. And, in my experience, smudge sticks don’t even temporarily uplift a space. They actually have the opposite effect. The smell is on the same frequency of marijuana, so they pull the energy of a space down.
I hope this information is helpful.
How do you determine that a space has clear energy, or dragged down energy, or energy that needs clearing? Thanks
Energies in spaces can’t be scientifically measured, but most people can feel them to some degree and can distinguish between a clear space and one that has stagnant energy or is heavily imprinted. It generally feels uplifting to be in a clear space and uncomfortable, stifling or depressing to be in a space that needs clearing.
On a deeper level, etheric imprints determine the general feel of a place and astral imprints contain the precise history of what has happened there. One of the skills I have developed over the last 40+ years is the ability to read these types of energies in buildings very precisely with my hands. You can read more about hand sensing in this article and there will be a substantial section about it in the new space clearing book that Richard and I are writing at the moment, due for publication next year.
Hand sensing is not a psychic skill. It’s something that anyone can learn to do if they put enough work into building the specific subtle body structures that make it possible.