Why smudging is not a space clearing technique

Smudg stick

Smudging is a purification practice that comes from indigenous American Indian traditions. It involves lighting a stick of dried herbs (usually sage or cedar) and wafting the smoke around. It’s inexpensive and anyone can do it.

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

Smudging does not clear energies, and if you add it into the space clearing ceremony I describe in my book, as I hear from some people that they do, then 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 revitalizing or lifting them up. Some types of smudge sticks can also leave a lingering smell that is very similar to marijuana, which can have an even more detrimental effect. I never burn smudge sticks in my own home or any other enclosed space.

In very cluttered homes, I do sometimes recommend the use of Basilica incense as a preparatory step to help lift the energies before space clearing. But this is also not a space clearing technique. After testing over a thousand different types of incense many years ago, I discovered that this particular blend of Eastern gums has the most compatibility with the space clearing ceremony I have developed, but using it does not permanently change anything in a space. As soon as the smoke disappears from the air, the effect is lost.

So 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, then 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 2017

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. Natalie says:

    I never liked smudging, personally. I tried it once but if you don’t have good airflow it leaves a funky, stale odor in a room. My dad loves sage but I prefer to burn it outside or near an open window or not at all. It also tends to have a heavy smoke.

    Some people like sage but I am not a fan of burning it indoors. For me it seemed to make the energy worse! It left a very heavy, stagnant feeling in the room and I am not sure why. Maybe it’s just me! I am guessing to there may be a “correct” way to use sage and most people (like me!) probably don’t know how to use it properly!

    I like the smell of sage a lot better when it’s cut fresh. It also goes great in my butternut squash ravioli recipe! I sprinkle fresh sage on a creamy walnut-cheese sauce atop the pasta..Mmmm…So far this is the best use of sage I have found!

    Sage improves the energy of my sauce but I think I will have to agree that it’s useless for space clearing! LOL! I personally am bothered by many scents so I have to be careful with most incense. I am glad that I never tried to use sage for Space Clearing. I don’t think it would have given me the result I was looking for! Hahaha!

    Thanks for the details on the subject though. Feeling the way I do about sage, I found the article amusing.

    • Kimberly K. says:

      Hi–Karen, your work is cutting edge and changed my life–I find myself referring back to your books again and again–I have tried cleansing negative energies with sage incense in one form or another, and in each case an occupant moved–once, it was me who ended up moving after a particularly thorough cleansing. I don’t use sage to help disperse energies anymore. I do set an intent to clear the space when using Nag Champa temple incense–it seems to work just fine. Odd! I have more to learn about this topic and I thank you again for your contribution to this field.

  2. Jennifer says:

    Actually, I do like sage but not for space-clearing. I think it’s a great help in creative work – painting or writing. I don’t use a smudge stick, because I just think that’s a Native American technology, and I don’t have the in-depth knowledge of what I might be connecting to. I burn sage on a charcoal block with a little Basilica incense but not, definitely not, as a part of my regular space-clearing. I do it separately, after space-clearing or at a totally different time, whilst getting ready to create.

  3. Anita Rosenberg says:

    I completely agree and have to go over this every time I am brought in for Feng Shui. Thanks, Karen, for posting this piece.

  4. Virginia says:

    I recently conducted your space clearing technique and used a sage smudge stick. Everyone in the house was agitated and angry for about a week afterwards, even though I decluttered the house. I thought it was just all the negative energies being released, however, now I understand that was not the case at all! I will not do that again. Thank you for this article.

  5. Astrid says:

    We decided on doing a space clearing today. Have not done this for 5 years! Last night I lay awake (for a while) and thought about it. It occupies my thoughts: We should not use smudge or something similar during the space clearing. But in the catholic tradition it has been done for over 1000 years: at least two times a year (at Christmas, and then again at Easter) you use incense to clean and make “holier”. Usually at (or shortly after) Christmas it is being done with the rooms (all the rooms of the house) and then at Easter it is done with the people and the food. Even people who are scarcely religious have the first part done by children who come to the houses (representing the three holy kings and collecting money for the needy) each year.

    And I always felt I needed to include burning olibanum in the space clearing. Still pondering about it … is it just because one should not mix schools that you advise against it? Do you advise against all forms of incense, or just against sage and ceder as in the typical smudge-mixture? (Btw: Some friends of mine from an indian-american tradition say they have been taught smudge should not be used for clearing residual energy that is older than 24 hours as it just works for very recent events or energies. But I wouldn’t know, I am more interested in the question of using olibanum)

    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

    • In my book, Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui, I explain that incense is used in most of the major religions of the world because it is a quick, easy way of raising the vibrational level of a place. However it is not a space clearing technique because as soon as the aroma dissipates, the effect is lost.

      The only reason I recommend using Basilica incense as part of the space clearing ceremony I have developed is because this particular incense is compatible with the ceremony, and can temporarily help to lift a very dense or cluttered space, making it easier to do all the circuits of the space clearing ceremony using bells, clapping, etc. Basilica consists of a blend of oils and three different gums, the main one being a type of frankincense called Gum Olibanum.

      I was interested to read about the comment your friends made that smudging does not clear residual energy that is older than 24 hours. This is quite close to my own experience that it does not clear energies that have become imprinted, which is why I say it cannot rightly be called a space clearing technique. However I don’t agree at all that there can be a magical 24-hour time window, because this takes no account of the degree of imprinting. Traumatic events can happen in an instant, and they imprint very deeply.

  6. Astrid says:

    Addendum: I am talking about the olibanum that is called Weihrauch in German. Am now even more puzzled as the word (olibanum) seems to have several meanings.

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