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Smudging with herbs step by step - from collecting, effects, binding smudge bundles to smudging in rituals

Do you want to start smoking herbs? Here you will get the basics to try out smudging and experience its healing effect.

from Martin Gebhardt | Wilderness education | no comment yet | reading time 13 Min
Updated on 09 November 2023 6.114 views 100% found this guide helpful
Smudging with herbs step by step - from collecting, effects, binding smudge bundles to smudging in rituals

Martin Gebhardt

From Martin Gebhardt. Check out my “About me” page.


👉 The key facts from this guide

  • You can discover smoking as an ancient spiritual practice that gives you inner peace and balance.
  • Smoking rituals are a way to connect with nature and release negative energies.
  • There are many smoking herbs with different effects - from relaxing to meditative.
  • Smoking is simple: ignite incense in a bowl, let the fragrance take effect.
  • Create your own smoking ritual, e.g., for cleansing or meditation.
  • Give it a try - smoking can enrich your life and give you moments of tranquility.

Do you know the feeling when everything around you becomes too hectic? The stress of everyday life sometimes gets too much for us.

We all look for an escape, a way to calm ourselves and restore balance.

For me, smudging was one of those saving anchors.

Smudging as an ancient practice that helped me find my inner peace again.

I would like to share my journey with you, how I gained an entirely new perspective on the world and myself through smudging.

Welcome to my guide: How to start smudging!

Introduction and my journey to smudging

I'm a nature lover through and through. But there was a time in my life when I felt overwhelmed by the stress of everyday life.

There I was looking for something that could help me reconnect with myself and nature. And also something that I can do at home.

Just as the sage dances in the fire, may our thoughts come to rest and cleanse in the circle of smoke.
Just as the sage dances in the fire, may our thoughts come to rest and cleanse in the circle of smoke.

Then I discovered smudging, an ancient ritual practiced by many cultures around the globe.

I mainly used it as a purification ritual, but the possibilities are as varied as the scents released by smudging.

Healing, meditation, spiritual connection – smudging has many facets and I want to take you on a journey to your very own smudging experience.

The Essence of Smudging: More than just smoke - What is smudging?

Smudging is an ancient spiritual practice where herbs, resins, or woods are burned. The rising smoke is believed to have cleansing and healing effects on the body, mind, and soul.

When we stand in the circle of life, smudging brings clarity to our center and peace to our hearts.
When we stand in the circle of life, smudging brings clarity to our center and peace to our hearts.

Smudging is essentially the burning of incense to produce a scent. Sounds simple at first, doesn't it? But it goes so much deeper.

Incense can be made from various materials, including:

  • Herbs
  • Woods
  • Resins
  • Oils

And every scent has its characteristics and effects - whether relaxing, invigorating, or spiritual.

Where was smoked everywhere in the past?

In many cultures, smudging is an important part of spiritual life. Here is a list of practices from different times and places:

  • For example, it is used by the Native Americans for ceremonies and rituals
  • Even in the Bible, there are references to the use of incense and frankincense
  • Our German ancestors used smudging as a means of purification, healing, and spiritual connection
  • In the Stone Age, incense ceremonies and rituals were already held on altars.
  • The Celts had household altars where offerings were made and incense burned. Large fireplaces in the center of settlements served for ritual incenses.
  • Egyptians and Mesopotamians sent messages to the gods with fragrant smoke. Incense vessels and resins were tomb offerings for pharaohs.
  • In Ancient Greece, incense was used for medicinal purposes.
  • Romans consumed large amounts of incense in honor of the gods and during sacrificial ceremonies.
  • In the Orient, particularly among the Arabs, a sophisticated fragrance and smudging culture developed.
  • In the Ore Mountains, miners made incense cones and took them into the mines.

The circle is a symbol of eternity, and when we smoke sage in it, we connect with the timeless pulse of nature.

Why was smoked?

Smudging is a practice with a long tradition and diverse applications:

  • Cleansing and Disinfection: Smudging served as atmospheric purification and germ killing in living spaces and houses.
  • Pest Control: Smudging was used to contain diseases like the plague.
  • Offerings: Precious resins like frankincense were used as gifts to appease or petition gods.
  • Perfuming: Incense was used to scent clothes and bodies and enhance sensuality.
  • Ceremonies: Smudging ceremonies took place at weddings, baptisms, seasonal changes, and to welcome or say goodbye to guests.
  • Meditation: Incense helped amplify spiritual energies during meditation.
  • Healing Art: In smoke healing, healers used incense to influence the body and mind.

I’ll introduce you to various rituals in detail further below.

Also read

33 Tips for More Connection with Nature - How to Strengthen Your Connection with Nature - Are you longing for more connectedness with nature? Here you will find 33 specific exercises and ideas that you can use to strengthen your connection simply with nature.

How to smoke? - Smudging operations: Step-by-step instructions

You are probably wondering how to start smudging.

It's simpler than you might think.

You need:

  • the incense
  • an incense burner
  • a way to ignite the incense
The smudging of sage in a circle is a dance with the elements, a dialogue with the spirit of the plant and a celebration of life.
The smudging of sage in a circle is a dance with the elements, a dialogue with the spirit of the plant and a celebration of life.

Imagine you have your own little haven, a place where you can say "Goodbye!" to the daily grind. That could be your home or even a seating area in nature.

This is no place for hurry or stress – just you and your smudging ritual.

Before smudging:

  • Get comfortable, find a quiet spot where you can have some tranquility.
  • Lay out all your smudging treasures beforehand where you need them.

Start and time during smudging:

  • Place a small amount of incense in the burner and light it with a lighter or match.
  • Let the incense burn until it is finished or you no longer wish to have smoke.
  • Play with the scents, but don't suffocate in them - a hint is enough.
  • Let fresh air in while smudging - a slightly opened window is your friend.

During this process, the fragrance will be released that can transport you to another world.

That's all there is to it. 🙌

Accessories for smudging

You can indeed get all sorts of equipment here. Incense cones, incense spirals, incense sticks, incense sand, incense pots, frankincense spoons, mortars, or charcoal.

But I invite you to keep it as simple as possible.

A larger shell from a lake is enough as an incense burner.

Through the smudging of herbs, we open a window to the soul of nature and breathe in its essence.
Through the smudging of herbs, we open a window to the soul of nature and breathe in its essence.

Maybe you also look for a feather. Dove feathers can actually be found everywhere in Germany.

A feather was often used by the indigenous tribes of North America. With a gentle waft of the feather, you breathe life into your incense. Suddenly, it lights up, alive from the oxygen.

Smudging herbs is like music for the senses – an invisible melody that soothes the mind and warms the heart.
Smudging herbs is like music for the senses – an invisible melody that soothes the mind and warms the heart.

And you know what? The magic of the feather doesn't end here.

It is also your tool for directing the smoke – around you, around friends, into every corner of your house (cleansing or protection smudging).

Selection of Smudging Herbs: Which Scent for What Mood?

Now we come to the exciting part: the selection of herbs.

There are countless herbs you can use for smudging.

Sage, lavender, frankincense, sandalwood - just to name a few.

Below the picture, you see smudge bundles, also called Smudge Sticks.

Various smudge bundles, also known as Smudge Sticks
Various smudge bundles, also known as Smudge Sticks

The choice depends on what effect you're looking to achieve.

Do you want to relax? Revitalize? Or are you seeking a spiritual experience? All of this can be influenced by your choice of incense.

Burning the herbs tells an ancient story – one of healing, cleansing, and new beginnings.
Burning the herbs tells an ancient story – one of healing, cleansing, and new beginnings.

Here is a table for an overview of the smudging herbs and their effects:

Herbs Effect
Lavender relaxing, soothing
Rosemary invigorating, concentration promoting
Sage cleansing, clarifying
Sandalwood spiritual, meditative
Myrrh spiritual, meditative
Juniper cleansing, energizing
Cinnamon stimulating, warming
Peppermint invigorating, refreshing
Chamomile soothing, balancing
Eucalyptus clarifying, liberating

The Sage - a very special herb for smudging

Imagine immersing yourself in the world of incense deeply rooted in the traditions of shamans and indigenous peoples, such as the Chumash.

These plant powers are more than just fragrance donors – they are keepers of purity. The sage comes in the noblest bundles, called Smudge Sticks, which are just waiting to unleash their power.

Smudging is a bridge between the worlds, carried by the scent of the herbs that connect us with the divine.
Smudging is a bridge between the worlds, carried by the scent of the herbs that connect us with the divine.

On the sunny coast of Southern California thrives a sage that is different from the common garden sage – the "White Sage".

Its effect? Clarifying and protective.

Did you know?

  • During ceremonies, especially in the summer, indigenous peoples like the Chumash chewed the white sage to quench their thirst.
  • It keeps negative energies away, so the teachings go.
  • In sweat lodge, healing, and cleansing ceremonies, the sacred plant is used
  • But beware: During the moon time (menstruation), "White Sage" should be avoided.

The legend of "White Sage": A girl, poor in possessions but rich in faith, transformed ordinary herb into silvery splendor with her pure heart. Through the girl's pure strong faith, the brown herb on the altar took on a beautiful, silvery color.

Fragrance & Effect: "White Sage" has a clear and strong aroma, slightly sweet and pure - it wards off negative forces and has a purifying effect.

salbei fuer raeuchern

Intense Rituals: Smudging as a Transformative Practice

Ritual sounds so formal, doesn't it?

But every act of smudging can be considered a ritual.

It's about more than just fragrant clouds of smoke. It's about intention, focus, and the deep connection between you and the world around you.

Here are some examples of how smudging can be integrated into various activities:

1. Cleansing Ritual

Smudging can be used to cleanse a room, an object, or even a person.

It is about removing negative energies and making room for something positive.

For example, after a stressful day, I can light an incense stick with sage to create a soothing atmosphere and clear my mind.

Each puff of smoke is a breath of the earth, filled with the wisdom of the plants.

And exactly this cleansing ritual is what I first learned about in my training and seminars. We sat in a circle and the smudging bowl went around. Everyone "washed" themselves with the smoke: around the head, into the face, around the arms, around the legs, and around the body.

I’ll show you in detail how a cleansing ritual can be done later on.

Smudging herbs is an act of gratitude – a celebration of life and its natural healing powers.
Smudging herbs is an act of gratitude – a celebration of life and its natural healing powers.

2. Healing Ritual

Healing can happen on many levels, and smudging can be a great tool for that.

It can help to heal or harmonize the energy in your body, and can also be used to support the healing process for physical ailments.

I find that lavender is especially helpful when I feel stressed or anxious.

Smudging herbs is the oldest alchemy, transforming plant power into sacred smoke.
Smudging herbs is the oldest alchemy, transforming plant power into sacred smoke.

3. Meditation Ritual

When we think of meditation, we often think of serene, clear states of mind. But how does one get there?

The aromatic qualities of certain herbs can help create a suitable atmosphere for meditation. Sandalwood, for example, is known for its calming, concentration-promoting properties.

The tradition of smudging is a silent prayer, an aromatic devotion to the mysteries of nature and its immeasurable gifts.
The tradition of smudging is a silent prayer, an aromatic devotion to the mysteries of nature and its immeasurable gifts.

4. Spiritual Ritual

Here we can dig deeper. It's about extended connections - with the self, with others, with the divine perhaps?

With smudging, you can pave the way to deep spiritual experiences.

Resins like frankincense and myrrh have been known for their sacred uses for thousands of years and can help you establish a spiritual connection.

raeuchern myrrhe weihrauch

5. Connection to the Ancestors

We all come from a long line of people.

Smudging can be a way to feel and honor this connection.

In many cultures, incense is used to pay tribute to the ancestors, to show respect, or just to say thank you.

With every spark that rises from the smudging herbs, we unleash a chain of healings that transform us and our surroundings.
With every spark that rises from the smudging herbs, we unleash a chain of healings that transform us and our surroundings.

6. Connection with the Wisdom of the Earth

Use this moment as a chance to ground yourself and honor the deep connections of life.

  • As the smoke rises, envision each thread of smoke as a breath of the earth – a message from the plants full of ancient wisdom.
  • Let the scent envelop you and be open to the memories it evokes – an echo of a time when humans and nature were one.
  • Breathe deeply and feel how the smoke connects you with the energy of the plants. Close your eyes, and thank nature for its gifts.

Also read

Connectedness with Nature Isn't Just Important – It's Hugely Important! The Power of Nature Connection – Connection to nature is the feeling of intense connectedness with the natural world. When we spend time in nature, we can immediately experience this feeling.

Your Ritual

Rituals are often deeply personal. The examples listed above are suggestions, starting points.

Smudging is a gift you give to yourself.

So, take the time to create your own personal, unique ritual.

Every time you smoke, you do something for yourself - for your soul, certainty, and clarity.

For your healing and your connection to the universe.

Step-by-Step Guide for Smudge Sticks: Making Your Own Smudging Bundle

Smudge sticks (also known as Smudge Sticks) are a wonderful way to burn various herbs simultaneously and create a harmonious blend of scents.

Here I show you how to make your own smudge bundle.

Materials

You will need:

  • Various dried herbs and flowers (e.g., sage, lavender, rose petals)
  • Organic cotton string
  • A pair of scissors

Step 1: Choose Herbs

Select the herbs and flowers you want to use for your bundle. Think about what you would like to achieve with the smudge stick.

Do you want peace and relaxation? Then lavender is a good choice.

Do you want to drive away negative energies? Then take sage.

You can also combine different herbs and flowers to get a very individual blend.

I chose sage:

raeucherbuendel selbst herstellen schritt 1 kraeuter auswaehlen salbei

Step 2: Prepare Bundle

Take a handful of your chosen herbs and arrange them into a bundle. Make sure the stems are all pointing in the same direction.

raeucherbuendel selbst herstellen schritt 2 kraeuter buendeln

Step 3: Tie Bundle at the Bottom

Take your cotton string and start by tying the bundle firmly together at the bottom.

raeucherbuendel selbst herstellen schritt 3 knoten unten machen

Step 4: Wrap from Bottom to Top

Make sure all the herbs are well secured and nothing falls out.

When you have reached the end of the bundle, wrap the string a few times around the top part and then lead it back down.

raeucherbuendel selbst herstellen schritt 4 buendel umwickeln

Step 5: Tie a Knot

When you have come to the lower end of the bundle, make a secure knot.

Ensure that the bundle is wrapped tightly enough that nothing can fall out, but also not too tight, as the air may not be able to circulate and the bundle might not burn properly.

raeucherbuendel selbst herstellen schritt 5 unten wieder zuknoten

Step 6: Let Dry

Let your smudging bundle dry in a dry, well-ventilated place for at least one week. The drier the herbs, the better they will burn.

raeucherbuendel selbst herstellen schritt 6 trocknen lassen

Step 7: Smoke

Your Smudge Stick is now ready to use.

Simply light the top end of the bundle, let it burn for a few seconds and then blow it out so that it smolders slowly and releases the aromatic smoke.

martin gebhardt beim raeuchern 1

Tip: I also like to use natural materials for binding, such as nettle fibers, lime bast or hemp bast.

Below and above the picture you see hemp bast, which I have used.

raeucherbuendel smudge sticks mit hanfschnur zusammengebunden

Congratulations! You have created your own smudging bundle!

You can use it for your rituals or give it as a gift to someone who also appreciates the soothing properties of smudging.

Happy smudging!

Guide: How to Perform a Cleansing Ritual with Smudging

What you need:

  • A smudge bundle (e.g., White Sage)
  • A lighter or matches
  • A fireproof dish or abalone shell

Execution:

  1. Light the smudge bundle:Hold the smudge bundle at one end and light the other end. Let it burn for a few seconds and then carefully blow out the flame so that the bundle begins to smolder and produce smoke.

  2. Set a clear intention:Before beginning, take a moment to set your intention for the smudging. You could say: "I cleanse my home of all negative energies."

  3. Walk through your home:Start at the door and move clockwise through each room. Gently swing the smudge bundle or use a feather to fan, so the smoke reaches all corners and everywhere. Especially in dark corners and behind doors.

  4. Express wishes:While smudging, you can express wishes or prayers. For example: "May this space be filled with love and joy."

  5. After the purification:Once you have attended to each room, allow the smudge stick to burn out in the fireproof dish. Make sure it's safely extinguished.

  6. Aerate:Open the windows to let in fresh air and circulate the cleansed energy.

10 Examples for Setting a Clear Intention:

  1. "I open my home to new happiness and positive changes."
  2. "I let go of what no longer contributes to my well-being."
  3. "I free my home from any stress and worries."
  4. "I make space for healing and inner peace."
  5. "I protect these spaces from negative influences."
  6. "I invite peace and harmony into every room."
  7. "I strengthen the love and laughter in my home."
  8. "I create an oasis of creativity and inspiration."
  9. "I cleanse the air of anything that could harm my family."
  10. "I renew the energy in every corner for a healthy life."

10 Examples for Expressing Wishes During Smudging:

  1. "May everyone who enters here be surrounded by peace."
  2. "Let this house be a safe haven for all who dwell here."
  3. "Fill this room with clarity and vision for the future."
  4. "Here shall joy dwell and drive away all sadness."
  5. "May health and well-being thrive within these walls."
  6. "I wish for every dispute and dissonance to dissolve."
  7. "Let us find true friendship and support in this home."
  8. "Here shall abundance reign and want to have no home."
  9. "I wish for these rooms to be vibrant with creativity and play."
  10. "May silence and meditation ready this space for inner reflection."

Important:Always focus on safety. Never leave the smudge stick unattended and make sure it is completely extinguished before putting it away.

A Song for Smudging

I enjoy singing a song for smudging, whether in a group in a circle or alone. It tunes me pleasantly to the smudging ritual. With children, I often sing the German version.

English lyrics:

"Fire and smoke, sage and cedar, sweet grass, tobacco, too."
"Fire and smoke, sage and cedar, we bless and honor you."

The German lyrics:

"Feuer und Rauch, Salbei und Zeder, Süßgras, Tabak dazu."
"Feuer und Rauch, Salbei und Zeder, ein Teil vom Kreis bist du.“

Smudging - A Look into the Past in Germany

Our ancestors in Germany placed great importance on smudging.

For them, it was more than just a method to generate fragrances.

Smudging was an essential part of their lives and had both practical and spiritual meanings.

1. Cleansing rituals of our ancestors

Just as we do today, our ancestors used smudging as a cleansing ritual. They believed that smoke would drive away negative energies and make room for the positive.

Typically, rooms, houses, or even entire villages were smoked to provide protection from evil spirits and dispel diseases.

Smudging is the whisper of the herbs, connecting our souls with the silence of the woods.
Smudging is the whisper of the herbs, connecting our souls with the silence of the woods.

2. Healing effect of our ancestors

Not only the smoke but also the smoked materials had a healing effect.

The use of special herbs and plants in smudging could be used to treat physical and emotional ailments.

Many of the herbs we use today, such as sage, lavender, or chamomile, were already valued by our ancestors for their healing properties.

The scent of smudging herbs is an echo from bygone times, reminding us how closely we are interwoven with nature.
The scent of smudging herbs is an echo from bygone times, reminding us how closely we are interwoven with nature.

3. Spiritual significance of our ancestors in Germany

Smudging also had a spiritual dimension. Our ancestors believed that through smudging, they could establish a connection with celestial powers.

Especially during the Rauhnächte, the twelve nights between Christmas and Epiphany Day, intensive smudging was carried out to drive away the dark forces of winter and welcome the new year.

The art of smudging is a dialogue with nature, in which each herb speaks its own language and shares its stories.
The art of smudging is a dialogue with nature, in which each herb speaks its own language and shares its stories.

Thus, smudging has played a defining role in the history of Germany.

It was a means of cleansing, healing, and spiritual connection - just like it still is for many of us today.

Though we are now on the move with smartphones and electric cars, smudging still allows us to keep the traditions of our ancestors alive.

When I smoke sage or lavender, I feel connected to my ancestors across the centuries.

Smudging is an Art That Brings Harmony and Joy

It's about self-exploration and connecting with nature, yourself, your ancestors, and the universe.

When choosing herbs, you learn about yourself. It's a personal journey.

Smudging is also relaxation, a way to leave the daily life behind for a moment.

It’s like a new chapter that begins with a cup of tea and curiosity.

Smudging can be a moment of tranquility in today's world, a step towards inner peace. Now is your time to start.

It's time to smoke.

Take care, Martin
Martin Gebhardt

Author of the guide


Martin Gebhardt

Hey, I'm Martin. On my blog, you will learn the basics and numerous details about living in the wild. I think survival, bushcraft and the good life in nature are the keys to happiness. Find me here on Instagram or on YouTube. You can find more about my mission on the About Me page.

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Free 35 Survival Hacks you'll love!

You will get 35 easy-to-implement survival hacks so that you don't have to stand aimlessly in the forest from tomorrow when things get tough. Take your skills to the next level!

DOWNLOAD HERE FOR FREE