The practice of using sage to purify a space prior to ritual dates back to antiquity. The Native Americans, Druids, Middle Easterners, the Christian Church, and ancient Peruvians all utilized the smoke of sage, incense, or palo santo sticks to clear energy prior to ceremony and these traditions are still practiced today. Two of the precious gifts that the three wise men (also known as sages) are said to have brought with them on their journey to the manger were resins used for incense – frankincense and myrrh.
The Latin name for the sage plant is Salvia the translation of which is “to feel well and healthy”. Sage is used in herbal remedies for healing many common ailments – sore throat, cough, and headaches to name a few. White sage or sweetgrass sage are most typically used in smudging, but the sage you have growing in your herb garden will work just as well as long as it is dried. You may choose to burn a sage bundle or you can burn loose pieces in a cauldron or other heatproof vessel. Remember to burn safely and never leave unattended!
Another magical aspect about sage is that while we are using it for cleansing it represents all of the five elements: fire, air, water, earth, and spirit. We use fire to light the sage; the smoke represents the element of air and it purifies our thoughts as the smoke rises; the plant needs water to grow and thrive as do we; sage grows in the earth and it helps to ground while we smudge; and through this ritual we connect with Spirit – within ourselves and the Universal energies.
So why sage? What is the purpose? Just as you take a bath or shower to cleanse your physical body, the energy of your body, home, and environment also benefits from purification. Instead of using the words “negative energy,” I prefer to approach smudging from the point of view of releasing any unwanted, unhelpful, heavy energy from yourself or your space. When you have experienced a stressful or challenging day, your energy at feel drained, anxious, or depressed. By taking some time to sage yourself, you transmute the lower energies and make room for your higher vibration to return to its natural state.
How to smudge with sage or palo santo: You can make your smudging ritual as elaborate or as simple as you like, whatever feels right to you is the most advantageous way to proceed. As with all aspects of magic, your intention and mindset are what matter the most. So set your intention to one of clearing your space or body for your highest and greatest good. Light your sage or palo santo and allow the smoke to waft gently around your body. Feel your energy rising as the smoke rises. When smudging a space, remember to let the smoke travel to corners and darks spaces where lower energies may reside. Recite a mantra as you go, this can be anything that resonates with you. One I often use is “may this space be cleared of all that no longer serves my highest self.” If this practice is new to you it may feel strange at first, but see how you feel after you have given this time and care to yourself and your home.