Smudging & Ritual Incense Use

Tradition behind smudging
Many ancient cultures believe in using incense in a ritualistic manner in order to spiritually cleanse a person, place or thing. The concept is simple. An incense-like substance is blessed and burned. The resulting smoke is also blessed and acts as a physical representation of divinity; driving out negativity (evil) where ever it goes. Perhaps the best-known example of this is Native American smudge sticks in which Sage, Cedar or Copal (substances sacred to these cultures) is combined or used on it’s own as incense. Taoist, Buddhist, Catholic and many other religious cultures use the same basic concept of burning incense to drive out negativity and anchor divine energy. This process is known as “smudging”.

Smudging is a simple yet very powerful spiritual practice. There is really no right or wrong way to perform a smudging ceremony (detailed later) but rather it is the INTENT of the person performing the ceremony that matters most. If the intent is pure and good and the mind is focused and clear and the ego is removed to allow for divine intervention then the elements of divinity will follow your lead and bless your intentions. Don’t pre-occupy yourself with whether you are doing something right or wrong, simply follow your instinct and exist in the moment. Smudging is really a ritualistic prayer with the smoke as a representation of divinity (God) so there’s nothing you can do that’s wrong aside from perhaps setting something on fire if you’re not careful with the incense. In fact, one doesn’t even have to use incense, a lit candle, a feather or even your hand will do just as well, though may not be as fragrant. The focus is on the intentions, not the actions.

There are basically 3 steps to a simple smudging ceremony, just as in any prayer.

Invocation – Ths is a grounding and connection to God or divine energy and calling forth the presence of divinity; an opening prayer.
Blessing – This is the act of blessing the object, person or area to be smudged or cleansed.
Closing – This is a closing prayer to thank divinity or God for blessing you and your subject.

We will run through a basic cleansing ceremony for a house and then give a brief description of how the same ceremony may be used for an object or a person.

The Invocation:
Take a moment to clear your mind of whatever may be running through your head. Your mind should be quiet and focusing. A common visualization to help with this is to stand up straight but relaxed, close your eyes and imagine the divine light of God emanating from within you and clearing out any negativity and spreading peace and relaxation throughout your body.

A standard invocation often used is a either the Lords Prayer or perhaps the Light Invocation by Dael Walker:

I invoke the light of God within.
I am a clear and perfect channel.
The light is my guide.

As you say your invocation prayer picture in your mind’s eye the light of God spreading from your soul (inside your body) and growing in intensity as it envelops you and your smudging tool. You may want to repeat your prayer 3 times to help build the visualization and focus your mind on the task at hand. Remember to exude peace and serenity from your being.

If you are using a standard smudge stick light the stick now and let it burn for a minute. Blow it out and as you do imagine the divine light of God flowing from your breath into the smudging instrument and thereby sanctifying it. Imagine the smoke as a physical representation of the divine light of God, cleansing everything it touches and driving out negativity. You may have to blow on the smudge stick for a few minutes to really get it smoldering. A good smudge stick is actually hard to keep going, you often have to stop and blow on it to keep smoke flowing. If it goes out just stop for a moment and re-light it.

If you are using a candle or standard incense stick, light the candle and bless it with the holy symbol of your faith or simply mentally infuse it with divine energy. A feather or your hand can simply be held in front of you or to your side as you visualize charging it with divine white light. Some people prefer to use a feather in conjunction with a smudge stick or incense wand so that you may fan the smoke and thereby direct it to the desired location and at the same time, stoke the burning embers. Essentially, it doesn’t matter what you use, it’s simply a focusing tool. You can put a colander on your head and use a kitchen spoon and it will accomplish the same thing as long as your intent is focused and you have faith and believe in what you are doing.

The Blessing:
It’s very important to remove ego from the situation as you are performing this ritual. That may seem a bit odd but the concept is for you to “get out of the way” so that the divine energy may flow through you. You are not doing the cleansing; the spiritual energy of divinity is doing the work. You are simply a channel through which it is flowing. Do not worry about if you are doing it right or wrong or how you look when you’re doing it or if it’s working. Simply allow yourself to exist in the moment, devoid of judgment and ego. If your mind and heart is open and you have invoked your opening prayer with sincerity the rest is almost automatic. You just have to continue to channel the energy of God and direct it where it is needed. Trust your intuition. If something doesn’t quite seem clean stay and work on it until it feels right.

This is the active portion of your ritual. Generally, you should always start with yourself and then move on to your target. Wave the smudge stick over your feet with the visualization and intent that the smoke is purifying you and driving out all negativity. You may even want to blow or fan the smoke a bit. This is fine but watch for flying embers. Continue up your body and focus on your visualization. If your mind begins to wander just bring it back to the task at hand as soon as you notice. (this is also the same technique for smudging another person)

Make sure all the doors and windows are open in your house so that the smoke has a way to escape eventually and you might want to cover your smoke detectors if you have them.

Start at the center of the house and work your way out. The object is to drive out the negativity and infuse the area with divine energy, not block in the bad stuff. Start in the center of a room or the central hallway and blow or fan smoke gently in the air as to fuse divine energy into the air itself and everything it touches. Don’t forget to get in closets and under cabinets as well. If you realize later that you forgot a space don’t make a big fuss about it, simply open the area to the residual smoke into the area and back it up with your visualization. You might try saying a small prayer of thanks after each room is smudged to give that room a feel of finality.

If you are using another tool that doesn’t have smoke like a feather or your hand simply wave it the direction and imagine divine light flowing through you and emanating from the tool to infuse the air and the area with God’s presence and sweeping away negativity.

You might pay special attention to smudging doorways and windows (as these are common portals for entrance and exit) and any area that doesn’t feel quite right. Simply increase the intensity of your visualization and pour in more smoke (to a reasonable degree) until you are satisfied that the area is cleansed of negativity AND that it is infused with divine energy.

Work your way toward the exits to the room like a window or an outside door as if you were sweeping or herding the negativity out. If the house is more than one story simply pick the top or bottom floor and gradually work your way through the structure so that you sweep out negativity and infuse divine energy everywhere. Remember to hit spots that people don’t go very often like attics, basements, cabinets or even air conditioning vents. A quick and efficient way to smudge the entire air conditioning system (assuming the building has central air) is to blow smoke into the air intake for the system so that it is diffused throughout the building. This can even be used to smudge the entire house from one spot if you are confident enough in your skills to do it all from one location.

As you work you may try chanting a mantra or prayer or other positive affirmation like:

We ask that all forces not working from the light be excluded from this place.

Or

By the divine nature of God we anchor sacred light to this place and sweep away negativity.

Go with whatever feels natural. Don’t force anything and don’t let anything break your focus. If it does, simply stop and re-center and continue what you were doing. If you feel resistance in an area or feel something lash out at you simply reinforce your visualization that you are infused and emanating divine light and that shadow (negativity) cannot exist in the presence of light.

Closing:
After the entire area has been smudged take moment to say a prayer of thanks to God or whatever form of divinity you recognize for empowering you to do this work. A good example of a closing prayer might be:

We thank the forces working for the light and the divine presence of God for your assistance with open hearts and sincere gratitude.

Follow Up
Don’t allow the air in the house to stay stagnant, the smoke should be allowed to leave and fresh air to enter. The smoke is NOT the divine energy it can leave. It was just your focusing tool during the cleansing, nothing more. Let fresh air blow through and sunshine in.

You may want to repeat this simple ritual on a regular basis (every week, month, six months, year, etc) in accordance with need.

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