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The ancient art of burning sage

The ritual burning of herbs and herbal resins is common to many cultures in the world. From the rich frankincense of the Church and the Middle Eastern bazaar, to the heady incenses of Asia, to the raw energy of brush burning in many native cultures—the purification of space through this modality is a global phenomenon and one you can benefit from highly.

Burning sage is one of the oldest and purest methods of cleansing a person, group of people or space. While Native American sage burning is the most commonly recognized form of it today, it has nevertheless been a shared practice in other cultures too.

From the ancient Celtic druids who used sage as a sacred herb alongside Oak Moss for burning as well as medicinal purposes, to the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon whose Palo Santo (sacred wood) sage burning ceremonies are still practiced to this day.

Sage is for healing

Many who eschew the burning of incenses and herbs as a cleansing method and think that the only purpose in this tradition is to make dwellings smell nice, have perhaps never smelled sage burning. No one who has smelled the distinct acrid tang of burning sage would say that it could only be for ‘aesthetic’ olfactory purposes.

The Latin for sage, ‘Salvia,’ stems from the word ‘to heal.’ The other qualities of sage when burned, such as giving wisdom, clarity and increasing spiritual awareness, are also indicated in the name. It’s no accident that we refer to wise people as sagely.

The benefits of burning sage can be harnessed very simply by burning sage in your home, office or any other place in need of cleansing.

How to burn sage properly

Sage burning cleansing rituals can be as elaborate or as simple as you want them to be, but it’s of the highest importance that your intention be clear before you begin. If you are burning sage to purify a space, or a person (even yourself) then this needs to be clearly planted in your mind before you the light the sage, and while taking the smoke around a home, or through a space.

The best sage to use for such purposes is white sage, although if you have garden sage then this will work fine also (just make sure it is dried). Any local farmer’s market or health food store should carry it, as well as new age stores. Of course, you can order online as well. See below for a recommendation.

The process is simple enough. If you have a heavy earthenware pot (something heatproof), then place the bundled sage into the pot and light it for a few seconds before extinguishing the flame and letting the smoke billow up. Really dry sage will catch fire quickly, so watch your fingers.

Focus burning sage on gateway and high traffic areas

Be careful not to breathe in the smoke directly, and not to fill the area too thickly with smoke—this is not a fumigation, just a cleansing, so no need to go overboard. Then slowly walk around where you are and take the smoke to each area you would like to cleanse. Concentrate on gateway areas, such as windows, doors, closets, as well as hallways. Also concentrate on the corners of a room. Most importantly, use your intuition. If you allow it, your space will usually inform you as to which areas need to be cleansed the most.

You may want to focus on particularly busy areas, both foot traffic wise (kitchen) and mentally (computer workstation). If you have a pet, be sure to sage them a little (if they allow it) and their sleeping area.

Try burning incense immediately after a saging session. Sage has a more masculine/yang aspect and is nicely coupled by the feminine/yin aspect of incense. Also experiment with bell ringing or hand clapping in between saging and incense burning for a total cleansing effect.

If you can at least burn sage in your living space on a weekly basis, then you are guaranteed to notice a lightness of energy and calmness descend into your home from this practice. It can be a way to cleanse the old energy from the previous week, and welcome in the newly beginning week and all the possibilities it holds.

Where to buy high-quality sage

If you're looking for high-quality, ethically cultivated and offered sage, go no further than the Shaman's Market. Don't go to Amazon or large commercial vendors because with a ceremonial, sacred product, intention matters, cultivation matters, as does the intention of the seller—all of these subtle vibrations pass to the product and ultimately into the space you are saging.

Shaman's Market is a fantastic small business, independently owned and operated. They offer a multitude of high-quality ceremonial goods, and in many cases work with indigenous peoples offering a market for their precious and beautiful handicrafts. It's a business you want to support. They are kind and here to assist in the healing work of humanity and the planet.

Shaman's Market offers a wide variety of sages. If you're just starting, go for the White Sage Smudge Sticks, which are cultivated in California. You can't go wrong with white sage, which is used extensively by Native Americans. It's bundled, making it slightly easier to handle than loose leaf sage. If you have extra to spare, then pick up a few different varieties and see which one works best for you, each will have slightly different scents and energetic imprints.

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments.

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Reader Comments (30)

Agreed concerning lightness, clarity, and calming of mind

May 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBlake

Any non flame cleansing methods you can suggest? Thank you.

June 24, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlyssa

Rose water is good, it's available at Indian markets and health food stores... Vaporizing essential oils also is great, much more expensive though--available online and at health food stores.

July 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterC.E. Lowman

I was very surprised with the calm I felt after burning the sage. I've never done anything like this before, but I have to admit, it did make a difference. I'll be doing this every night this week, and then do it on weekly basis thereafter. I have a lot negative energy to cleanse, that's for certain :)

August 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarian

Sage is a great medicine, I pick it wild every year. Thanks to my culture, I know these secrets and my mother for teaching me about my ppl and their rituals.

September 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel Bell

I wish I knew the actual ritual of the Native Americans. I have burned sage a few times to cleanse myself and my house. It's unique aroma seems to have a calming effect. I also, hope it got rid of any negative energy. Greg

October 22, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterGreg

Do other people need to leave the house while I am cleansing with sage?

January 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterErica

As long as their not in the same room as you it's ok, unless it's a shared space and everyone agrees and is open minded

February 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Going to try this its all new to me

March 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGrace

Could you please tell me the best time of the day and/or hour and also a really strong prayer to go with it? For the past year I have been haunted by people that want to cause me to not succeed in my job, I have been forced to change jobs four times and that is not normal, but everywhere I have worked for the past year has been a struggle. I also have had some really dark dreams that are just plain scary. I know there is something crossing my path and I need to get rid of it. Please help me. I am getting exhausted.

March 10, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarta J

Fear not Marta, find strength in yourself. Feel sorry and wish well those who might do you harm, Do your best. I send you my best wishes for successful work this year.

Today I am home on a day off and have cleaned a lot of my house. The magnolia in the front garden is in bloom. Spring! The boiler is turned off. Byebye to winter, byebye to large energy bills for several months. A good time to burn a small bunch of sage I started drying just before Christmas, dance around with Pharrell playing in the background, say thank you for the wonderful things in our lives, say 'yabboo' to anything not positive and welcome in the warmth. :)

March 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJody

Me an my kids love burning sage , we burn it weekly always feel nice an relaxed after . Love the new word ' Yabboo ' we'v learnt today . Thank u Jody . For happyness for all Rosie x

April 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRosie

Hi, I am moving soon and want to cleanse my house before we move in. When you say that your intention be clear before you begin what do you mean? And do I burn the whole thing?

April 22, 2014 | Unregistered Commentercharlene

I have been feeling some weird vibes around me lately. Going to try and cleanse my home AND car :)

May 5, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

The intentsion is that "by burning the sage, you will be removing negative negative energies from your home and life.' (People can be cleansed as well.) Burn what you feel good with... if you have a clear head, you'll know when you've burned enough.

May 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSweetB

My brother and his wife have been experiencing things in there home that's not normal! Knocks on the door and no one there hearing walking down the hallway and no one's there! About a month ago in one of the bathrooms the commode started filling up and flooded the bathroom and bedroom, there hadn't been anyone in there that even flushed the toilet! There's no explanation as to why that happened, it had been gushing water for a few hours apparently before they discovered it! He's pretty handy and couldn't find a thing mechanically wrong that would have caused that he even talked to a plumber about it everything was working proper! So he called me this morning and at 3 in the morning his wife woke up and heard the clothes dryer running she turned it off towels inside were hot ! Something is going on in there home! Would burning sage help?

May 24, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteranna

What exactly is this supposed to do spiritually?

June 7, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterben

Energy exists all over the universe, on planet earth gravity @ 3.2 feet per second per second is the acceleration any mass experiences while falling toward the center as the planet spins in centripetal motion as it revolves around the sun. Thus two motions are at work. The smoke of sage or anything may counterbalance these forces and lift energy in a different direction, maybe. I am not a rocket scientist, not would I aspire to anything other than respiration

June 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKyt

Would burning sage be harmful to my parakeets ?

July 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterB.Burdzinski

Hi everyone! I'm new to burning sage. My husband and I have been living in our rented apartment for 2 and a half years and I have been experiencing some "weird" things. When we moved in, we had an episode where the TV turned on by itself while I was having family over and the TV remote was out of reach from us. I really freaked about it but I let it go until last week. I was talking to my cousin in Skype and she told me "who is that guy that just got out of the closet" while my back was facing the closet. I got goose-pumps all over my body! That was the first time that someone had seem him. I have never talked to anyone about it except my husband. I have been feeling this energy for such a long time, especially at night around the living room. Although I cannot see "him" y can feel him around. I'm sure he is connected to the house. So, I decided to sage today, and I did but I'm wondering if there is a right way to sage. Any comment will be highly appreciated.

August 2, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPalita

B. Burdzinski...

No, I doubt it. ;) Good question though!

August 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterC.E. Lowman

Hi. This is all new to me. I actually when to see a psychic and she advised me to buy sage and cleanse my house to clear the negative energy I seem to have. I bought sage and an abalone shell but it also came with a crystal. The card says its Fluorite (green) how do I use the white sage and the crystal together?

August 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaitlyn

Hey Kaitlyn you don't have to do anything with the crystal at all. it was just probably a gift that came with the shell and sage. smudging should be sufficient in itself though make sure to get every room, open cupboards, closets... etc I always set the intent to cleanse a place and ask gaia or source to help in cleansing and blessing then say a little prayer like a mantra while I'm smudging asking that all negative energies and any beings go to the light in peace and love and that this space is now blessed.... something like that anyway.

October 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterReikichic

I'm interested in your comment about the fact that smudging is not an exclusively First Nations/North American Indigenous cleansing activity. I remember seeing my Irish grandmother do it long before I was moved to Canada. I wondered if you could direct me to some sources?


October 10, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermaggie

Hi! Is there any rules tht we need to follow. Like we need to walk around anti clockwise around a room? Or d sage needs to b smoking at all times during d cleansing? Tht it is bad if halfway cleansing & it stopped smoking & if we need to relight it again?

October 20, 2014 | Unregistered Commentersherrie

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