For thousands of years, cultures around the world have believed that a person’s energy is like perfume—once you come in contact with someone else’s vibes, good or bad, they tend to linger for a while.
And just like a date’s overpowering cologne might require a hot shower to remove, the best way to rid your space of any negativity you’ve inadvertently tracked home is through a cleansing ritual called smudging.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with the ancient practice, you’ve probably seen smudge sticks—you know, those fat, leafy bundles of sage that are popping up in just about every cool wellness girl’s Instagram account. Many believe this potent plant has the power to shift energy into a calmer, happier state.
“When I’m in a space after it’s been cleansed, I feel at peace, joyful, safe, energized, creative, and able to deeply rest.”
One big fan of the practice is Maggie Harrsen, the Peru-based founder of Puakai Healing. “There’s a long history of Native Americans using sage to connect to the spirit world and cleanse the body and space of impurities before a ceremony,” she says. “The life force energy of its smoke penetrates deep into the ether and alters the vibration of a space, or living being, by absorbing any heavy, dense energy.” (From a hard science perspective, sage’s been proven to absorb up to 94 percent of airborne bacteria.)
According to Harrsen, everyone’s home can benefit from regular saging, and spring cleaning season is a great time to give it a try. “After smudging, your space will feel light and balanced,” she says. “When I’m in a space after it’s been cleansed, I feel at peace, joyful, safe, energized, creative, and able to deeply rest.”
In other words, it’s kind of like the metaphysical compliment to your Marie Kondo obsession.
Scroll down for a 3-step guide to performing a proper smudging ritual.
1. Gather your supplies
First thing’s first: The sage you’ll use for smudging isn’t the kind you pick up in the produce section of Costco. Instead, stock up on sticks or loose leaves of dried ceremonial white sage. (Palo santo, a sacred Peruvian wood, and copal resin incense also do the trick.)
If you really want to give your smudge session the full shamanic treatment, Harrsen says you can also create an altar for your supplies on any flat, elevated surface—like a dresser, a bookshelf, or a bedside table. “Truly the only tools you need for smudging are you and the plant, but when I’m cleansing my home, I like to bring in a few additional elements such as a sea shell, feather, brass bell, and raw egg,” she says. “The shell represents the element water and the energy of Mother Ocean; the feather represents the energy of the winged ones; the brass bell carries the energy of the cosmos; and the egg is a symbol of life.”
Oh, and if you’re sensitive to smoke—or want to sage in a no-smoking zone, like your office—Harrsen says you can create a cleansing mist instead. “Fill an amber glass spray bottle with spring water and add a few drops of organic, therapeutic-grade sage or palo santo oil,” she says. “Shake well to activate the life force of the plant in water and use it just as you would the smoking plant.”
2. Get your smudge on
Before lighting up, Harrsen says you should do a quick lap through your home and remove any excess clutter. (She likes to smudge at sunrise, but really, any time works.) “Open all windows, closets, and doors in your home,” she says. “Visit each room and ring a bell to awaken the energy present.”
Then, head to your altar (or another favorite space) and place your sage into a fireproof bowl or your shell. Burn a candle, set an intention, and then light the sage using the candle. “Blow it out so the embers are glowing. With both hands, bring the smoke into your heart, over your head and down the front and back body to cleanse yourself,” says Harrsen.
Next, it’s time to get your smudge on. Starting on the lowest level of your space, move room to room and use your hand or a feather to waft the smoke into all four corners, where the ceiling and walls meet. Then, direct the smoke out through windows and doorways.
Once you’ve finished smudging, extinguish your sage by rubbing it in dirt or sand, on concrete, or stamping it out in a ceramic bowl. (Whatever you do, just don’t put sticks out in water—you won’t be able to use them again.) “Return the shell and sage to your altar and give gratitude to the plant for its healing,” says Harrsen. “If there’s any ash, you may place this in the natural world on Mother Earth.”
3. After the smoke clears
“Once we’ve cleansed a space, the energy often neutralizes,” says Harrsen. “At this moment, it’s important to fill the space with the energy of love.” She recommends bringing in some fresh rose petals or spraying rose water. (One advanced tactic: mopping the floors with rose tea. Renters, proceed with caution.)
Harrsen says most people should sage once a week. But like any kind of wellness practice, the more frequently you do it, the better. “Every morning when I awake, I visit my altar to burn herbs or incense, and say a prayer to maintain the energy of my space,” she explains. Time to updated that morning routine.
Ready for more energetic spring cleaning? Here’s how crystals and probiotics (no joke) can help elevate the juju in your home. And here’s where to start if you’re in a major spring cleaning kick.