By The Spiritual Explorer | Published 23 January, 2015
Dear Spiritual Explorer: Is there a difference between saging and smudging? Barbara R., Kansas, MO
Sage and Smudge
Dear Barbara: Until you asked that question, I don’t think I ever thought about a difference between saging and smudging. Viewing our Mountain Sage Smudge with the words “saging and smudging” side by side, I can see why that might be confusing.
Doing a bit of research, I have come to find that saging and smudging are indeed words that are interchangeably used. Contacting a shaman friend of mine, I was interested to hear him refer to bundles of native plants as smudges rather than the commonly referred to “sages.” He told me that he used the smudges in his sweat lodge rituals, healing rituals and even in Native American festivals.
For those not in the know, shamans serve as intermediaries between the material world and the spiritual world. Their main focus is to call back someone’s soul that has perhaps been lost through injury or trauma. They are travelers in the best sense of the word, willing to accompany the spirit or entity back into the spirit world to retrieve someone’s soul.
Sage or smudge originated in Native American ceremonies and its purpose is to disperse negative energy and vibrations in a particular place. I think that everybody is aware of sometimes walking into a residence or place of tragedy and feeling a very inharmonious and unsettling vibration. Sage or smudge has been known to clear the air of these unpleasant feelings. In fact, many shamans are hired to clear out negativity or bring in newness in recently purchased, previously owned homes.
Mountain Sage is sustainably harvested by a Native American reservation cooperative. Not only sage and smudge are used, but people also burn tobacco, cedar, sage and sweet grass and offer them to the Four Directions of east, west, north and south. When doing so, the person opens themselves to guidance and wisdom from spirit.
Saging and smudging becomes a ritual of purification and cleansing. Similar to invoking the spirit of Ganesh in Hindu rituals, when one sages and smudges, it also speaks of a new time in one’s life and the asking of blessings for the new journey. Mountain sage in particular is often used to promote success in new undertakings, whether physical or spiritual.
My shaman friend tells me that he smudges his own home regularly and keeps his sage in a medicine pouch. He then places the sage in an abalone shell and fans the embers with a feather to spread the smoke. He then leaves a window cracked open to allow the spirits to leave. He advises that all you need is a fireproof bowl and sage.
One last tip on saging and smudging: My own personal experience with saging is that it sometimes leaves a residue in a room and you often have to wait a while before re-entering it after a ceremony. Nevertheless, there is no doubt how saging and smudging work to dispel negativity in one’s space. However you refer to it, saging and smudging are wonderful clearing out tools.
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