If you’re a pagan or not, pretty much everyone has heard of smudge sticks. As my mom so nicely like to put it “That stuff that smells kind of like pot.” Yeah. That stuff. Traditionally, for many Native Americans a smudge stick consists of Sage (white sage, specifically). There has been some debate online I’ve noticed, about whether it’s okay for neo-pagans adopting the use of smudge sticks. Now, I don’t meant to stir the cauldron here, but I might dip my spoon in a little. Every culture everywhere has taken bits and pieces from each other, especially if it works. Incense came from Egypt and China, and spread into Greek, Babylonian, and other cultures much older than our own. But they borrowed it from each other and while ingredients may have changed here and there depending on the region, the meaning behind it–to cleanse a place or person of negative energy–remained the same.
Now, I personally think you should stay as true to the original practice as is possible, but that as long as you do what you do with harm to none and with appreciation and respect to where you’re getting your practice, there shouldn’t be a problem. I think Spirit gets that you mean well. I use smudge sticks and I’ve NEVER had a problem. In fact, I work with the spirits of the land and the spirits of the Native Americans who protect the land where I gather sage for making Smudge Sticks. I grew up on their land as a child, running through their meadows and hills and trees under their watchful eyes and they know I mean no harm. I always leave an offering and I always ask for a Native Guide to lead me to the sage they wish me to collect from so that I don’t anger anyone. I do all of this because it’s important to honor the land and those who came before you.
So, here is my DIY for a smudge stick. The only change I would make is to NOT use the sewing thread like I did. It was the only thread I had, and normally I would recommend something like the thread you use in cooking (like to hold chicken legs together) as it’s stronger. My sage is drying right now and already the thread is becoming loose due to the leaves shrinking. Below I will list links to learn more about smudging (two from actual Native Americans) and a couple even have how to preform a more traditional Native American Smudging Ceremony.
Fresh White Sage (still on stalks is ideal)
First, gather your ingredients! I happened to also gather Sweet Sage (as the locals call it here in Southern California. Its a cousin to White Sage, and smells similar, but much sweeter) as my Guide that day said it would be proper to do so.
Next you’re going to bundle it all together. I layered the sweet sage in between the White Sage. I found that once you get it how you like it and squeeze it for a few seconds it’ll hold its shape relatively well. Just be gentle with it when you go to tie the thread around it.
Next you’re going to cut a long piece of thread. I mean, really long. Longer than you think you need because you’ll be wrapping the bundle twice, as well as several times at the top. So, carefully take one end of the string and tie it around the bottom of the smudge stick (the side with mostly stem) and tight a knot tightly. Wrap the thread upwards at a slant and TIGHTLY. Your sage WILL shrink (learn from my mistakes witchlings!) so tight is good! You’ll wrap it around the top once, then go back down at a slant the oppposite way so that you get an X looking pattern. Then you’ll go up once more and wrap the thread around several times TIGHTLY then tie a knot and cut off the excess. You should get something like this:
As you can tell you’re going to have extra sage bits! What do you do with it!?! Throwing away perfectly good sage is just wrong! So I came up with the idea to make protective candles out of the scraps! I snipped them up smaller and placed them in a bowl. I charged and cleansed the sage bits and sage bundle on my alter, then since it was a full moon that night I later took them down along with a bowl of prepared water to be bathed and charged by Mother Moon for extra strength. The sage bundle was already blessed by my Guide (Native American), and I hung it up to dry. Depending on where you live it will take up to two weeks to completely dry. So there you go! I hope this is helpful and if anything is unclear, let me know!
Sources/Links for Smudging Rituals: