Chances are if you’ve visited a yoga or meditation studio in the past few years, you have been around smudging — the burning of sage or palo santo to clear or purify a space for a purpose. But where did this practice come from? The answer is actually a lot more vast and complex than is sometimes shared.
The practice of burning herbs (some have historically used abalone shells or feathers), can be traced back to Egypt’s 5th dynasty, where early humans may have used the burning of sticks and herbs to repel insects where they inhabited. Some researchers believe that this practice naturally transitioned to spirituality and religious practices, as watching the swirls of smoke and breathing in pungent aromas can have a calming effect on those around it. Aromatherapy and soothing images can elevate your mood and affect your energy in a very real way — it mimics meditative rhythms and intentional breathing that can be extremely calming.
In the United States we know about smudging because of its connection to First Nations and Native American ceremonies, often burning red cedar, sage and sweetgrass to purify or bless people and their space. Herbs vary vastly from culture to culture, and the burning of sage specifically is not as commonly used as once thought. While using smoke as spiritual practice is a broad tradition, its purpose, details, and language surrounding it are incredibly different from culture to culture.
In recent years a fair amount of controversy has surrounded the commercialization of smudging, and it is easy to wade into the waters of cultural appropriation rather than appreciation. Native American students have been banned from smudging in their dorms in past years, yet smudging kits are sold in high-end grocery stores.
The harvesting of white sage specifically has also become an issue, with the added market demand for this sacred plant. Our own smokeless juniper sage mist is a harmless alternative, with essential oils and aromatherapy benefits to use instead of the currently endangered plant.
As part of our own appreciation and ongoing education around traditional ceremonies, we are donating a percentage of our Aura Smudge sales this month to the Native Wellness Institute, an organization that promotes the well-being of Native people through programs and training that embrace the teaching of Indigenous traditions.
We believe in doing historical research when integrating any kind of ritual into our lives, as a brand that honors nature, the planet, and all souls.