I don’t know about you, but I love using sacred smoke in my craft! It smells good, makes the energy feel lighter, and there is something satisfying about watching the smoke tendrils curl into the air. The smoke of sacred plants has many uses in witchcraft. You can use smoke to clear the energy of just about anything, such as crystals, any spiritual tools, items used in a spell, the room in which you are working, even your whole house! Most often you will see these sacred plants wrapped in a bundle, or sometimes in loose pieces.
Each plant carries its own vibration and can be used for different purposes. Remember that plants have consciousness; you can think of them as having different personalities! They want to help you in your work and you can call on the spirit of the plant to help you achieve your intended result.
Like humans with consciousness and individual personalities, it is important to get to know a plant before you use it in your craft. Even more important is to respect and understand the culture and spiritual practices it comes from. Using the smoke of sacred herbs has a long and varied history and, like its uses, each is different.
Many ancient traditions from cultures around the world have used sacred smoke from various herbs in ceremonies of all different beliefs. Herbal smoke and incense are still used in many cultures today. In fact, more recent research suggests that the smoke of sacred plants could reduce the amount of bacteria in the air.
On the note of respecting the plant, be mindful of the sacred herbs at risk of being over-harvested. Some plants, such as California White Sage, have become so popular that they are on track to become endangered. It is our job to protect these plants and prevent deforestation. I will go over more ways to prevent this later, but a tip I learned from my teacher is to light a charcoal disk and only put a small amount on top of it. This makes the plant go farther and last longer (plus it saves you money!).
As with anything that involves fire, you will want to practice proper safety. Always make sure you have something to catch the ashes if you are using a smoke bundle, such as a cauldron, a shell, or even a fire-safe bowl. If you are using the charcoal disk, put it inside and carry the item around if you are clearing a large space. Always open the windows, not only so the smoke alarm doesn’t go off, but to ensure the unwanted energy has a place to exit.
This is probably the most popular and well-known smoke cleansing herb on this list. White Sage is often referred to as “spiritual bleach” because it clears all energy from a space. Because of its potent cleansing power, White Sage should be used sparingly and not be used alone. The first energy to enter after cleansing with White Sage is what will program the space. Use something to attract positive energy such as Palo Santo (joy and harmony), incense, or essential oils that correspond with the specific energy you want to bring in. It is a good idea to follow with a sacred herb that has protective properties to seal the space so it is no longer wide open to accept any energy.
The practice of burning sage comes from the Native American spiritual practice called “smudging,” a ceremonial ritual that involves calling on the spirit of the sacred plant to remove any energies. When you burn this sacred plant, you may notice your mood is lifted as the heavy energy is driven away. You can even cleanse your body with sage smoke to clear your aura of energies you may have picked up during the day.
Because of its popularity, White Sage is at risk of being over-harvested so it is important to be mindful of this and respect the sacred plant. If you want to use White Sage, you should look for an ethical grower or someone who sources the plant in an ethical way. If you have a garden, you could even grow your own! Another way you can preserve this sacred plant is by choosing different varieties. Keep in mind that different varieties have different properties. For example, Blue Sage carries healing properties, and desert sage is protective.
This sacred plant also has its roots in Native American tradition. Cedar, along with White Sage, Sweetgrass, and Tobacco make up the four sacred plants. Instead of banishing all energy like White Sage, the smoke of Cedar attracts positive energy. It is a highly grounding and protective plant that helps to connect you with the wisdom of the earth.
The way Cedar cleanses is in a gentler way than White Sage. Instead of banishing energy, it invites unwanted energies to leave by creating a boundary of protection. Think of it like washing with soap instead of bleach.
Cedar is also a great choice for a room where someone has been ill. The smoke is used to ward off sickness and cleanse all negativity related to the illness. Cedar is related to masculine and solar energy so it boosts confidence, inner strength, and motivation.
The same way that Cedar is related to the sun and masculine energy, Mugwort is related to the divine feminine and the full moon. It helps us to connect to our intuition, or our “inner knowing.” Mugwort was revered by Anglo-Saxon tribes as one of the nine sacred herbs. Rooted in northern European practices, the use of Mugwort has spread throughout the world. In some pagan religions, Mugwort would be tied around the waist during summer solstice bonfire dances, then thrown into the fire for protection in the year to come. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the smoke is used in “Moxibustion,” a practice to increase blood circulation.
In witchcraft, Mugwort smoke is associated with prophetic dreams and divination. It also protects from psychic and astral attacks, and spirits or people who wish to harm you. If dreamwork is a part of your practice, Mugwort may benefit your craft! The smoke of this sacred plant is thought to enhance lucid dreaming and astral projection.
Mugwort also has strong healing properties and is commonly used to drive away negative energy related to a state of un-health and help you relax so your body can heal. However, you should be aware that if you are allergic to ragweed or other members of the Asteraceae family, you may have hay fever brought on by using Mugwort.
This earthy and heady herb also has strong historical ties to cultures all around the world! Rosemary was associated with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, and thought to heal and protect from evil spirits.
In more recent times, it has been associated with enhancing memory. We can see this in Shakespeare’s Hamlet when Ophelia says, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance, pray you, love, remember." In some cultures still today, it is tradition to use rosemary in funeral ceremonies because of this connection. Burning Rosemary is thought to boost both memory and mood.
According to M. Grieve in A Modern Herbal, “It was an old custom to burn Rosemary in sick chambers, and in French hospitals it is customary to burn Rosemary with Juniper berries to purify the air and prevent infection.” During plagues, it was carried to protect from illness. Purification and protection are still among its associations today.
Rosemary is a great choice to use when smoke cleansing your space especially when you move to a new home, as it is associated with new beginnings, or to clear your space at the beginning of a new cycle, such as each new moon.
The name translates to “holy herb” and was said to be named by Spanish priests who used it to treat lung-related health problems. The smoke is still associated with lung health today and the herb is considered to be an expectorant.
Spiritually, Yerba Santa is connected to spiritual growth and empowerment, self-love and self-care. Is it a great herb to burn when you are releasing past trauma and emotional pain stored in the heart chakra. It is great for empaths because it protects the aura and defines emotional boundaries. It helps with substance addictions and inspires you to find healthier ways to deal with stress. It can help you to stay calm and not be shaken up when difficult times come.
Do you work with the smoke of sacred plants in your craft? Which plants are your favorite?
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