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ASK A WITCH-Sage and Smoke

This week I explore the practice of smudging and smoke-free alternatives to smudging. Clearing space is a beautiful ritual and it is important to find a way that works for you.

I am new to practicing. Have been studying for many years though. My question or predicament is...I have asthma and the burning of sage causes me great breathing problems. Is there an alternative to sage for work? I have dried sage hanging all over my apartment..over every door and on every window.. Kind of my own protection thing..but when it is burned it makes me really ill and gives me such headaches. What can I use instead? Thanks so much for all your advice and articles.

I love this question, because it’s so easy to answer! Although burning sage is a very effective way to clear space and energy, it is by no means the only way.

Native Americans have been using sage to “smudge” for thousands of years. The practice is ancient and spans the globe. Depending on the region, different plants and resins have been used in spiritual and religious ritual for varying reasons. The smoke actually cleans the air by removing bacteria, and connects the material plane with the spirit plane. It is a way to invoke the element of Air into a ceremony, and can provide soothing and calming effects when inhaled. Because the smoke travels up, it is believed that lost spirits can follow it to the heavens.

You can certainly try to burn another plant in place of sage- Paulo Santo is an Andean wood that produces less smoke than sage and smells wonderful; Sweetgrass or Cedar are other aromatic options. You could also burn incense- I love Copal or Amber.

However, it sounds like the smoke, and not the sage, might be what’s causing the problem. In that case, you have some other great options. There are sprays made with essential oils of all of the plants already mentioned, and they work very well to clear space. Alternately, you can use a diffuser and your own choice of oils. Sound also works to clear energy- you can rattle, ring bells, sing, or even clap. You can also place bowls of salt water around the space you are clearing or quartz crystals.

Intention is key here, so make your purpose definite- to clear the space and/or person of negative, stale energy. Also, it is worth mentioning that there are cultural ties to many of these practices. Explore the history of the plant you are using, so that you may consciously honor the culture you are emulating. There is a long pattern of thoughtless appropriation in Western spirituality and it is up to each practitioner to find a way to minimize their negative impact.

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