In recent years, smudging has hit the mainstream, gaining interest from non-Indigenous people and popular media. Smudging has been featured in reality shows like various Real Housewives franchises, and big retailers have even begun selling their own versions of smudge kits. During this ‘moment’ being had by smudging in pop culture, some people have raised concerns regarding whether or not trendy smudging is respectful, often looking for answers regarding the difference between trendy and Native smudging.
What Is ‘Smudging’?
‘Smudging’ simply refers to the practice of burning herbs and plants for the purpose of producing a cleansing smoke. Different cultures have traditionally used a variety of plants for their smudging ceremonies, and for the Indigenous people of North America, smudging is performed using sacred medicines like sweetgrass, sage, and cedar.
The traditional smudging ceremony is performed both in organized rituals, and for daily cleansing at home by individuals. Smudging can help to clear a physical space of negative energy, can connect us to the Creator and the Spirits, or even help us to feel more positively about ourselves and our accomplishments.
How To Smudge Respectfully
If you are non-Indigenous, and have recently discovered the cleansing power of smudging, congratulations! You have stumbled upon a traditional use of herbs and medicines that has been practiced by Indigenous peoples around the world for centuries. If you are wondering if it is okay for you to purchase and use sacred medicines yourself for the purpose of smudging, the short answer is ‘yes’, but there are some things you should be aware of to ensure you are doing so respectfully.
Sage & Sweetgrass
White sage is the most common sacred medicine associated with smudging, and its sale has become popularized recently as smudging has hit the mainstream. The problem with this is that Indigenous white sage is susceptible to drought and overharvesting, which means supplies can be limited. To protect this sacred medicine and to ensure it is acquired properly, the harvesting of white sage should be done by Indigenous peoples, and its sale should be limited to Indigenous business owners.
Ideally, if you want to smudge with sage, you will purchase yours from an Indigenous seller whose sage is sustainably harvested, or, you will be gifted the medicine by a close Indigenous friend. Similarly, sweetgrass braids for smudging should be bought from Indigenous business owners, since theirs will be respectfully and sustainably harvested.
Smudging with Intention
Whether you have been smudging with your Indigenous family for your whole life, or have only recently discovered this powerful practice, the most important thing when smudging is to do so with intention. Smudging with intention means to smudge for a reason and with an end goal in mind. People from every background can benefit from the healing and centering smoke of the sacred medicines, just so long as you perform your smudging ritual respectfully and in pursuit of positive results.