Spanish for “holy wood”, Palo Santo is a sacred tree which grows in select parts of South America. It has been used for centuries by shamans in ritual prayer, ceremonies and healing. Tracing back to the Incan Empire, it had a prevalent place in native ritualistic medicine, preferred by shamans and healers for its metaphysical properties of purification and clearing negative energies.
Rich in brain-oxygenating terpenes such as limonene and a-terpineol, Palo Santo has an uplifting and positive effect. It's believed to cleanse to a person’s energy field, thereby enhancing their ability to deflect and repel negative energies as well as raising your positive vibrations in preparation for meditation. It's also been known for its grounding and focusing effect which can enhance creativity, productivity and increase good fortune.
Going away from the energy side of things, Palo Santo's also proven to be an effective natural alternative to insect repellant. Additionally it smells incredible, and can be used instead of scented candles or essential oils.
So, whatever your belief, Palo Santo definitely helps to create a positive and soothing atmosphere.
Smudging is the common name given to the indigenous American tradition known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. This is a powerful spiritual cleansing technique which calls upon the spirits of various sacred plants to drive away negative energy and to restore balance to an individual, a group, a space, or all three. This tradition has been a part of the spirituality of indigenous Americans for thousands of years, and now this cleansing ritual is available to anyone who is willing to give it a try. The ritual is very simple and very empowering, and you don't need a lot of expensive equipment to start doing it in your own home.
Perhaps you are wondering why smudging is effective? It is because it allows you to effect the world of subtle spiritual energies using the spirits of various powerful, healing plants. If you have ever worked with yoga or meditation, you will understand that your body, and indeed, the spaces that you occupy, vibrate with invisible energy currents that can be strongly effected by outside forces, both physical and spiritual.
Smudging allows you to wash away all the emotional and spiritual negativity that gathers in your body and your space over time. It's a little bit like taking a spiritual shower! The effects of smudging can be very effective, often banishing stress almost instantly and providing energy and peace. Smudging can also help your body and space to adjust to the healing rhythms of the seasonal cycle. More than anything, though, smudging can turn your space, and your body, into a peaceful, beautiful temple in which you can rejuvenate yourself and fine happiness.
The History of Smudging
Smudging has only come into the general Western consciousness in the past few decades, so it may seem strange and "new age-y" to some. However, smudging is a traditional that goes back thousands of years. In a way, it is like the indigenous American form of incense use. When you perform a smudging ritual you are plugging in to an ancient, powerful line of spiritual tradition.
Indeed, peoples the world over have been using plants to generate smoke that seems to produce beneficial effects. Smoke was often used to drive off insects and to prevent disease. Smoke also is deeply symbolic - it ascends to heaven, as if bringing any prayers and intentions up to the gods with it. From the incense of Asia and Europe to the sage and cedar of the indigenous Americans, the smoke generated by plants has a primordial history of use as part of spiritual practice.
North American Smudging
Originally, herbs and resins were placed in a special bowl and burned, or were burned over the smouldering coals of a fire. Smudge sticks allow for an easy and portable way of cleansing that is just as effective. Smudge sticks are composed of bundles of dried herbs tied together with coloured thread. Traditionally, sage and sweetgrass are used. Sage drives away negative energies and influence, and sweetgrass attracts positive energy to the space from which the negative energy was banished.
Smudging is a way of connecting the material plane to the realm of the spirits. And, in fact, any sort of fragrant, medicinal herb can be used in smudging. Some tribes use cedar as a way of carrying prayers up to heaven. Lavender can provide a calming and soothing energy in a chaotic situation. These days, it is possible to purchase very high quality pre-made smudging bundles so that you can easily begin practicing this powerful ritual, or you can create your own smudge bundle from fresh herbs that grow in your area. Through exploration and practice you are sure to come to understand the powers and uses of different types of plants, and by connecting to this ancient tradition you are sure to benefit fully from their power!
~For those needing a bit more convincing, from a hard science perspective, sage has been proven to absorb up to 94 percent of airborne bacteria ~
~ How to cleanse your space using Sage or Palo Santo ~
Choose a time when you will be undisturbed for a period. You want the opportunity to take your time and be peaceful as you go about smudging your home, office, or other space.
Before you being, it's important to open the windows and doors of the space you wish to cleanse. By burning your choice of smudging sticks, it will create smoke. And whilst it's beneficial for cleansing the home, it must also be allowed to dissipate and return to the open air.
You may wish to add other things to your cleansing ritual - things that might have significance or meaning to you. Or things that are representations of the energy you wish to use: ie, a small bowl of soil for the Earth. A candle for Fire. A feather for Air. A small cup of water for Water. Or perhaps even your favourite crystals. Whatever you choose to have with you, take them to the front of your home/office etc on the lowest level of your building. You'll be working your way UP, and towards the BACK.
Positive energies should be welcomed through the front of your home, and negative energies symbolically (or literately) swept out through the back door.
Take a few deep breaths to clear your mind and when you're ready, light a candle or match from which you can light your smudging stick. Hold the Palo Santo at a 45 degree angle pointing the tip down towards the flame. Allow the stick to burn for 30 seconds to a minute and then blow it out. From there you can either place the stick in an incense burner and leave to smoulder, or you can use it for smudging. (If left to rest the stick will smoulder and release smoke for approx 5 mins. If used for smudging, or you are waiving it around a space, it will smoulder for longer.)
Bring it towards your heart as you focus your intentions on cleansing yourself and the space around you of all negative and unwanted energies. Wave the stick slowly around the top of your head and down the front and back of your body (as best you can) to cleanse yourself.
Now move around the rooms using your hand or a feather to help move the smoke into the room, focussing along the corners on the room and up to the space where each corner meets the ceiling. Move throughout the building doing the same throughout.
When you are finished, put out the embers of your smudge stick by pushing it into soil or sand, into a clean bowl/dish/shell etc until it is no longer alight. Do NOT put it out by using water as smudge sticks can be used several times until they have burned all the way through.
At the end, give quiet thanks to the universe for filling your space with clean and positive energy.
** Information from spiritualscents.com & additionstudio.com