A Druid's Smudging Ritual

While not entirely a Druidic practice, the practice of smudging was indeed those cultures encompassing a Druid.  Thus, I have found the practice of smudging to be of great value as a Hedge Druid.

In Britain, there are also many herbs used, including Rosemary (Rosemarinus Officinalis), Mugwort (Artimisia Vulgaris), Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia) Woodruff (Galium Odoratum) and Wormwood (Artemisia Absinticum). It was, until very recently, the practice in some places in Britain to smudge your house on May day with Rosemary smoke after all the physical 'spring' cleaning had been done. The herbs are burnt on their own or in mixtures, depending on tradition and required effect. Many herbs such as the true Sages, Sagebrush and Rosemary are used for cleansing and purifying. The effect of the smoke from these plants is to remove negative energies. Other herbs, such as Sweetgrass, which is also found in Scotland (where it was known as 'Holy Grass') and Northern Europe, are burnt to bring blessings and beauty, and to invoke the spirits.

While the spiritual benefits (such as exorcism, energy cleansings, etc.) of smudging have been widely praised, recent research has demonstrated what the ancients have always known -that there is far more to smudging than we realize!

Amongst the European peasant cultures smokes and smudges often had more practical applications in the sacred ordinary to ensure the clearing of parasites and bugs from domestic animals and to clear ‘bad air’. Fumigation by smoke would also have been performed as a medicinal practice. In France rosemary and thyme were burned in hospitals as a way of keeping the air clean and preventing contagion. Smoking mixtures were widely used for the treatment of asthma and respiratory problems by burning on charcoal or using pipes or rolled into cigarettes. Smoking with herbs was deemed to relax a tight chest and relieve night wheezes and asthma. The herbs would be sprinkled on charcoal or onto a fire or barbecue.  Today, we have begun to prove the knowledge of the ancients to have been widely accurate in the above regard.

In a 2006 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers administered herbal and non-herbal remedies in smoke form. what they concluded is that there are many more benefits to smudging on a medical and scientific level.

“The most frequent medical indications for medicinal smoke are pulmonary (23.5%), neurological (21.8%) and dermatological (8.1%). Other uses of smoke are not exactly medical but beneficial to health, and include smoke as a preservative or a repellent and the social use of smoke."

Researchers found that the smoke of the smudging to be air purifying and highly effective in this process. The National Botanical Research Institute published a paper a year later which stated that their research has found that medicinal smoke reduces airborne bacteria.

The authors state: “This study represents a comprehensive analysis and scientific validation of our ancient knowledge about the effect of ethnopharmacological aspects of natural products' smoke for therapy and health care on airborne bacterial composition and dynamics."

A long list of pathogenic bacteria were found to be absent in an open room even thirty days after a smudging treatment.

The researchers concluded: “We have demonstrated that with using medicinal smoke, it is possible to completely eliminate diverse plant and human pathogenic bacteria of the air within confined space."

Herbs Sacred to Druids

While not an exhaustive list, the below herbs are traditionally sacred to the Druids.  I have found the utilization in combination rather beneficial in my practice as a Hedge Druid.  

Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)

The dried flower buds of lavender release a light, refreshing scent when burned. They have been used to bring blessings, chastity, divination, dreams, energy, gentleness, good luck, grieving, harmony, keeping secrets, magic (esp. to increase the duration of a spell), meditation, memory, psychic development, retention, ritual, sleep, stability, virility, etc. . Many burn lavender to combat insomnia, depression, grief, sorrow and anxiety. 

Vervain (Verbena spp)

Vervain is a sacred cleansing and purification herb which is also believed to raise vibrations within the space.  To the contemporary Druid, it is thought of as the herb of a Bard and is considered a powerful "ally" of poets and writers, as its relaxing effects can relieve writer's block,

Yarrow (Achillea spp.)

A sacred herb of divination and clairvoyance, In the Hebrides Islands off the coast of Scotland, it is believed that rubbing your eyelids with a yarrow leaf grants second sight. Smudging with Yarrow aids one in clarity with second sight.

Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)

Mugwort is one of the most popular herbs for the magickal pantry. It’s known as a psychic/Lunar herb that’s also strongly protective. Used traditionally to cleanse energies and get rid of negativity, mugwort also has a reputation for stimulating dreams. Therefore, many burn it before bedtime. Today, Mugwort is used primarily as a visionary herb. It amplifies psychic vision and may induce prophetic dreams. An herb of the Earth Mother. Mugwort encourages wisdom and observation. When paired with a divinatory method of your choice (such as Yarrow), Mugwort is an excellent helper for confronting difficult truths.

Marjoram (Origanum spp.)

Known for its traditional connections with love and the heart. Modern uses include cleansing, purification, and dispelling negativity. Smude with Marjoram to bring revealing dreams.

Common Smudging Herbs

Cedar (Thuja spp*.)

In many cultures cedar is a sacred plant. People have used it to drive out negative energy, bring in good influences, and even to bless a new house when people are moving in. It is found widely in North America.

Sage (Salvia spp.)

The best known ceremonial smudge plant is sage. Witches, wizards, shamans, and medicine people alike attribute to its popularity, It is believed that Sage can change the mood and energy of a room so it is commonly burned after a fight or when someone is upset. It is also used for meditation, cleansing, and purification.

Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata)

This is one of the most sacred plants of the Native Americans. Sweetgrass is the grass that you find braided within metaphysical stores and the like. When burnt it is sweet and light. Tradition demonstrates that burning sweetgrass often follows burning sage as the smoke from the braided sweetgrass is thought to attract good spirits, positive energies, and thus blessings.

Frankincense (Boswellia spp.)

Frankincense is the dried resin of the African olibanum tree. You may have heard its value as demonstrated in Christian tradition with myrrh and gold. It has a long history of association with meditation, healing, cleansing, and protecting the soul. It is often utilized to aid in the transition from life to death (the beginning of the next life) as ones time in the body expires.

Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)

Myrrh is a resin from a nearly leafless middle eastern shrub. Ancient Egyptians used it for healing and to embalm bodies. It is one of the sacred incenses of the Bible. It is mentioned several times in the Old and New Testaments. Myrrh represents suffering—the gift of Myrrh by the Magi presages death and entombment. Furthermore, Myrrh is sacred to the Great Mother. It is an herb of the ancient Goddess, especially in her aspect as She Who Mourns and who hears the cries of the mourning. Today, many use it for meditation, spirituality, happiness, transformation, strength, confidence, and stability, as death is often representative of beginnings.

Bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica)

Bayberry is a shrub in the Myrtle family, also known as Wax Myrtle. It is native to North America. The wax from the bayberry shrub releases a delicious smell when burnt. Bayberry is associated with house blessing, good fortune, wishes, luck and money-drawing spells. Bayberry is also a “shopper’s charm”—that is, smudging with it can help you bounce back from the pain of overspending.

Rose (Rosa spp.)

Arguably the most well known flower in America. Many people associate rose petals with love and romance. However, roses are not only useful for loves spells; they can raise divinatory energies, unveil mysteries, provide protection and aid in matters of truth and things of beauty. They have also been used for meditation and peace. Different colors of roses are often used to express different sentiments, therewith smudging with the various colors may also be utilized to affect one's desired outcome.

Juniper (Juniperus monosperma)

In some places Juniper was burned for ritual purification of temples, and to avoid illness during plague outbreaks. In modern times it is used to invigorate the mind and body when tired. In magick, Juniper is utilized in exorcisms, to help psychic powers, to break hexes and curses and to attract good, healthy energies.

A Druid's Smudging Ritual

Opening Meditation: Begin with a basic grounding meditation. This attunement helps one to connect with the Two Powers -the Earth Current -carrying the dark, mixed elements from which all forms arise, and the Sky Current -ordering patterns that crystallizes forms out of the Underworld potential. Unified, these powers manifest the Middle World in which we live.

Following the meditation, focus intently on the intention and purpose of the ritual.

Honor the Three Kindreds: Write your own prayer of honoring, or utilize the following if you choose.  (Adapted from OakWyse 1997 "Prayers for Druid Beads")

"Ancestors, Ancient Ones, Remember me as I
remember you. Old Ones, hear my prayer, and accept my offering of love.

Fur and feather, leaf and stone, aid me as I aid you.
Earth Spirits hear my prayer, and accept my offering of love.

Gods and Goddesses, Shining Ones, honor me as I honor you.
First-Born of Earth, hear my prayer, and accept my offering of love.

Honor the Four Directions:
Lift your smudge bowl, shell, or rock (be sure to use a natural material) to each of the four directions in turn (East, South, West, and then North). Focus and concentrate on the meaning of the sacred herb you will smudge with. As you stand in each direction, ask for the blessing, invoke the power of each element as such:

"O Element of (Air/East, Fire/South, Water/West, Earth/North)... I ask your blessing and share this sacred smoke in your honor."

A Smudging Prayer

As you begin the act of smudging, the following may be used (which of Native American origin) or you may use one that you have written yourself (the preferred method).
Alternatively, as you progress to each area of the body, state the corresponding line of the prayer with intention if you choose to.

"May my (your) hands be cleansed, that they create beautiful things. May my (your) feet be cleansed, that they might take you where you most need to be. 
May my (your) heart be cleansed, that you might hear its messages clearly. 
May my (your) throat be cleansed, that I (you) might speak rightly when words are needed. May my (your) eyes be cleansed, that I (you) might see the signs and wonders of the world. May I (or this person) and space be washed clean by the smoke of these (this) sacred plant(s). May that same smoke carry my (our) prayers, spiraling, to the heavens."

Smudging is best done in a standing position. Pass the smudge stick through your aura using a feather, a fan, or your hand to do so. Begin from your feet and working your way up to the head stating each line of the prayer with full intention as you smudge each area of the body. Cover the whole front of your body, your sides and as much of the back of your body as you can reach if you are working on your own. 

There are certain areas entities (energies) particularly like to attach to. Generally these are areas of high energy and warmth. These spots are often: the soles of the feet, genital area, solar plexus, under the armpits, breasts, psychic gate (the hollow space at the base of your skull - medically known as the "medulla oblongata").  Be sure to include all of these areas in your act of smudging.

When you feel in your heart like this ritual is complete, you can either extinguish the herb(s) or let it (them) go out on its (their) own.

Thanks and Closing

After all is done we give proper thanks to all the Powers. Thank the Patrons and the Kindreds. Thank the Earth Mother for providing her blessing to you.

Step out of your comfort zone and into nature. Experience the wisdom, traditions, and practices of your ancestors. Starting small with something as simple and inexpensive as smudging can literally affect your life and those around you.

* "Spp." is the abbreviation for "species." It means that the author is referring to all species in that given genus.