An Alternative to Smudging
Blessing and purifying with burning herbs, resins, or the various forms of incense is a centuries old ritual practiced by many cultures and spiritual traditions. It is used for practical and medicinal purposes as well as spiritual.
In my eclectic practice of witchcraft, I follow some traditions of the Ojibwe people (my matrilineal heritage). I was taught the way to smudge and gifted with sage and an eagle feather by a local elder. The sage we use isn’t really sage at all. It’s part of the mugwort family, artemesia ludvocana, and grows wild and plentiful. I have never been told that the use of sage or calling the practice smudging is the rightful domain of indigenous North Americans. I was not warned never to share the practice with others. In fact, the indigenous people I know wish that more people would and perform the practice regularly—the world would be a better place.
But the controversy over smudging and cultural misappropriation continues in the spiritual community. Whether you choose to practice smudging or not, whether you call it smoke cleansing, whether you use sage or some other herb, is all at your discretion; follow your intuition and your personal ethic. If you choose not to smudge, sacred water is a good alternative.
Aside from ethical concerns, there are practical reasons to avoid smoke cleansing, and circumstances when it’s simply not feasible. You may live in an apartment with super sensitive smoke alarms. Perhaps you or somebody you live with cannot tolerate the smoke because of asthma, COPD, or other breathing difficulties.
When I first encountered resistance to using smoke for house blessings or in circle, I have to admit it was hard to leave my sage smudge behind. Raised as a Catholic, I was certainly familiar with blessed water and its uses, but I wasn’t sure I could create as deep a connection to sacred water as I have with smoke. I believe the smoke carries the negative energy away when clearing space, and acts as a conduit between worlds when wishing to connect to Spirit or spirits.
Gratefully, I found that the act of crafting these special waters involved a good deal more of my personal magick than smudging ever has. When using them, I can also believe that the evaporation of the water works in the same way as smoke.
I start by collecting the water. The rural town I live in is named for the many natural springs here. Water bubbles up from an artesian well in the local park where anybody can help themselves to as much as they want. A small stream passes a few blocks from my home on its way to the lake, bubbling and churning over the stone riverbed summer and winter. Two miles north, through the deep woods, is the origination point of two rivers, each flowing out in opposite directions. The north flowing stream meanders through white pine and hardwood forests before emptying into Lake Superior. The southern flow spills into ever larger waterways, one after the other, until converging with the Mississippi River. There’s a lot of magick in those waters if you ask me.
To infuse the spring water with the energy aspects I desire, I choose from native herbs, flowers, and trees. I have used both fresh and dried materials when working with plant spirits, including kitchen cupboard spices. If you don’t own a book of correspondences, you can find the spiritual aspects of plants though a simple internet search.
Before adding them to the water, I meditate and connect to the plant’s spirit—or medicine—asking it to release the properties I desire into the water, using a solar or moon infusion method. Sun energy reveals and purifies, while moon aspects are feminine and healing. The phase of the moon can also be incorporated for increase or decrease. You might also consider days of the week and times of day for more corresponding magick.
I often add crystals, and sometimes essential oils for additional energetic correspondence. And because I regularly infuse vodka and gin with fresh botanicals, I can incorporate those plant spirits even if they aren’t in season or I don’t have a dried supply on hand. I find this opportunity for layering the energy signatures of my sacred waters quite appealing.
Making Your Own Sacred Waters
- Start with a clean, glass vessel—a canning jar is ideal
- Fill with spring water—if you don’t have a source for natural spring water, used bottled
- Add herbs, flowers, and spices of choice (fresh or dried)
- Let the water and herbs steep for a few hours or more
- Strain the herbs from the water—offer them back to the earth
- Add optional crystals, or essential oils
- Add alcohol if desired—a tablespoon is plenty
- Seal the jar, label, and keep in a cool, dark place
Complete your magickal working with an incantation to call the aspects you desire into the water. Something like this:
Sacred water, magick brew
With these aspects I imbue
Sage for clearing, rose for love
So it is said, so it is done.
When ready to use your sacred water, pour it into a fine mist spray bottle. For house blessing, clearing space for rituals, clearing auras, or consecrating items, proceed the same way you would with smudging, misting the sacred water the way you would direct the smoke. Or, you can simply dip your fingers or a small bundle of herbs into the water and sprinkle it that way.
One thing to keep in mind when using sacred water—don’t spray directly on any object that might be damaged by moisture. For example, if you are consecrating a book or tarot deck, spray the water into the air, then pass the object through the mist.
A simple sage water for clearing negative energy from physical and spiritual space needs only water and sage. I like to add peppercorn to ward any negative entities from returning, and a small bit of cinnamon stick for good tidings. I put the blend under the noonday sun for enlightening and purifying energy, during a waning moon phase for releasing and diminishing energy. When using it, I would call all the aspects forth:
From the bright light of the sun, negative energy cannot hide
By the power of waning moon it now subsides
Pepper holds dis-ease* away
Cinnamon draws good fortune this way
All dis-ease* begone now
In its place, great blessings bestow
*Dis-ease is a catch all for disruptive negative energy. When performing a spiritual clearing, try naming what you wish to clear, such as fear, illness, anger, sorrow, evil forces, etc. The more specific you can be, the better.
You can also think of removing old, static energy, and bringing in new expansive energy. This is especially helpful when putting a house on the market, or any time you simply want to clear out old energy and make room for something new.
There are many ways to craft and use sacred water. If you wish to clear the air and restore harmony after a quarrel, consider basil for peace, mint for happiness, sugar to sweeten dispositions and perhaps fennel if there is pride to be swallowed or crow to be eaten.
Cleanse the home after an illness, spiritually showing the low vibrating energy out the door, and warding further occurrence with ginger, cayenne and lemon.
Fill the air with an infusion of roses and rosemary before a date. Add ivy or vine (fidelity) for a wedding or anniversary.
Make an infusion of money-drawing herbs and mist your aura before a job interview, or anytime you need to bring home some extra cash.
Once you start making your own sacred waters, you’ll find the possible uses are endless.
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