In theory, the holidays are a magical time to slow down and spend quality time with family and loved ones as we prepare for the New Year. In practice, this time of year can be a lot more stressful, between tying off loose ends at work, preparing your holiday dinner party, and anticipating the encounters that bringing the extended family together can create, including, but not limited to, your uncle getting into a deep political argument with your mom, your cousin having one glass of eggnog too many, or even your sister accidentally dropping the entire turkey on the floor.
If you're feeling a little antsy about family get-togethers at your place, there is one simple ritual you can practice in just a few minutes to clear your space of any negative vibes and set good intentions for the days to come: sage smudging. To the uninitiated, this ritual may seem a little daunting, but we promise it's incredibly simple and quick. "Smudging is a Native American tradition using the energy of a plant to cleanse negative energy out of a space, person, or object," says smudging expert, Michelle D'Avella of Pushing Beauty. "It's a spiritual practice of cleansing, but has been adopted by many people as a way to clear out and cleanse a room." She took us through everything we need to know about sage smudging before and after a holiday party.
What Is Smudging?
Smudging involves the burning of sage to encourage cleansing or blessing in a space or person.
Meet the Expert
Michelle D'Avella is a breathwork teacher, mentor, and writer helping people heal themselves from past traumas, accept themselves, and ultimately live happier lives.
Know When to Smudge
"Smudging is best done before and after people come and go from your home," explains D'Avilla. "People's energy can linger in a space, and when the family is around during the holidays, it's a great time to clear out what was left behind and neutralize the energy." Take a few moments before your guests arrive to give your space a quick sage smudging, and repeat the morning after. Not only will it leave your space smelling great, but it will also get rid of any negative energy stuck in your home.
A common misconception with sage smudging is that you need to burn the whole stick, but D'Avilla suggests burning as much or as little as you need. "You don't need to use an entire smudge stick," she says. "Break off one leaf, light the tip, blow it out, and then use your hand or a feather to waft the smoke through the space. A little goes a long way."
When getting ready to sage your space, having the right instruments makes a world of a difference. "Traditionally, Native Americans incorporate the four elements: sage (earth), a lighter or matches (fire), an abalone shell (water), and a feather (air)," explains D'Avilla. The abalone shell is used to hold underneath the sage stick and contain its ashes, while the feather is used to spread the smoke throughout the space. "The sage and any other herbs are placed in the abalone shell, lit, and then the feather is used to waft the smoke throughout the space. At the very least you'll need sage and a lighter." If you don't have an abalone shell or a feather, you can use any fireproof dish and your hands for fanning.
Work Around the Room
People often wonder where to start when sage smudging their homes, and the expert recommends starting with any space that feels negative to you. "Any spiritual act is a personal practice," says D'Avilla. "I recommend connecting to your intuition and working with what resonates with you. You can open a window to let out the negative energy. You can work around the exterior of the space, around doors and windows, and then go to the middle of the room. Keep fanning the flame to get the smoke moving. You can set intentions silently or verbally to clear out any negative energy in the space and allow in the light."
Set Your Intentions
When sage smudging your space, it's important to set positive intentions to bring good vibes into your life. "Anything you are working on within your own life is a good start," says D'Avilla. "An example would be: 'Cleanse this space of any negative energy. Fill this space with light and love.' Again, feel into what resonates for you. Use your intuition, and have fun with it!" Try attracting love or letting go of fears or negative emotions. Focus on what you want to attract and what you'd like to let go of.
Take Your Time
Just as you don't need to burn the whole sage stick, you also don't need to spend hours on this ritual. In fact, in some cases, a few minutes can suffice. "As you connect to your intuition you'll get a sense for how much clearing a space needs," explains D'Avilla. "It also depends on the size of your space. It can take a few minutes, but if you add any other rituals into the practice, it could take longer." Do what feels natural to you, and stop when you feel like the negative energy has left your space.