By Tephyr Copyright: 1994, 2012 S. Tephyr Burgess
Making your own Smudge Sticks is relatively easy. Probably the hard part will be to find plants that roll and burn well.
I was taught to roll Smudge Sticks by my good friend Khat OBrien at a Magical Herb workshop she gave at an herb festival. All in all it was a great class and I got a lot out of it. She explained that traditionally Western or Desert Sage is used as the main ingredient, though Cedar and other pines and evergreens are used also. *
She mentioned that she was told by a Native American friend of hers that the plant in the North East that most closely resembles the Western Sages in scent as well as energy is Silver King Artemesia. Both in the Artemesia family. I have personally also found this true but with the Silver King having a lighter, airier energy.
I can not recommend Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) as I have tried that and it has been reported back from several sources that persons around the smoke had negative reactions, resulting in difficulty breathing. One woman who took my class reported back that she triggered a serious asthmatic reaction from her husband when she burned Garden Sage in the house near him. *** As in all uses of herbs and plants: always try it in small portions first to see if there is going to be any kind of allergic reaction.
All the cautions I point out in Toxicity and Herbs are relative to Ritual and other Metaphysical uses of plants as well as Medicinal. Though I like the smell of burning Garden Sage and do occasionally use it, because of these reports I cant recommend it. If you do use this and any other plant, please use caution.
As Khat described the technique on that long ago sunny day; I had this "aha" that the rolling technique was similar to rolling sushi. And I have been using Sushi Mats to roll them since. I highly recommend these mats, which you should be able to get at any cook kitchen supply store or Food Cooperative. Since Khats class I have been rolling Smudge Sticks as often as I can harvest herbs in the garden.
You will need:
A Sushi Mat or newspaper sheet folded in half or a soft piece of leather about 12" x 18".
Thin but sturdy string; I use embroidery floss, pulled apart so it is 3 strands each. I use the colors to code the ingredients and remind me of what is in each one.
Garden clippers to cut the herbs as you work come in real handy
Cut small branches of plants in about 7 - 10 inch lengths. How much you harvest depends on the size of the branches and how many sticks you want. I pile every thing in a big basket, surround myself with my supplies, a cool glass of herbal tea, some munchies (healthy of course :-) ) and sit in the shade in The Garden and roll the afternoon away.
Take a few branches... or sometimes just one; ending again on size and shape.
Take a length of string and measure two and a half times the length of the branches.
Hold it in your hand (left hand for righties, right hand for lefties), so that the ends of the branches are facing upwards and the tips downward. (Your thumb and forefinger are in an upwards position)
With your other hand wrap a small amount around the base of the branches, tightly to hold them together.
Begin, in a downward, motion, to wrap around and around the branch. Pulling the string tightly, but not too tightly; just be firm.
When you get to the end, reverse direction and wrap again going back towards the ends of the branches. It will look "Zig zaggy".
When you get back to the end; wrap the string around again and then tie the two ends together.
Take the wrapped branch, (which is basically a Smudge Stick already, you just need to roll it to firm it up some more) and place about a quarter way up on the sushi mat.
Fold the short end of the mat up over the stick so it
In an upward motion, begin to roll the mat over the stick, so that inside the mat the stick is rolling.You neednt roll really hard, just keep a firm, even pressure.
When you run out of mat; you have a smudge stick.
Trim as needed to make it look neat. I find "flat" ends light better, so I trim the end.
Place it on a screen or I use flat baskets to dry. Shouldnt take too long; a week at the most. But it depends on the humidity of your weather; more or less.
Remember to keep it firm but not tight. If your sticks are rolled too tight they wont dry properly or even if they do they will be hard to burn. If you roll to loosely it will fall apart when dry.
Plants that I have had great success with are:
Silver King Artemesia
Experiment with what you have available... BUT: Never burn a plant unless you know what effect it will have. Research first.
Never burn near anyone with allergies or asthma.
Never, ever burn known poisonous or toxic plants!
Plants with flowers look nice if you leave some of the flowers in. One of my favorites is Lavender with the flowers inside with a small miniature Rose bud rolled just on the outside of the stick. These make really nice sachet like things to put in your drawer or give as presents.
* one of my current rants is using local herbs and plants rather then using up your Carbon Footprint having them shipped; particularly from other countries. It's not necessary, expensive and takes up a lot of fuel and energy. I'll be writing more on this soon.