Smudging is an ancient practice in many cultures and religions. Among them, the Native Americans have long used sacred (or white) sage, cedar, tobacco and sweetgrass for ceremonial purposes and purification rituals. The smoke from a burning smudge stick is thought to remove negative energy. Today, smudging has come into popular use in various spiritual circles. Making the smudge sticks is quite simple once you have gathered the materials together. Work in a calm, centered and reverent frame of mind.
Clip the amount of cedar you'll need for the number of smudge sticks you plan to make. Several boughs can make three or four bundles, depending on how you cut them.
Trim the cedar from the branches, cutting them into lengths about 6 or 8 inches long. Rinse off any dirt, dust or debris and let them all dry.
Gather all the materials you'll need to roll the bundles. Set up your work area in a comfortable location. Some people like to light a candle or put on sacred music at this juncture, and you can also meditate or offer prayers as you begin the work.
Assemble enough branches of cedar until you have the thickness you prefer. Cut a length of string about three times the length of the bundle. For example, if you are using 8-inch-long cedar pieces, cut the string to 24 inches.
Hold the entire bunch in one hand, with the tips hanging downward. With the other hand, wrap the string around the part you are holding two or three times. Hold this with your thumb, or lay down the bundle to tie a small knot to keep it in place.
Wrap the string in a spiral or circular motion, moving from the base to the tips hanging down. When you have reached the end of the group, continue wrapping the string in a reverse direction. You'll have what looks like a crisscrossed or figure-eight type of design.
Tie the ends of the string together in a knot or wrap the remaining string around the base a couple of times, then knot it off. Cut any excess string. Trim off the tips of the cedar if you want a flat look or leave them in their natural look.
Lay the bundle on the sushi mat -- or whatever you are using to roll with. For example, you can fold several thicknesses of newspaper or use a sheet of leather cut into a 12-by-18-inch rectangle.
Roll with slight pressure, keeping the mat snug as you advance. If the bundle feels too loose, tighten your hold slightly and roll a little more snugly. You'll feel the differences once you attempt to make a bundle. Roll it all the way to the end of the mat, using firm pressure.
Remove the smudge stick and either hang it to dry or lay it atop your drying rack. Within a week or two, the cedar will be dried enough to use for smudging.
- ['Garden shears', 'Fresh cedar branches', 'Slender, sturdy string or yarn', 'Scissors', 'Sushi rolling mat or firm handmade rolling panel', 'Drying rack or hooks']
Sometimes cedar feels prickly or sharp, so you might want to wear gloves.
Don't cut cedar from places where it is illegal to do so; use your own or a friend's trees.
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