We live in energetically heavy times. Carrying stressful thoughts and emotions can contribute to illness and challenge our mental health. Whether these energies stem from within us or our environment (or both), ritual cleansing can be an important part of our energetic hygiene, especially for the sensitive among us.
Burning plant matter such as resins, leaves, bark and flowers with specific properties to clear the negative energy from a space is done in many cultures all over the world and has been for a long time. This can be a desirable and effective way to clear the vibes around us and in our space. I love smoke cleansing, but it’s not the only effective method!
In recent years smoke cleansing has become ultra-popular in mainstream culture. Specifically, the appropriation of Indigenous smudging took the world by storm and has had serious consequences, such as the over-harvesting of white sage and palo santo, as well as furthering the harmful cultural genocide of Indigenous people that began with colonization and continues today.
Thankfully, many pagans are now learning about this and are instead learning the smoke cleansing practices of their ancestors using other herbs & methods, or perhaps respectfully learning the teachings behind smudging from Indigenous folks (when/if offered), learning about colonization and supporting these communities. Many Indigenous folks believe smudging should be a closed practice and that sage should never be bought or sold, only gifted or grown/harvested oneself. I feel it is important to listen to and respect these voices, even though not everyone feels the same. (Indigenous folks are diverse, not a monolith). You may wish to listen to Revolutionary Mystic’s take on this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRu8UWr8KpI
In all this smoke, we can forget that there are plenty of other ways to cleanse ourselves energetically! There are many places and times when smoke may not be accessible, nor even the most effective way to transmute negative energy, so let’s explore some other amazing options…
Sound is vibration and a very powerful energetic purifier. Really, any instrument can be used to shift one’s own energy or the energy in a space. Even recorded music has an effect. When you are feeling heavy or down, find a song that can help you feel better. Put on your favourite album. Or, if you enjoy making your own sound, you may wish to try drumming or chimes. I especially love Koshi chimes and find them to be very useful at shifting my energy and the energy within my space.
We always have breath with us, and it doesn’t cost us a thing. If you are feeling stressed or angry, take a moment and inhale through the nose, and exhale through the mouth. Try blowing the air out like you are blowing out birthday candles.
You can take this a step further with visualization. Imagine you are inhaling clearing, white light and exhaling out black smoke.
Speaking of sound, allowing sound to come out is very helpful! Try inhaling through the nose and exhaling a big sigh. Then on the next exhale try letting the most natural sound come out, even if it’s a nasty growl or sounds a bit monstrous!
Our body usually holds onto negative energy, so moving it helps to move it out! Walking, dancing, or a vigorous workout can transmute anger, rage, depression or hopelessness.
If you are frustrated working from your desk, you can lift your arms over your head as you inhale, then as you exhale, lower your arms down, blowing out the mouth like in the breathing exercise above. Add sound. Notice how you feel.
A Bath or Shower:
As an empath and watery soul, water seems to be my preferred element for cleansing. If you’ve had a long day working with people, being in a crowd, or feeling a buildup of toxic emotion, a shower or bath or a swim in a lake can be extremely soothing and purifying. I like to add Epsom salts or sea salts to my baths for extra cleansing power.
*Sidenote: Whenever we resource something from the earth to energetically cleanse, I feel it is important to thank the spirit being- the spirit of the water, plant, rock, etc. for its help. So, while a regular shower or bath can clear us energetically, it becomes much more powerful when we add prayer, intention and gratitude. We connect to the element in relationship. This is the difference between a mundane activity and a ritual.
This is my favourite alternative to smoke cleansing, and why I sell my sprays! I was trained in aromatherapy, so I understand the energetic and chemical properties behind the essential oils and how to blend them. I list a few of my favourite essential oils and their properties here. Sometimes, I find my sprays make a stronger impact than smoke cleansing, perhaps because essential oils are more concentrated, or perhaps because water is more dense and makes a stronger impact on my sticky aura that picks up everything around it.
Like smoke cleansing, this is another cleansing ritual that has been done in different religions and cultures all over the world. I am not sure of its exact origins, and there are difference nuances to how this is performed culturally. But it is common in pagan practices to sprinkle a space to cleanse it and around ourselves reciting a little chant or prayer. Sometimes it is as simple as saying ‘I cleanse myself and my space with the power of water’. Sometimes saltwater is used.
Drinking enough water in your day can really help the body purify and therefore affect your energetic health too! It is important to connect with the spirit of the water, and the source of the water if possible as well, giving thanks.
Similar to a spray but without the cost and concentration of essential oils, you can boil herbs, roots, and fruits on the stove and let the steam flow around you and through the house. This will give it a wonderful smell (assuming you boil wonderful smelling things). This is nice to do when ill, and if you boil herbs or bark you can drink as a tea, even better! When ill or feeling low, I like to make either cedar tea or a mix of garden sage,rosemary, thyme and lemon. Cinnamon is nice too! The possibilities are endless.
A housekeeping tradition found all over the world is to clean one’s space with a broom. Traditionally, in the UK a broom was called a besom, and made of tied birch twigs to a larger branch handle made of ash, hazel or chestnut. Eventually, broomcorn came into use, which is the material we typically see in regular brooms today.
The broom/besom is also used as a sacred tool for energetic cleansing. It can be used to sweep negative energy out of a room, or off oneself. I use a small besom for personal sweeping, and I also fashioned one of wheat and other dried flowers and herbs. I sweep my body lightly from head to toe to remove negative energy.
Wherever we go, we walk on the earth. The Earth can help transmute negative energy. This practice is best in a place where the earth is happy and doing well, so if you’re living downtown in a large city, find a healthy, decent sized park rather than bothering a poor lone tree in the concrete jungle.
Let the earth know you are looking for a good place to transmute negative energy. Wait until you find a place that seems to be inviting you to it. Be patient, my urbanite friends, this may mean a longer walk or a bit of a trek. It could be a tree that draws you, or a patch of grass or sand. My fave local spot here in Toronto is the sandy water’s edge on Lake Ontario, but you may have another spot you like or a large tree in a park who doesn’t mind grounding your energy.
When you find your spot and the tree or earth says it will help you, simply sit and place your palms face down on the earth and imagine any negative energy flowing out from your hands, feet and the base of your spine, into the ground to be transmuted. If appropriate, you may wish to lay on the ground or sit with your back up against a tree. Breathe in the energy of the earth or the tree. Exhale any negative energy out. When you feel more balanced, thank the earth.
I always leave an offering if I am asking anything of a tree or the earth. You can leave herbs, safe food for local animals, or Sema (tobacco) if that is your tradition. Give thanks.
Wind, Rain & Sun:
Wind– When you are outside on a windy day, ask the wind to take your stressful thoughts away. Combine it with the breathing exercise above.
Rain– If it is raining, allow the water to help cleanse and refresh your mind and heart. Imagine each drop capturing your stresses and washing them away.
Sun– When the sun shines, lift your gaze to the sky, open your heart and ask the sun to purify you. Feel its warmth penetrating any negativity and transmuting it into love.
The elements are always here for us, all around us, part of us. Sometimes we just needs to remember to take notice, receive the Earth Mother’s gifts and give thanks.
There are many other ways I haven’t even mentioned to clear energy. What methods do you use? Which ones do you feel like trying?
May your energy be bright and clear this full moon and may all that needs to be released, go with ease.
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As a Witch who makes her home and practice in Tkaronto (Toronto) Ontario, I deeply thank the original stewards of this land: The Mississaugas of the Credit, Mississaugas of Scugog, Alderville, Hiawatha & Curve Lake; The Chippewas of Beausoleil, Rama & Georgina island, the Haudenosaunee and Wendat nations. I acknowledge the resilience of the First Nation, Inuit and Metis people who live and work here in the present, in a system of inequity and oppression. I am working on uncolonising my own practice, amplifying Indigenous voices and supporting Indigenous communities in whatever way I can.