This year I’m honoured to be making these smoke sticks* for our local Mankind Project group. It’s a wonderful feeling to know these herbs will go to support the important inner work of such amazing men.
These sticks have been lovingly made under focused intention with herbs gathered within a short walk of our home. For me this is remembering ~ remembering the ways I belong and am connected to the land just beyond my door.
*I’m now calling these smoke sticks or smoke wands rather than ‘smudge sticks’ as I was recently informed that ‘smudge’ was a term taken from sacred practices belonging to native peoples. However there has been a long history of using herbal smoke in European and Celtic cultures so lets reclaim the practice of using herbal smokes without causing offence to others.
One of the most powerful things I learnt studying herbalism was how to connect with the local smoke herbs growing on our English soil. Many smoke sticks commonly bought in shops are made using herbs that are sacred to other cultures that are not ours to use and have been flown across the world to reach us (like white sage).
My growing awareness of a herbal culture that was once alive and well here in England made it feel inappropriate for me to use any smoke herbs other than those growing around me. With an abundance of wild and cultivated aromatic smoke herbs at our door, it’s time to think global and act local when it comes to smoke sticks.
There are many herbs that an be used in a smoke stick and its important to consider what the smoke will be used for and what qualities you are after. Some aromatic herbs are incredibly strong like Sage and Rosemary and others are more subtle like Yarrow and Lemonbalm. Choose the herbs that feel right for the situation you are making for and keep it simple. Here, I have selected 3 herbs for particular reasons to support the work in their Men’s group.
Left is Yarrow ~ a balancing aromatic herb that helps to seal up any energetic ‘holes’ offering protective support in creating healthy boundaries. “I am me and these are my needs – you are you and those are your needs” etc. Being highly sensitive, I often fill my pockets with yarrow leaves before I go into meetings to help me stay with my own thoughts/ feelings with clarity rather than absorbing everyone else’s and getting confused.
Centre is Mugwort ~ our native sacred smoke herb (our equivalent to tobacco), gentle perception shifter, dream herb to show us what we need to see, the gatekeeper to the unseen and all round spacey moon lady. She a massively important native herb for us to reconnect with right now and I love her. She was my magical gateway into herbalism and I’m so grateful to her.
Right is Rosemary ~ a beautiful and powerful protective aromatic herb that smells divine. Breathing in Rosemary smoke is incredible for mental clarity and for bringing us into the present moment.
It pays to be clear and intentional about why you are using the herbs you choose and how you make your smoke sticks. Consider carefully how you will use your smoke and what qualities you might call for from the herbs. Always remember that when harvesting wild herbs like Mugwort and Yarrow, to gather with focused intention and only ever take what you absolutely need.
Its best to use fresh herbs so that you can easily form the shape of the stick. If the herbs become too dry, you will loose a lot of plant material in the wrapping process. Cut your herbs to roughly the length you want and tie them together at one end. I like to let the natural length of the leaves dictate the length of the smoke stick. Tie two pieces of wool or twine or cotton to form a secure bottom to hold and leave the ends going in opposite directions to wrapping around the herbs.
Start to weave the two strings up and around the bundle of herbs in a criss-cross pattern. Make sure you keep it nice and tight because as the herbs dry, they will shrink. Every few wraps, pull it tight and tie a double knot. Focus you intention for the use of the smoke into each knot for extra potent power.
Continue wrapping in a criss-cross pattern until you reach the top. You might have to fold over and tie the top to keep it neat.It takes a while to get this technique right so don’t worry if your smoke stick looks a bit bent or bulging – you can reshape them by giving them a bend at the end : ) Place your finished sticks in a warm place to dry. Best is to hang them in an airing cupboard or over a wood stove for 48 hours.