Witchcraft Terms for the Modern Practitioner (WTMP): Smudging vs. Smoke Cleansing

Originally posted by limoniume

Witch Haven Community is all about inclusivity and progress, which is why we wanted to start a series of small posts covering outdated terms used in the witchcraft community and offer modern alternatives.  We are calling this project “Witchcraft Terms for the Modern Practitioner” or, more informally, WTMP.  It is our hope that these substitutes will promote more understanding and openness within our diverse community.  Of course, these are just suggestions, and we try to highlight the differing opinions covering each of these terms.  

The term of the week is:


Definition:  “Smudge” has a broad range of definitions, and as a noun or regular verb, it can simply mean to make something dirty by marking it, or making it messier. This definition is not the one we’re talking about, however. Collins English Dictionary defines our particular use of “smudging” in question as: “a traditional Native American method of using smoke from burning herbs to purify a space.” Canada’s Indigenous Corporate Training blog elaborates further upon this, explaining in general terms what smudging is, and its place in modern-day Native American culture. White Sage is the herb most commonly associated with smudging, though other plants such as sweetgrass and tobacco may be used. A smudging ritual may be done to oneself, but it may also be conducted upon others, as well as upon spaces.

Is it problematic?  The ritual of “smudging” has existed far longer than the term, however over time the term “smudging” has come to specifically mean Native American purification methods. The methods themselves are sacred to Native American tribes, whose practices are often either entirely closed or initiatory, and feature particular - sometimes regional - details that make a proper smudging ritual far more involved than simply burning herbs. As modern witchcraft has sought effective cleansing techniques, this method has been removed from its historical and cultural context, and “witchy” uses of “smudging” are often devoid of the meaning and symbolism that true smudging involves.

Additionally, the most commonly associated herb with “smudging”, White Sage, is highly endangered in North America, and its cultivation and production is often poorly regulated. This results in it being harder to obtain for Native American individuals, as well as granting opportunities for counterfeit White Sage to be sold. Overcultivation also threatens the extinction of the herb. 

Or is it not problematic?  Using burning herbs to cleanse and purify a person or a space is hardly restricted to Native American practices only, and examples of similar practices occur in a wide range of native cultures from across the world. The particulars of these practices often vary wildly, as does their availability to learn and conduct, and the terms for these practices are often just as varied.

Alternative Terms:  The most common alternative term modern practitioners will find is “Smoke Cleansing”, which is a term that avoids having any sort of cultural connotation. Consider synonyms for these two words as well. I couldn’t come up with any good sort of combination, but something like “Mist sanitation” might work for you! You may also look at your own cultural heritage for terms and practices that are accessible to you, and contact any elders or respected authorities to pursue learning and using those appropriately. Remember to ask yourself why you wish to use a particular term in lieu of something more neutral and acceptable.

Happy Casting, Nerds!
Witch Haven Community Manager, The One True Birb, Screm Queen.

With all this being said, we hope that these Witchcraft Terms for the Modern Practitioner (WTMP) blog posts promote educated, CALM discussions between fellow witches.  As always, Witch Haven is an inclusive community that acts as a safe haven and educational platform for witches from all branches of paganism.  Our intention is to promote research, discovery, and exploration within our vast and diverse sodality.  We aren’t just friends and fellow witches on Witch Haven; we are a #WAMILY (a term coined by Salt meaning “witch family.”)

We invite everyone to comment, reblog, and share their opinions on this term.  We look forward to the discussion and, as always, have a wonderfully witchy day!

Under the Rubble

McHanzo Week Day 2: Canon Divergence/AU

Summary:  Lost in the uninhabited plains far from any town, a well-traveled group of adventurers finds a strange ruin and argue about everything.

(D&D AU. TW for violence and descriptions of gore.)


“Just admit it, Hanzo, we’re lost!”

“We are not—give me the map, Genji, stop that, you’re acting like a child!”

“You are not holding it right! That’s why we are lost! Gods above, I have the dumbest brother—“

“I’m not holding it right? Me? Which way is east, tell me that, and then argue!”

McCree slowly lifted his flask to his lips and let the arguing of the brothers fade into the background. The sun was hot here, and while his liquor didn’t help with the heat, it staved off the headache their bickering was giving him.

Keep reading

As a young child I wanted to be a writer because writers were rich and famous. They lounged around Singapore and Rangoon smoking opium in a yellow pongee silk suit. They sniffed cocaine in Mayfair and they penetrated forbidden swamps with a faithful native boy and lived in the native quarter of Tangier smoking hashish and languidly caressing a pet gazelle.
—  William S. Burroughs, The Adding Machine
The Mysterious Little People of Alaska

The most common name for them is Inukin and they’re generally small in stature but big in strength and supernatural powers. They dress like Natives and have Native habits like smoking, but pull off their hats and hoods and you see their pointed little heads and ears.

In 1993, the Arctic Sounder ran accounts, republished in the Anchorage Daily News, from people who had seen or heard stories of Inukin. Flora Penn described seeing a little man sitting on the root of a driftwood tree smoking a pipe while she was out berry picking with a friend on a trip up the Noatak River in Northwest Alaska. 

“He had a pointed head, a big nose and pointed ears. We tried to hide and watch him for about an hour. He just smoked and looked around. Suddenly he jumped up and began to run toward the high mountains,” Penn told the Arctic Sounder.  Old stories say that the little people used to stay with the big people long ago. Until one time a little person’s child was playing with the big people’s kids. Just playing and a dog gobbled up the baby of the little person. Ever since then the little people could never stay among the people. 

Joe Sun a villager recalls a story her heard “I hear from my parents in the Maniilaq area that there was this man hunting. He had a real rifle. (Not the old kind that you had to load through the barrel with a rod.) He saw a caribou he wanted to get close to, to have a shot at it. He saw another person trying to hunt this caribou too. When this man, a big man, got close to shoot the caribou it changed into a little man. The big man jumped at the little man who escaped and began running and climbing up the mountain.”

Holy water and rosaries and smudging...

Just had a long discussion about this with someone.
If you’re not getting it from a priest/holy water site (like Lourdes) and are making it yourself, it’s Blessed Water, not Holy Water.
If you’re not praying a Marian devotional/Novenna, it’s prayer beads not a Rosary.
If you are not Native American, it’s Smoke Cleansing, not Smudging.
Knowledge, Reverence, and Respect please.

I’m not saying that one is any less effective than another or anything else like that. They are just not the exact same thing.

anonymous asked:

Hello. I saw a question you answered about the problems with smudging (or calling it smudging), and I completely agree. I was wondering if you had any tips to cleanse spaces without appropriating. I want to cleanse spaces and like the idea of the burning of sage or similar things, but I want to be respectful to other cultures and people. Thanks!

You can burn sage and herb bundles to your heart’s content, my lovely as this is simply smoke cleansing. “Smudging” is a ritual and has intricacies and aspects that aren’t open to people outside of Native culture.
Besides smoke cleansing, there are a plethora of ways to cleanse! I’ll try and cover as much as I can for you.


You can burn your own blends, or burn ready made cones, blends or sticks. It’s just like smoke cleansing, but you’re just not using bundles of dried herbs.

Room Sprays/Spritzing:

You can create sprays to cleanse rooms with, by popping the following into a spray bottle: some charged water (charged with intent or under a celestial body, such as the sun or moon), water safe crystals (clear quartz would be a good one), some herbs and/or a couple of drops of essential oil, and then by spritzing the corners of a room, your ritual space, windowsills and doorways, etc.


You can cleanse with sound.
This may be through singing, screaming, humming, music, chanting, instruments, etc,. Drums are said to be particularly good for cleansing space due to their vibrations when they are hit.

Strategic Crystal Placement:

Find crystals that cleanse, such as Citrine, Clear Quartz, Black Tourmaline, Selenite, and place them in entries and exits, or points that are high traffic areas. 

Some lesser known and easy cleansing methods:


  1. Every now and again, if you own one, sweep up with a broom. This act has long been symbolic of cleansing spiritually and of course, physically.
  2. Using charged water to wash down your space;