Smoke Cleansing

By Justine Lieberman

When most people walk into my home, I watch them drop their shoulders, inhale, and smile. It’s like they just walked into a sanctuary or spa. Even with my small dogs barking their greetings, my guests seem to relax almost immediately. Clients, friends, and family have repeatedly commented on how calm and peaceful they feel in my home. My house is not outwardly calm, between the dogs barking, the three teenagers, the robot vacuum choking on a sock, the game blaring on the TV, and the dishes in the sink, you might be thinking, “CHAOS!”. Sure, those things could be chaotic, and yet, my guests feel perfectly at ease. This is because my home is smoke cleansed regularly, and strongly energetically protected. 
Have you ever walked into a home that just felt heavy, dark, or gave you the heebeegeebees? Are there places that just feel off to you? I remember having a sleepover at a friend’s house in 6th grade, and her house just felt uncomfortable. I never slept over again, but as an adult, I visited her home, and it still felt off. Almost like I was cold, even though it wasn’t cold at all. This really struck me because as a tween, I didn’t think much about it, I just recognized my discomfort. As an adult, I recognized the same feelings I had felt all those years ago. I felt validated but also concerned. I wondered why her house felt so uncomfortable. I wish I had the tools then that I have now because I would have offered to smoke cleanse her house.
All spaces carry energy, whether it’s a home, office, bathroom, church, hospital, school, park, or alleyway. The energy may be so subtle that you don’t feel anything at all, or it may be strong. It can be strong in a positive, or peaceful way, and it may be strong in a negative or even scary way. Just as human beings have the capacity to take on other people’s energy, most commonly noted in empaths, this whole world experiences energetic imprinting. We don’t have to suffer from the intensity or even minimal low vibe energy. In my last blog, “Protect Yourself, Your Home, and Your Peace”, I shared ways to create energetic barriers for your personal aura. Today I want to dive into doing the same for your home. 
Smoke Cleansing is an ancient tradition that has been used in many cultures throughout history and is still a common practice today. We are familiar with Indigenous people in America who use smoke to not only cleanse but also open portals to the spirit world, however, burning herbs to promote cleansing and spiritual connection has been practiced since ancient times all over the world. Biblically God commands the use of incense as early as Exodus, and the wise men who came to witness the infant Jesus after his birth brought frankincense and myrrh as offerings, two herbs that are still used to smoke cleanse and protect to this day. Egypt has been known to burn herbs to purify their homes and help the inhabitants to sleep well. Temples across China and Asia have burned herbs, such as mugwort to support emotional wellness. Africa and India have both been known for smoke cleansing as well. Even Australian Aboriginals and Islanders use different herbs to cleanse with smoke. European witches were put to death for using herbs as salves, remedies, and smoke cleansing. 
You may be wondering if Smoke Cleansing is cultural appropriation. It is a highly controversial subject. As witches, it is important to touch on this subject as we strive to be as ethical as possible. I do not intend to lecture anyone, however, I do find that skirting around it just because it’s uncomfortable is privileged and disrespectful. I have shouted from the rooftops about the injustices to witches, and the 13 million women who were tortured, kidnapped and murdered by drowning, hanging, burning, and countless other insidious ways. Therefore I would be remiss to skirt over the 56 million indigenous men, women, and children who were brutally murdered in the Americas by European settlers. This was a successful holocaust. Hideous extermination of human beings, their religions, customs, and culture. It’s truly tragic. 
“Smudging” is a term used by Indigenous people for smoke cleansing. While Smoke Cleansing is not exclusive to Indigenous people, the term “Smudge” is. The other issue we run into is that many people use white sage to smoke cleanse because of its magical properties, and popularity. Smudging, and all Indigenous religious practices were banned in the United States until 1978. This type of oppression is abhorrent, and the reason it is argued that it is inappropriate for non-natives to adopt these customs. I have made this error myself, and until recently I used the term “Smudge” when discussing Smoke Cleansing, not realizing that the word is not for me to use. In addition, I have used white sage to smoke cleanse, however, this sage was picked wild for me by a dear friend who is Indigenous and has been one of my beloved teachers. I felt panic in regards to using white sage, but just as my dear friend invited me to a Sweat Lodge, I was informed that being invited, and gifted these items and experiences means that in these circumstances I have the honor of participating in these sacred rituals. It would, however, be inappropriate for me to buy and burn sage, just as it would be inappropriate for me to create a Sweat Lodge, according to my Indigenous friends. In addition, white sage has been over-harvested, and therefore it is unethical to purchase unless you can guarantee that it has been sustainably harvested. 
So what is acceptable to burn while smoke cleansing? First, I would suggest feeling deeply into yourself, your practices, and your ancestral roots. Due to my modge podge of ancestry, I have looked into the cultures of my bloodline ranging from Ashkenazi Jew to Swedish, to Scottish, Irish, French, German, and Brazillian. For most of my life, I only had a real connection to my Jewish lineage, so I chose to start there. A quick Google search can help you to discover herbs and other powerful plants that your ancestors may have used. 
Others believe that it is most ethical to choose to use herbs that grow native to the area where you live, on the basis that the energies where you live are more connected to the plants that naturally grow in that region. Ultimately it is up to you to feel into what speaks to your heart and keeps you aligned. Lavender, rosemary, cedar, mugwort, and juniper are all effective alternatives to white sage, or palo santo.
Smoke Cleansing is a tried and true method for dispersing negative, stagnant, or stale energy. It’s surprisingly simple, but a somewhat tedious task when performed with intention. You will find that different cultures have different rituals. I encourage you to do your own research and find a ritual that feels good to you. Personally, my preference for Smoke Cleansing whenever the energy in my home feels heavy, or tense, as well as after we have had guests, is two rounds of smoke cleansing, using two different herbs. The first to banish the old or negative energy, and the second to fill my space with fiercely protective love. I begin by opening everything, all the windows and doors, and each and every cabinet, and closet. I bless and command the first herb by saying “I command you to banish all negative, unwanted, and unhealthy energy from this space, and so it is.” then light my herbs in a bowl or heatproof container, and begin at my front door. I use a small broom or hand fan, and wave the smoke, moving the bowl counterclockwise (to banish), I walk counterclockwise through the entrance of my home, fanning the smoke from top to bottom, making sure not to miss corners, and other hidden places, like underneath desks and shelves. I continue this way, moving from room to room, always starting from the entrance, and paying special attention to enclosed spaces, like cabinets. Afterward, I command my second herb (which is often some type of flower) by saying, “I command you to fill this space with fierce protective love, and repel any and all negative or unwanted energy from this space.” Then I begin again, only this time I move clockwise to bring in positive loving energy. Love is my “religion”, so I choose to use love as my protector, and nurturer. If you have a special connection to specific deities, you can call on them as you command your herbs. 
After I have Smoke Cleansed the entire house, I light a candle to seal the deal, then close all the doors, windows, and cabinets. Before lighting this candle, I meditate on its purpose, and command it to bring calm, gentle, loving, and protective energy into my home, and anoint it with specific essential oils. Any candle will do, as long as it has never been burned before. Unless you have designated a larger candle for this purpose, in which case, you would still meditate on its purpose before lighting the candle, and rather than blowing it out, I suggest snuffing it out. 
There are many practices for smoke cleansing, we would love to hear yours! And don’t forget that you can smoke cleanse any item that comes into your home, as well as your vehicles! For more on protecting your home with symbolism, check out my previous blog, “Protect Yourself, Your Home, and Your Peace”.

What are some safety tips to remember while practicing witchcraft Image

What are some safety tips to remember while practicing witchcraft?

Witchcraft and paganism have become more widely accepted in modern culture, and many people look to these practices as a form of relaxation and stress relief. If you’re looking to try out witchcraft or similar techniques for yourself, there are some safety considerations you’ll want to think about first. Here are some safety tips to remember while practicing witchcraft safely.

1) Candle Safety
Be sure you’re using candles made specifically for burning. Tallow candles (made of animal fat) burn longer and more slowly than most other candle types. For your altar, look for candles that won’t drip wax on it; if you want colored candles, consider vegetable-based waxes like soybean or cotton. Always trim your wicks before lighting, which means removing at least 1⁄4 inch (0.64 cm). Burning two or three shorter wicks in one jar will also prevent dripping. You can find instructions online for how to make homemade non-dripping candles—you simply cut them in half and place one-half into each glass container. They don’t burn quite as evenly, but they work well in holders. Never leave lit candles unattended—either snuff them out completely or move them away from flammable objects. And never leave lit votive candles floating in water containers because they can easily tip over. Clean up any spilled wax with a towel immediately after use so it doesn’t harden onto wood furniture or floors.

2) Fire Safety
Candles can be an integral part of your spell work, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind. First, always burn a candle safely on a stable surface that won’t tip over. Also, try not to let too many flames burn at once—you don’t want one fire taking out all your candles! Finally, use caution with glass containers—it might not always be obvious if they can hold liquid or not. If you want to know for sure whether your container will hold water, put it on its side and pour a little in; if it stays there without spilling over onto another surface, you should be good to go. Otherwise, choose another container! Always test any object before using it in a spell just in case.

3) Lighting
When lighting your ritual candles, use a candle snuffer and make sure to extinguish all flames after use. If you don’t want to buy a candle snuffer (and trust us, they really aren’t that expensive), here’s another option: Place your hands at about waist height and face them together; then twist one hand away from you and one toward you, like you were tightening a screw. Move slowly and deliberately (faster movements will cause your hand to warm up) until your palms become warm. Then place them on top of each other for two or three seconds before pulling apart. The movement will disperse any heat in between your hands without burning you.

4) Focus
Don’t light candles around pets. Cats in particular have been known to knock things over when they get too curious. Pets have also been known to knock candles over on accident. And, of course, pets can also pose a serious fire hazard due to running too close to candles that aren’t well-attended or burning their own fur/paws/etc. if they do start a fire. If you’re casting spells at home, it’s probably best not to leave candles burning unattended for extended periods of time if your pet is in residence.

How to Find Friends Like the Ones in Hocus Pocus

How to Find Friends Like the Ones in Hocus Pocus

In some ways, it can be easier to find friends who share your interests as an adult than it was as a child—because as an adult, you’re not limited to your immediate circle of friends and close family. However, finding people who share your interests can be tricky—especially if they have nothing to do with the occult. But don’t despair! Here are a few tips on how to find witchy friends in your local community. Just remember to practice safety first!

Ask Around at the Metaphysical Shop
If you’re looking for people who share your interests, where better to find them than at a shop or event that specializes in those interests? Many shops and events like Wiccan festivals make it clear on their web pages and advertisements what they’re all about. If you go out of your way to chat with people there, then you may end up talking about more than just candles or crystals. You could even become involved with a coven. And don’t worry: Wiccan gatherings aren’t as underground as they used to be. That means if you want an open and honest community, you can probably find one online or nearby.

Use Online Resources
The most obvious online resource is well…Coven Cloud, but while we’re busy building out matchmaking and geolocating features for witches, you can also check your local coven’s website for public gatherings. If you don’t have a high-speed internet connection or access to a computer at home, try asking at your local library for an hour of web time. Community centers, churches, and even little leagues may offer space for meeting people. Many cities are also organized by neighborhood. Chances are there’s some kind of organization close by that will let you sign up as a member — again mostly online these days — so that if anyone posts an event or notice looking for guests or members, it’ll show up on your own personal page.

Join Witchcraft Meetups
Before you start a coven, check out local witch-specific meetups. If you can’t find any, make your own. While you don’t have to actually join a coven, there are several benefits from attending group gatherings with witches. First and foremost, these groups usually take place on a monthly basis—which is perfect for starting up a long-term friendship. In addition, many of these meetups have other members who identify as solitary practitioners—which means they’re not part of a coven but still identify as being part of the witchcraft community. When looking for local meetups, be sure to check reviews and scope out the social profiles of those you might meet with. While witchcraft can be fun and safe, there are predators out there. Be vigilant!

Initiate Contact
Let’s face it: The prospect of cold-calling someone you don’t know and asking if they want to be your friend can be terrifying. If you want a local witching group that will welcome you with open arms, then there’s only one way to go about it: initiate contact. Pick up your phone and call! With a warm and friendly voice, just ask them how they found their coven or circle and go from there.