Capturing the Magic of Summertime Dusk in Wildcrafted Smudge Sticks
In winter we honor softness and introspection and moving through the world in a gentle way… but those ideas as just as important in summer to balance the wild adventures and outward energy we expend.
The heat of summer can feel oppressive to those who are particularly sensitive to it. (Seriously… I go from fine to fainty in like 20 minutes.) All day I hide away in cool basements or air-conditioned respites, but come evening I feel free again. When the sun sets and the soft glow of dusk blankets the world, I am finally able to go be in nature. There’s something magical about these evening walks - the sandy soil comfortably warm on my bare feet, the ruffling of quail settling in for the night under the brush, the beauty of families of deer bounding across the sagebrush seas… this is a purification, a re-set, a time of tranquility.
During the heat of day, all of the noises blend together into a sort of hum — perhaps because the heaviness of the heat muffles them, or maybe because there’s just so much activity that it all just blurs together. But dusk is when the details of individual noises imprint themselves on our consciousness - the rustle of a cricket in the dried grass, the far-off rhythmic spray of a sprinkler, some teenagers laughing in the park a few blocks away. I think, in part, we are naturally more aware at this time of day - it’s imprinted into our primal minds to be on the lookout for predators as our vision fades. But it’s more than that, too — it’s a sharp kind of serenity, as if the layers of life that surround us slowly come into focus and we can see the intricate activities that make up the world we inhabit. Those soft dusk evenings are moments of perfect clarity amidst the blur of summertime. Moving slowly through them brings out the magic of the world.
I wish I could capture these soft warm dusk evenings to snuggle into in winter, but perhaps part of what makes them so exquisite is knowing I can only indulge in them for a short time before the days shorten and cool. I can, however, preserve some of the beautiful cleansing softness in the form of sagebrush smudge sticks. Smudge sticks were used by Native American peoples for spiritual purposes for many centuries before the arrival of other peoples on this continent. We have learned much from them, but it’s important to create our own earth-magic. White Sage is a sacred plant to the Native Peoples, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s sacred to us. Instead, we should consider what plants in our environments we feel a personal connection to and honor those. Sturdy, fragrant herbs like rosemary, lavender, garden sage, sagebrush, and mugwort make particularly lovely smudge sticks. I love incorporating sagebrush blossoms into mine because they remind me of my childhood running through the high deserts of Idaho, a landscape covered in sagebrush oceans. Their pungent scent also reminds me of the beauty of those dusk walks when the world seems to come into such perfect clarity. What plants feel special to you?
A simple smudge stick can be dressed up with the addition of brightly-colored flowers and string. (Though make sure the flowers you choose are non-toxic and dry well!) Goldenrod, ornamental colored yarrows, calendula, amaranth, and cockscombs are all great additions. You can even add rose petals, if you have any roses still blooming in your area. These herbs and flowers come together to form a ceremonial tool that is as beautiful as it is meaningful.
Smudge sticks are perfect for periods of transition or purification, such as moving in to a new house or making a major life decision. They make great housewarming gifts to friends whose lives are changing. As you get used to the smell of your landscape, the familiarity of the herbs in your smudge stick can be used to make any space feel more like home. I’ve already written a long post on wildcrafted smudge sticks and the sacredness of smoke, plants, and intention that gives an overview of how purifying smoke can be used in many contexts. These particular colorful summery smudge sticks will bring great comfort in the depths of winter, I am sure.
Let the process of making your own smudge sticks be an exercise in staying present, in honoring the landscape you are translating into a sacred tool. Let yourself wander gently through the summertime dusk and notice the details of a magical world. Lose yourself in the process.
To Make A Smudge Stick:
a handful of herbs you feel connected to (see suggestions above)
colorful flowers or petals to add
cotton string or colored embroidery floss
1 Gather all of your plant material up in a tight cluster, with all of the stems oriented at the bottom. Try to make sure the cluster is evenly filled; if you have some small stems sticking up above the bulk of the material, tuck them down to be even with the rest.
2 Tie the string around the base of your cluster of plant material, right below where all of the leaves begin so it is just around the stem. Leave a 2” piece of string on one side, and a much longer (about 2 feet) length on the other.
3 Holding the botanical cluster in one hand, use the other to tightly wind the string up around it. As you wind, you can add in flowers, petals, or small springs of colorful foliage. Stop about 1/2” from the top so it doesn’t slip off, then wind it back down tightly, creating a loose criss-cross pattern as you go. Wind it around the base a couple of times, then tie it off the extra string at the end.
4 Trim the ends of the string, then trim the sides and top of your smudge stick (if needed) to create a roughly torpedo shape. Be careful not to cut through the string or any main stems!
5 Trim the bottom of the smudge stick leaving about 1” of the bare stems. Let it dry in the open air, set on a warm surface or hanging from the ceiling.
For those of you wondering, yes these smudge sticks will be included in my next etsy shop update on the next full moon (August 26th.) If you aren’t able to make your own, you can buy a couple there.
Finally, this post is available to all of you for free, thanks to the generous contributions of my patrons. Their monthly donations (from $1 to $50) are what allow me to share all of this magic with you! If you’d like to learn more about this program, you can visit my Patron Page.