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How to Burn Sage Leaves – A Comprehensive Guide


Are you wondering how to burn sage leaves?

Burning sage, also known as smudging, is a practice rich in history and cultural significance, with roots in indigenous traditions around the world, including the Māori of Aotearoa (New Zealand).

This ancient ritual is believed to cleanse a space or person of negative energies, purify the air, and promote healing and wisdom.

While it’s embraced by many cultures for its spiritual benefits, it’s also appreciated in modern times for the sense of calm and cleanliness it can bring to a home.

In this article, we’ll tell you how you can burn sage leaves easily to create positive energy.


What You Need

Embarking on a sage burning ritual is a transformative way to cleanse your space or self from negative energy, inviting tranquillity and protection into your surroundings. To ensure your ritual is both effective and respectful of the tradition, gathering the right materials is crucial.

Here’s what you’ll need to start:

1) A Sage Stick or Bundle

Opt for a white sage smudge stick or bundle when possible. This variety is prized for its strong aromatic properties that are believed to be particularly effective at dispelling negative energy. You can explore the sacred art of smudging with white sage easily. 

The sage smoke created from white sage is thought to have purifying qualities that can cleanse a space of negativity and restore balance.

2) A Fireproof Container or Abalone Shell

As you carry out your sage burning, it’s essential to have a safe place to catch the ashes. An abalone shell not only serves this purpose but also adds a layer of symbolism to the ritual, representing the element of water and bringing balance to the fire element of the burning sage.

3) Matches or a Lighter

These are used to ignite the sage. Lighting the sage is the act that begins the cleansing process, transforming the physical sage into sage smoke that will waft through your space, carrying away the negative energy.

Sourcing Sage

When it comes to sourcing your sage, it’s vital to do so responsibly. The popularity of smudging has led to overharvesting, which poses a threat to the sustainability of white sage and other sacred plants. In New Zealand, there’s a growing awareness and effort to source sage and other smudging materials ethically.

Local shops, both physical and online, are starting to offer sage that has been ethically sourced or harvested with sustainability in mind. These retailers often work directly with indigenous growers or those who cultivate sage with respect for the land and its traditions.

By choosing to purchase your sage from these sources, you contribute to the preservation of sage as a sacred plant and support ethical practices within the community. This mindfulness in sourcing reflects the respect and intent that sage burning deserves, ensuring that the practice remains grounded in its traditional roots and ethical considerations.

Preparing Your Space


Before you begin the ritual of burning dry sage, preparing your space with care and consideration is paramount to ensure the practice’s efficacy and safety.

The act of smudging, using a sage stick or smudge stick, is more than just a physical cleansing; it’s a spiritual one that requires a harmonious environment to fully harness its benefits.

Here’s how to prepare your space in New Zealand, or anywhere, for a smudging ritual:

Ventilation Is Essential

The very essence of a smudging ritual lies in the use of a smudge stick to cleanse the space of negative energy, and this process involves creating sage smoke that needs to dissipate effectively.

Opening windows and doors is crucial as it not only allows the smoke—and the negative energy it’s believed to carry—to exit your space but also helps maintain a safe environment by ensuring adequate airflow.

Proper ventilation ensures that the sage smoke does not become overwhelming, allowing for a smoother and more effective cleansing process.

Remove Flammable Objects

Safety should never be an afterthought when preparing for a smudging ritual. Before lighting your smudge stick, scan the area for any flammable materials and clear them from the vicinity. This includes papers, curtains, or any other items that might catch fire accidentally.

Remember, the focus of the ritual should be on spiritual cleansing and protection, not on worrying about potential hazards.

Set Your Intentions

The power of a smudging ritual is significantly amplified by the intentions set before it begins. Whether you’re using a sage stick or another form of smudge stick, take a moment to reflect on what you wish to achieve through this ritual.

Are you seeking purification of your space, protection from external negativity, or perhaps healing and peace within your environment?

Articulating your intentions, either silently or aloud, can help direct the energy of the smudge stick and the ritual towards your desired outcome.

Use the Right Smudge Stick

In New Zealand, as in many parts of the world, the choice of smudge sticks is essential. While sage sticks are commonly used for smudging due to their purification properties, there are various types of smudge sticks, each with its own unique qualities.

Some may incorporate herbs such as lavender for peace and relaxation or cedar for grounding and strength. Choosing the right smudge stick aligns the ritual with your specific intentions.

Prepare Your Spirit

Lastly, smudging is not just about the physical space but also about the individual’s spirit. Take a few deep breaths, centre yourself, and approach the ritual with a calm and open heart. This spiritual preparation is as crucial as the physical preparation of your space, creating a receptive environment for the positive energies you wish to invite.

By following these steps, you’re not just preparing your space for a smudging ritual; you’re setting the stage for a transformative experience that cleanses, protects, and heals.

With the right preparation, including adequate ventilation, safety measures, intentional setting, and choosing the appropriate smudge stick, you can ensure that the ritual of burning dry sage becomes a meaningful and enriching practice.

How to Burn Sage Leaves: Step-by-Step Guide

Burning sage, a practice steeped in tradition and revered for its ability to clear negative energy, requires a careful and respectful approach.

In New Zealand, as in many cultures around the world, sage bundles are used in this sacred ritual to promote healing, protection, and purification.

Here’s how to conduct a sage burning ritual, step by step:

1) Lighting the Sage

When you’re prepared to light up your sage, grasp it from as far away from the burning end as feasible. Maintain the sage stick at a 45-degree angle, ignite it, and then allow it to burn for approximately 20 seconds. Then just softly extinguish the flame, ensuring that you observe orange embers at one end.

The sage bundle should be dry, as traditionally burned sage will produce the most effective smoke for cleansing.

Light the end of the sage bundle using a match or lighter, allowing it to catch fire and burn for about 20 seconds. Then, gently blow out the flame, which should leave the sage smouldering and producing a steady stream of smoke.

This smoke is the key element in the smudging process, carrying away the negative energies from your space.

2) Smudging the Area

Once your sage bundle is smouldering and producing smoke, it’s time to begin the smudging process. If you have one, use a feather to help disperse the smoke; otherwise, gently waving the sage bundle will suffice.

Start by directing the smoke into the corners of each room—areas where stagnant energy is most likely to collect. As you move through your space, imagine the negative energy flowing out with the smoke, leaving behind a cleansed and purified environment.

The act of the room wafting smoke is symbolic of washing the space clean of negativity and is central to the ritual’s effectiveness.

Focus on areas around doorways, windows, and any other entry points to ensure that these passageways are also cleared of unwanted energies.

Remember, the goal is to invite positive energy into your space while dispelling what no longer serves you.

3) Smudging Yourself

Smudging is not only for your physical space but also for your personal energy field. To smudge yourself, start by holding the sage bundle near your feet and slowly move it up around your body, towards your head, and then back down again.

As you do this, imagine negative energy flowing and cleansing your spirit. This personal cleansing can help to restore balance, peace, and harmony within yourself, reinforcing the ritual’s purifying effects.

Throughout the process, it’s essential to handle the sage bundle with respect and gratitude. Traditionally burned sage is a powerful tool for cleansing and purification, and when used thoughtfully, it can significantly impact your well-being and the energy of your surroundings.

By following these steps, you’re not just participating in an age-old practice; you’re connecting with a tradition that has been a source of healing and purification for generations.

Whether in New Zealand or anywhere else in the world, burning sage in this mindful and intentional way can support your spiritual journey and foster a sense of peace and clarity in your life.

Safety Considerations


Always keep safety at the forefront:

  • Never leave burning sage unattended.

  • Use a fireproof container to catch the ashes of burnt sage.

  • Be mindful if you have respiratory issues or are sensitive to smoke.

Concluding the Ritual

Completing a sage burn ritual with respect and mindfulness ensures the integrity of the practice and maximizes its benefits. The conclusion of any ritual is as significant as its commencement.

Here’s how to properly conclude your sage burning ritual, incorporating the key aspects of extinguishing the sage, storing it, and reflecting on the process. Try to avoid the sage smoke directly getting in your eyes.

Extinguishing the Sage

After you have completed smudging your space or yourself with a smoking sage stick, it’s crucial to extinguish the sage safely; rather than blowing out the flame, which can scatter ashes and possibly spread embers, gently tamp the burning sage tip into a fireproof container.

Sand or soil can aid in this process, effectively smothering the flame without creating a mess. Continue this action until the smoke no longer rises, ensuring that the sage has been completely extinguished. This step is vital not only for safety but also symbolizes the closure of the cleansing phase of the ritual.

Storing the Sage

Once the sage has cooled and you’ve confirmed it’s no longer smouldering, store any remaining sage bundle in a dry, cool place. This preservation is essential, as sage releases negative ions when burned, contributing to the cleansing effect by purifying the air of more than just physical impurities—it’s believed to clear spiritual negativity as well.

Proper storage ensures that your sage remains potent and ready for future use, maintaining its physical and energetic properties.

Reflecting on the Ritual

The final step in concluding your sage burning ritual is to take a moment to reflect on your intentions and the cleansing process. Consider the changes in the energy of your space or within yourself since beginning the ritual.

Reflecting on the experience can reinforce your intentions, seal the cleansing process, and provide a moment of gratitude for the benefits received. This reflection helps integrate the ritual into your spiritual practice, allowing for a deeper connection and understanding of its significance.

Concluding your sage burning ritual in this manner ensures that the practice is completed safely and with reverence. It acknowledges the power of the sage, the significance of the smoking sage stick, and the importance of intention in the cleansing process.

By mindfully completing the ritual, you honour the tradition and its roots, fostering a deeper connection to your spiritual path and the natural world around you.



Incorporating the practice of burning sage into your life can be a deeply personal and cleansing ritual. Whether you’re seeking to purify your home, clear negative energy, or simply enjoy the aromatic benefits, sage burning is a tradition that has been valued across cultures for centuries.

As we embrace these practices in Aotearoa, let’s do so with respect for their origins and mindfulness of our environmental impact.


Is it legal to burn sage in New Zealand?

Yes, burning sage is legal, but always ensure you’re doing so in a safe and respectful manner, especially when using it in spiritual practices.

How often should I smudge my home?

This depends on your personal needs and the energy of your space. Some prefer to smudge weekly, while others do so only when they feel it’s necessary.


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