Witches, healers, and other types of spiritual practitioners usually begin any healing, ritual, or spell with creating a sacred space.
But before you do the same, you have to understand what "sacred space" even means.
For many, setting the stage for spells and ritual starts with physically, mentally, and spiritually cleansing yourself and your space.
What does it mean to cleanse and clear?
Cleansing and clearing yourself and your area is like creating a blank energetic canvas. You can do this in a couple of ways.
Many people use sacred smoke or "smudging" as the first line of defense from negative or unwanted energy.
NOTE: I don't like the term smudging, so I don't usually use it on the blog -- it holds some complex energy and cultural appropriation vibes. But many cultures across the globe have been burning plants and resins for spiritual purposes since like the dawn of time.... so, you can too!
Using herbs, other plants, and resins to clear negative and unwanted energy will not only put you in the right headspace for magic -- it will also help your intention take hold.
Think of creating a sacred space as clearing the clutter and noise so the universe can hear you loud and clear.
How to Cleanse and Clear Energy
#1: actual cleaning
Clear your altar and the room of clutter, dust, and dirt.
My altar is in my officec, so I make sure that the desk is cleared, the carpet is vacuumed and my altar is recently dusted and organized.
Sometimes this also means cleaning myself - showering or at least washing my face, putting on clean clothes... generally, I want to feel put together when I do spellwork. It's out of respect for the ritual and for the spirits that I ask for guidance and protection.
You can also take a ritual bath or wear ritual clothes or jewelry that's really special to your spiritual work.
This is totally up to you! I mean, who am I to tell you to shower? It's not mandatory, but it can really get you in the mood to make some shit happen!
#2: energetic cleaning
Cleansing or “clearing” a space, person, or thing is simply the act of removing negative or unwanted energy. Here are a couple of ways to gently remove unnecessary energy and clean your magical slate.
Optional cleansing tools:
- Sacred smoke like sage, palo santo, or sacred resins (like frankincense)
- Clearing spray (usually water and witch hazel with essential oils)
- Selenite wand
- Tuning fork or sound bowl
Humans across continents and cultures have been burning dried herbs and botanicals to cleanse and clear unwanted energy since ancient times.
Turns out there’s some scientific validity to it – burning certain herbs like sage releases their antibacterial and antiviral properties into the air, actually creating a safer space. One study reported a 94% reduction in airborne bacteria after burning sage[*].
Ancestors knew what was up.
From a plant spirit perspective, sacred smoke also releases the protective spirit of the plant into so their cleansing energy can aid in your magic making.
On that note, it’s important to express immense gratitude for the plant or resin you’re using and to your ancestors for passing on the wisdom of this beautiful protective gift!
How to use sacred smoke
Most sacred burning herbs come in bundles, but some of them are loose -- like loose leaf tea.
If they’re in bundles, light one end until it’s on fire, then let it burn out. Pass the smoke over your body, hitting all your chakras and going all the way down to the floor on your front and backside (if possible).
I like to cover the bottoms of my feet as well.
With loose herbs, place them in a fireproof bowl, light them on fire, and as the fire is replaced with billows of smoke, use your hand or a feather to waft the cleansing smoke over your body.
Pass the smoke over anything else you want to cleanse – your altar, crystals, magical tools – you can even smudge your entire room. Don’t forget the corners and pay special care around the doorways or places where a lot of people pass through.
Common cleansing herbs include:
- Palo santo (which is wood, not an herb)*
*White sage and palo santo should only be sourced from sacred and sustainable sources. I really like Sacred Wood Essence for palo santo.
Common cleansing resins:
A note on sacred smoke: Make sure you have a safe spot for the smoking herbs once you’re done with them. They’ll eventually extinguish completely on their own, but an abalone shell or heat-proof dish to set it on doesn’t hurt.
Cleansing for those who can’t use smoke
It’s not always realistic to use smoke – maybe it irritates your lungs or your roommate is sensitive to billows of smoke coming out of your room. Maybe you want to cleanse your desk at work where fire is frowned upon.
In this case, get your hands on some smokeless cleansing spray, which you can find at most witchy metaphysical stores or online.
Or you can make your own with this simple recipe:
Smokeless Cleansing Spray
- 5-6 drops sage or palo santo essential oil
- 1 tbsp. pure witch hazel
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- Filtered, spring, or moon-blessed water
- Small clear quartz that will fit into your spray bottle
- 1 oz. empty and cleaned spray bottle
Use a selenite wand
Selenite is a cloudy white stone known for its clearing and energetic cleansing abilities, especially when it comes to dispersing negative energy.
Take your selenite wand and run it over the front and back of your body. I like to go from the top of my crown to my feet, picturing all the energy that’s not serving me going back into the earth to be recycled.*
*I was taught this technique from one of my teachers, Brook Albrigo.
Tuning forks or singing bowls
Sometimes I even use music to help cleanse the space and set the tone for ritual. I prefer simple new age music or drumming.
There's so much energy flying around - especially if you live in an urban environment. Cleansing and clearing yourself and your space of unwanted energy is a great way to drop even deeper into your magic.
For more great tips, try this book by Yasmine Galenorn -- a favorite of mine.
Clearing the energy (whether it's "good" or "bad") can help to create a blank canvas for your ritual, healing, or spell work. When in doubt, cleanse twice! It certainly can't hurt.
At the same time -- and this goes for everything energetic and magical -- your intention is always your strongest tool and ally. If you don't have any of these cleansing tools handy, you can always picture a light washing over you and your space, clearing everything away that doesn't serve you.
Don't let any of this stuff scare you. It's meant to help you heal.