I know Halloween’s long gone, but I have a bit of a ghost story for you: The first time I visited Los Angeles, I stayed in a friend’s apartment while she was out of town. Apparently, this apartment was haunted. In fact, I’d soon learn from my sister-in-law, an intuitive medium, that *most* apartments in Los Angeles are haunted. (My partner and I learned of said haunting when we were simultaneously woken up at 4 a.m. with an eerie feeling that someone was in the house. This, it turned out, was true—but it wasn’t of the human variety. )
This fact would come back to haunt me when I decided to move across the country from New York City—a decidedly less witchy city—to the City of Angels. I must have looked at two dozen apartments before narrowing it down to the final three: two of which I really liked, and one that I should have liked because it had everything on my list, but it just…didn’t feel right.
I took my sister-in-law with me to feel out each one and kept my opinions to myself, letting her do her thing. Option one was fine, she’d tell me, even though there was a little activity near the dining room. Option two was great—no bad energy, but definitely a bit of staleness throughout the hallway and bedrooms. Option three, however, was out: She walked in and her scalp immediately burned, signaling a series of violent fights between a former resident that turned ugly.
Of course, I went with option two, the largest of all the spaces with the best energy—but my SIL gave me strict advice before I moved in: Make sure you sage the place. In fact, burning sage or Palo Santo, also known as holy wood, is a powerful ritual with roots in Native American tradition. It’s said that burning a bundle of sage or can cleanse a space of any negative energy, generate clarity, and promote healing. It’s especially important to do after there’s been an argument, disagreement, or invader in your space.
Now that I’ve settled into my new apartment, I know I’m in charge of keeping the energy as positive as possible. Every week, I grab my sage bundle and Palo Santo sticks, a book of matches, and my smudge bowl and get to work: It’s almost like a 10-minute mediation that leads into my week.
Here’s how you do it:
- First, it’s important to open the windows in each room before you burn sage or any other energy-clearing incense, as the energy needs a path to escape.
- Then, set an intention: be it clarity or even just good vibes.
- After lighting one end of the bundle—which is also sometimes called a wand—let the flame die out so the dried leaves begin to smoke.
- Waft it through the air, focusing on corners of your space where energy may not typically flow.
- Work your way to the open window, keeping your intentions aligned and positive as you move throughout your home.
- Extinguish your sage by gently pressing it into your smudge bowl, or let it hang out there while it burns out on its own.
- Keep the windows open until the entire bundle is out—and rejoice in your newfound positive energy.
- Then, leave your smudge bowl and sage in plain sight so you’ll naturally remember to repeat the ritual next week.
And that’s it! You can finish by lighting a few candles, other incense, or just enjoy the fresh, earthy scent that sage leaves behind.