Magickal Goody of the Day
Make Your Own Yule Smudge Stick
When Yule rolls around – December if you’re in the northern hemisphere, or in June for our readers below the equator – one of the most notable aspects of the season is that of the scents and smells. There’s something about our olfactory system triggering certain memories and recollections, and the Yule season is no exception. Aromas like pine needles, cinnamon, mulled spices, frankincense – all of these are reminders of the winter holidays for many of us.
One of the things I love to do once the weather gets cold is make seasonal smudge sticks. These are essentially like any other smudge stick – you bundle herbs together, tie with string, and allow them to dry out before eventually burning them – but I wanted to put together a combination of plants that evoked the scents of winter.
There’s a park near me that has an arboretum, and it’s a great location for me to go and just wander around, especially when I feel a need to get outside and reconnect with nature, but don’t have the time to dedicate to a half-day hiking trip. Although it’s right in the middle of my town, the arboretum is usually pretty well deserted, other than the occasional dog-walker – most residents use a nearby recreational park for their activities instead. And that means I’ve usually got the place to myself.
I went out for a stroll through the arboretum as the weather was beginning to get chilly – it was cold enough for a jacket, but I didn’t quite need gloves or a hat yet.
As I walked, I stopped and took the time to visit with the trees in the arboretum. Many of them had newly fallen branches lying beneath them, so I took it upon myself to gather them up. After all, it wasn’t like anyone else was going to use them! I collected pine branches and cones, some fir, and a bit of juniper as well, and decided that once I couldn’t carry any more branches in my arms, I was done. I took them home, shook out the extra bits of detritus, and got to work making seasonal smudge sticks for the upcoming Yule season. Smudging is a great way to cleanse a sacred space, and most people use smudge sticks made of sweetgrass or sage for this purpose, but why not use more seasonally appropriate plants at Yule?
Now, I’ve done a bit of experimenting and found that some types of plants definitely work better than others. For instance, certain members of the fir family begin to drop their needles as soon as they begin to dry, which means you’ll end up with needles all over your floor, and not in your smudge stick if you use them. On the other hand, the trees with the longer, softer needles seem to work really well, and lend themselves nicely to a project like this.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Scissors or garden clippers
- Cotton string
- Seasonal plants such as evergreens (pine, fir, juniper, balsam, and cedar), as well as other scents you find appealing – I used rosemary in mine in addition to the pine, fir, and juniper.
Trim your clippings down to a manageable length – I usually keep mine between six and ten inches, but if you’d like to make shorter smudge sticks, go right ahead. Cut a length of string about five feet long. Put several branches together, and wind the string tightly around the stems of the bundle, leaving two inches of loose string where you began. Tie a knot when you get to the end, and leave a loop so you can hang them for drying. Depending on how fresh your branches are – and how much sap is in them – it can take a few weeks to dry them out. Once they’re done, burn them in Yule rituals and ceremonies, or use them for cleansing a sacred space.
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