Smudge sticks

It is nearly-fall, and I’m driven to burrow and hoard like a little animal who smells the winter coming. Apple sauce, dried apples, picking the garden (which is only just in full fruit, this month), drying herbs, making pickles and vinegar … and yesterday, in a spare fifteen minutes, making a few smudge sticks.

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I don’t even know why I did it, other than I could. After a rocky start (because we planted them too early) our herbs have had a great summer. There’s plenty to spare, and I like the idea of making something for nothing. Maybe having just finished a book has something to do with it, too, because smudge sticks are burned for ritual purification purposes.

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Anyway: I read a brief page of instructions on the internet, then went out to snip sage, rosemary, and blossoming oregano.

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I made two oregano sticks, two rosemary sticks, and two all-sage sticks (the classic). I wrapped six sage leaves around the other herbs, and used nine for each all-sage stick. These are skinnier than the ones I see online, but that’s all right. It means they’ll dry faster.

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I used all-cotton butcher twine to tie them. Red is my color, so it seemed auspicious. One of the strangest moments of this summer came during my weaving class, when we did an evening of burn tests. This is what you do when you have a fiber you want to work with, but you don’t know its composition. There are burn charts full of information on the smells emitted, the length of the burn, the color and qualities of the ash or resins it produces. Seriously, if a group of women meeting at night to study arcane arts wasn’t already a coven, on that particular night, as Marcia lit twist after twist of fiber and fanned the smoke in our faces, it certainly was.

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Anyway, according to the burn chart, cotton should burn and char, give off the odor of burning paper, and make a soft gray ash. All this sounds in harmony with what the dried herbs should do when they burn, so there.

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And now they hang to dry. They look deliciously mysterious, hanging from the eye-hook of my drop spindle on the top yarn shelf. I might never burn them. It was just nice to, as I said, make something out of things I grew myself. And no, Sparks, I’m not going to light them indoors. Never you fear.

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