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  • Writer's pictureBryan Stafford

Open practices vs closed practices

Updated: May 2, 2023

Submitted question covered in this blog:

"Isn't it cultural appropriation to smudge with smoke?"

Thank you for this question. With little experience with, I can't really speak directly on the practice of smudging with smoke. Which is not the same thing as smoke cleansing. It is not part of my practice to smudge and so, I am too unfamiliar to talk about its purpose. What I can say is that I have indigenous friends who do smudge with smoke and I beleive that the practice is part of a closed tradition. This means that if not part of or connected to the culture of origin, or not invited into a sharing of they culture, then it would be seen as cultural appropriation to do it.

In other words, I believe only those raised in, taught from, or born within the culture or whom have cultural significance should be smudging themselves as a practice.

Smudging with smoke mainly originates from indigenous traditions (I believe), and the culture's teachings are heritage based, taught according to origin of band or tribe. This makes It a closed practice, meaning only those connected to the tradition should do it. For example, two of my children have connection to the Iroquois Bear tribe of Ontario, and so it's very important that the learnings of their own indigenous heritage comes from the traditions and beliefs originating from the Bear tribe of the Iroquois people and no other. Not all indigenous nations are the same. This especially applies to those who are not even connected to indigenous teachings what so ever.

Although not indicated as such, I wonder if this submitted question may have been directed towards my previous blog and video and so I can talk more about that:

Smoke Cleansing and Black Salt

As mentioned in that blog/video:

There are different uses for smoke cleansings. For example, to cleanse yourself, waft the smoke around you. Or, cleansing your alter or work space. Or, cleansing personal objects, such as crystals.
With intention, smoke cleansing can reduce stagnant energy and remove negative energy from ourselves, objects, or our surroundings.

Perhaps it also should've been mentioned in this video (linked above) that smudging with smoke and smoke cleansing are not the same thing. Therefore, I didn't think to mention it and in hindsight, I see this as a mistake.

As such, the way I understand it, is that the two practices do not have the same intention involved precisely even though the acts may appear very similar. From my own limited recollection of knowledge, as mentioned above, these traditions do not originate from the same culture.

Smoke cleansing is mentioned and taught in many pagan traditions, as well as in witchcraft, and many others, because it is considered an open practice. It involves the use of a variety of grasses and herbs based on their individual plant associations. Being an open practice means that anyone can learn and do smoke cleansings no matter the beliefs or religion, spirituality, etc.

Smoke cleansing can also be done with incense. However, smoke is not the only way to cleanse energy. Other forms of cleansings include (but not limited to) water such as a a bath, spritz or potion, sound such as a bell, chimes or singing bowls, voice such as hymns, incantation, tones or singing, or psychic cleansing such as through meditation or visualization, etc.

If I can clarify further on the practice of smudging, please let me know and I will find out how appropriate (or inappropriate) it would be too respectfully ask an indigenous friend. If suitable, perhaps they'd be willing to answer a few questions, maybe do an interview to get some clarity. Otherwise, If you have questions relating to my own personal practices, please feel free to submit your comments and questions at or send email to

Thank you so much for reading my blog!

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