Yesterday, on the equinox in which the dark so outlasts the light, I wanted to have a ceremony.
Over the past few months, the space I’m living in has grown smaller, tighter, darker. It lost the light of love and potential it once held, and with the stay-at-home-orders in place, seemed to hold all the personal and collective grief within its walls. Every morning is like waking up at the scene of the crime, invisible pools of blood smeared across the floor, the cleanup crew never quite able to scrub the lingering sense that something happened here.
With mere hours of light, the short day called for a cleansing. And so I pulled a bag of Epsom salts out from under the bathroom sink, scattered it across the bottom of a baking sheet, splashed it with alcohol, and lit the whole thing on fire.
Burning salt has long been a feng shui energy cleansing technique. Rooms hold the energy of their inhabitants, and if you don’t believe me, think about the difference between walking into a church versus a prison cell. No matter your religious beliefs, these are not neutral spaces. One embodies the essence of spirituality and connection. The other, a monument to despair and isolation. Even if you don’t believe in God and have never committed a crime, the energy within each space is distinct, and so too is the case for our homes.
Whatever happens in a room, good or bad, lingers well beyond the life of the event itself. Walking into an area that holds an imprint of divorce or death, whether it’s your own or the previous inhabitants, is like climbing into dirty bathwater. There are lots of ways t0 help scrub out muddy energies—candles, soft music, and smudging sage—but I like fire. It is a powerful, visual reminder transformation that is impossible to ignore. Like energetic bleach.
To clear the energy with salt burning, you’ll need:
- a bag of Epsom salt (scented or unscented, doesn’t matter)
- a fireproof container, (I use a restaurant sizzle platter designed to withstand scorching hot broilers)
- a trivet or baking tray (the container will get extremely hot, and you want to make sure your floors are protected.)
- a long wooden match or campfire lighter
- high proof alcohol like isopropyl alcohol, Everclear, or even Bacardi 151
- a towel or container of water, just in case you need to smother the flames
Start by pouring a handful or two of Epsom salt into your fireproof container. Splash enough of the alcohol on top of the salt so the salt is soaked but not sitting in a pool of liquid. Use a spoon, if necessary, to coat all the salt crystals with alcohol.
When you’re ready to burn, place the container with salt on top of a trivet or on a baking tray in the center of the room you’d like to clear, away from any flammable rugs or furniture. Keep a towel or container of water nearby, just in case.
Before you light the salt, take a moment to verbalize the intention of the burning. This morning I said, “Let this fire clear the energy of this space. Let it transform all the pain and frustration. Let it release the tension of this room and make space for peace and harmony.”
Then, use your long match or lighter and ignite the salt. Orange flames will jump up about ten inches or so, and blue light will dance across the surface of the salt. It will burn with force, crackling in the heat. Pay attention to what it feels like. To me, it is like a deep breath that sends a calm shudder down my spine.
The whole process only takes a few minutes and should be done in each room.
If you’re anything like me, you’re going to feel a whole hell of a lot better after this ritual.
If you’re into anything that might be colloquially defined as woo-woo, then you don’t need me to convince you of an energy cleansing practice. The power of belief is more than enough to create great change.
But for those who need a bit more scientific convincing, I have a few theories. First, let me say that there is scant research on the matter. Folklore takes up little space in scientific research and is instead regulated into a bucket of knowledge that people either know or they don’t. Even though Epsom salt baths are collectively recognized as a viable treatment for everything from muscle soreness to hemorrhoids, there is zero research on the act of burning salt to clear energy.
There is, however, some research on smudging sage, which is also used to cleanse the energy of a room. Sage smoke is a powerful, medicinal antiseptic that purifies the air of up to 94% of harmful bacteria for 24 hours.
Furthermore, burning sage or other herbs releases negative ions into the atmosphere of a room, and the presence of negative ions are known to create a sense of lightness and calm.
Let’s go back to chemistry class for a moment. An ion is a particle or molecule with a net electrical charge. They exist in our electromagnetic field and in the general atmosphere. Positive and negative ions are floating around all the time, but a change in the ratio of the positive and negative ions has a huge effect on plants and living beings
. An excess of positive ions, which are created by everything from extreme weather
to radio waves and electricity
, known to cause negative effects in humans. Too many positive ions make us feel jumpy, depressed, and achy. Conversely, an excess of negative ions—which are particularly present in nature—supports liveliness and enthusiasm.
This is why “going for a walk” is often recommended to help combat depression.
We know that burning sage releases negative ions, but burning salt has never been studied. However, there seems to be some debate
about whether or not fire itself releases negative ions
. However, we do know that the act of sitting near a fire lowers blood pressure
, likely due to evolutionary adaptation
. In our ancestor’s world, fire = safety. Creating a controlled fire in your own home brings about that sense of safety, and doing it with the intention of clearing negative energies can have a powerful emotional impact.
Give it a try!