Continuing on from Sage and Agua de Florida, two essential tools for all spiritual seekers looking to bash any lingering bad vibes, we now come to Palo Santo. This Palo Santo is not to be confused with the epicentre of Silicon Valley pomp, Palo Alto. Palo Santo means “Holy Wood” in Spanish (I guess Palo Alto now means “Not less than $1,500 per square foot”).
I’ve only started using Palo Santo recently, but I’m already in love. I bought some as my husband complains non-stop when I smudge our house with sage. Okay, truth be told, sage can smell a lot like pot when you burn it. Although sage is one of easiest, best spiritual tools going, the pungency of the smell puts a great deal of people off. Palo Santo by comparison is much more mild and has a light, slightly sweet woody smell.
Palo Santo is best known as an incense part of the same tree family as Frankincense and Myrrh, which many might well remember most vividly as the gifts bestowed upon Jesus by the Three Wise Men. Throughout history, the wood of many tree species have been prized for their healing and aromatic properties. Ironically, I’ve also heard that Catholic services sometimes use or burn Palo Santo – so some of you may already be familiar with the smell.
Probably first used by the Incas, at which time it was thought to have spiritually purifying properties, Palo Santo is still used today by Shamans in Peru and throughout South America as part of a limpia, or cleansing ritual, to rid the body or home from bad energy and instil good luck. I’ve even read before that certain Shamans combine the smoke of Palo Santo with yage (a.k.a. Ayahuasca) as a cleansing smoke ritual to release bad luck and evil spirits.
Since you may be unlikely to set about using Palo Santo to rid yourself of evil spirits anytime soon, you’ll be pleased to know its uses are quite similar to Sage.
Generally, it’s used to cleanse an area energetically, and as a bonus, provides a kind of calming, grounded feeling to a space. Also good to know is that its very handy to keep for any backyard or open-air events as it tends to keep mosquitoes at bay (one of its most popular uses in the Amazon).
Personally I find it easiest to use in its ‘stick’ format. You can use and re-use the sticks again as they take quite some time to burn through. If you get lucky, many Palo Santo sticks can stand on their own, so as long as you place on something heat-proof, you don’t necessarily need a burner or shell in addition (N.B. the image from this post is a pretty rad Palo Santo stand). You may however eventually need to have a pair of pliers or tongs on hand to light the last bits of a piece – once it burns down short enough you’ll be in danger of nipping your fingers with the match. I don’t personally recommend the Palo Santo incense cones. They’re dead easy to use, but don’t have the same intensity of smell and smoke the way the Palo Santo sticks do. In my opinion they smell a bit like cardboard.
I hope that if you haven’t already, you grab yourself some Palo Santo, pronto. I don’t have a preferred supplier to recommend, but a quick Amazon search should give you more than plenty of options.
Do you use Palo Santo? Do you have a preference between Sage, Palo Santo and Agua de Florida? Let me know in the comments below.