If you work with herbs or oils at all, chances are you have come across Palo Santo in some form. Its name translates to "holy wood," and this beautiful, aromatic tree lives up to its reputation as a healer and cleanser. It is so powerful that it has been a part of sacred rituals in its native region for centuries. What is it, and how can you use it today?
Palo Santo, the Holy Wood
Briefly put, Palo Santo is the wood of the Palo Santo tree (Bursera graveolens). It primarily grows along the coast of South America, and can be found in Peru, Argentinia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and the Galapagos Islands. Its wood is very aromatic -- it accumulates fragrant oil and resin in the wood fiber, which produces its distinctive scent. The oil is even affected by the moon. When the moon is new, the wood produces a smaller quantity of light oil. When it is full, the wood produces more abundant, deeply scented oil.
When the wood is burned, it gives off a dense, fragrant smoke. Palo Santo is used in rituals to cleanse and ward off negative energies (Palo Santo is related to frankincense, myrrh, and copal trees, three other powerful energy cleansers and protectors). The wood is also used to communicate with the divine, heal on the physical and spiritual levels, and improve concentration and mental focus during meditation.
Palo Santo is considered so holy, it must never be cut down. Any wood used in ritual should be sourced from fallen branches.
Cleansing with Palo Santo
Palo Santo drives away negativity, destroys obstacles, and attracts luck. To use it, light a stick, wait about thirty seconds, and blow out the flame. The end will continue to smolder, releasing dense, white, fragrant smoke. Carry this around the area you wish to cleanse, waving the smoke with your hand or a hand fan to make sure it gets into all of the corners. As you do this, state your intention. Your words can be simple, like,
"With this smoke, I cleanse this space of negativity. Spirit of Palo Santo, clear away the bad things so that only good may come in."
You can also recite a prayer to your deity or deities, invoke your guardian angels, or call on your spirit guides to help you drive away negative energy. When you are through, allow the smoldering end to burn out. Palo Santo powder can also be added to smudge sticks or other herb bundles.
Palo Santo for Meditation
Since it expands consciousness and bolsters mental clarity and connections to the divine, this wood is ideal for meditation. You can either allow some of the wood to smolder in an incense bowl, or, if your meditation area is small or you find the dense smoke too heavy, try a Palo Santo incense or a Palo Santo & Rue incense. You may also wear a Palo Santo bead necklace or bracelet to connect to the spirit of the wood and enjoy the fragrance without burning. Breathe the sacred fragrance, and allow it to enhance your meditation.
Using the Wood to Heal
While the wood and oil are said to have medicinal properties, it is best used to heal on the spiritual or vibrational plane. You can burn the wood or incense in a sick room -- in addition to clearing out negative energies produced by pain and illness, it is said to have antibacterial, antiviral, and relaxing properties.
Attracting Luck with Palo Santo
Everyone has times when they could use a little extra good fortune. Unfortunately, most of those times seem to happen outside of the home, where burning Palo Santo wood would be difficult and attract a lot of attention! Since one of Palo Santo's many spiritual properties is its ability to draw in luck, wearing a little bit of Palo Santo cologne is a discreet way to use it.
Take a moment to relax and center yourself, and picture your entire body surrounded by an egg-shaped shield of golden light. This light allows good things to enter, but no negativity or evil intentions can pass through. When you have this pictured clearly in your mind, dab a little Palo Santo cologne on your neck, wrists, and over your heart. Step out into the world knowing you attract good things and are connected to the divine.
Using the Wood Without Burning It
Palo Santo is a precious wood, so you may not wish to burn it. In addition to jewelry and cologne, you can also keep pieces of the raw sticks with you as talismans. These still carry the sacred wood's fragrance, and can be powerful additions to sachets. You can also leave pieces of the wood in your home, especially on your altar. There's only one restriction here: Treat the spirit of the wood with respect. Keep it off of the floor, away from toilets and trash cans, and where animals cannot get to it. Set it a place of honor, and ask the spirit of the wood to cleanse, protect, and uplift the space.
There is nothing quite like Palo Santo. Its unique fragrance is like a mixture of pine resins, citrus, and frankincense, and it clears away negativity, smooths vibrations, and draws in positive feelings better than almost anything else. Treat this wood with respect and it will reward you.