"Smudging feathers are traditionally used with burning herbs or grasses during prayer and cleansing to direct the smudging smoke where you want it to go. Our Native elders have taught us that before a person can be healed or heal another, one must be cleansed of any bad feelings, negative thoughts, bad spirits or negative energy - cleansed both physically and spiritually. This helps the healing to come through in a clear way, without being distorted or sidetracked by negative "stuff" in either the healer or the client. The elders say that all ceremonies, tribal or private, must be entered into with a good heart so that we can pray, sing, and walk in a sacred manner, and be helped by the spirits to enter the sacred realm. Native people throughout the world use herbs to accomplish this. One common ceremony is to burn certain herbs, take the smoke in one's hands and rub or brush it over the body. Today this is commonly called "smudging." In Western North America the three plants most frequently used in smudging are sage, cedar, and sweetgrass."
Source: Adrienne Borden and Steve Coyote.