Of the many smudge sticks ready to burn, cedar, to my experience, is the most stubborn.
Cedar, a venerable wood, capable of holding insects back from enclosed spaces and ever so fragrant, stills, way beyond that prohibitive demarcation. When wrapped tightly around several structural dried stems, the khaki-green tendril leaves sputter and crackle as you try to set them aflame. Smoke, the objective goal here, comes reluctantly; it must be forced with repetitive plunge into fire. Jiggering this crackler and imposing onto its negative space proximate air, gentle balsam puffs finally come to.
Fortunately for those of us who burn through this stubborn ritual, this scrubbing of atmosphere with controlled conflagration, the cedar smudge stick is sufficiently pungent, economical, thrifty for its effusiveness despite its miserly yield, uniquely identifiable for its supra-dimensional character. It somehow booms assuagingly under silence.
Why smudge? Whether one takes a theistic perspective or pagan — is there truly an underlying difference? — the theatrical, aesthetic, olfactive modification of proximate space also (un)marks, or smudges, mind.
There are those who smudge to expel spirits, erase thoughts, to push back that which resists give. There are those who smudge to paint a room a certain color, perhaps as backdrop to a certain sound. There are those who smudge simply because it smells lovely. There are those of us who need fire, in our hands, pulsating.
Whatever the case of its user, burnt cedar certainly acts as a repellant, not for gnawing insects, but for emotional chiggers subterranean and absent in sight. It avails the sublimatingly visible, smoke, and the invisibly evident, scent, to map for and direct, respectively, the ignited celebrant toward dogged bites.