Palo Santo Holy Wood
The Sisters were once given a Palo Santo stick from a Shaman who lives in the mountains nearby. Sister Kate was so happy with the smell of the wood when burned, so reminded (she was) of the smell of the incense of her Papal origins and the rituals of her youth, that she immediately ordered more for the abbey ceremonies. It was a fast step to her ordering more after that, to make it available to the people.
Palo Santo is known to be a mystical tree and, in Spanish, the name means ‘holy wood’. Much like the Sisters’ white sage / holy sage bundles, it is used to clear the energies and calm the home or work-space. The tree is part of the citrus family and has a sweet aroma when burned. The tree’s scientific name is ‘Bursera graveolens’. It is wild and native to the lands from Mexico to the Ucatan Peninsula from Peru to Venezuela, from the Gran Chaco region. It is also found in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Hundoras, Columbia, Ecuador and on the Galapagos Islands.
The tree belongs to the same family as frankincense and myrrh.
According to Wikipedia, “the use of Palo Santo . . . is traditional in South America, especially in Ecuador. According to the local customs, it is used against the ‘mala energía’ (bad energy), which may sometimes refer to clinical disease. Its use reportedly dates back to the Inca era. Palo Santo is common today as a type of incense.”
Palo santo may be burned, similar to incense, by lighting shavings of palo santo wood. In Peru, a shaman, or medicine man, reportedly lights palo santo sticks and the rising smoke will enter the ‘energy field’ of ritual participants to ‘clear misfortune, negative thoughtprints, and evil spirits’. Peruvians harvest fallen branches and twigs of the B. graveolens tree, a practice that is regulated by the government of Peru, so trees are not cut for wood harvesting.
The charcoal of palo santo sticks can also be used for ritual smudging. Palo Santo can also be simmered in hot water and drank as a tea.
For smudging: Remove ribbon before burning. Use a candle, match or lighter to ignite your stick of Palo Santo. Hold at about a 45 degree angle pointing the tip down toward the flame. Allow it to burn for a half minute or a minute and then blow it out. Move about the space you wish to energize or clean. The rich smell is believed to bring peace and clarity. When finished, place the stick in a fire proof bowl of metal, glass or clay. The glow will end on its own unless you blow on the ember which will keep the smoke going. Always use caution and respect when working with fire.