For Bundled Smudges:
Most sage or herbs come bundled, sometimes too tightly and sometimes too loosely. Try burning your bundle as it is and if it is wrapped too tightly then you may need to untie the bundle a little bit and pull it apart a little. Pulling the bundle apart a little bit will allow it to kind of breathe better - fire needs air to breathe otherwise it will not burn.
(You can also pull off small sections of the bundle and burn them individually. Imagine burning a small stock of sage or loose leaves, it's basically the same idea.)
(Another way to burn your smudges is to gather small pieces and put them into an Abalone shell or heat resistant burner pot, and use a torch lighter to lit the small pieces. That way nothing goes to waste and a lot of time people comment about "crumbs" - this is the best solution for that issue if you happen to have it!)
Hold your bundle horizontally or at an angle so the flame will naturally travel up/alongside/inside the bundle just a little bit. You want that flame to hit the same area for a period of time to get it going. You shouldn't need to hold the flame to the bundle for too long before the flame/embers starts to grow. Realistically I think you need to hold the flame to the sage bundle (in 1 spot not moving it all over) for about 15-25 seconds. I think in our instructions we say around 30 seconds and that's just a safe estimation - it shouldn't really take longer than that to produce a nice ember.
To keep your bundle smoldering, gently blow on the embers in short 1 second intervals. Be careful you don't accidentally blow any embers or ash off of your bundle. You can knock off any ash into an abalone shell (preferred/traditionally used for this) or smudging bowl of some other kind.
Never start smudging with a full flame, only begin once you blow the flame out and the bundle is smoldering. Most smudges will stop smoldering after a couple of minutes. You may need to relight the bundle frequently but that is just a natural characteristic of smudges and it gets easier with experience.
Once you're finished burning your sage you can just let it burn out or rub out the embers in your abalone shell or smudging bowl. Never pour water on your sage unless it is an emergency.
For Palo Santo:
Not all Palo is created equally and by that we mean that some Palo Santo takes longer to burn, will smolder more or less and can be more or less fragrant. At JL Local, we hand sort all of our Palo Santo so that no lesser fragrant sticks are ever sent out to customers. However, it may take more or less time to get your Palo Santo stick burning well which is mainly affected by the density of the stick and how much natural resin is in the stick.
Hold your stick horizontally or at an angle so the flame will naturally travel up and along the side of the stick. You may need to hold your flame to the stick for about 30 seconds. Gently blow on the flame to see if you have any embers produced yet, and keep gently blowing in short 1 second intervals until you see embers. Blow out the flame and let the stick smolder. Once your stick is smoldering with a nice ember, gently blow on the ember in short 1 second bursts occasionally to prolong the ember.
Once you are finished, you can let the stick smolder and burn out which should only take a minute or two. Otherwise, you can rub out the ember in your abalone shell or smudging bowl. You will have to relight Palo Santo frequently as it is just the nature of this kind of product. Never pour water on your Palo Santo unless it is an emergency.
We highly recommend you open a window at least an inch or two before you smudge your home. This will prevent the smoke from building up too much in the area.
Safety Disclaimer: JL Local is not responsible for any damage to any persons or property as a result of purchasing any JL Local products or using any JL Local products or following the directions of use of any JL Local products or website content. Use at your own risk, be cautious of your surroundings and do not leave anything burning unsupervised, out of sight or in a windy/breezy area.