White Sage is often referred to as Salvia or Salvia Apiana and it derives from USA and Mexico. It belongs to the Lamiaceae family and has over 900 different species. It has been used for centuries due to its “medicinal properties” when used in “food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics” as highlighted by Borek, Hochrien and Irwin (2006. White sage has been proven to act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, cancer cell cytotoxic and antibacterial as proven in a study conducted by Borek, Hochrien and Irwin (2006). Spiritually it has been known to release negative ions, which research suggests results in a more positive mood (Charleyboy, 2012).
Aside from the physical advantages, Shamans and other ancient cultures have boasted of the spiritual and metaphysical rewards of white sage too. In the 1960’s Paldam (2018) highlights that the practice of a “bear ceremony” was commonly observed among various Indigenous communities within Native North America. This involved Shaman’s dancing around a bonfire whilst wearing bearskins. It was believed that the bear-skins helped the Shaman’s acquire healing powers while they were evoking the spirit of the bears within themselves, enabling them to provide intense healing to other participants through the art of dancing around a fire of white sage.
In order for these healing powers to activate, Indigenous communities believed that it was essential to make offerings of bear food and white sage to the spirits of the bears so that they can merge with the spirits of the Shaman’s. It was believed that there were different types of bear-skins for different types of healing and when these skins weren’t being used in rituals they were being cared for very respectfully. Oftentimes the skins were left to hibernate during winter, to honour the natural cycle of that bear.
The common denominator in all Indigenous rituals observed in the 1960’s was the use of white sage. It was always used in a bundled and dried form for the purpose of cleansing, blessing and carrying prayers often in combination with abalone shells (to carry the sage) and eagle wing feathers (to fan the sage over the body). Other Indigenous groups commonly use white sage smudging too for the same purposes such as the Lakota peoples, in Pan-Indian spirituality and many more (Paldam, 2018).
According to Howard (2018) the ritual of smudging in general was also widespread among Catholics, with the most traditional method of cleaning and clearing being frankincense. Within Buddhist temples, some forms of wood and incense are burnt for purification. In today’s society there are non-religious (and still religious groups too) who still use white sage for its ability to repel destructive, stagnant and negative energy from objects, people and spaces.
Many people believe that smudging themselves with sage every 24 hours is important, while others believe that only smudging upon feeling heavy energy is important so the frequency is dependent on your own personal beliefs. Howard (2018) believes that “a good time to smudge a space is after an argument or intense conversation, before and after guests visit, when you move into a new home or office space, before meditating and after being out in crowded areas”.
In order to begin a smudging ceremony Charleyboy (2012) states that these steps should be taken (as highlighted by First Australian elders):
- Open a window to let out any stagnant energy
- Place the sage in an abalone shell and set it alight
- Blow the flame out so that the smoke can begin to smolder
- Begin to waft the smoke over your body while stating (out loud or in your head) what you want to release from your body, space or object.
- Be sure to ask the good spirits and good energy to stay and to ask for the negative spirits, energy or chord attachments to leave during the process
- Upon completion carry the left over ashes outside and place them on the ground to return them to the earth for healing
There are reports of individuals with asthma feeling that their lungs are surprisingly feeling better after inhaling white sage as documented by Mullin, Lee, Hertwig and Silverthorne (2001). This comes as no surprise seeing as white sage has been scientifically proven to be beneficial due to its antiseptic and bacteria killing properties as emphasised by Howard (2018). Spiritually it can be concluded that it is a widespread belief among many different cultures that sage is also beneficial in “releasing the mind of its troubles and for ridding a space of negative energy or purifying a home” as highlighted by Charleyboy (2012).
First Australian Indigenous Elder KiiskeeNtum (1998) explains in AMMSA (1988) that the scent of burning sage induces the production of betaendorphins in our brains, which are part of our body’s natural healing process. In conjunction with this he states that other herbs, which are beneficial for cleansing in combination are Sweetgrass, Cedar and tobacco. He notes however that tobacco is not to be smoked, but it is considered necessary, as it is believed to open the door between the Worlds of Earth and Spirit by many Indigenous communities. It is often placed on the ground in exchange for taking other herbs like sage or cedar. The intention behind this is to show gratitude to the creator and to return energy to mother earth (KiiskeeNtum, 1998).
I personally really like to use Palo Santo (also known as Holy Wood) in combination with white sage when I perform smudging rituals within my home. Palo Santo originates from Ecuador and is also an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and antiseptic agent. It has also been used for centuries and derives from the Burseraceae family, which happens to be the same family as frankincense and myrrh. It is widely used for its spiritual cleansing properties too and I find this to be beneficial in cleansing spaces within my home. Prior to starting any cleansing rituals I like to shower to ensure that I am physically clean and clean my home to release any bad Feng Shui. Denise Linn explains the importance of cleaning your house prior to a cleansing ceremony in her book “Sacred Space”. Next I like to call upon Archangel Michael, to ask for his protection from any lower vibrating energies, entities or chord attachments while I release all that is no longer serving my space or me. Do you have any other herbs that you like to incorporate into your cleansing ceremonies (if you have any)?