The ethics of burning sage explained (2023)

The last few years have certainly left many people wantingrid your homes of negative energy. Smearing, also known as sagging, has become aFashion wellness practicethat people use to clean their spaces - be it a room, an entire house or even a car. But if you're inclined to scour social media circles, you've probably heard people ask (and may have wondered): Is burning sage and vilifying cultural appropriation?

The sage or sage plant grows all over the world in different colors and varieties.culinary sage(the kind you use in pumpkin and fried chicken dishes), also known as garden sage, is native to the coast of the northern Mediterranean region. However, most people refer to white sage (Salvia apiana) when discussing the popular practice of frankincense.

White sage grows naturally in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico and is specialFound along the coast of Southern Californiaand in the Mojave and Sonora deserts. While it is not the only salvia native to North America, it is by far the most commonly used and sold.wellness industry. It is also a sacred herb for many.indigenous communities, including the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Navajo. For example, the Chumash, native to coastal central and southern California, uses white sagein healing sessionsto clear the central nervous system.

The question of whether sage burning is cultural appropriation is a valid one - long story short, sage burning is problematic for a number of reasons, the most important of which iscultural insensitivityand ecological unsustainability. If you're not indigenous and therefore hesitate to light a match to get the bad vibes out of your home, here's what you should know about burning white sage.

(Video) One Take | What is Smudging? (Short version)

What is smearing?

The stain is clearly indigenous. It is aimportant ceremonial ritual of purificationor prayer created and practiced in many Native American cultures. It also does not specifically refer to burning white sage. Different native communities use different incense remedies, depending on their origins, and not every culture uses white sage or incenses. The practice has a long and rich history, going back long before white witchcraft practices brought it to Instagram feeds in your area. Before tarnishing became popular,it was illegal– at least for indigenous peoples – and often violently repressed.

"In the United States, it was illegal for Native Americans to practice their religion until 1978, and many were arrested and killed simply for keeping our way of life alive, including my great-great grandfather."Ruth Hopkins,a Dakota/Lakota Sioux author, reports Bustle. Sage smoking was part of these prohibited religious practices. Today, indigenous people still struggle to achieve this.perform these ceremonies in hospitals.

Because of the whole complicated story of burning sage when non-native people use white sage for it"stain" their homes.or other spaces, violates the cultural significance and authenticity of ritual and prayer - simply, it iscultural appropriation. The practice of smudging, therefore, should not be taken lightly.Dra. Adrienne Keene, Assistant Professor of American and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, author of the blogIndigenous Means, and citizens of the Cherokee Nation.

(Video) How to smudge: Burning sage

“This smudge stick represents the deep pain, sacrifice, resistance and rejection of the indigenous people. It represents an enduring legacy of marginalization and punishment for Indigenous spirituality,” says Keene. "So when our religious practices are mocked by these products, or people commodify our ceremonies and make money off of them, it's not about who has the 'right' to buy or sell. It's about power."

Instead, advocates say non-natives can learn to clean up their spaces in ways that are culturally andecologically sensitive.

Is white sage burning harmful?

Thanks to the recent fumigation trend, white sage is in high demand. Demand has become so great that many Chumashs (in present-day Southern California) are concerned that theThe plant is over-harvested. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that white sage did thisimportant medical benefit– is used to cure colds and aid postpartum healing – and is a crucial part of the surrounding ecosystem.

As Keene explains, in addition to the threat of increased wildfires and urban development, white sage overharvesting is threatening the ability of indigenous peoples to access the wild plant and use it as they and their ancestors have done for thousands of years. However, some brands and stores continue to sell white sage despite opposition from local communities. “It's exploitative and amounts to silencing the voices of indigenous peoples and annihilating our cultural heritage,” says Hopkins.

for hopkins,the appropriation of white sageit is aggravated because the plant is often not harvested properly. “When using medicinal plants, it is important that the plant is used sustainably. When we harvest sage, we always leave the root and say a prayer of thanksgiving for our harvest. This is part of both smoking (or cooking) and burning the plant,” says Hopkins.

(Video) Is Smudging Cultural Appropriation? (Can I smudge with sage if I am non-indigenous?)

In other words, it is important to leave the root, as this is how the plant grows back. If one harvests white sage and does not know how to do it correctly, it will impede the growth of other plants and thus endanger the plant species.

Smoke versus stain cleaning

White sage has become particularly popular with them.practice magicor witchcraft-inspired wellness rituals. However, sage is not historically a part of European witchcraft from which many modern witchcraft practices derive.

If you've used herbs to clear your space in the past andenjoy the ritual, you don't have to go without it to do this in a culturally conscious way. Incense refers to a specific cultural and spiritual practice, but purification with smoke offers an alternative to incense for non-indigenous people. This form of cleansing may look a bit like smudging, but it's just the simple burning of herbs, wood, incense sticks, or other materials that are safe to burn that have cleansing properties. The smoke is then spread over the area to be cleaned.

(Video) What is The Significance of Burning Incense ? | Sadhguru

Many cultures have historical and spiritual practices associated with cleansing with smoke – everything from herbs and woods to frankincense and roots. For example,Frankincense and myrrh were burned in ancient Egypt for prayer., ERosemary has historically been burned in hospitals in clear the air of infection. It can even be personally rewarding to find out if and what your ancestors burned for purification. But unless you're descended from indigenous peoples of North America, it probably wasn't the white sage they burned, according to Keene.

However, the general act of smoke purification is not inherently spiritual or specific to a particular culture like incense. If burning incense, herbs, or wood is part of your self-love practice and inner wellness work, there are safe alternatives to burning sage for smoke purification.,including lavender, pine, thyme and cloves, each with their own unique properties and are not environmentally sensitive.

As a side note, if you browse your favorite place to buy herbs and look for smoke purification options alongside white sage, you might find palo santo ("sacred wood" in Spanish). But you might want to wait Palo Santo chopsticks have become increasingly popular as an alternative to sage, but buying this Central and South American tree bark used by Amazonian tribes can also be harmful, as can white sage dyingListe der International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)., because although the tree is not yet on the verge of extinction, its recent overharvesting could put it on that path.

It is important to respect indigenous cultures and the ecosystem with each cleaning. This can include educating yourself and others about white sage, smoke ownership and purification; harvest your own sage or other herbs sustainably; reaching out to brands to ask them to stop selling white salvia without donating based on native cultures; or use completely different plants. It is helpful for everyone to be aware of how you implement this practice in your life - and to be aware of its origins and meaning.


(Video) Don't use White Sage anymore...

Ruth Hopkins,Writer Dakota/Lakota Sioux

Dra. Adrienne Keene, Assistant Professor of American and Ethnic Studies at Brown University, author of the blogIndigenous Means, and citizens of the Cherokee Nation

This article was originally published in


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