Sagacity: The Sacred Practice of Sage Burning

It is wise to know where your practices come from and to have deep insight into how they not only impact you, but the world. Sage comes in more than 900 species, according to Southern Living. It is a medicinal plant used in culinary and spiritual practices. It was once considered a medicinal cure-all, and can still be used to cure many dis-eases. The plant and the uses of it has become a trendy wellness practice. It is very important to know where this trend derived from and to protect the tradition by having a clear understanding of the practice to work effectively with indigenous peoples and Mother Nature.

The practice of burning sage is culturally sensitive to indigenous peoples but it’s something that we should also consider the agriculture process of and how it effects the environment.

Sage burning also known as smudging, is used for purifying and cleansing the spirit of negative energy in the home, room, or body, helping to maintain a satisfactory aura. The term smudging comes from indigenous tribes, commonly, in North America. A good question is, do they practice this medicine in other cultures, if so, where and what are they called ?

Bustle’s Nyla Burton, said “when non-native people burn sage to “smudge” their homes or other spaces, it can minimize the cultural importance of this ritual, and have a negative impact on how the herbs are grown. Instead, advocates say non-native people can learn to cleanse their spaces in ways that are culturally and ecologically sensitive. There are lots of ways to achieve the benefits of smudging by using more ethical practices, terminology, and materials.”

Definition of Smudging

“Sacred smoke from burning medicinal or sacred plants, a traditional ceremony for purifying and cleansing soul of negative thoughts of a person or place.”

The Four Elements

  • Traditionally, a shell is used as a container representing water the first element
  • Four sacred plants that are gifts from mother earth represent the second element, earth.
    • Cedar
    • Sage
    • Sweetgrass
    • Tobacco
  • Lighting of the sacred plants produces the third element, fire.
  • Smoke from the fire produces the fourth element, air.

To learn more about working effectively with Indigenous Peoples visit Indigenous Corporate Training, Inc. for more.

It is better to light the plant with a match then a gas lighter. You can burn both the leaves and the stems before wavering over the subject by hand or with a feather,traditionally natives use eagle feathers. The person being smudge can pull the smoke towards them to inhale softly. When finished the ashes are then returned to mother earth, for which this is where the gifts came from. It is said and believed that the ashes absorbs the negative thoughts and feelings.


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