There’s a lot of hunters with smartphones harassing non-indigenous people who mention working with white sage in their spiritual practice. It’s almost as if they use search windows to find them and immediately target them with loaded language, dominating conversations with hostility, and inciting more anger and confusion in the comment sections. If you use TikTok or Twitter you’ll know what I’m talking about. While I appreciate the idea of drawing attention to the ancestors who guarded their medicines for so many years, the very behavior in which it’s manifesting in social media is very contrary to the original purpose of working with plant medicines.
As an Interfaith Priestess, my passion is to minister to people no matter what their beliefs, customs, or spiritual path they follow. When I studied for my doctorate, my focus was on spiritual healing with a progressive Christian university in Southern California. Due to the nature of my unique work, I studied under direct mentorship with leaders from various paths to prepare myself for this important ministry.
After 20 years in Christianity, I began to learn more about my ancestors. One of my elder cousins began working on our ancestry records that were preserved by the various grandparents and great aunts and great uncles. The family records revealed some documentation and photos of some ancestors who developed close relationships with Indigenous Women. One such ancestor was written about in a letter detailing how he smuggled guns to the nearby tribes so the Indigenous People could protect their families from the white men who were coming to make war with them. Two white brothers in our family fell in love with two Indigenous women and got married. Sadly, many of their customs and spiritual practices phased out as they adopted new customs, and were baptized into their new protestant religion.
On the other side of my family we found folk witches and ancient Norse DNA. Through extensive studies on both sides of my family, and through historical documents, I discovered how the old religions were outlawed. European Paganism as well as Indigenous Spirituality. It crushed me to know that my previous modern spiritual religion was responsible for that kind of erasure of customs, beliefs, and practice.
I committed myself to honoring the spiritual ways of my ancestors in my personal practice as well as in my business. My Interfaith Mentoring has an open arms philosophy that honors clients where they’re at, because there’s no reason to withhold guidance, healing, and love from someone for not being of one specific path. I’ve been an advocate for people who’ve been abused by partners, parents, and by spiritual leaders for over 20 years. I’ve studied advocacy in ministries as well as in our government’s documents on Victims’ Rights. Being an effective advocate involves academic training, education, and interpersonal skills that can foster productive conversation. I appreciate the modern generation for having a desire to advocate for Indigenous people or for Norse heritage, but with advocacy we must also be equipped with facts.
With that being said, I want to convey some truth and offer facts to help clear up the recent call to arms of smartphone hunters who seemingly seek to make war with non-Indigenous people on a spiritual path that includes White Sage and other herbs and plants that are commonly used in Indigenous and Norse spirituality.
The North American Indigenous People, also known as First Nations, vary in beliefs from one group to another. Approaching an Elder should be done so with careful consideration and with the utmost respect. Some elders have shared their beliefs on Smudging, provide ample instruction on how it’s used ceremonially, and offer their teachings that are expected to accompany use of the ceremony and herbs. The overall energy behind the smoke medicine is to provide healing, peace, and communal honor and respect, not only among their own people but also in their relationships with others.
Sylvia McAdam Cree Teachings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00Bb1xGqO20
Stephen Augustine Dean of Cape Breton University’s Unama’ki College https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ueJA_539mVg
Omahkitapii isksinimatstaksin Kaaksimii ohtakiyow (Elder Teaching: Gathering Sage) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIi1w0_eZ7c
Robert Gallegos: Native American Traditional Healer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=db-Dxzf0CJw
Tribal Trading Co https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ImqgSRbPP0
Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Center https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_t284BWzdXk
Now lets go over some popular myths about white sage.
Myth: White Sage is endangered.
1. White Sage is protected on California State land, but it is not listed threatened or endangered. https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Plants/Endangered
2. It has also declined in Riverside County over the last 50 years due to wildfires. https://www.fs.fed.us/psw/publications/beyers/psw_2010_beyers018(montalvo)salviaapiana.pdf page 1
3 White Sage is a native plant to Southern California and while it’s not threatened or endangered, it is a native plant which sets it as protected on federal and state land. https://wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Plants/Laws
4. Also, it can only be harvested from private land with prior written consent of the land owner.
5. White Sage has been used in various ways throughout history for food and medicine. http://naeb.brit.org/uses/search/?string=salvia+apiana
6. White Sage is excellent for erosion control. https://www.wildflower.org/expert/show.php?id=9447
Myth: White Sage is part of a closed practice
Truth: White Sage is sacred to various groups throughout the world, but the more commonly known is among Indigenous People in North and Central America. It is widely taught openly by Indigeous People and taught as part of Indigenous Training for Corporations who have a desire to educate their employees and politicians https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/a-definition-of-smudging
White Sage is indigenous to Southern California and Mexico. It’s unknown how White Sage came to grow in so many locations throughout North America, as natural and successful pollination is isolated to bees, hawkmoths, waps, and the wind. Some small critters can spread seed through scant. https://www.ck12.org/book/ck-12-understanding-biodiversity/section/10.16/
Sacred Medicines were traded among the varying Tribes https://tribaltradeco.com/blogs/teachings/is-it-okay-to-buy-sacred-medicines
Myth: You can only use White Sage if it’s gifted to you by an Indigenous Person
Truth: It’s all about intention and respect. Watch this video and download their free guide to smudging. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_L-31czMu_g&feature=emb_title
Partial Myth: Using White Sage is Smudging
Truth: Traditional Smudging generally includes 4 plant medicines; White Sage, Cedar, Tobacco, and Sweet Grass. https://www.ictinc.ca/blog/a-definition-of-smudging
Partial Myth: White Sage is endangered due to wildfires.
Truth: Plants as young as 1 year can be eliminated entirely by wildfires, but mature plants root systems can withstand several wildfires.https://www.ck12.org/book/ck-12-understanding-biodiversity/section/10.16/
Now where do we go from here? It’s crucial to understand the facts rather than allow ourselves to fall into the rabbit hole of internet conspiracies.
After all the research I’ve done, leaders I’ve spoken to, and training I’ve received from Elder guided organizations, we have a responsibility to practice spirituality responsibly.
While it is not the ‘closed practice’ many internet warriors try to insist on, there is more we can do as a spiritual community to be allies to our Indigenous neighbors.
- Use White Sage sparingly. Most homes can benefit from smoldering one single leaf for an entire house for specific ceremonial or ritual purposes. As with any medicines, overuse is not encouraged and can have negative side effects.
- If we use White Sage (or any of the other 4 smudge medicines) as part of any group ceremonies, take that opportunity to raise awareness about our Indigenous neighbors and request your community reflect, honor, and respect their traditions. Offer a thanksgiving prayer to the Indigenous Elders over thousands of generations that have shared their medicine and wisdom for our collective benefit.
- Offer resources on your websites to direct people to Indigenous Sources for their learning. There’s no need for white folks to reiterate the knowledge as coming from themselves when we can do an incredible honor in directing them to the appropriate sources.
- Expand your medicinal cabinet to include other herbal and plant medicines.
- Commit to purchasing White Sage from Indigenous Shops to support their great work in our society.
- Grow your own White Sage plants.
- If your shop sells White Sage, honor the plant medicine and our Indigenous neighbors by citing your provider. I understand this creates a quandary for business owners since we usually guard our business secrets to generate more business. However, most legitimate suppliers only sell wholesale to those with large purchasing power. Selling White Sage should not be, and most likely is not, a considerable profit compared to the other items your shops offer.
- Offer White Sage under specific guidance and ethical business practice. I rarely offer White Sage for sale in my shop, but I do sparingly offer it as gifts in some crystal purchases. I have offered ceremonial sage and floral bundles for specific clients under very specific purposes and offer them with very reasonable prices or as gifts.
Old Norse and Ancient Germanic Practices
In old Norse and ancient Germanic spirituality, seers were those who kept medicinal secrets for use in spiritual journey and other practices. Common plants for these spiritual leaders were Cannabis, Henbane, and pretty much any other psychedelic plant or resin that could induce a trance for psychic enhancement. The seers were gatherers and would venture out into the fields and mountains to search for nature’s gifts. Their custom would’ve carried over into any new land they settled in. Plants that were native to their homeland may not have been growing in the new lands they migrated to. These seers would use whatever they could find in the wild.
The Viking Way by Neil Price
The Viking Spirit by Daniel McCoy
Vikings of Middle England (http://vikingsof.me)
Grimfrost Academy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhMHTZ2jfXM
Freyia Norling, A Discovery or Nordic Witchcraft https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Dfr2thnpbg
Folk witches, likewise, would gather from the land surrounding where they traveled and settled. Eventually, as money became the currency and the custom of trade phased out, people were able to purchase the items they needed from one another or from mercantiles.
In today’s culture it’s perfectly acceptable to forge relationships with ethical vendors and practitioners in order to gather what we need for our spiritual lives.
Since my ancestry includes both of these ancestral groups, I honor them both in my practice and in my business. However, since I am an Interfaith Mentor and Priestess my offerings reflect numerous paths to provide what’s sought after by my multicultural clients.
As we raise awareness to be allies for Indigenous People as well as for folk witches who often practice alone or in small circles, lets not neglect the very nature and reason for sacred smoke medicine and magick. Lets make peace and ally together for equal rights among all the spiritual paths.
In 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom declared September 25th as the official Native American Day.
“California Native American communities represent the best of who we are and who we can be as Californians,” said Governor Newsom. “The actions we take today move us closer toward the goal of reckoning with our past, making space for healing and promoting equity. I thank our partners in the Legislature and everyone who made possible these important advancements, especially the tribal leaders whose persistent advocacy has compelled these changes.”
“Great news on California Native American Day. Thank you Gov. Newsom for moving California Indian issues forward,” said Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland). Assemblymember Ramos is the first California Native American elected to the state Legislature. Source
In 2020, we also saw 6 new Native Americans and Native Hawaiians elected to Congress. These are crucial milestones that need to be supported and honored as they are able to represent their heritage and culture in government offices.
Contact your local Indigenous organizations and ask how you can ally with them for the advancement of their equality in our government and in our society.
Doctor of Spiritual Arts
Priestess, Aromatherapist, and Folkmagick Practitioner