Building connection with the lands around us & consciously choosing the tools we use – the example of White Sage.
Lately I’ve been having many conversations on ‘localising’ our spiritual practices; grounding in the ‘here and now. I have still much more to learn about it; but from an environmental lens, the subject of plants becoming ‘trendy’ [aka their uses globalized for spiritual practices] and hence over-harvesting came up. Thanks Seasons – Personal Development Coaching for encouraging me to write about this – do check out her page for her video on the subject!
White Sage is native to the south west of the United States and north west of Mexico.
The plant has recently become popular for ‘smudging’, as understood as a way to cleanse spaces of negative energy. White Sage has been traditionally used in Native American cultures for prayers and is considered sacred. For many years indigenous tribes were banned from using any of their traditional medicine, including burning white sage. I remark this here as it’s important to me to understand the origin and purpose of the rituals or tools I use: in order to really bring consciousness to these actions – to question what we do and why we do it-, to question if it’s the tools or medicines we really need, and to realize that something what seems banal to us could have been a real privilege at some point.
If you’re into meditation, yoga or similar activities, it’s very likely you heard of this plant!
White Sage demand has risen lately, which led to over-harvesting of these plants and illegal harvesting of these plants from public lands. Some share that it makes it difficult for the populations who traditionally used those plants to access it now. This isn’t sustainable.
Add to this that, to arrive to our small island of Mauritius, white sage would have had to travel quite a few miles and will hence have quite a big carbon footprint… Do we really want to use that which creates these negatives impacts [on the lands and people] to ‘cleanse our spaces of negativity’?
Not judging here, but I think that we truthfully need to ask our-self these questions.
I became interested in this topic as, through my environmental work, I wanted to become more conscious of the items I’d bring in my life, including the items I use in my meditation practice; realizing that all items have an impact on the world around us – negative or positive. Palo Santo is also in the same basket, with over-harvesting taking place due to the rising demand.
Thankfully, wherever you are in the world, local alternatives to these exist for those wishing to ‘smoke cleanse’ while respecting the earth [and indigenous communities]: you can ‘smoke cleanse’ with many different herbs that can grow in Mauritius, including Sage, Lavender or Rosemary. And many more.
I feel that growing our own herbs, harvesting and drying these have a totally different feeling to it: it connects us to the land around us, helping us see the resources it holds. We might not have to look at the other side of the earth to find what we need or want: maybe it’s right here, right now?
It is actually a big lesson of mine these last few years, so it’s funny that it can be found in a bundle of dried lavender as well.
On another note: ‘smudging’, as a word, seems to be inherently linked to native American tradition and to be part of their ritual, ‘smoke cleansing’ might be a more appropriate term to use for those of us who do not actually participate in these traditions. Of course, for the particular subject of white sage or palo santo; it’s always best to listen to the communities who traditionally use: @shesanargonaut for example created a great summary post about this subject.