The Wisdom of Sage

Thursday, September 1, 2011
Where we live I am surrounded by sagebrush. People for years have told me about the benefits of sage. I know I love the smell of it as we brush up against it as we hike, releasing its unique fragrance. Many cultures, including Native American, ascribe to the cleansing benefits of sage. With my journey to a Healthier Lifestyle, I thought it was worth researching.

The first thing I found out is that the sage we use as a seasoning is a saliva plant. The sagebrush we see all around us on mountainsides and in other arid climates is different. It is called Artemisia Tridentata and is not suitable in cooking.  It is great for making smudge sticks, however.

Here is some information I found on the history of sage used in ancient rituals:

This use of sage springs from at least two powerful spiritual ancient sources, who, so far as is known, evolved independently from each other: the ancient Celts, including the Druids, and the Native Americans.

The Druids and ancient Celts used sage to increase wisdom and knowledge, and for protection and healing. Sage is used in this tradition not only for the cleansing powers of its smoke but for tea as well.
In the Native American traditions, sage (also called “sukodawabuk”) is a sacred element in many rituals. For example, the Ojibwa tribe used sage as an anti-convulsant, to staunch bleeding, and as a stimulant. The Potawatomis used sage both as a purifying smoke smudge and as a poultice for festering sores and wounds.

Sage also has been used in Native American sweat cleansing rituals with the scattering of sage on the floor of the sweat lodge.
In short, sage has been long recognized as both a medicinal and psychologically beneficial purifying agent. (The Mystical power of Sage)

All of us at different times in our lives want to "start over" or "begin anew"; we want to refresh ourselves and our environment so we can embrace the present as well as the future. Big events in our lives often force us to re-evaluate our lives or make us long for a fresh start. Cleansing rituals can support us in this process.

So how do you perform a Sage Smudge Cleansing Ceremony? Believe it or not there are lots of resources for this on the internet. Here is an easy to follow instruction I found:

1.  Buy a sage smudge stick (or you can make your own) and find a bowl to hold it over (traditionally, abalone shell is used).  Also set up a cup of water to extinguish it after the ritual.
2.  Open every door and window in your house, and turn on fans if you have them.
3.  Light the stick, and when it catches fire, blow it out and allow the embers to start to smoke (like you would light incense).
4.  Set your intention for each room.  Say a prayer of cleansing.  Laurie Sue suggested, “I cleanse this room of any impurities, negativity, or anything that does  not suit or support the people that live here.”
5.  Walk around the room, waving the sage stick so its smoke drifts into corners, along walls, around windows, and along ceiling lines.  As you do, imagine the smoke absorbing negativity, problems from those who were in the space before you, toxicity, and anything else you want to go away.  See the smoke dissipating and floating out the windows, and imagine that bad energy flowing out of your space, making room for positive, fresh energy.
6.  After you’ve blessed every room, give yourself a sage shower.  Cup your hands over the smoke and “wash” your face with it, then wave it all over your body as you would in a water shower.  Visualize any residual negativity sailing out of your body, out of your home, and into oblivion. 
7.  Extinguish the stick in the cup of water or – if your stick was very small or is almost done – flush it down the toilet.  You can also bury it in your back yard (if you are very sure that it is extinguished).

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Ritual is such an important part of our lives. It helps acknowledge big moments in our lives and provides the vehicle for us to move from the old to the new. I was surprised when I started talking about Smudge sticks how many people have used them, some as a regular part of their daily lives. I was also surprised to see how readily available they are...from the local Farmer's Market to Whole Foods. Clearly many are way ahead of me!
What has appealed to me is making my own Smudge Sticks.  The photo you see at the top of my blog is of the very first smudge sticks I made from harvesting local sagebrush. Just binding bunches and putting them in a basket in my home is refreshing. They are beautiful to look at and do provide a cleansing aroma. I have since found out that I need to bind the bunches tighter and cut off the ends to make a proper Smudge Stick. You need a stick that will smolder, not flame and send embers floating in the air! I am looking forward to perfecting my version of the Smudge Stick and sharing them with friends and family. I find nothing more enjoyable than sharing new found knowledge and something I have handmade. If something can be helpful, why not share?

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