On The Spiritual Danger of Sage

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Alright, the title is admittedly a bit click-baity (when in Zimbabwe, eh?) but there is a word of caution that I like to give my students about sage and I want to share it with you, especially if you’re someone who loves sage and can’t get enough of it.

First, the good: sage is amazing! My homegirl Shanti and I have joked that it’s like a “gateway drug” into ancestral and indigenous spirituality and cleansing with sage smoke, or “smudging,” is many people’s point of entry into a personal spiritual practice. Sage has powerful spiritual energy and is a wonderful cleanser, which is why it has traditionally been used by Indigenous Americans in many of their spiritual ceremonies. It’s also tasty and packed with nutrients and can be used in a number of culinary ways.

Now the caution: there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing,” and that is particularly true of sage because, as my spiritual teacher taught me, it is a powerful and somewhat harsh cleanser. It works very well and acts as a vacuum which can clean both negative and helpful vibes out of your space. So using it too much can be clearing away some of the potent, positive spiritual energy you’re working hard to build with your spiritual practice. And you definitely don’t want to do that!

Our indigenous family often burn sage in conjunction with sweetgrass, which draws in positive spiritual energies, in order to keep the balance. Whether it’s sweetgrass or another sweet herb, it is important to burn something sweet during or after burning sage (I prefer after). You’re likely to find this especially helpful if you use sage a lot and notice that your spiritual work isn’t going as deeply or quickly as you’d like. If this is you, lay off the sage a bit and see how the energies shift.

There are also alternatives to sage that work well and are a bit less vacuum-y in their energy:

  • Palo santo
  • Efun or cascarilla (crush it in the palm of your hand and rub or blow the dust on what you’d like to clean, this obviously will not work for every instance in which you’d use sage)
  • Smudge blends that include sweet herbs or resins along with the sage

You can also localize your use of sage to an object or area rather than letting the smoke fill your entire home or temple space. For instance, I sage my cards and crystals much more frequently than I sage my entire home. Break off one leaf and light it, or light just a small section rather than lighting your entire smudge stick for less smoke and a more controlled smudge.

All of that to say: switch up your cleansing routine a little! Check out different cleansers and see how they work for you. May all our cleansing rituals be effective and may the sweet, positive energies be with us always! Ase!

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