Let’s connect!


On The Spiritual Danger of Sage


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!

funlayo signature small.png

  • Lena
    Posted at 18:07h, 26 April Reply

    What does it mean when sage pops? Is that a bad sign?

    • Iya Funlayo, PhD
      Posted at 12:42h, 09 May Reply

      Blessings Lena! Sage crackles and pops a lot due to the structure of the plant. I don’t personally draw meaning from the popping but if you notice that it always happens at a particular time or in a particular area that may mean something. Determining meaning is all about learning to see patterns. 🙏🏾

      • Lena
        Posted at 11:26h, 12 May

        Thank you for your response. I am glad to know it was just the herbs/plant. It never popped like that before right onto my arm but haven’t happened since. Thank you again 🙏🏾

  • Jazz
    Posted at 05:48h, 09 May Reply

    Interesting and very informative, is it possible that burning too much Sage can create or draw an entity or insects?
    Can Sage be used in a spiritual negative way?
    Can I get a reply?

    • Iya Funlayo, PhD
      Posted at 17:50h, 12 September Reply

      Blessings! The short answer is no, sage cannot create an entity. It cannot be used to direct negativity at anyone, but using it too frequently can clear away the positive/generative energy you are building and not allow it to reach it’s height. Insects are another thing entirely, I suppose some could be drawn to the scent.

  • Tina Torres
    Posted at 14:09h, 08 December Reply

    Hello! My sister in law who is going through a separation asked for a smudging. When smudging her, the stick smoked intensely. What does that signify?

    • Iya Funlayo, PhD
      Posted at 17:47h, 12 September Reply

      Blessings! Apologies for the very late reply, your comment slipped through the cracks. But, smudging materials are supposed to generate smoke, it’s not uncommon for a sage bundle to smoke quite a lot so I wouldn’t draw any particular meaning from that alone.

  • DeShaunda Gooden Warner
    Posted at 01:36h, 29 March Reply

    Thank you so much! I will definitely be dialing back on the sage and bringing more balance to my daily smudging ritual with Palo Santo and sweetgrass!

  • Genevieve
    Posted at 11:09h, 27 December Reply

    So my brother and I with a coupke of roommates have cleansed our home from negative energy that was not welcomed into our home, now when the sage got to three different roommates, the sage popped. What was the purpose of the sage to pop?

    • Iya Funlayo, PhD
      Posted at 14:20h, 29 December Reply

      Blessings! Sage (and other herbs) often pops when it burns due to it’s physical properties, this is not due to anything spiritual. Be very careful when burning it and always hold a fire-proof container under it as you use it.

Leave a Reply to Tina TorresCancel reply