The Two Sages


February gets it's name from and ancient Roman ritual, called the Februa, that was performed on the fifteen day of the month. It was a ritual of purification (Latin: februum) done to prepare the city and people for spring. Since this this month is traditionally dedicated to purification, I will be discussing two Native American herbs, White Sage and Desert Sage, used in a purification ritual called smudging. Smudging is a way of removing energetic and spiritual miasma from a person, place or thing using the smoke of certain, sacred plants. White Sage, Salvia apiana, is a “true sage” and

is related to the sage that we use in cooking. The word salvia comes from the Latin salvare “to heal” of “to save”. White Sage grows only in a limited area along the coast of southern California and northern Mexico and was used as a smudging herb only by the regional inhabitants. It's use was completely unknown to the other Native nations, who used Desert Sage instead. It has recently become a popular smudging herb in the New Age community due mainly to it's uniqueness rather than any superior qualities over other smudging materials. Because of this popularity natural stands of

White Sage are being devastated by overharvesting to feed the market. It has also been loosing prime habitat space to urban sprawl and over-development. These irresponsible practices will rapidly lead to White Sage becoming an endangered species in the near future. If you feel the need to use the cleansing power of the plant, honor the spirit of White Sage by responsibly harvesting it yourself or grow your own supply*. With the consumer mentality that dominates the country today, you can never be sure that any White Sage that you buy has been harvested in a respectful and sustainable manner. If neither of these options is possible, seriously consider using Desert Sage instead. Desert Sage, Artimisia tridentata, is not a true sage, but is actually related to European mugwort. In fact, many herbalist refer to Desert Sage as American mugwort. It is also commonly called sagebrush; yes, that lowly ubiquitous weed that covers all of the Southwest and most of the areas that we refer to as waste land throughout North and Central America. Native people of these areas have been using this “primo” cleansing herb for centuries; from smudging before any sacred act

to use in the ultimate purification ritual, the sweat lodge. It can be used for any cleansing purpose from gently removing negative energy from one's aura to forcibly dislodging an evil spirit from a home or business. A bundle of Desert Sage twigs hung over the door to a house or room will prevent any “nasties” from entering. According to an Anishinabe story Desert Sage is...”and herb that can purify people and their surroundings and help people maintain good health”. For anyone doing energy work or working with the sacred, either of these Two Sages is a “must have” cleansing herb which should always be used with sincerity, integrity, respect and gratitude.


©2009 David Ball

*Responsibly harvested seeds can be purchased

from Horizon Herbs,

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