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Author Topic: Burning sage: Universal to all fluffs or specific to some Native American cultures?  (Read 9745 times)

Bastemhet

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OK, so recently I was in a discussion about whether one could use sage to cleanse negative energies even for people who are not working within a Native American practice/context.  

-I argue that I think it´s somewhat pointless to use a practice from an unnamed Native American culture (seeing as there are various tribes and practices, and since I´m ignorant I am not about to assume that sage, its meaning, and its usage are universal for all of these tribes).  It´s important to know the three things I listed above and also for it to make sense because you´re working within a context in which "energy" doesn´t just mean "vibrational stuff" because different practices (not just Native American ones) will have different ideas about what is considered pure and how to become pure.  I don´t think it makes sense to cherry pick practices and mend them together to do whatever unless you´ve first checked that the contexts you take from don´t have glaring compatibility issues, or even if part of working in other systems is making sure that the deities of these systems won´t get pissed if you work with other deities, etc.

-Another person who apparently argues he´s "part native", says "the natives...would celebrate the spirit of the plant they were using, and would invoke the great spirit or thunder-bird to whom they addressed their prayers."  He says "there is no special religious specific use of sage as a etheric sanitizer and clearer of ´bad spirits´."  And that it is "purely vibrational."

Is there any truth to what he says?  Am I mistaken in thinking that sage should not be considered a universal vibrational cleanser if you don´t adopt the rest of the system that it comes from?

Starglade

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8049


 
FWIW, back in the early 80's when I was taking a correspondence course in Wicca (you know, by the US Postal Service delivery system), sage was one of the herbs we were taught to use for general cleansing.

If it matters, the course was from Our Lady of Enchantment in Nashua NH.
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DomesticWitch

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8049
OK, so recently I was in a discussion about whether one could use sage to cleanse negative energies even for people who are not working within a Native American practice/context.  

-I argue that I think it´s somewhat pointless to use a practice from an unnamed Native American culture (seeing as there are various tribes and practices, and since I´m ignorant I am not about to assume that sage, its meaning, and its usage are universal for all of these tribes).  It´s important to know the three things I listed above and also for it to make sense because you´re working within a context in which "energy" doesn´t just mean "vibrational stuff" because different practices (not just Native American ones) will have different ideas about what is considered pure and how to become pure.  I don´t think it makes sense to cherry pick practices and mend them together to do whatever unless you´ve first checked that the contexts you take from don´t have glaring compatibility issues, or even if part of working in other systems is making sure that the deities of these systems won´t get pissed if you work with other deities, etc.

-Another person who apparently argues he´s "part native", says "the natives...would celebrate the spirit of the plant they were using, and would invoke the great spirit or thunder-bird to whom they addressed their prayers."  He says "there is no special religious specific use of sage as a etheric sanitizer and clearer of ´bad spirits´."  And that it is "purely vibrational."

Is there any truth to what he says?  Am I mistaken in thinking that sage should not be considered a universal vibrational cleanser if you don´t adopt the rest of the system that it comes from?


I find that quite silly in all honesty - the native americans didnt make sage a cleansing herb, thats just the way it is and it just so happens that people tend to associate smudging, using sage, with native americans, possibly because they were one of the first to discover its use, probably because its native to southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

Native Americans didnt invent sage.

Bastemhet

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Quote from: Starglade;8054
...when I was taking a correspondence course in Wicca...sage was one of the herbs we were taught to use for general cleansing.

 
Thanks for sharing.  Did they ever tell you where this practice originated and how/why it works?

Caroline

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8049
OK, so recently I was in a discussion about whether one could use sage to cleanse negative energies even for people who are not working within a Native American practice/context.  

 
You're right, burning sage is specific to some FN/NA cultures, but not all. I see the practice of burning incense (which literally means burning, so heh, redundant) as having a universal quality, not the particular substance involved. (In some cultures the *scent* isn't as important as the *smoke* produced.)

My thoughts are this: if you are working in a particular context that requires a particular incense substance/blend, by all means use that. Something that is dedicated to a particular purpose (like incense blends made for a particular deity or practice) I'd use those only for that purpose (I wouldn't buy a temple blend and use it for a non-intended purpose). I see the intent/dedication involved in the creation of a particular incense to be of more significance than any inherent quality.

Bastemhet

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Quote from: DomesticWitch;8060
the native americans didnt make sage a cleansing herb, thats just the way it is


I'm not really buying the "sage is a cleansing herb because it's a cleansing herb" argument.

Quote
and it just so happens that people tend to associate smudging, using sage, with native americans, possibly because they were one of the first to discover its use, probably because its native to southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico.

Native Americans didnt invent sage.

 
But if it's native to these areas and used specifically for the spiritual properties and symbolism that make sense within that/those religious context(s), would it make sense for me to use it if I'm not of that religion?

For example, natron in the Kemetic religion is a cleansing agent.  By its very nature it is pure, and washing with it and chewing it helps adherents to gain a state of ritual purity.  It is considered necessary to purify one's self before entering into the presence of a god.  It is considered so pure that even the gods' statues are bathed with it themselves.  It was used for thousands of years.  We continue to use it today because the gods have asked it of us.  And for any Kemetic who has done a Kemetic ritual with natron, you know it works.

But for anyone not working within the Kemetic tradition, natron is nothing more than baking soda and salt: glorified soap, not even that great of a soap considering what modern soaps we have available today.  Why would it mean anything for someone who's not Kemetic to use it to purify things?  I ask the same about using sage.

Ocelot

Quote from: Bastemhet;8049
OK, so recently I was in a discussion about whether one could use sage to cleanse negative energies even for people who are not working within a Native American practice/context.  

-I argue that I think it´s somewhat pointless to use a practice from an unnamed Native American culture (seeing as there are various tribes and practices, and since I´m ignorant I am not about to assume that sage, its meaning, and its usage are universal for all of these tribes).  It´s important to know the three things I listed above and also for it to make sense because you´re working within a context in which "energy" doesn´t just mean "vibrational stuff" because different practices (not just Native American ones) will have different ideas about what is considered pure and how to become pure.  I don´t think it makes sense to cherry pick practices and mend them together to do whatever unless you´ve first checked that the contexts you take from don´t have glaring compatibility issues, or even if part of working in other systems is making sure that the deities of these systems won´t get pissed if you work with other deities, etc.

-Another person who apparently argues he´s "part native", says "the natives...would celebrate the spirit of the plant they were using, and would invoke the great spirit or thunder-bird to whom they addressed their prayers."  He says "there is no special religious specific use of sage as a etheric sanitizer and clearer of ´bad spirits´."  And that it is "purely vibrational."

Is there any truth to what he says?  Am I mistaken in thinking that sage should not be considered a universal vibrational cleanser if you don´t adopt the rest of the system that it comes from?



Well, a couple things. I don't think burning sage was exclusive to Native Americans, but I could be mistaken on that.

IMHO, I'm in the camp that it isn't always a problem to borrow from other practices. Some people feel very strongly that integrating practices is bad or wishy-washy, but I look at it as more enriching, than cherry picking.
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DomesticWitch

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8069
I'm not really buying the "sage is a cleansing herb because it's a cleansing herb" argument.


Then why is it a cleansing herb to Native Americans?

Bastemhet

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Quote from: Ocelot;8071
Well, a couple things. I don't think burning sage was exclusive to Native Americans, but I could be mistaken on that.


If anyone does know, please tell me.  

Quote
IMHO, I'm in the camp that it isn't always a problem to borrow from other practices. Some people feel very strongly that integrating practices is bad or wishy-washy, but I look at it as more enriching, than cherry picking.

 
You say enriching, I say cultural appropriation.  That's not really the focus of my post here, though.  I'm more interested in whether it makes any sense to take from other cultures if you're also going to ignore the symbolic value and the rich cultural practices and history that surround the ritual act.  I'm of the opinion that turn clockwise and spit three times isn't always the best way to achieve your goals, although I understand that some witches do work this way, and it's not necessary to have a divine system to work within.  However, I was under the impression that sage does come with its own history within a context.  Again, someone please correct me if I'm wrong.

Bastemhet

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Quote from: DomesticWitch;8073
Then why is it a cleansing herb to Native Americans?

 

What I know is it's associated to Native Americans.  I don't know why or where this idea came from.  You might want to actually ask someone who works within that context.  They would probably be a better source of information.  That's kind of part of my point.

DomesticWitch

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8075
What I know is it's associated to Native Americans.  I don't know why or where this idea came from.  You might want to actually ask someone who works within that context.  They would probably be a better source of information.  That's kind of part of my point.


To me at least, sage is cleansing because of its medicinal use as an anticeptic and astrigant. The Native Americans definately didnt make it that, thats for sure.

Bastemhet

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Quote from: DomesticWitch;8078
To me at least, sage is cleansing because of its medicinal use as an anticeptic and astrigant. The Native Americans definately didnt make it that, thats for sure.

OK, I don't know a lot about antiseptics and astringents, and I can understand why the smoke is important for keeping away disease, but what does that have to do with using the smoke to drive negativity out?  Are the two synonymous?  What if you work in another religious system that has a different idea of why people get sick?

And another question: I'm seeing on the internet that the way that it works is that you call upon the sacred spirits of the plant to drive away negative energy.  But what if you're not an animist?  Does it make sense to use it this way?
« Last Edit: July 25, 2011, 04:40:04 pm by Bastemhet »

Ocelot

Quote from: Bastemhet;8074
If anyone does know, please tell me.  


 
You say enriching, I say cultural appropriation.  That's not really the focus of my post here, though.  I'm more interested in whether it makes any sense to take from other cultures if you're also going to ignore the symbolic value and the rich cultural practices and history that surround the ritual act.  I'm of the opinion that turn clockwise and spit three times isn't always the best way to achieve your goals, although I understand that some witches do work this way, and it's not necessary to have a divine system to work within.  However, I was under the impression that sage does come with its own history within a context.  Again, someone please correct me if I'm wrong.


I think appropriation happens all the time, especially when it comes to herbs or medicines. We take aspirin today, but before that it was white willow bark and I wouldn't be surprised if some cultures incorporated some sort of ceremony to go along with it.
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DomesticWitch

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8081
OK, I don't know a lot about antiseptics and astringents, and I can understand why the smoke is important for keeping away disease, but what does that have to do with using the smoke to drive negativity out?  Are the two synonymous?  What if you work in another religious system that has a different idea of why people get sick?

 
I can only say what I believe - any herb that is useful for killing bugs, diseases or whatever can be used to destroy or drive away negativity, to me, they are synonymous. Why people get sick? I go for the medical, scientific view ;)

Bastemhet

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Quote from: Ocelot;8082
I think appropriation happens all the time, especially when it comes to herbs or medicines. We take aspirin today, but before that it was white willow bark and I wouldn't be surprised if some cultures incorporated some sort of ceremony to go along with it.

 
I think it's a bit more loaded than that, but like I said, I would just like to know whether it makes sense to use it out of its context, not necessarily whether it's morally just.

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