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Author Topic: Burning sage: Universal to all fluffs or specific to some Native American cultures?  (Read 10972 times)

Bastemhet

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Quote from: DomesticWitch;8084
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 ;)

 
So would I, but I don't understand why you bring it up for antiseptic purposes when my original question was why use it for "banishing negativity," a decidedly un-scientific topic altogether.

Allati

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8049
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?

To be honest, that's pretty much how I feel.

Natron has been mentioned. It cleans me, I feel clean. It's very literal, I like that, and that goes onto a spiritual level. With anything else, I have to rely on my gut. And sage doesn't affect my gut. It's about as meaningful to me spiritually as the dandelion weed in my driveway. I would not smudge with aforementioned weed.

I tried smudging with sage once. My only conclusion was that it would drive out negative spirits by the sheer power of its horrific stench. I was convinced that no force, good or evil, could remain in place against such a thing. Maybe I got a bad batch.

I'm sure it works for a lot of people, and I'm sure cultures don't assign properties to things for no reason, but generally I think sage is considered cleansing by the vast majority of people because everybody tells everybody else that sage is cleansing. Me, I will be poking through other combustable substances, looking for something I find more effective. And less stinky.

Fier

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8069

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.

 
I had no idea what natron consisted of until this post, but I have used baking soda and salt to clean things many a time. Baking soda is a good, cheap cleanser, and salt is a good, cheap scrubber. A great combo for cleaning counter tops or floors when you're low on Comet.

Is it cultural appropriation for me to wash my counters with baking soda and salt if I'm not Kemetic?

schwertlilie

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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.  

 
Background: White girl here.

I work in a Native cultural centre in Nova Scotia (far east of Canada ;)) where staff have full rein to smudge when they think it's necessary, whether for cleansing or prayer (here it's to the Creator, not Thunderbird). They use sage for sure, but I've seen sweetgrass smudge braids as well - and that plant is native to the region.

I have been smudged both by Native people & a white person; and, from the (Native) people I've talked to, the offense is when practices like smudging are co-opted without due reverence and while breaking tradition (eg selling smudges, which should be offered for free).

Based on my discussions, I personally have no problem with a non-Native smudging so long as they are respectful of both the practice & the culture(s) it comes from. But I'm not Native, so my opinion is worth what you paid for it. ;)

As for the "Why do it".. oh my goodness does it carry an energetic kick. I usually only use it for big things, like house cleansings.

Bastemhet

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Quote from: FierFlye;8097
I had no idea what natron consisted of until this post, but I have used baking soda and salt to clean things many a time. Baking soda is a good, cheap cleanser, and salt is a good, cheap scrubber. A great combo for cleaning counter tops or floors when you're low on Comet.

Is it cultural appropriation for me to wash my counters with baking soda and salt if I'm not Kemetic?

 
There are close ties between being spiritually/physically clean in Kemetic practice, but for Kemetics one is not divorced from the other when using natron.  Something tells me that using this combo does not make your counters spiritually clean, nor would it make sense to use it for this purpose.

Bastemhet

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Quote from: schwertlilie;8102
Background: White girl here.

I work in a Native cultural centre in Nova Scotia (far east of Canada ;)) where staff have full rein to smudge when they think it's necessary, whether for cleansing or prayer (here it's to the Creator, not Thunderbird). They use sage for sure, but I've seen sweetgrass smudge braids as well - and that plant is native to the region.

I have been smudged both by Native people & a white person; and, from the (Native) people I've talked to, the offense is when practices like smudging are co-opted without due reverence and while breaking tradition (eg selling smudges, which should be offered for free).

Based on my discussions, I personally have no problem with a non-Native smudging so long as they are respectful of both the practice & the culture(s) it comes from. But I'm not Native, so my opinion is worth what you paid for it. ;)

As for the "Why do it".. oh my goodness does it carry an energetic kick. I usually only use it for big things, like house cleansings.

Thank you schwertlilie for your input!  I have a few questions for you: do you think buying a smudge stick from a pagan store and burning it because your Pagan Book told you to without asking how or why or where this practice came from nor thanking or even being aware of the spirits involved respectful of the practice or the culture it came from?  Do you think this affects the outcome of using it?
« Last Edit: July 25, 2011, 05:20:24 pm by Bastemhet »

Bastemhet

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Quote from: Allati;8087
I'm sure it works for a lot of people, and I'm sure cultures don't assign properties to things for no reason, but generally I think sage is considered cleansing by the vast majority of people because everybody tells everybody else that sage is cleansing.


This is exactly what I'm trying to figure out- why?  Has anyone asked themselves why it worked before using it?  I want to talk to these people who found an answer and went ahead and used it.

Quote
Me, I will be poking through other combustable substances, looking for something I find more effective. And less stinky.

 
I'm of the opinion that frankincense smells quite lovely.  And as you probably know, it's consistent with Kemetic practice of antiquity.  I'm pretty sure myrrh might be too, but don't hold me to that.

Fier

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8104
Something tells me that using this combo does not make your counters spiritually clean, nor would it make sense to use it for this purpose.

 
Maybe that was a bad example, as I can't grok the idea of spiritually clean counters.

My point was that, no, I do not think it's cultural appropriation to use common substances for purposes they are good for because another cultural used them in spiritual practice.

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8085
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.

 
I'm probably explaining myself poorly, sorry.

There are probably exceptions, but no, using sage as the example, I don't necessarily think it's bad to use it out of it's context.

What I mean is, if the simple act of burning sage works to drive out negativity (and I'm not saying it does) then I don't find it a problem using it out the context you are talking about.
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Bastemhet

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Quote from: FierFlye;8110
Maybe that was a bad example, as I can't grok the idea of spiritually clean counters.

My point was that, no, I do not think it's cultural appropriation to use common substances for purposes they are good for because another cultural used them in spiritual practice.

 
Maybe you didn't see my earlier posts, but again, my issue is not whether it's morally just or not.  I'm asking whether taking something out of its symbolical/cultural/spiritual context makes sense, especially if you are unaware of this context and yet use the ritual anyway.  My example with the natron is that it's spiritually significant for Kemetics for very specific reasons, and for non-Kemetics it does not have this same spiritual significance.

RandallS

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8112
Maybe you didn't see my earlier posts, but again, my issue is not whether it's morally just or not.  I'm asking whether taking something out of its symbolical/cultural/spiritual context makes sense, especially if you are unaware of this context and yet use the ritual anyway.  My example with the natron is that it's spiritually significant for Kemetics for very specific reasons, and for non-Kemetics it does not have this same spiritual significance.

I'm of the "if it works" camp.  Does smudging with sage help clean up the area from whatever you want cleaned?  If yes, then it works all by itself. Might it work better if one was of the cultural that originally used it? Perhaps, perhaps not.
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Bastemhet

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Quote from: Ocelot;8111
There are probably exceptions, but no, using sage as the example, I don't necessarily think it's bad to use it out of it's context.


It isn't a question about whether it's "good" or "bad."

Quote
What I mean is, if the simple act of burning sage works to drive out negativity (and I'm not saying it does) then I don't find it a problem using it out the context you are talking about.


As I asked above- if NA's believe it works because the spirit of the plant is beseeched to drive out negative influences, what if you're not an animist?  Being an animist is one of the things necessary for it to work, and so it being a cleansing power works if you believe this one thing first.  Why in the world would you continue to use this ritual if you are not an animist?  This is just one specific point about working out of a spiritual context that has a system of beliefs and meanings built into it.

Starglade

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8063
Thanks for sharing.  Did they ever tell you where this practice originated and how/why it works?


In the fine manner of the time, the explanation was: Tradition.

With more reading (Cunningham comes to mind immediately, but there were other books for sure), I noticed that a very common use of sage was indeed for cleansing negativity. Its medicinal purposes seem to have been transferred to spiritual ones, which in a sympathetic-magic kind of way makes a certain amount of sense--at least to me.

Be advised I've not worked in a Wiccish framework for many, many years at this point. Time dims memory, for sure--but the basics, I recall pretty well.
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Etheric1

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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?

 
My own personal experience burning sage it that it has worked for me.  I'm about a white as a person can be genetically.  I've found that a place just feels better after a sage smudge.  My biggest thing when it comes to borrowing from another system is: does it work?  
 
I used to be part of a local ghost hunter group and we would do cleansings occasionally and we used a combination of sage and prayer work and banishing rituals - the group itself was made up of people from different faiths, there were a few Christians, we had one lady who was into Native American mysticism, and I was an eclectic pagan at the time.  We felt better after we cleansed a place.  And the customers felt like things were resolved afterwards.

I would add to this one thing to keep in mind: sometimes negative energies don't always go quickly.  So sage CAN work, but if the energy is very persistent it may choose to fight being cleansed.  I've heard sage described as something that stinks to negative spirit energies.  To put it another way: I don't know about you, but if I'm in a room for a purpose I believe in, and a person cuts a really nasty fart, I may choose to endure it if I am really dedicated or leaving is not an option for me.  It might take more efforts to encourage me to go elsewhere.

Bottom line: if it works, I say use it.  But it is good to know where a technique comes from and why it works as it does.
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Fier

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8112
I'm asking whether taking something out of its symbolical/cultural/spiritual context makes sense, especially if you are unaware of this context and yet use the ritual anyway.

 
Gotcha. My answer to that would be, it depends. Some things work whether they are being used in a spiritual context or not. As for an entire ritual vs. one small component, I don't know. Some people think that if you do all the steps correctly, it doesn't matter whether you believe in the ritual or the gods. If that is true then I suppose it wouldn't matter what the background and context are.

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