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Author Topic: Burning sage: Universal to all fluffs or specific to some Native American cultures?  (Read 10992 times)

Caroline

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

 
White sage, or bee sage (hence the name salvia apiana is native the SW US/Mexica and what is commonly used in smudging, and there's a ton of associated cultural practices. Other FN/NA groups traditionally used sweetgrass, juniper or cedar but many use sage today as well.

As for my own experience, over the years I've had FN folk tell me that even though they didn't gather it and it isn't tradition to them, they feel free to use it since it was gathered/prepared by someone who knew what to do. Others don't care, but don't want what they do with it photographed or written about (talking about it generally is fine, obviously.) I've been told it's ok to buy it, that you shouldn't buy it (it should be a gift), and that you shouldn't ask/expect to be paid/pay for doing a smudging, so again, belief/practice among FN/NA isn't consistent or monolithic.

Culinary sage, savia officinalis has been used since antiquity in European/ Med areas, predominately medicinally (it shows up in the medieval herbals frequently) but it was also included in blends to ward off plague and other evils so there are some protective attributations as well.

monsnoleedra

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Quote from: Caroline;8157
White sage, or bee sage (hence the name salvia apiana is native the SW US/Mexica and what is commonly used in smudging, and there's a ton of associated cultural practices. Other FN/NA groups traditionally used sweetgrass, juniper or cedar but many use sage today as well.  ..


That matches what I was told.  It's not just sage but a specific type of sage that should be used.  The Cherokee I have spoken to said they used Cedar though I do not know about the Western Cherokee nation.

I do find it interesting that the purification of sage was used in Sweat Lodge's or other similar multi-part ceremonies and rituals.  Yet none of them ever said anything about homes or other perminate structures.  Perhaps in situations where a Medicine Person was called in for a sickness and to drive it out but never as just a getting ride of negativity type thing as used in modern paganism.

stephyjh

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

 
Bear in mind that my roots are Tsalagi (Cherokee), and the use of burning sage is occasional, but our tradition is more associated with tobacco and sweetgrass. It's more about the perfumed smoke than it is about the herb itself. Note that all three plants emit a strong, slightly sweet smell when they're burned.

All plants have their medicine, their uses for physical and spiritual purposes, because when the animals grew angry with humans for using weapons and hunting them, they cursed mankind with all manner of illnesses. But the plants didn't think it was fair to curse humans without trying to negotiate with us first, so they decided that any illness caused by the animals' curses, the plants would cure. Plants that give off a sweet-smelling smoke are often used for purification purposes--it's not specific to sage, and the use of sage in our tradition does not, from what I understand, date back before the Trail of Tears era, in which multiple Native nations were forced into territories with which they were unfamiliar. From what I understand, because tobacco was not native to the western states to which the nations were moved, the Cherokee people who were moved (as opposed to those who escaped and stayed behind, from whom I'm descended) used sage as a substitute.
A heretic blast has been blown in the west,
That what is no sense must be nonsense.

-Robert Burns

stephyjh

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Quote from: monsnoleedra;8164
That matches what I was told.  It's not just sage but a specific type of sage that should be used.  The Cherokee I have spoken to said they used Cedar though I do not know about the Western Cherokee nation.

I do find it interesting that the purification of sage was used in Sweat Lodge's or other similar multi-part ceremonies and rituals.  Yet none of them ever said anything about homes or other perminate structures.  Perhaps in situations where a Medicine Person was called in for a sickness and to drive it out but never as just a getting ride of negativity type thing as used in modern paganism.

 
I forgot to mention cedar! Weird, since I've used it myself, but I guess the whole "Native Americans do X" (even though the OP was very careful NOT to say that, I understood the people in the conversation s/he was referencing to be saying something similar) combined with "well, that's just what the herb does" got me a little flustered.  Sorry!
A heretic blast has been blown in the west,
That what is no sense must be nonsense.

-Robert Burns

monsnoleedra

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Quote from: stephyjh;8178
I forgot to mention cedar! Weird, since I've used it myself, but I guess the whole "Native Americans do X" (even though the OP was very careful NOT to say that, I understood the people in the conversation s/he was referencing to be saying something similar) combined with "well, that's just what the herb does" got me a little flustered.  Sorry!


Not a problem to my perspecitve, heck I forgot Tobacco though I use it as an offering all the time.

Its sad I suppose but the most realistic example of using smoke to purify and bring the soul back together I can think of actually comes from a war movie.  It's the movie WIND TALKERS and the scene where White Horse uses tobacco to purify and bring back his friends courage and power in battle through the use of tobacco smoke.

Annie Roonie

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8049
 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?

If one has to adopt the system of belief from which a ritual, ingredient or deity originates, money would be the only thing that would be sacred. I'm joking a little. But really, appropriation, while it may be offensive to those with an immediate sense of ownership, seems the natural order of things.

My gate is for keeping things out or in, but the morning glories do not adhere to that and they use the gate to grow. It is not for growing dammit! But I am proven wrong every darned day.

Btw, I had a more lengthy response but when I submitted I had to sign in again and it disappeared. If it reappears, you have my apologies for the length and meandering.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2011, 12:18:51 am by Annie Roonie »

Bastemhet

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Quote from: stephyjh;8176
Bear in mind that my roots are Tsalagi (Cherokee), and the use of burning sage is occasional, but our tradition is more associated with tobacco and sweetgrass. It's more about the perfumed smoke than it is about the herb itself. Note that all three plants emit a strong, slightly sweet smell when they're burned.

All plants have their medicine, their uses for physical and spiritual purposes, because when the animals grew angry with humans for using weapons and hunting them, they cursed mankind with all manner of illnesses. But the plants didn't think it was fair to curse humans without trying to negotiate with us first, so they decided that any illness caused by the animals' curses, the plants would cure. Plants that give off a sweet-smelling smoke are often used for purification purposes--it's not specific to sage, and the use of sage in our tradition does not, from what I understand, date back before the Trail of Tears era, in which multiple Native nations were forced into territories with which they were unfamiliar. From what I understand, because tobacco was not native to the western states to which the nations were moved, the Cherokee people who were moved (as opposed to those who escaped and stayed behind, from whom I'm descended) used sage as a substitute.

Finally, an answer as to why! :)  Thank you for chiming in with your Tsalagi perspective (the person I was talking with said they're Cherokee too).  It seems like there was a reason to use these plants- they wanted you to to have a fair chance against animal curses that make people sick.  What do you think of the widespread practice of (possibly non-animist) people not knowing this history and simply using it to "drive out negative energy"?  Do you have any ritual for thanking the spirit of the sage for allowing you to burn it?  Would there be any consequence for not doing this?
« Last Edit: July 26, 2011, 03:07:43 am by Bastemhet »

Wood Rose

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8266
It seems like there was a reason to use these plants- they wanted you to to have a fair chance against animal curses that make people sick.  What do you think of the widespread practice of (possibly non-animist) people not knowing this history and simply using it to "drive out negative energy"?  Do you have any ritual for thanking the spirit of the sage for allowing you to burn it?  Would there be any consequence for not doing this?

 
I am going to answer this another way, from a diffrent point of view.

Working in the hospital we see all kinds of people and beliefs come in the doors. Many older immagrants from the Asian countries are willing to take our antibiotics. However, for them sickness in a negative energy and they will not get better until a ritual/offering/clensing is done. There are some that I have particapated in as they needed an extra person, even though it is not my religion/belief. In this nothing happend to me other than I learned something new.

Many months ago we had in the ICU a member of the tribe, the elders came in for a drumming circle. I wish I had been there.

That being said I use sage a few times a year. I do think it helps, I do thank the plant, and I actualy like the smell.

stephyjh

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8266
Finally, an answer as to why! :)  Thank you for chiming in with your Tsalagi perspective (the person I was talking with said they're Cherokee too).  It seems like there was a reason to use these plants- they wanted you to to have a fair chance against animal curses that make people sick.  What do you think of the widespread practice of (possibly non-animist) people not knowing this history and simply using it to "drive out negative energy"?  Do you have any ritual for thanking the spirit of the sage for allowing you to burn it?  Would there be any consequence for not doing this?


Like I said, sage isn't the primary plant we use, and it's not traditional. There's a lot that I lack in knowledge, since my dad is of Native descent, but my mom is not (hence the Celtic aspect of my practice). But I do thank the plant, just because I believe it's the right thing to do, even though I really don't know that it's precisely required, the way it is to ask a deer's forgiveness upon killing it.
A heretic blast has been blown in the west,
That what is no sense must be nonsense.

-Robert Burns

Marilyn/Absentminded

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8049



Okay, I've been seeing this thread for four pages now.  I'm not getting into it because I think it's silly to get all bent out of shape because what somebody else does looks too much like what I do, without being what I do.  I only get annoyed when names of ceremonies or beings get co-opted without understanding.

What I wanted to ask you, however, was if you meant for the title of the thread to be quite so insulting?  Admittedly, it conveys your opinion quite nicely, but I don't really think too many people are going to explain why they consider something universal when the phrasing is 'to all fluffs'.  You only seem to be accepting the answers that relate burning sage to specific cultures - almost like you're patting those who say so on the head for getting the 'right' answer.

If it works it works.  Everyone who uses it will have either their own rationale for why it works, or they will go on simple faith without picking it apart.  This whole question is like asking if 'fluffs' are allowed to use bells in cleansing or should that be left to those of Asian cultures.

Absent
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I do what I have to do to get by
But I know what is wrong, and I know what is right
And I die for the truth in my secret life

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Bastemhet

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Quote from: Marilyn/Absentminded;8409
I think it's silly to get all bent out of shape because what somebody else does looks too much like what I do, without being what I do.  I only get annoyed when names of ceremonies or beings get co-opted without understanding.


I'm annoyed because I'm referring to people who co-opt a practice without understanding where it came from, why, or how it works, just that "people do it" therefore "it's what people should do," especially if their pegan book told them to.  I thought I made this clear in my posts.  If this isn't a flavor of fluff, I need to have my definition updated.

Quote
What I wanted to ask you, however, was if you meant for the title of the thread to be quite so insulting?


I was referring specifically to the group above.  Again, if that's not fluff, kindly update my definition.  

Quote
You only seem to be accepting the answers that relate burning sage to specific cultures - almost like you're patting those who say so on the head for getting the 'right' answer.


Take another look- I'm responding to posts that actually tell me what the history of it is since that's also what I've been asking for all along.  I am not responding to posts that talk about its moral validity because that is not the point of my first post.  It's a bit strange I had to repeat this so many times.

Quote
If it works it works.


And I think we have different expectations of what "works" means.

Quote
Everyone who uses it will have either their own rationale for why it works, or they will go on simple faith without picking it apart.


And I specifically asked for the rationale of people who understood it in its context to comment on whether they thought it "works" if people are ignorant about that context.  Thread goal achieved, though I would like more people who work with that context to comment if they're out there.  

Quote
This whole question is like asking if 'fluffs' are allowed to use bells in cleansing or should that be left to those of Asian cultures.


Nope, not at all.  Yet again, I'll clarify: I'm asking if it makes sense out of the historical context/belief systems (i.e. it's said to work thanks to spirits of plants, so why use it if you're not an animist?).  I'm not arguing that only people of that culture can use it.  Please don't mistake other common arguments for my own.  I tried to make it very clear that this is not a "cultural appropriation" argument in all of my posts.

Bastemhet

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Quote from: stephyjh;8352
Like I said, sage isn't the primary plant we use, and it's not traditional. There's a lot that I lack in knowledge, since my dad is of Native descent, but my mom is not (hence the Celtic aspect of my practice). But I do thank the plant, just because I believe it's the right thing to do, even though I really don't know that it's precisely required, the way it is to ask a deer's forgiveness upon killing it.

 
Sorry I mentioned sage again- I was in a hurry when I wrote that post.  You did say it's not traditional.  Thanks for your input. :)

Marilyn/Absentminded

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8429
I'm annoyed because I'm referring to people who co-opt a practice without understanding where it came from, why, or how it works, just that "people do it" therefore "it's what people should do," especially if their pegan book told them to.  I thought I made this clear in my posts.  If this isn't a flavor of fluff, I need to have my definition updated.

 
If they are doing it because their teachers told them that that is what is done, or if books described the practice and explained the circumstances under which most people do it, then they haven't co-opted anything.  They have learned a technique the utility of which is attested over and over again.  The fact that they may not know where it came from, or who did it first, does not interfere with that utility.  I use recipes that turn out very well and do exactly what they are supposed to (taste good, clear the palate, soothe a cold, etc.) with no idea whatsoever of who came up with them.  It doesn't matter if I don't know that in this recipe a particular spice is considered holy or medicinal - I follow the recipe and the cooking technique and it works.

Quote
Take another look- I'm responding to posts that actually tell me what the history of it is since that's also what I've been asking for all along.  I am not responding to posts that talk about its moral validity because that is not the point of my first post.  It's a bit strange I had to repeat this so many times.


People are perfectly free to talk about things that were not in your OP.  To be fair, you are free to ignore them.  

Quote
And I think we have different expectations of what "works" means.


Achieves the goal for which it is used?

Quote
And I specifically asked for the rationale of people who understood it in its context to comment on whether they thought it "works" if people are ignorant about that context.  Thread goal achieved, though I would like more people who work with that context to comment if they're out there.


I'm right here.  (Anishnaabe are more likely to use sweetgrass, but I think the aim of the question is the same)  I know people who get annoyed at the idea of anyone off the res using sweetgrass.  I also know people who think the world would be a better place if everyone used it.  I'm in the latter camp and I think it works whether people know why or not.

Quote
Nope, not at all.  Yet again, I'll clarify: I'm asking if it makes sense out of the historical context/belief systems (i.e. it's said to work thanks to spirits of plants, so why use it if you're not an animist?).


Complete sense to me.  The spirit of the plant is ONE way to look at it.  Another is 'as above, so below'  (maybe reverse that).  Something with antiseptic properties on the physical level will do the same thing on the meta-physical level.  A tool that cuts string in the physical world will cut connections in the spiritual.  It's a common symbolic exchange.

Sage wasn't originally used with the (western) laws of magic in mind, but those laws weren't cobbled together to enable appropriation either.  The fact that an ingredient works in more than one context does not mean that only one is right and the others do not understand what they're doing.


Absent
I smile when I\'m angry.  I cheat and I lie
I do what I have to do to get by
But I know what is wrong, and I know what is right
And I die for the truth in my secret life

   In My Secret Life, L. Cohen

schwertlilie

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Quote from: Bastemhet;8106
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?

 
I think that would be disrespectful; but if the desired outcome was simply to cleanse a room, I don't think the lack of knowledge would affect the result.

A lot of that I put on the author - as a teacher, it's their responsibility to teach both accurately and fully. Their words teach not just a technique but an attitude, a worldview, and they need to be conscious of that and make sure they're not appropriating things just because it's cool/unusual/everyone else is doing it. (I think "Orientalism" should be required reading for anyone that wants to write a pagan book. :) )


Quote from: Bastemhet;8429
I'm annoyed because I'm referring to people who co-opt a practice without understanding where it came from, why, or how it works, just that "people do it" therefore "it's what people should do," especially if their pegan book told them to.  I thought I made this clear in my posts.  If this isn't a flavor of fluff, I need to have my definition updated.



I was referring specifically to the group above.  Again, if that's not fluff, kindly update my definition.  

 
Personally, I define "fluffy" as someone who thinks the world is all sunshine and light and everything wants to be friends~ o/` So most New Agers I know are really fluffy, as are the white lighters. There's nothing bad out there, nothing will hurt you if you screw up things like a trance journey, and that key of Solomon thingie? Totally not dangerous.

Silver RavenWolf is fluffy because of things like Teen Witch, and the kinds of statements she makes therein - forgive my paraphrase (the book's in storage), but in a spell to cool a heated situation down she tells the reader to invoke the Norse frost giants, because they love to help people! :D: Except.. that they don't.

Not all book-learners are fluffy, and neither are the authors - there's a lot of really excellent books coming out that encourage outside research and personal practice, instead of just "Catch a fairy in your palm, and it'll help you find your lost homework~!" And there has to be - not all Pagans have actual groups to learn from, or we don't fit with the groups that are available. What's left is books and internet, and I definitely wouldn't call books like Dianne Sylvan's "The Body Sacred" or Diana Paxson's "Trance-portation" fluffy.

Auress

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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?


He's probably right for whatever tribe he's referring to. I'm "part native" also, Cherokee, but I don't pretend to know what their religions views on the use of sage would be, at all. All I know that is the some tribes use it, although I have no idea for what.

As far as adopting the viewpoint it comes from, if we all went this route, Wicca wouldn't exist and we wouldn't have eclectics and other forms of paganism. I don't think it really matters where you get the practice of using sage, if it's working. But, then again, I am of the mindset of an extremely soft polytheist and pantheist. As long as you know something about the plant you're using, whether by the natives or by another herbalist that uses it, I don't think it matters a whole lot.

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