Smudging, and sage vs. sagebrush.


Date: Mon, 11 Dec 1995 02:46:01 -0800
From: Howie Brounstein <howieb.TELEPORT.COM>
Subject: Re: Traditional Smudging herb

>>The only other "authentic" smudging herb I've seen used by native americans (I am Chippewa, not a smudge using group per se, but have friends from many tribes) is artemesia tridentata.

Yes, Artemisia tridentata, or tripartita, or many other species that are woody shrubs are called Sagebrush. Very good smudge. Effective antibacterial for airborne bacteria. Great for cleaning out smells. Close your windows, light the stick, go around the house, I usually go along the ceiling edges, and get all the corners that collect the stale energy. I have a broom in the other hand to clean the cobwebs at the same time. Before the house fills with too much smoke, finish up and open the windows and doors, letting all the smoke blow away. Certainly, wonderful for purification and stale spirit energies, in the more traditional sense, antibaterial in the scientific scents.

Indeed, as an adult I had chicken pox, left me "out of it" for a while. I returned to me house weeks later, to find the electricity turned off and the refrigerator quite foul. I left it open outside, hosed it out, tried bleach, baking soda, vinegar, cleanser. Nothing would remove the smell, after all this, and left open for days. So I lit a sage stick (Artemisia tridentata), stuck it in the fridge, and closed the door. Opened it about an hour later, the foul smell was gone. All the food tasted like Sagebrush for a while. That was fine with me.

The white sage is a very different smell and plant. I believe the Native Americans who didn't have access to White Sage(Salvia) used Sagebrush. Sagebrush is accessible in more of North America than the Salvia.

Some Native Americans used Cedar leaves in the smudge.

>You've answered a question (that I haven't asked) about the use of artemisia as a smudge ingredient. I have three pounds of artemisia douglasiana on order (for another purpose) and plan to experiment with some of it in a smudge when it arrives. BTW, artemisia (AKA mugwort), as you correctly pointed out, is not a sage.

Woah, Dale, that Mugwort, an herbaceous (not woody) Artemisia is used for a different purpose. You can smudge with it, but it is not for purification like the woody Artemisias. Also, you might want to know that Mugwort when burnt smells suspiciously similar to Marijuana, more so than any other plant I've smelled. If you burn it in your house as a smudge, you may not think so, but others that come and visit may eye you suspiciously ..... perhaps they think you are holding out on them, or that you may not pass your next drug test. Nevertheless, do not smudge your car with Mugwort. The local Peace Officer doesn't know about Mugwort.

The following is a cut and paste from our list here .... written in August of this year:

> Hello,
> I am having a lot of difficulty identifying the plant that Native Americans use for ceremonial purposes. They call it sage (and yes I know what it looks like) but I can't find any other names for it or it's latin name. It is almost ready to harvest here in Minnesota.

The common name Sage refers to a variety of unrelated plants, many of which were used ceremonially. You've gotten 3 latin names so far, so how do you tell now?

Sage - Salvia sp. is in the Mint Family (Labiatae) with square stems, opposite leaves and two lipped flowers. If you have a Salvia, the leaves will be in pairs on the stem, generally with wide leaves that are entire (no teeth, lobes, serrations, or grooves along the edges of the leaf, just oval shaped). This genus includes garden sage for cooking and white sage (ceremonial) and black sage, purple sage, hummingbird sage, and innumerable others. This plant is probably not growing wild in Minnesota.

Sagebrush (sage) - shrubby Artemisia sp. is in the Sunflower family. They have woody stems and are bushes (shrubs) with often irregularly shaped leaves. These plants have also been used ceremonially. The flowers are small and yellow centered.includes silver sage.

Mugwort (Sagewort) herbaceous Artemisia sp. is related to the Sagebrush, only it is not a woody shrub, it is an herb (botanically speaking, not a tree or shrub). This are the plants used for dreams. The details of the specific species of the Artemisias are complex and confusing.

Hope this helps some, many folks become confused with the common name "Sage".

Howie B
C&W Herbs, Inc.
Eugene, Or USA

"It's easy to harvest wild plants, the hard part is not harvesting."