It’s interesting how, when beginning the journey back to your earth-based roots and diving deeper into deeper spiritual ways of being, we can feel unsure of what feels most meaningful to us.
In our seeking of sacred, we can tend towards mimicking what we see those around us doing.
That yoga teacher works with crystals?
I’ll buy a few of my own too.
That cool looking tattooed girl on Instagram reads tarot?
I’ll grab a deck of my own.
That shamanic healer burns dried sage and dances around her home waving the smoke with a feather?
OK, well she looks legit in her spiritual connection, so I’ll do the same.
I understand that this mimicking is the way a lot of us find what is sacred and meaningful and magical to us because that has been my path as well.
But where this becomes problematic is where we blindly participate in something that actually might be causing harm to someone else’s cultural or way of being, whether we are conscious of it or not.
So I want to talk about that today, in a way that isn’t shaming but rather calls us all into a deeper conversation and thoughtfulness around our spiritual practices—particularly with the burning of white sage. Because I didn’t know what I know now until someone shared it with me.
I wanted a little help with this conversation, so I asked my friend Lauren to join me for it.
I met Lauren in the class I took last year with Liz Migliorelli about Folk Medicine & Magic of Old Europe. I had mentioned I was planning on heading to Ireland on my own ancestral pilgrimage for the autumn equinox and she lit up, sharing her own experiences there just a year before.
Lauren is a writer and a witch on the path of re-connecting to her European roots and earth ways. She is also a very talented maker, including overall embroidery and the making of wands with the cycle of the full moon. I love the way she calls you into a more authentic truth of who you are, who you are descended from, and how to walk an earth-based path in integrity today.
To set the context for this conversation, I want to share a story with you.
I was recently walking through a cute boutique on a girls trip to wine country and came across a “smudge ritual kit” that included a braid of sweetgrass, a sage bundle, and a mini abalone shell. I picked it up and looked closely, feeling a sense of uneasiness come across my whole body. I ended up snapping a photo and sharing my discomfort about it on Instagram stories, and Lauren immediately responded with a virtual head nod that she, too, had been feeling this as well.
I asked her to jump on a video with me to chat more about these feelings we have around the use of white sage and engage in a dialogue that we hope will spread to your communities as well.
And, as Lauren says, we want to acknowledge the powerful experiences many of us have with these plants, but that doesn’t preclude you from having this conversation about the history of this practice and ways we can make it right today.
Click play below to check it out:
A bit of what we share:
2:20 – Lauren’s journey with reclaiming who her people are, including uncomfortable feelings about Native American culture and turquoise.
6:00 – The importance of holding two seemingly opposite emotions or notions at the same time when having conversations about decolonization.
7:05 – The aspects of her ancestry that bring her joy, including the recipes of her grandmother and the gold stick pin her family brought over from Ireland that she was able to save from the fire that burned down her house last October.
10:50 – The paradox of loving a place where you live that also isn’t the ancestral home of your people.
11:45 – The practice of decolonization and how we each approach it (including forgiving ourselves for doing it wrong).
17:45 – The context for borrowing spiritual traditions of other cultures.
19:05 – The practice of burning white sage, the ways we are looking to shift that practice to one that is more aligned with our ancestral roots, and Lauren’s project to make it right with local indigenous tribes.
21:35 – Important dates Lauren shared to give context for how we got to where we are today:
In 1884, the U.S. outlawed pagan ceremonies and native people were imprisoned for at least 30 days if they practiced their own religion
In 1892, the law intensified so that those who performed religious dances, had ceremonies, or advocated their own beliefs were thrown in prison.
In 1978, the Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed to grant access to sacred sites, freedom to worship, and use objects that are considered sacred.
“Today, there are people alive who could have been put in prison for practicing their religious beliefs. But I, as a white person, can walk into a boutique and buy a smudge kit, light it up, and not have to fear going to prison.” — Lauren Harwyn
28:50 – White sage is an at-risk plant on the United Plant Savers “to watch” list, so asking how we are engaging with the land in a way that’s sustainable for these plants we feel a connection to.
30:10 – Opportunities and alternatives to burning white sage for clearing and ceremony, including other plants I burn for smoke medicine, growing my own European sage in my garden, and Lauren’s project to grow sacred sage and give back to her local indigenous community.
34:40 – The concept of reciprocity – you take but you gotta give back.
39:35 – How to find organizations to give money and time to while doing this decolonization work. Lauren mentions Indian Country Today.
Thank you for listening and participating in this conversation, sister. If you want to follow Lauren, here’s where you can find her:
Now we want to hear from you!
This conversation was intended to be a model for us all to continue and have conversations like these, both online and in person. Leave a comment below if you want to join us in that.
Continue your journey: