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Sage has been utilized to ensure a long life-sometimes even immortality….”Scott Cunningham (1998) Cunninghams’ Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs (Llewellyn)
I’m not sure about immortality, but drinking in the smell of freshly picked sage on a hot day heals my soul. And burning dried sage cleans my home when it’s filled with challenging vibes. So when a friend offered some sage from her garden, I jumped at the chance to harvest it and make sage bundles for burning.
So before the comments box is filled with self-righteous comments, a quick note of clarification. I don’t ‘smudge’, and I don’t use store-bought herb bundles. I use different kinds of herbs (including purple and everyday sage that are either grown by myself or someone I know. Burning herbs has been a core part of my spiritual practise since I was an angst-ridden, gothy youth.
Many resources exist about the appropriation of smudging as a practice and its impact on the environment. Have a read of this one: “White Sage in Danger” by Jan Timbrook (January 21st, 2022) and another from Abbey Stone (September 18th, 2022) of Well + Good: “When Non-Native People Burn White Sage, It’s Cultural Appropriation—And We Don’t Support It.” I find it odd that people use herbs and chrystals that have been ripped out of the earth unsustainably using horrific labour conditions. Especially if they intend to bring about good vibes or luck with them
All that said, here’s how I make my bundles. Warning – these won’t be the prettiest things you’ve ever seen! They look a little like something a serial killer would use in their lair. But the principles are there for you.
So here’s what you do. . .
If it’s your plant or someone else’s, you should start by checking with the plant (and landowner!) if it’s ok to take some cuttings. Then, proceed or not, depending on the message you receive (or feeling you get from the plant).
Pick a day where it isn’t raining, ideally at a time when the sun is high-ish in the sky, and the plant is not moist from morning dew or rain. Some people harvest at particular times astrologically or by the moon. Others incorporate rituals. I’m not a big fan of overly prescriptive, book-based practices. It can sometimes mean that the relationship with the plant is out of balance. At the very least, hold the values of respect and an attitude of mindfulness in your mind as you go about your herby business.
Very carefully and mindfully harvest just enough for what you need. Make sure to thank the plant (and the person who let you on the site if that’s applicable). Once harvested, try to work immediately after harvesting than leaving the plants to sit and wilt. I’ve written out the process below, and you can also view my video.
- Check for bugs, trim random stalks and picked off dead leaves (I compost them). I don’t wash the cuttings. Other people do and that’s ok. For me, washing removes the beautiful oil from the leaves. My friend’s garden is organic and I just prefer to keep plants as I find them.
2. Next, create the bundle, stalks intact. (Some people pick off and use leaves, but that seems wasteful.) I mindfully choose bits of plant and place them so that they form the bundle with the same thickness all the way up (test with your hands as you go).
3. Take some natural fibre (for goodness sake, don’t use plastic – nobody wants to burn that) and tie the bundle near the bottom, leaving a bit of stalk underneath. (Note that knots and knot tying is a sub-speciality of some magical practices. To be honest, I fumble a lot and feel like my time in Girl Guides was for nothing.) Make the knot tight because the plant shrinks as it dries.
4. Wind the string around the plant artfully. (Not like I did, i.e. serial killer style.) Fold the top of the plant downwards on itself and wrap the string to hold that down. Keep wrapping downwards and up again if you want. When you feel like you’ve done enough to capture the leaves and hold it tight, then tie it off down where you began. If you are hanging it to dry, leave a bit of string so you can hang it. You can snip that later.
5. Give the bundle a bit of a trim if you like things tidy. Keep the trimmings for cooking (I dry them separately on some newspaper). I suggest you always check you can burn the plant you have chosen (or eat its leftovers). Nobody wants to cleanse their house with toxic plants or ironically die from poisoning in an abundance ritual.
Once it’s all trimmed up, hang it, or put it somewhere dry that has air circulating it and not in direct sunlight. After a few weeks, it will be ready to use.
If you are interested in drying herbs, take a look at another post on trimming and harvesting badly behaving herbs.
If this was helpful, please like and subscribe. Feel free to leave your non-judgemental comments below:-) Am off to eat some sage-rubbed roast chicken for dinner. Yum.