A few weeks ago now (Feb 22) I created a Medicine Wheel in Southwest Florida, with the help of several wonderful people. Before we created the Medicine Wheel, I led a meditation/demonstration of what we could use besides sage, to smudge ourselves and our materials.
What’s wrong with sage? Nothing, in general. For something like 20 years, at almost every ritual I’ve attended, regardless of intent, we have smudged with sage. This is painting with too broad a brush in my opinion. I like sage. It smells good to me, it tastes good to eat (or smoke) and is readily available at most “new age” or “metaphysical” shops. The drawback is, I think it isn’t native to Florida, much less Southwest Florida. Plus, I read a great article a few weeks ago on facebook called “the four sacred plants,” which led me to reconsider how and when we use sage in our rituals and gatherings, In a word, we are over using it, which I had long suspected.
So when I invited the people to help me create the Medicine Wheel, I also asked them to bring tree material from around where they lived. I suggested they forage for tree items since that would reduce the potential to pick plants that are either non-native, or are endangered, or toxic. Plus, trees are easier to identify than plants, so I thought that would help us keep track of this experiment.
I brought a coconut, from my neighbors’ coconut palm. And, some dried flowers from the Orchid Tree.
Other people brought: pine cones, pine needles, pine sap on bark bits, and a bunch of other types of trees materials, particularly from Mahogany. We had cypress tree leaves that had fallen to the ground and were gathered. They were already fairy dry. We also had oak scree.
Oak scree is what we call the flowers/ reproductive parts of the Live Oak trees. (There’s several species of Live Oak, but we don’t distinguish them in this essay.)
We talked about what each person brought and discussed whether it was suitable for burning in a smudge bowl. For example, the coconut is readily available, at least in my neighborhood, but it is difficult to prepare for smudging. We burned bits of each item and sat with each to see what we liked best.
I like the oak scree. You have to be careful because it is a quicker burn than sage is. But it is readily available, if you gather it at the right time, and has a nice smell. One person brought some berries of (Cypress? or Cedar?) and these smelled very good when burned.
Of course, if I only use oak scree I’ll be back to the problem of painting every ritual with the same broad brush. Hmmm…
Take a stroll around where you live, work, go to church, or play and see what tree items you could gather and dry for your ceremonies. Sit with the items and see what speaks to you.
footnote: There are times where we have consecrated sacred space with an herb like rosemary, dipped on water. We anoint people with this when we are in a place where we can’t burn sage or other materials. Presently I’m using a sprig of Boston Fern to anoint people in my Class. It is right outside the door of the classroom, and is thus very convenient. And, it is growing in Florida, so that works for my purposes.