Treaty 2 Territory- Earth Lodge Keeper, Allen Sutherland (Waabshkii Masinazoot Michtaatim) and Earth Lodge Development Helper, Renée McGurry spent an afternoon harvesting white sage at Wasagaming. Before harvesting, Allen started with a prayer of thanks as we put down tobacco on Mother Earth.
For medicinal or food purposes, white sage can be harvested any time of year. In general, how dry the plant is determines how it can be used. The drier the conditions, the stronger the sage is for medicines and ceremonies.
When you’re ready to harvest sage, do not pull our the roots, instead, gently pinch the stem above the roots or cut the sage cleanly with scissors. Never take the entire plant at one time, as this can permanently damage it. It is best to cut the newer, top 2/3s of the plant and leave the older stems and roots intact.
Drying and Bundling Sage
Once you have harvested your sage, you will want to dry it quickly. You can dry loose sage by laying it out in a dry area in low light. To create sage bundles, completely dry your sage by laying it in the sun. After they are dry, you can take multiple stems of sage and group them together, tying a piece of string around the stems in order to bundle them together. Leave extra string at the end to create a loop so that you can hang your sage bundles in a dry, dark location.
Sage (Mshkodewashk) Sage sits in the south and is a women’s medicine, representing strength, wisdom, and clarity of purpose. It is a powerful, purifying medicine that drives away negative energies. Sage can be found tied in bundles and hung in people’s homes, often tied with a ribbon in one of the 4 colours of the medicine wheel. First Nations people use sage when feeling anxious, when dealing with pain, when they have an important decision to make, or have shared a space with someone who made them feel unsafe. Its soft and sweet smoke rises to the Creator, taking away our worries, carrying our gratitude and good intentions. Sage will wash away the negativity of the outside world before you step closer to the Creator and the spirit world. Using sage to smudge is recommended because all people can smudge with sage at any time. This is particularly important for women when they are on their moon time. During this time, women can only use sage to smudge.
The sage teaching of it being the woman’s medicine comes from a story that has been passed down for many generations: “There once was a young woman who loved participating in ceremonies. When she was on her moon time, she tried to attend a ceremony and was turned away. The power of a woman when she is on her moon cycle is very strong, so the leaders of her nation forbid her to be around ceremonial items that were used during the ceremony to prevent her strength from taking power from them. After she left the ceremony, she felt a constant flow of tears falling on her face. She asked the Creator why she couldn’t attend the ceremony. The Creator explained the strength she carried during this time of her cycle. She was told to look at the ground where her tears fell, and she would find a plant. That plant that was growing at her feet, from the tears that she cried was sage. She could use this sacred plant for her ceremonies at any time, even during her moon time. This sacred medicine was given to us from the creator because of the young woman’s faith in ceremony.”
Sage will wash away the outside world before you sit in ceremony and that allows us to step closer to our connection to the Spirit World. Her strongest gift is that of clarity and new beginnings. When burned, our ancestors recognize her aromatic smoke and hear our messages and prayers. It is often burned to cleanse ourselves, to remove negativity, to restore our energy and provide insight when we need help making decisions.
Submitted by Renée McGurry; Earth Lodge Development Helper