This weekend we headed for California for our bi-annual sage gathering expedition. It was a fun trip and I remembered to bring the camera to share some photos.If you check out our blogs from June of 2007, I discussed smudging ceremonies and sacred herbs. Everyone finds the herb(s) that is the most pleasing and effective for them for cleaning and purifying. Our personal “herb of choice” is White Sage (Salvia apiana). We lovingly call it “California White” (sounds like pot doesn’t it… smells somewhat like it too). White sage is the preference of many due to sweeter aroma it has and that it burns well. We also like the fact that it will go out when its job is complete.
Over the years on our treks to Southern California, we have found that white sage grows wild in the south side of the mountains there. As we have sought it out, we found a lovely canyon where we return every couple of years to gather what we need for ceremonial purposes.
The sage is usually mature in mid to late May. After that is tends to get dry and spindly. This year we were right on time. The plants had completed their bloom and were full and sweet.
We always begin by finding the Grandmother plant in the area and asking permission to gather. (Here is a Grandmother plant in the area I was gathering.) When asking permission, we give an offering to the plant. Offerings can be many things, but Gary smokes a pipe so we always have tobacco at hand (the traditional masculine offering) and I carry a bag of blue corn meal (traditional female offering) when we are out visiting Mother Nature. Once that permission is given, we begin to “tune in” to the plants and ask who would like to join us. There is usually a lot of clatter as many of the plants are excited about participating with us for ceremonial purposes. Some plants are excited and happy to give. Others are grumpy or stingy. We just thank the grumpy ones and move on. As we choose and break off the stems we may again give an offering to that particular plant of simply thank it for its gift. This is fun and exciting as the plants are so happy and excited to have us there and to be acknowledged and chosen to full fill their agreement as sacred herbs.
In our gathering we take only what we need for ceremony and give-away over the next two years. And, as we ceremonially gather these sacred plants we are careful not to take too much from each plant, being aware of it’s health and life force. Sometimes plant will want to participate that are not mature enough. We thank them and acknowledge them anyway and ask them to wait until we return.
Once we had determined we had what we needed we began our trip back to the truck. This part is the most fun. All along the way, the sage plants begin calling to us, telling us they want to go too. Sometimes they just yell the “Hey You – Over here!”. If we try to ignore them on our walk they can get pretty loud with the “Hey stupid – I’m talking to you” type thing. Sometimes we will simply acknowledge and thank the plant for wanting to participate, especially if they are up a hillside somewhere. I don’t do mountain goat 🙂 Other times we will stop and take a stalk or two from the plant to add to our sack. I actually had one plant this time almost reach out and grab my ankle as I walked past. I stumbled and returned to the plant to accept its offering.
We finally made it to the truck and packed our treasure into a tub in the back of the truck and headed for warmer climes in Phoenix, leaving an odorous trail of sage behind us.From home base, the work/play began. We wrapped each branch of sage with red cotton thread to gather and form it while it drys. After about three hours of wrapping we had a lovely stash of sage bundles. We are fortunate here as our garage has a full attic. Today we laid it all out to dry. It won’t take long with our summer approaching. The attic gets very hot and with the low humidity we have dried sage in no time.
Until next time –Mitakuye Oyasin ( A Lakota prayer as a reminder that we are all related),