The ritual burning of herbs and herbal resins for wisdom, clarity and cleansing is common to many cultures. From the frankincense of the Church and the Middle Eastern bazaar, to the incenses of Asia, to our local imphepho – the ritual purification of spaces is a global phenomenon.
Native American sage burning is the most common form of smudging, but in SA we have our own sage burning traditions. Indigenous African sage (botanical name Helicrysum) or imphepho is known as kooigoed or sewejaartjies in Afrikaans.
Origin of the word sage
The word sage, for a profoundly wise person, comes from the herb sage. Sage is also called salvia from the Latin word salvare which means to save, rescue, retrieve, safeguard, protect and defend.
Smudging for purifying a space
Stagnant, negative energy in your home, office or any other space, can have a detrimental effect on your well-being.
If you’re feeling pessimistic, sluggish or out of sorts, it may be caused by the energy in your environment. A build up of positive ions due to stress, anger or any form of tension, causes the energy around us to become stagnant. The smoke from burning herbs turns the positive ions back to negative ones, thereby purifying and cleansing the atmosphere.
Sage burning ceremonies can be as elaborate or as simple as you need them to be, but it’s of the highest importance that your intention be clear before you light the sage, and while taking the smoke around a home, or through a space.
Janine Chauveau – Morning Star says: “I prepare myself for about three days prior to doing a cleansing. I use sage combined with other herbs and spices I am guided to use. I use eagle and/or owl feathers, as they have the highest frequencies, to move the energies. I spend around five to seven hours cleansing a property with the smoke.”
Janine says the smoke is only five to ten percent of the cleansing ceremony she conducts, “the rest is from an open, aware heart space”.
“Sage will remove negative energy, but nothing stronger than that. I end the ceremony with a financial blessing and a protection prayer.”
The many uses of African sage or imphepho
- The smoke of African sage is used as an offering when praying, to call the ancestors, invoke trance states and to cleanse the energy in spaces and around people.
- Medicinally it is used as an antiseptic, insecticide, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and analgesic.
- The Khoisan used it as bedding (kooigoed); campers do the same today.
- Burning a mixture of African sage and African wormwood leaves, makes a pleasant insect repellent. It is very effective for keeping flies and mosquitoes away.
- The plants are usually wild harvested and plaited in garlands or tied in bundles before drying.
- Some varieties have been domesticated and can be found at nurseries for planting in your garden.