Before adding Palo Santo & Sage into your daily routine, understanding the true purpose and sacred history of each ritual is one of the most important parts of using them so today, I wanted to do a breakdown on what each is for, their history and when I reach for each. For centuries, Indigenous tribes have burned sage as part of their spiritual ceremonies to cleanse and purify and within some Native cultures, the different sages have varying uses which is also important to note.
First, we can discuss the history of both sage and palo santo and understand that both are spiritual tools used for centuries by shamans and medicine people of Indigenous cultures. There are a lot of ways to disrespect these practices so being very mindful of their true purpose is critical. Where your items are sourced from is also a very important topic as some sources of palo santo are leading to overharvesting whereas white sage is also being over and illegally harvested from preserves and protected land. Using unlawfully-sourced or stolen plant medicine defeats the entire purpose so where you buy your sacred supplies from really matters.
Both sage and palo santo are similar in some ways, as both are designed to cleanse the energy in you or your space to encourage a more positive and peaceful environment. People have been burning various herbs, woods, resins, and plants for thousands of years now so these are simply two of many that can be used in energy cleansing ceremonies. One of the most important things to note here is that you should never burn sage while under the influence of any substance and considering the history of its use and the fact that at one time, the use of it was illegal, we must always come from a place of gratitude for these plants and the history of their intended use.
Sage is made up of the sage plant’s leaves and has a stronger, more plant-like smell when burned. Between the two, Sage is the more powerful plant, as it can be used to clear out all energy in a space, leaving room for positive and new vibes instead. If you have really heavy energy to move out, I am talking divorce, a new space with heavy energy, bad roommates moving out, fighting with your spouse, bad tenants, etc… you always want to reach for some sage to clear out all of the toxic energy.
Sage is a heavy-duty way to clear you and your space of everything. The downside is if you have any spirits or positive energy you want to keep, sage will also clear this out. You can invite it back in, however, it is good to be mindful of this before using. Once you are done burning your sage you are not done. You then must put back positivity into the space as after the sage, it is wiped totally clean. This can be positive music, dancing, meditation to set intentions, essential oils, crystal ceremonies, singing to plants, etc…
Because there are so many issues with the sourcing of sage, you only want to buy from local farms growing the sage themselves. All of our sage is grown in Southern California by a small, family-owned farm that sources it ethically. This is important as white sage is often stolen off of public and private land which goes against the entire purpose of its use. Another interesting fact is that White Sage is more for protection whereas Blue Sage is more for cleansing out bad energy. I carry both types so you can choose which you are more in need of.
On the other hand, we have Palo Santo which is cut up pieces from the Bursera Graveolens trees often sourced from Ecuador. Palo Santo means “holy wood” best known for its ability to add positivity to your space whereas sage removes negativity. It’s best to think of it as sage CLEARS it out the bad and palo santo BRINGS back the good. Palo Santo is what I reach for daily as it simply encourages positive energy while purifying the air. Because this one adds the positivity back into the space, you do not have to follow up with any additional steps, however, you always want to be very mindful when using both as your intentions are a huge part of both practices. Between the two smells, I personally love the smell of palo santo more, it smells like a really fragrant essential oil-infused wood, it’s one of my favorite smells!
HOW TO BURN
Before burning either, we always suggest removing all people and pets from the room. You also want to make sure a window is open to release all negativity from the home, this step is critical otherwise you will trap the negativity in the home. Before you begin, you will, again, want to set your intentions for the ceremony. Do not skip this! For example, if you moved into a new home, your intentions may be to remove all energy from the home, both good and bad, to reset it for yourself. Your intention would be to clear out any lingering energy that can no longer reside there and to then welcome in abundance, happiness, and comfort.
For Sage - Untie your bundle and remove all decorative ribbon, leaving the thin white string that holds the sage and flowers together. Indigenous smudging ceremonies do not believe in using butane lighters as they believe it kills the medicinal effects so they suggest using a match instead. I let it burn for about 20 seconds and then blow it out by waving it in the air. While the smoke is still lingering, you can walk around the space from corner to corner letting the smoke hit all walls and corners of the space. Once your space is cleared and the smoke swirls out the windows, you are left with a refreshed and new safe space. When you are done, do NOT put it out with water, instead place it on a dish or burning plate.
For Palo Santo - Light your Palo Santo for 30 seconds and then blow out. Let the smoke circulate for 1-2 minutes to clear your space of negative energy. For the best results, we like to set a positive intention before starting as this process is greatly intentional, beyond the physical smoke. Place on sage dishes found here while it extinguishes out.
And there you have it! Hopefully, a clear and concise breakdown of when to use each and why. As you can tell, both are such intentional rituals so you always want to be mindful, present, grateful, and respectful.