First off, sage is not endangered, not even close. What causes some conservancies to put White Sage on their 'watch list' is the availability of land that can grow white sage. White sage, which is the kind used for smudging (I'll describe that that is soon), is much more difficult to commercially harvest than common sage which is used for cooking. So its more of an environmental issue than a particularly Sage issue.
Due to its difficult growing nature, and drastic spike in demand over the last decade; poaching, and unethical labor practices around sage harvest and distribution has sky rocketed.
But there's a simple fix
An easy work around for this is to only purchase white sage that has been ethically sourced. In general, if the vendor you're buying from cannot tell you where it is source from, its probably not an ethical choice. Also, opt for the loose sage instead if the bundle. Bundles tend to cause us to burn way more sage, more quickly than is actually necessary. You really only need 2-3 leaves to get a good smudge going. If you already have sage bundles, its easy enough to snip and pull them apart so you're only burning a few leaves at a time.
My favorite distributor for sage and all herbs, oils, etc is Mountain Rose Herbs
Honor Mother Gaia
Burning sage is a Shamanic practice, because you're working with the physical elements. Specifically, you're working with a gift of the Earth, which is also a Gift of the Mother. Mother Gaia is the Goddess Mother of Earth, who bestows upon us the gift of abundant life and everything that comes with it. White Sage is just one of innumerable gifts we often take for granted; like the air we breathe and the water we drink.
For the same reason we ought to choose ethically sourced Sage, we give thanks to the Mother for the gift of White Sage. At every stage from selecting for purchase, receiving, opening, burning, smudging, we are in gratitude and honor of the Great Mother Goddess.
As a person, and especially as a Shamanic Practitioner, honor and gratitude are of the utmost importance. One of the purposes of any spiritual practices is to give thanks for this gift of life.
What is Smudging?
White Sage has incredible antimicrobial properties; but not only does it physically cleanse the air of impurities, it also cleanses negative and stagnant energy. Lighting a few leaves of dried white sage, and allowing the flame to go out, the sage smoke will then waft through the air. The sage smoke, also called smudge is what cleanses and purifies the air. Smudging is the practice of wafting the sage smoke through the air, usually while saying a prayer to remove negative energy from the space. You can smudge physical spaces as well as your own aura.
How to Smudge
Again, it is preferable to use loose leaf sage as opposed to premade sage bundles in order to conserve the Sage. Of course, using ethically sourced sage, as a gift from the Great Mother, we only want to use what is needed and not selfishly overindulge. If you have a sage bundle, simply spin any thread that may be holding it together and gently pull apart a few leaves to use for smudging.
Again, always giving thanks to the Earth Mother for this gift.
You may want to place your sage in something fire resistant for burning so you don't risk tiny embers flying through the air, burning yourself, your furniture or leaving ash marks. Metal will get too hot to hold. I use an abalone shell because it is beautiful and also thick enough that I can hold the shell in the palm of my hand with burning sage and not burn my hand. You can use other types of shells but be cautious of the heat from the flame.
A shell is also nice because it incorporates the element of Water, which is another powerful cleanser, into your ritual of Smudging.
Next, you may want to use a feather or even feather wand for wafting the sage smoke (smudge) through the air. Again, choose something that is ethically sourced or harvested. The best is a feather you find on the ground, a gift of the animal spirits. You can gather feathers that you find or source together and tie them together with twine, incorporating any wood, crystal or other elements to make your own smudge or feather fan!
When using a feather or a fan, connect to the spirit of the animal and also to the element of air, and allow that energy to move through you as you gently wave the tool through the air.
Important Key: as you are smudging a room, area or another person, you are also smudging yourself. *YOU* are always the primary tool being worked with an on. Be present and mindful of what you are doing and the energy that is moving.
Moving around the room or person, waft the sage smoke into all areas while saying a simple prayer to remove negative energy and bring in peace & harmony. When you are finished you can simply place the shell and feather down, perhaps on an altar, and let the sage burn out. This is another benefit to using loose sage because a smudge stick will continue to burn (like an unchecked forest fire) until there is no sage left, where as burning only a few sage leaves will restrain the amount burned. Trust me, I have unintentionally burned through many smudge sticks.
There is also a wooden stand you may purchase for you shell, that makes a nice display and also ensures any surface you place the shell on will not be scorched by the heat of the flame. It also incorporates the element of wood into your Smudging ritual.
Can you guess what the element of Fire is in this Shamanic Ritual? It's the sage! The sage is going through an alchemical process of being burnt up, as a sacrifice for the energy we would also like to transmute through the ritual of smudging. All the elements working together to bring more peace and harmony to our world by dispelling negative energy.
When to Smudge
I smudge my space at least once a day. At home, I usually smudge in the evening, before I settle in for nightly rituals and meditation, as a way to clear the energy of the day that has accumulated in the space. I smudge my healing space in the morning, at the end of the day and before each client. I also smudge clients at part of many of the healing and clearing sessions I offer. I also smudge if I've just had a strong emotional release or process, to keep the energy moving and clear.
Whenever you feel you need a little upliftment or shift in energy, smudging is a great place to start. As with any clearing however, it is not complete if its not paired with healing. We also need to address and heal with original wound or disharmony that created the negative energy in the first place. So, when sage isn't enough (and sometimes it isn't) there is always deeper work to be done to heal at the source.
For that, I offer a path of Spiritual Self Mastery to heal and clear anything blocking you from truly knowing yourself and living your most joyful, passionate, peaceful and fulfilled life. Read more about the first step on the path: Life Activation and to book a consult.