Most people think of White Sage as the quintessential herb to burn in cleansing rituals. You have many, any more options, and you can create specific traditions for yourself, your family, or workplace using different herbs. Here’s an easy reference list of the most common herbs burned for a variety of outcomes. By no means is this complete or definitive! But it’s important to learn that rather than just grabbing sage, you can use this list first, and know your intention for the ritual.
MBS carries most, if not all of these materials, & we’re always happy to help answer questions you may have about these herbs and suggestions for burning them. We may be able to order a specific need, but remember, substitutions are common, and we can help with those as well.
Bearberry Leaf: Asking for visions, healing, releasing
Cedar Leaf: To bring “good” energy in after cleansing; attracting money; coming of age ceremonies
Chamomile Flower: Relaxation, relief, meditation
Cinquefoil: Psychic vision of possible outcomes to situations, protection
White Copal: Attract love, purification, divination, & initiation; also burned as a food source for departed relatives on Day of the Dead celebration.
Desert Sage: To drive out bad spirits, feelings or energies. Some traditions believe that where sage of any kind is present, negative forces of any kind cannot enter. Natural moth repellent.
Dragon’s Blood: Repel negative or unwanted spirits
Frankincense: Protection, courage; removal of unwanted spirits; spiritual connection and communication
Jasmine Flower: Induce sleep, to bring about prophetic dreams, attract prosperity
Juniper Leaf: (Believed to contain the Spirit of the goddess, Artemis) Purification, protection (especially for newborns because they are most vulnerable) and exorcism rituals; protects against theft; potency in sexuality. The berries of the juniper are burned in households to protect from airborne illnesses
Lavender Flowers: Sleep, calming, balancing emotional states, increase clairvoyance
Mugwort: Increase psychic powers/abilities, helps one to open to their gifts, bad spirits will move away from its smoke; bad luck diminishes
Myrrh gum: Blessing objects, clarity and purification
Osha Root: Used in sweat lodges to open the throat for prayer and song, perfume
Paulo Santos: For cleansing negativity away, releasing emotional toxins, brings peacefulness
Pinon Pine Resin: Protection, clear unwanted spirits; protect one’s money. Ash from burned Pinon Pine traditionally used in some sand art
Patchouli: Peacefulness, fertility, and as an aphrodisiac
Red Sandalwood: Cleaning, positive and loving feeling; spirituality and positivity; astral travel
Sweetgrass: To call in ancestors or other spirits that have passed; to find an elder to learn shamanism from, to find an apprentice to shamanic ways; purification; overall prayer
Vervain: Overall health and protection of health, sacred herb to the Druids, Egyptians, and Romans
White Sage: Purification, Cleansing (when one is done burning one can throw it eastward…the direction of wind or air to provide for more communication with the Divine)
Yarrow: some cultures burn to protect one from the “evil eye”
Yerba Santa: “the portable temple”, guarded boundaries of protection around chosen areas, to create sanctuary within the circle where it is burned, clears psychic toxins that may keep one from using psychic powers.
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There are also ways in which herbs can be combined in ritual use. This has been done for centuries in many different traditions. Here are some often used combinations:
Sweetgrass, Sage, and Cedar: Morning blessing in gratitude for the day ahead.
Sage and Sweetgrass: Ward off and eliminate frightening visitations during vision quests and used bad dreams.
Sage, Cedar, and Sweetgrass: Burn together for sweat lodge gatherings.
Blue Corn Meal and Sages: Can be placed on the embers after burning or around a burning for Gratitude, Blessings & Honoring of Great Spirit/God/Goddess or Ancestors
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This list of herbs and their uses may seem overwhelming, but remember, it’s all about what speaks to YOU. As mentioned, this list is intended to serve as a reference. Of course there are many other herbs, and as many other reasons to burn them. You don’t have to worry if a particular herb is not available: substitutions are often made--they do not muddle the intention of the ritual. Approach ritual tools mindfully, by asking or reading, but don’t feel as if your ritual has to be in a straight jacket! There are floating boundaries, such as intention, personal connection, and your own intuition. While we carry most of the herbs you would need for ritual burning, MBS might be able to order something not carried in the store.
Hopefully this list will be a starting place in those interested in creating or performing yearly or even daily rituals. And don’t forget that no ritual is complete without prayer!