Part 1 ~ Quiet Listening and Discernment - A Fundamental Teaching from the Plant Realm

“The earth herself becomes my master story teller”

Thus Spoke The Plant - Monica Gagliano

From a witness perspective, the earth sees us observing her and her offerings. She welcomes us to utilise her abundance for medicine, ceremony and food, shelter and warmth.

The more I drop into my role as an “Earth Doula”, the more I’m understanding the need to assist others in discerning certain protocols.

Specifically, understanding what is okay to take from the earth and how we can reorganise our own ways of interacting with her offerings in safe, honest, respectful and sustainable ways.

Let's touch into a tender subject. One that I’ve been quietly speaking about, as I’ve been softly listening to the plants and observing how their role plays out in the greater ecosystem of our human spiritual awakening. I want to talk about the overuse and popularisation of certain plants for smoke cleansing or “smudging”. Are you currently using white sage or palo santo for smoke cleansing or blessing?

My wish is to pass forward awareness and not to condemn anyone’s choices. I hope to enlighten a deeper inner dialogue, cultivating the act of quiet listening and discernment from the plant realm.

There are plant spirits whose song is being misappropriated. They seek us to pay attention to our choices, and how we go about utilising their offerings.

An important teaching I’ve gained from the earth is to quietly listen and practice discernment. What I’ve learned is that plants do not have to fit into our structures and confined version of their teachings. We use our human platform to give them a voice for how we desire them to be, but we are residing in their domain. We need to allow their voices to move through us, not from us.

What is apparent in the popular spiritual and the wellness culture can be quite the opposite. Plants are often grown in large quantities in a monocultural manner, over commercialised, over harvested and their wild medicines are taken without respect, prayer and offering. Because often humanity only wants to extract one part of them, in excess amounts for our own perceived needs.

A living plant is a dynamic organism. If we speak for them without their song, we miss the life-changing medicine they offer in their totality.

Two plants that I want to speak to are white sage and palo santo. Both are being over-harvested in the wild, and are very deeply sacred to their original caretakers. White sage has been over-harvested in the United States. Any imported white sage possibly comes from unrepeatable sources, so please always check with your suppler. Ask questions about what their original source is. On the other hand, if you grow your own or know of someone who does, you can harvest your own which would be ideal. There are also other plants that can be used for smoke clearing which I will mention for your future reference . You can also source an ethical brand that’s been grown in Australia from a reputable small business.

Smudging” is a sacred Indigenous ritual. It involves cultivating and sustainably harvesting a plant, drying and binding it together into a wand, and calling on the spirit of the plant while burning the wand to help cleanse the energy of and/or bless a space. Smoke cleansing can look a lot like smudging. It’s the act of burning herbs, wood, incense, resin or other safe-to-burn materials that hold unique cleansing and magical properties. The smoke is then waved over the area you want to cleanse. You can smoke cleanse whatever you want, and as much as you want. Some cultures may have spiritual practices like smoke clearing, but the act of smoke cleansing is not inherently spiritual or specific to a certain culture. This is very different to smudging, which is a very sacred indigenous practice mostly connected to North America.

When using any bound plants or a wand, it’s important to wholly honour the practice involved. Calling on the spirits of these sacred plants to clear a person or space, or when blessing in ritual or ceremony. The act of smoke cleansing doesn’t just start when you light the bundle, It starts with the cultivation of harvesting of these plants. If you buy them, give thanks to where it came from, including the person who lovingly crafted it with reverence and ritual.

Smoking bundles have been used in many different cultures over all the world, and should be honoured in such a way, aligned with their unique cultural practices.

When you are working with smudging, you're actually working with all 4 elements. It’s not just smoke and fire, but the earth in plants and the binding, the water element, traditionally, a seashell is added when using a feather to move the smoke around.

Palo Santo, or “holy stick”, comes from a tree indigenous to South America and is very popular in the countries of Ecuador and Peru. It is used by plant medicine Shamans in ceremony and is very sacred and integral to their work. Bulnesia sarmiento is currently on the endangered list, and there are only 250 adult trees left in the wild to date. Where as Bursera graveolens, another species of palo santo, if sustainably and ecologically harvested is safe to continue to use for smoke clearing. Please check which one you are purchasing. Maybe consider using plants closer to home, from your own bioregion instead.

One of the biggest learnings on my earth wisdom path so far is to work within your bioregion. The use of medicines from the land you live on and around. If it’s not possible to self harvest, or grow your own plants from seed, then find someone who does and support a small local business. Find someone who creates sustainable, ethical smoking bundles and has reverence and gratitude to the plants they are working with and creating from.

What plants can I use as alternatives to White Sage or Palo Santo?

As you can see there are so many other plants that you can bind into your own smoking bundle or make a loose leaf blend to burn on a charcoal disc. In fact most non-poisonous herbs can be dried and bundled just like white sage.

  • Garden sage

  • Wormwood

  • Cedar

  • Pine

  • Holy basil

  • Mints

  • Rosemary

  • Lemon balm

  • Juniper

  • Calendula

  • Mugwort

  • Eucalyptus

  • Rose Petals

  • Thyme

  • Cinnamon

  • Bay leaves

  • Lavender

  • Catnip

  • Dandelion leaves

  • Chamomile

  • Mullein leaves

  • Yarrow

Making a bundles is simple. You just gather the herbs and plants you want to use, making sure to only take what you need. Give gratitude and make an offering to the plants as you gather them.

Make a ritual space for yourself, gather what you need, say a prayer, and as you tie them into a tight bundle using cotton, hemp, or linen string or twine, sing to the plants, say a prayer chant a mantra, as your binding, this is an important and very sacred part of this practice.

Dry it out by setting your bundle somewhere warm and dry. When it has dried completely, it is ready to use.

You can also easily research which plants you feel connected to and their individual medicinal, plant spirit and magical offerings.

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