Burning sage is a deeply spiritual practice that dates back to ancient times. In an increasingly spiritual age, when curiosity and intrigue with spiritual things are rising in the Western World, things can get confusing for the Christian. What spiritual practices are from God, and what spiritual practices have their roots in the occult? This is a very important question Christians should know the answer to in order to keep from being tangled up.
Unpacking and answering the question of whether or not a Christian can practice smudging will help us not only to stay on the right track with this practice but also give us a further understanding of how to approach all other rituals of this nature.
Can Christians Practice Smudging? Christians should not practice smudging. Sage burning, or ‘smudging,’ is a form of sorcery or witchcraft, and throughout the Bible God specifically commands his people not to practice any form of sorcery, witchcraft, divination, spell conjuring, or anything of the like. Sorcery is an abomination in God’s sight, therefore, Christians should always steer clear of smudging.
It is extremely important to know what the Bible says so that when something questionable or confusing comes along, you know exactly what to do.
So let’s explore what the Bible has to say about smudging, beginning with a good understanding of what it actually is.
What is Smudging?
While there are various reasons people burn sage, the primary one, which its roots are buried deep in, is the spiritual practice of ridding a space, item, or yourself of negative energy. It is also used and believed to enhance intuition and bring healing and awareness to the body and mind.
Today, many people use it specifically for anxiety, as they believe it removes the negative energies or spirits causing them to feel uneasy.
The History and Origins of Smudging
The beginnings of smudging are found in Native American tribes, dating back to ancient times. Though smudging is linked to and common in many cultures throughout the world, the burning of sage is credited to the Native American Indians for its origins.
The idea is that certain herbs carry spirits in them, and when they are burned it is the act of calling on those spirits to dispel evil or vexing spirits or energies from a space, object, or person’s body.
Health Benefits of Burning Sage
Burning sage, otherwise known as smudging, has not been proven to provide any health benefits.
Sage extract, however, has been shown to improve memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and soothe upset stomachs. There has yet to be extensive studies done regarding burning sage and little, if any, evidence shows that burning sage benefits your health.
Some might practice sage burning for its presumed calming effect, but really there aren’t any, and thus further points to continued practice being sheerly for the purpose of spiritual connection.
What is Smudging Like Today?
Smudging today is tied to what we call “New Age.” The New Age movement, which is centralized in Western culture, or ideals really aren’t new but are rather a rehashing of ancient practices in a modern context.
New Age beliefs, at the most basic level, are centered on energies and spiritual things in the earth. Their beliefs are ultimately a convergence of many pagan religions and/or practices. They believe in the spiritual, but not in the authority of a higher being, and that’s not to say that there isn’t a higher being, but oftentimes the view is that humans are able to ‘”level up” in a sense, and become deities themselves.
Ultimately any idea is fair game.
Smudging in this context then has been popularized by the New Age movement, though people who practice it are not confined to that context. For some, they practice it because it has been passed down through their lineage, still for others in various parts of the world, it is a common practice ingrained in their culture for generations.
What the Bible Says About Smudging
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.Galations 5:19-21
While ‘smudging’ is not expressly mentioned in the Bible, it falls under the category of witchcraft or sorcery, and the Bible speaks on this subject quite frequently.
To put it lightly, God is not a fan.
There are numerous passages both in the New and Old Testament where God gives explicit instructions not to do it and it is described as an abomination in His sight (see Deuteronomy 18:10-12), many nations were even destroyed or displaced for it.
The Implications of Practicing Sage Burning
So, we know that sage burning is sinful in its spiritual practice, but let’s dive a little deeper and look at what this practice implies.
In Acts 1:8 Christ said that we would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. Since this is the case, we have no need to run to other things to give us power against the darkness.
Again, since we know that sage burning is sinful, and is actually the act of seeking out spirits to remove negative energies, then we must understand that those who practice sage burning are seeking the help of evil spirits to drive out other evil spirits.
In Mark 3:25, Jesus says that Satan cannot drive out Satan and that if a house is divided against itself, that house will fall––in other words, the only thing that will drive out evil is the Holy Spirit that Jesus gave us upon His death and resurrection.
Additionally, we know that sage burning is thought to bring healing to the body and mind, but the Bible shows us time and time again, that God is our healer and is even called the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6), so if a Christian is struggling with physical ailments or anxiety, they should always go to prayer and then the doctor.
The overarching theme of Sage Burning is the replacement of God’s power and sovereignty with other dark, supposed powers. Therefore, we cannot reason that there is any good to be found in sage burning, other than perhaps a nice smell.
Practical Steps to Help You Steer Clear of Sinful Rituals
The Native American practice of sage burning is not something for the Christian to take part in, BUT, let’s remember that sage was created by God which means sage itself, is good.
This gives us the liberty to burn sage if we want our homes to smell nice, or to hang it on the wall for decoration, etc.
It’s simply the reason behind why you are burning it that can lead to sinful territory.
So, when approaching topics and questions of this nature, it can be helpful to have some practical steps on how to determine if it’s Godly or not. Below, I have provided and leave you with a short checklist on what steps to take to determine this.
- Look in the Scriptures:
- Ask, does this line up with principles in the Bible?
- Are there specific passages that talk about this?
- Do we see anyone in the Bible practicing this who was considered righteous?
- If you didn’t successfully get a clear answer from the Bible, research the practice itself.
- What are the origins of this practice?
- What purpose does it serve?
- Is it seeking help or connection from spirits and not God?