Productivity, Rosemary, and Negotiating Cultural Appropriation

The sky is blue, the air feels crisp and cool, but the temperature feels perfect in my anorak and thick work pants. I do not have work today, or at least not in the sense that I must be at a particular place at a particular time to do a specific set of tasks. I do have work today, however it is another kind of labour, one that inspires me to continue learning and making.

I started the day off with coffee and homemade yogurt served with apples and a variety of different nuts. As I drank and ate, I sat peering over into my neighbour’s sprawling garden, which includes a large rosemary bush that I’ve been eyeing for months. Rosemary is among one of my favourite herbs for it’s many useful applications.

After finishing breakfast, I moved outside to rough out the shape of a new spoon I am carving. I tend to do this on the days it isn’t raining. As I was hacking away wood with my small axe, I hear my neighbour call out my name. And finally, I was given the opportunity to ask if I could clip the rosemary bush. I was given the go ahead. I’ve been wanting this rosemary for cooking and baking, tinctures, and tea.

From the yard: Lavender, not so fresh. Rosemary, very fresh.

I quickly ran back inside, put my newly roughed out spoon shape and axe aside and picked up my scissors. The mere thought of holding bundles of fresh rosemary was invigorating.

Rosemary is native to the Mediterranean region, but is now found in many other parts of the world, including here in the Pacific Northwest.

I have bound bunches of rosemary with twine, which I intend to burn later. Some could say this is a smudge stick, which I do not because I am not from a southwestern Native American tribe and don’t use the burning stick for cleansing rituals. While I can see the similarity, the smudging ritual comes from cultures I do not. My ancestry is European. I often wonder how can I remain respectful of other cultures particularly in a day and age when so much information is available to me and it can be unclear what to believe. I see so many articles online on how to make your own smudge sticks using white sage (a sacred plant to some southwestern Native tribes, such as the Chumash) for cleansing rituals and many of these articles fail to mention the origin of the ritual or use Native Americans as a blanket term, which fails to acknowledge the diversity of cultures within that scope. I avoid buying/using white sage smudge sticks because the quality ones are often made with wildcrafted white sage, which is depleting the source of white sage in order to keep up with the mostly non-Indigenous demand.

I also believe in using things that are locally available to me.

This is a topic that I want to continue to explore and research because I find it very interesting. I will be adding links to articles and online discussions about the use of smudge sticks.

My intention with the later portion of my post is not to shame anyone who has used white sage smudge sticks, but to provide some food for thought and to promote respectful practices.

Pagans of Color

Road goes on

Recreational Witchcraft


One thought on “Productivity, Rosemary, and Negotiating Cultural Appropriation

  1. Hi Ella,
    I’ve found your article because I was looking for informations on burning dry herbs in my house. I live in Italy and want to make sticks with what’s available around me, just like you said. Fortunately rosemary here is everywhere, and I guess I’ll be able to find some mugwort while walking around my place. I agree with your point on cultural appropriation. I feel we live in a world where everything is available so easily (at least for us) that the meaning is lost along the way. Hope you’re enjoying your summer months,
    Saluti from Italy


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