In recent weeks, conversations around the misappropriation and misuse of endangered ceremonial White Sage (Salvia apiana) have come to the forefront of the herbal world. Beauty-industry behemoth, Sephora has announced the launch of *cringe* a “Starter Witch Kit.” The kit contains a bundle of White Sage, a tumbled rose quartz, and a selection of some—presumably—chemical-filled fragrance oils. After receiving overwhelmingly negative public criticism, the company has cancelled the launch of the kit.
This is obviously not the first time that a major brand has tried to capitalize on indigenous wisdom, magical traditions, or earth-based spirituality. But to do so with such blatant disregard for the communities of both plants and people who are harmed by this mass-produced offering is something that must be addressed specifically, as well as looked at systemically.
While the corporations marketing these products are coming from an extractionist mindset, my guess is that the folks who are actually buying them have a far more noble reason for doing so. By no means is it okay to purchase unethically gathered plant medicine, or to misappropriate indigenous spirituality. And yet, the people who are drawn to these things, albeit misguidedly, hold a true and sacred longing for which they should not be shamed but instead educated.
I have never learned anything worth knowing from shame. I imagine that you haven’t either. We learn when we are offered compassion and when the basic goodness in us in affirmed and recognized. It is essential that white folks take the initiative to educate themselves and one another about right relationship with indigenous plant medicines and traditions which are not their own. Unfortunately most of the conversations I have witnessed surrounding this particular topic consist of white people shaming one another rather than educating one another. Shaming anyone into learning something is ineffective at best, and can be deeply harmful. The tools of oppression cannot be used to dismantle oppression.