Biden Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice posted a photo of her White House office showing a sage burning ritual to cleanse it from the vibes of the previous occupant, senior advisor to President Trump, Stephen Miller.
The New York Times reported Friday in a fluff profile of Rice about her office, but downplayed the use of the sage as ‘scenting’ the office:
“The Domestic Policy Council has never been as robust in terms of process and interagency coordination as National Security Council and the National Economic Council have been,” said Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff.
In accepting the position, he said, Ms. Rice told him she wanted the resources to make the Domestic Policy Council more of an internal force.
“We wanted her to have an N.S.C.-like process,” Mr. Klain said. “She’s, like, ‘Well, then I need an N.S.C.-like staff and budget.’ We weren’t quite able to match the N.S.C., but we did significantly plus up the number of staff she has.”
…Now, Ms. Rice occupies the West Wing office that was previously inhabited by Stephen Miller, President Donald J. Trump’s top policy adviser. Aware of the symbolism of a Black woman who has been vilified by conservatives occupying the space where Mr. Trump’s most hard-line immigration adviser used to dictate policy, Ms. Rice has decorated it with Haitian art and scented it with sage.
From there, she now convenes regular Zoom meetings about topics central to Mr. Biden’s agenda — she hinted at actions to come on voting rights, community violence and gun safety — and she has reorganized the way the council works.
Instead of having a principal deputy serving under the director, she has appointed four senior deputies who are experts in their fields.
“I’m not a health care policy expert,” she said. “The single deputy structure means everything is a bottleneck. I’ve got these high-powered deputies and that’s how we’re going to get stuff done.”…
Rice posted a photo to twitter Saturday night showing the ritual sage burning, complete with white sage in an abalone shell and a feather.
— Susan Rice (@AmbassadorRice) March 7, 2021
Tutorial on sage smudging via the Astral Collective (excerpt):
Everything you Need to Know about Abalone Shells and Smudging
Smudging is a word that often comes up when discussing spiritual goodness and all things high vibe’n. And for good reason: it’s a tradition which is sacred; it’s history tracing back centuries and spanning a myriad of different cultures. Smudging with abalone shells, however, may sound a little more foreign, but trust us – the two go together like peas in a pod.
How is smudging done and why is the abalone shell used?
Traditionally, smudging is a ritual performed prior to a ceremony to clear out any negative energies, thus creating a space suitable for healing and positive energies to emerge. In day-to-day life, however, smudging can be used to clear unwanted or negative energies from a space e.g. a new home or office; or to lift an anxious or ‘spiritually low’ mood.
Abalone shells (known in New Zealand as paua) are often used in smudging rituals, not only because they are practical in that they catch the hot cinders that fall away from the smudging stick after it has burnt, but also because they are a beautiful gift straight from Mother Earth’s ocean. Abalone shells are a thick seashell which shimmers with the gorgeous iridescent colours of mother-of-pearl. They hold the energy of the ocean and bring a strong calming and healing energy, allowing you to remain connected to the sea – even when you are landlocked.
Including abalone shells in your smudging rituals means you are incorporating all four of the earth’s elements: the shell represents water, the smoke represents air, the unlit herbs or sticks represent earth and once they’re lit they represent fire. By incorporating the elements into your smudging ritual, you’re inviting Mother Earth (or Mama Gaia) to be the focus of your ceremony. It is here, in the space created by Her, that transformations and manifestations have room to occur.
How to conduct a smudging ritual with abalone shells
Firstly, you’ll need smudging sticks or herbs, and an abalone shell. We love Palo Santo smudging sticks which you can read about, here, and purchase, here. The variety of herbs you might use for smudging all have different energies, for example, lavender promotes calming, white sage releases and clears energy, and mugwort is said to stimulate dreams.
You may wish to use a layer of sand inside the abalone shell to protect the natural shine that it has, from any smoke or embers.
Using a match, light your herbs or Palo Santo smudging sticks
Rest the sticks or herbs in the abalone shell, using it to collect any ashes or embers as the sticks or herbs burn
To bless a person or object, use a feather to brush the smoke around them
You may wish to walk around a space with the sticks or herbs, allowing the smoke to waft into the corners and ceilings
Abalone shells have holes in them, so ensure any hot embers don’t fall through onto flammable materials such as carpet or bed linens
If the smudging sticks have been resting in the abalone shell for awhile, the shell may get hot, so use caution when handling it..
Depending on her heritage, Rice may be guilty of cultural appropriation. Wikipedia reports Rice’s heritage: “Her maternal grandparents were Jamaican immigrants to Portland, Maine; her paternal grandparents were the descendants of enslaved Africans and from South Carolina.”
According to a Well and Good article published September 2020, “When Non-Native People Burn White Sage, It’s Cultural Appropriation—And We Don’t Support It”
Bundles of white sage and Palo Santo packaged as “smudging kits” are available for sale at yoga studio gift shops, popular retailers like Madewell and Urban Outfitters, and even behemoths like Walmart. These products’ very existence seem to indicate that, for less than $10, you can get everything you need to practice an ancient ritual that will clear your home of negative energy.
Except, that’s not the case. If you’re not a member of an Indigenous community, purchasing white sage, Palo Santo, or other sacred herbs and quickly Googling “how to smudge” will not make you qualified to do so. This is cultural appropriation, and it’s harmful to Native communities.
Up until two weeks ago, if you were one of the thousands of people each month to search online for a smudging tutorial, you might have landed on a Well+Good article titled “How To Burn Sage in Your Home To Get Rid of Bad Vibes.” However, after hearing from Native people about the harm inflicted by the article, we removed it from our website—this story you’re reading now was written to take its place…