Sage ceremony symbolizes rebirth and growth

Taylor Moore
Social Media Editor 

In honor of California Native American Day, the University held a Sage Gathering and Blessing ceremony last Friday in front of the Ludwick Center. 

“California Native American Day is an important day for us as native people to bring us together and to remember our elders, to remember who we are now and to remember where we need to be,” said Trevor Thomson, Karuk tribe member, who led the blessing.

The ceremony began at 10 a.m. with Thomson leading participants in “The Star Child Song,” passed down throughout his tribe, once they gathered in what Thomson referred to as the sacred circle. 

Meanwhile Elena Cardeña, a retiree from a Yucatec Mayan family who tends to the University’s white sage plants, went around the sacred circle and waved a burning bundle of white sage around guests, signifying the release of sin and the gift of being reborn. 

Once the participants had been cleansed with the white sage, Thomson opened with a teaching ceremony so guests could truly be immersed in the spirituality of California Native American Day and understand the sacredness of gathering, as well as being blessed with sage. 

Thomson said the four directions represent the four stages of life: The east represents infancy to childhood, the south represents teenagehood, the west represents adulthood and the north represents life as an elder. The significance of the directions is that they all form a circle, continuing the cycle of rebirth. Thomson honored the four directions through song, stopping each time to face each direction and made sure to reiterate that the elders lost were being honored once everyone was facing the North. 

Thomson said in the beginning before there were humans, there were spirit people called the Ikxaréeyav.  

Once God decided it was time to create humans, he asked the Ikxaréeyav if they would watch over his creations and help them. These spirits became the everyday things we recognize today, from the tallest tree to a blade of grass. 

Thomson said some of those spirits would come in the ceremony as the various bugs flying around the sacred circle. He asked guests not to disturb them as they are part of the sacred ceremony, as well. 

“Everything we know of were once the spirit people (but) are now the dragonflies, butterflies, even the cockroach,” Thomson said. “(They) remind us that in that time, the early agreement that spirits promised to help us. We’re calling upon them this morning and for them to help us through this medicine. I believe in that medication. We use the sage to release any yucky stuff and bring in good medicine.” 

White sage, the symbol of rebirth, is one of the four sacred plants in the United States, along with cedar, sweetgrass and tobacco. 

The University has five native white sage plants that grow on campus grounds in front of the Ludwick Center, each involved in the ceremony once students started gathering sage for their bundles. 

Cardeña said the white sage plants represent the elders that have been lost but are now watching over their loved ones, which is why it is so important to take care of them. 

“We care for (them) as if they are our elders,” Cardeña said. “We created an opening ceremony prior to the actual picking that helps people center themselves. We do songs. We do prayers.” 

Cardeña said it is important that people do not buy sage bundles from stores because there is a sacredness to the picking of white sage. By gathering in the ceremony, guests knew how their sage bundles were being gathered and the prayer that went into it. 

Cardeña and Thomson released guests for the gathering portion of the ceremony. Participants were advised to leave a branch when cutting the white sage for their bundles to ensure that life is being left behind. 

Michaela McLain, a junior criminology major, said she enjoyed getting to learn about a new culture and immersing herself in its traditions. 

“I think every culture has something very beautiful to offer,” McLain said. 

Jessica Corey, a sophomore criminology major, said she gained a newfound respect for the white sage plants after participating in the ceremony. 

Nikki Siy, a sophomore business administration major, said she came to the Sage Gathering and Blessing event last year and wanted to come again, but this time she was leaving with a deeper understanding of the care that goes into tending the sage plants. 

“I thought it was very interesting how you have to be so meticulous when (gathering) the plants,” Siy said. “The way they teach us to be careful with the plants, it’s not something you really think about. Just seeing their importance towards it makes it important to me.” 

Guests returned to the sacred circle after the gathering to tie up their sage bundles. Closing the ceremony off with one last sacred song were Thomson and Cardeña, ensuring that the door to the spirit world was closed and that guests were left with the good medicine in their bundles. 

“If you’re stressed in the middle of the school day, come here,” Cardeña said. “These plants were always your relatives. Now you’re getting to know them.” 

The Sept. 22 event was sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and the Center for Multicultural Services. 

Taylor Moore can be reached at 

Taylor Moore is a senior broadcast journalism major and Campus Times editor-in-chief for Spring 2024. In her sixth semester on Campus Times, she has served as the LV Life editor and social media editor twice, as well as a staff writer. She’s also worked on the University’s television news broadcast Foothill Community News as an anchor and reporter, and was a on-air personality for the University’s radio station 107.9 LeoFM.

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