The onset of autumn is the time of the spooky witch, when the veil is thinning, and when I start to get dozens of questions about protection from and cleansing away negative entities. And friends, I’ve got a bit of a pet peeve that I’m sick of repeating to every novice practitioner I come across:
You Don’t Need White Sage.
White Sage (Salvia apiana) is hotly contested among witches and magickal practitioners right now – and for good reason. While it’s not technically endangered, overharvesting can have negative repercussions on the local ecosystem, and there’s the debate over whether simply using white sage is a closed practice.
These discussions are all valid and should be had, but today is not that day. Today, I want to break through the stereotype that White Sage is The Only Plant to use for cleansing and protection. If you always jump to White Sage because Instagram said so, you’re missing out on a host of other incredibly powerful and magickal plants that may even be better suited to your working!
Plants have energy and vibration, but plants also have a spirit, a personality, and a tendency to prefer certain types of working. While White Sage is good for what it does, it doesn’t do everything! And honestly, there are some plants that do what it does better, too.
So today, I want to introduce you to 6 plants that I reach for way before I reach for White Sage in most scenarios. Get to know each of these plants and what they can do for you, and embrace a little variety in your witchcraft.
Cedar (Cedrus spp.) is my go to for general smoke cleansing and protection. It’s abundant and easily harvested, and in fact is used outside of witchcraft to clear out bad smells and stagnant air, and also to prevent insects from infesting places that will be or have been closed up.
The Cedar tree is connected with cleansing, purification, and eternal life. You can use both the wood and the needles for burning; it gives off a clearing, uplifting scent. It’s also been used to make protection talismans by carving runes and sigils into cedar discs and hanging or planting them around a property or space.
Cedar chips or leaves can be burned loose over charcoal, the leaves can be bundled, or a stick of wood can be lit and burned like Palo Santo.
Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is actually a cousin to Sage and a fantastic herb for cleansing and protection because of it’s clear, high energy levels. It’s an old folk herb for protection and carries the weight of its historical usage. The crisp, almost menthol-like scent helps clear pathways for both energy and breath.
Traditionally, Rosemary has been used as a substitute in spellwork due to it’s clarifying and versatile nature. Bundles can also be used to asperge cleansing waters and brush down the energy field.
Rosemary can be burned loose over charcoal or bundled, dried, and burned.
If you really love the energy of Sage but want to stay away from White Sage, Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) is a wonderful close substitute. As another close cousin to White Sage, it carries many of the same medicinal and magickal properties, with the added bonus of being incredibly easy to grow pretty much anywhere.
Garden Sage is common culinary Sage, so if you can’t grow it, you can get it from any grocery store in the spice section. This is a great herb to use with kids because it’s so safe for both external and internal use.
Garden Sage can be burned loose over charcoal or bundled, dried, and burned.
Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is a wonderful plant for cleansing and protection, and comes with the added benefit of having a strong magickal connection. It’s long been a plant ally to witches but has seen a spike in popularity recently, thanks to communities like TikTok. Luckily, if your local shops are having a hard time sourcing Mugwort, it grows wild in many places and can be found in rocky soil, often on the sides of roads and developed areas.
Mugwort is often used for dreams and astral magick, so burn Mugwort when you need to add a calm energy to your cleansing and protection.
Mugwort can be burned loose over charcoal, or bundled, dried, and burned.
Frankincense (Boswellia sacra) is an ancient purification tool. It’s a resin that is often burned in ritual and sacred rites all around the world for it’s cleansing and protective qualities. It’s often found paired with Myrrh and/or Benzoin, but can be powerful on it’s own or mixed with other protective herbs.
Frankincense is sacred to many cultures and religions, so can often be found as pre-blended incense in stories both magickal and mundane.
Frankincense is burned loose over charcoal or crushed and blended into incense cones and sticks.
Many people don’t consider Rose (Rosa spp.) to be an herb worthy of this list, but I almost always include Rose when I’m doing protection work. Rose is soft and sweet, which brings a comforting, warm vibe to anyone needing to be cleansed or protected – but the thorns of the rose, and the winding way it grows in bushes and briars, evokes strong protection vibes. Rose is an energy that gently draws you in, but that gentleness plays in it’s favor if you mean harm, for it tangles you up in thorny vines and continues to teach it’s lesson long after you’ve escaped.
Rose is a particular strong ally when cleansing and protecting homes with children or other environments where love & family flourish.
Rose is best burned loose over charcoal, but the petals can be wrapped around existing burn bundles to combine energies.
One of my favorite reasons for choosing herbs other than White Sage, outside of conservation and appropriation, is because creating your own cleansing and protection blends allows you to customize the exact energy to your needs. Use the herbs listed here or go off in search of your own – there are plenty more than what I’ve listed, I promise.