What does sage symbolize in the Bible? (Biblical Symbolism and Meaning)

At our weekly Bible study, my fellow group members and I were pondering on popular modern spiritual and religious practices that we thought weren’t Biblical. During our research on the topic, we discovered that among the practices that have raised endless questions among believers and non-believers alike was burning sage. Among the many questions that arose was, what does sage symbolize in the Bible?

Sage does not have any Biblical meaning as it’s not mentioned in any Biblical texts. Some argue that sage was part of incense in the Bible. However, most theologians disagree with this, implying that the only ingredients that the Lord instructed to be included in incense are discussed in Exodus 30:34-38. However, it’s worth knowing that the usage of sage in culinary purposes and aromatherapy predates biblical times. Still, it was not commonly used in the ancient Near East for religious or ceremonial purposes.

In this article, I invite you to join me as we delve into this interesting topic and uncover what the Bible says about sage, its usage for spiritual purposes, and its symbolism in the scriptures. Also, if you’d like to learn more about what the Catholic church teaches about burning sage and whether Christians should be burning sage, read on.

What is the biblical meaning of sage?

As mentioned earlier, sage isn’t explicitly mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, it doesn’t have any biblical meaning or significance. While there are numerous references to herbs and plants throughout the Bible, sage isn’t mentioned by name, and there’s no biblical symbolism associated with it. While sage doesn’t have any biblical meaning or symbolism, its use in cooking and medicine predates biblical times, and it continues to be valued today. Again, it’s also worth knowing that contrary to what most people think, sage was not mentioned by name in the Bible as a herb used in incense or for any other religious purpose, as implied in Exodus 30:34-38.

What Does the Bible Say About Burning Sage?

Biblical Symbolism and Meaning of sage
What Does the Bible Say About Burning Sage? Image source: Pixabay

There’s no explicit mention of burning sage in the Bible, although burning incense (which didn’t include sage) was a common practice in biblical times for various purposes, including religious reasons. Although popular today, burning sage or any other herb for spiritual reasons isn’t necessary for Christians to connect with God or receive His guidance. The Bible emphasizes the importance of prayer and seeking God’s guidance in all things avoiding practices that may not align with Christian beliefs or involve seeking guidance through means other than God, as implied in Proverbs 3:5-6, James 1:5, and Colossians 2:8.

Moreover, there are no biblical guidelines or teachings on the practice of burning sage for spiritual or medicinal purposes. Christians must remember that the Bible warns against practices that involve seeking supernatural guidance through means other than God, and the practice of burning sage for spiritual purposes may be associated with these practices, and therefore, it may not be aligned with Christian beliefs.

According to most theologians, burning incense and burning sage shouldn’t be thought to be the same. In biblical times, burning incense was a common practice for worship and prayer and was considered a holy offering to God, while burning sage isn’t discussed anywhere in the Bible. While burning sage may have some cultural or spiritual significance in other traditions, Christians should be cautious about adopting practices that are not rooted in the teachings of the Bible.

Bible Verses about Burning Sage

There are no Bible verses that specifically address the practice of burning sage for spiritual or medicinal purposes. However, the Bible talks about burning incense in several places, particularly in the Old Testament, although these two practices shouldn’t be likened, as mentioned before. According to scholars, the Bible doesn’t specifically mention the herb sage as an ingredient in incense, and the use of sage as a medicinal herb wasn’t as widespread in ancient times as it is today. So,it’s unlikely that sage would have been included in the incense used in Jewish religious ceremonies. Therefore, burning sage as a form of incense for spiritual purposes isn’t a practice that is supported or mentioned in the Bible.

It’s worth knowing that while there are no Bible verses about burning sage, the scripture does discuss burning incense as a form of prayer, sacrifice, and worship in verses like Leviticus 16:12-13, Psalm 141:2, and Revelation 8:3-4.

Symbolic meanings of sage in the Bible

Sage isn’t mentioned specifically in the Bible. Therefore, it doesn’t have any symbolic meaning in the scriptures. While this herb isn’t discussed in the Bible, some Christian theologians and clergy suggest that it can be viewed in the context of other herbs and plants that were used for spiritual purposes in biblical times. In this context, the sage would then symbolize worship, wisdom, and prayer. However, this theory isn’t universally accepted among all Christians and Christian theologians. The use of sage for spiritual purposes is, therefore, a matter of personal discernment and interpretation of biblical teaching.

Religious uses of sage

One of the religious uses of sage is in Native American traditions, where it has been used for centuries in purification and cleansing rituals. It’s often burned in a ritual called smudging, where the smoke is used to clear negative energy, promote healing, connect with the spiritual world, and honor the ancestors. Sage was also used in Ancient Egypt for medicinal and spiritual purposes, where it was believed to have healing properties. It was also burned as incense during religious ceremonies to have a purifying effect. In Buddhism, sage is used to promote healing and purification, and it’s often burned as incense during meditation and spiritual practices. In Greek and Roman traditions, sage was used for its medicinal properties and was believed to have the power to purify the body and mind. It was also used in religious ceremonies and as an offering to the gods.

Some Native Hawaiian spiritual practices involve the use of sage for purification and cleansing as well, and in the Bantu religion of Central and Southern Africa, sage is used as an offering to ancestors and to connect with the spirit world. It’s worth noting that how sage is used and understood within these various religious and cultural contexts may differ significantly.

What does the color sage symbolize spiritually?

What sage symbolize in the Bible
What does the color sage symbolize spiritually? Image source: Pixabay

The color sage, a muted green-gray hue, has been associated with various spiritual and symbolic meanings across cultures and traditions, including;

Healing and restoration

In many cultures, green is spiritually associated with healing and restoration. The muted green-gray color of sage is also said to represent the healing properties of plants, as well as the calmness and tranquility that comes with being in nature.

Wisdom and spiritual growth

Sage is also associated with wisdom and spiritual growth, and this may be due in part to the fact that sage is a medicinal and culinary herb that has been used for centuries in various cultures for its healing properties.

Protection and purification

Sage, the herb, is often used for protection and purification in various spiritual practices, including some Native American and pagan traditions. The color sage may also represent this protective and purifying energy, as it’s said to promote balance, harmony, and positive energy.

Connection to the natural world

As a muted green-gray color, sage is often associated with the natural world and the earth. In most spiritual practices, this color, therefore, symbolizes our connection to the environment and the importance of living in harmony with nature.

Calmness and Serenity

Sage is often associated with tranquility and peacefulness, making it a popular color in meditation and relaxation practices. It is believed to promote a sense of calmness and serenity and to help reduce stress and anxiety.

When did burning sage begin? History of burning sage

Burning sage, also known as smudging, is a traditional practice that can be traced back to ancient times among indigenous peoples of North America, specifically the Plains Indians. Some of the earliest tribes known to burn sage include the Lakota, Dakota, and Nakota tribes, as well as the Apache, Navajo, and Hopi tribes. The practice of smudging with sage was used in a variety of rituals, including healing ceremonies, sweat lodges, and vision quests. It was also used for purification and protection from negative energies.

The burning of sage wasn’t limited to indigenous cultures in North America because, in Asia, this practice found its way into Buddhist and Hindu traditions. In India, sage began to be burned as part of Ayurvedic medicine, and in China, it was used to purify the air and ward off evil spirits.

In Europe, the use of sage for medicinal purposes dates back to ancient Greece and Rome, when the Romans believed that sage had healing properties and used it to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems and snake bites, and in medieval Europe, the herb was used to ward off evil spirits and protect against the plague.

Today, the practice of smudging with sage has gained popularity outside of indigenous cultures and it’s often used as a form of aromatherapy, believed to have a calming and purifying effect on the mind and body.

What does the Catholic Church teach about burning sage?

What sage symbolize in the Bible
Catholic Church. Image source: Pixabay

The Catholic Church hasn’t officially endorsed the use of sage for religious and spiritual purposes; there are mixed views on the matter. There’s no official stance from the Catholic Church about this practice. Some Catholic theologians and clergy have cautioned against its use, while others have embraced it as a valid spiritual practice. Ultimately, burning sage for spiritual purification and cleansing is a matter of personal conscience and discretion, and it’s crucial individuals approach the practice with reverence, discernment, and a deep understanding of Catholic teaching and tradition.

Is Burning Sage a Biblical Practice or Witchcraft?

Whether burning sage is a biblical practice or witchcraft depends on the intention behind the practice. This is a complicated discussion because while some may associate burning sage with witchcraft or New Age spirituality, others argue that the practice itself isn’t inherently sinful or demonic, drawing connections between smudging and biblical practices like burning incense as a form of prayer, fasting, and worship. As implied in Deuteronomy 18:10-12 and Galatians 5:19-21, witchcraft is often associated with the use of magic, spells, and divination and is considered a sin. Therefore, if the practice is used as a form of divination or to seek guidance from spirits, then it would be considered a form of witchcraft. Christians must approach the practice with discernment and a deep understanding of biblical teaching.

Should Christians Burn Sage?

The practice of burning sage isn’t talked about in the Bible. Therefore, whether Christians should burn sage depends on their intention behind the practice and conviction. However, most Christian theologians suggest that no Christian should be burning sage for spiritual purposes. Smudging is a matter of personal conscience and discernment for individuals, and as Christians, we should ensure that our intention behind the practice is aligned with biblical teaching and tradition. We should also approach such practices with reverence, a deep understanding of biblical teaching and tradition, and guidance from God. Remember, as with any practice in our lives, the intention behind our actions should be to seek the presence of God and honor Him rather than seeking guidance from spirits or engaging in divination.

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