Sadness, anger & disappointment with sage bundle sold as ‘starter witch kit’

Witches mad at Sephora for selling a starter witch kit. (Girlfriend Magazine)

Appropriations by perfume and makeup company

Native people on social media are calling cultural appropriation on a “starter witch kit” to be sold by Pinrose and Sephora starting Oct. 9.

The $42 product is created by Pinrose, a perfume company that sells their products in Sephora stores and online. The kit includes a white sage bundle, nine tiny bottles of perfume, tarot cards, and a pinrose quartz crystal, according to Quartzy.

Sephora shoppers are not happy and said on social media they will stop shopping at the mainstream makeup store due to the appropriation of white sage, a medicine used by many tribal cultures for prayer.

Johnnie Jae, Otoe-Missouria and Choctaw of Oklahoma, said her initial disappoint was “sadness,” not “anger or disappointment. “It was sadness because how many times do we have to watch what we hold sacred be destroyed and commodified for the sake of entertainment and profit for non-Native peoples.”

Jae, a co-founding board member of Not Your Mascot, talks about the relationship between sage and Native people.

“What hurts the most about this for me is thinking about the relationship that we have to sage, cedar, sweetgrass and other ceremonial plant life. We respect it, we honor it,” she said. “The way that we gather it even....it's not just that we only take what we need, but that we offer a prayer and gift in exchange for what we are taking to maintain balance, to honor the spirits of the land and Creator.”

Like some on Twitter, Jae cites the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act, a law allowing Native Americans, Alaskan Natives and Native Hawaiians to practice and preserve their traditions, ceremonies, “access to religious sites, use and possession of sacred objects.” One of those sacred objects being sage.

What makes it frustrating to Jae is this is being referred to as a “witch kit.”

“As Indigenous people, our ceremonies and even our dances have been seen as witchcraft, as evil, which led to our practices being outlawed,” she said. “Until 1978, we were not allowed to legally practice our ceremonies....which oddly enough was used to help witchcraft be legally defined as a religion and privy to the same constitutional protections as another religious group in ‘85.”

She’s right.

In the 1985 case of Dettmer v. Landon, 29-year-old Herbert Dettmer said prison officials were not granting him access to his “religion’s worship materials” while in the Powhatan Correctional Center in State Farm, Virginia. The case was argued as a violation to the First Amendment in the Constitution, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Dettmer’s religion was the Church of Wicca, informally known as Pagan witchcraft or Wicca Craeft. With the help of the 1978 law, Dettmer won his case and was free to practice his religions and use his materials with conditions.

As a Sephora shopper, Jae will no longer give the company her business.

Korina Emmerich, Puyallup, echoes Jae’s thoughts on the law just passed 40 years ago. The 33-year-old fashion designer participated in the Vancouver Indigenous Fashion Week last year and said conversations focused on cultural appropriation. It’s why the event exists.

“Cultural appropriation is a serious issue in the fashion industry,” Emmerich said, who competed in season 13 of Project Runway.

She said when organic cotton become a trend, it was extracted and now it’s manufactured to meet the demand. Her brand, EMME, was created with sustainability in mind. They only do direct-to-consumer sales to avoid overproduction.

“Anything in fashion, the higher the production, the more ecological threat is it,” she said who is also concerned about no fair-trade and no fair-wage. “To think that could happen to sage and medicines for purely the commodification of it is disconcerting.”

Emmerich has friends who are into New Ageism and use sage. “They’re using it to an extinction.” Those friends, and for others who use it, she says, “have a responsibility” and asks them “to consider what the actual meaning of these medicines are, where it’s used, and the effects on tribal nations.”

On Twitter, Kaitlin Curtice talked about the sacredness being taken away from the medicines when they are packaged and sold. She burns sage with her two children before going to school in the mornings so “they can remember who they are.”

Curtice continued to say in the Twitter thread that the witch kits “further erases our cultures.”

Native Appropriations founder Adrienne Keene wondered if Pinrose or Sephora will follow in the footsteps of Urban Outfitters.

“Urban Outfitters stopped selling it after the interact reaction, so maybe Pinrose and Sephora will take a hint,” Keen said in a tweet on Monday.

Social media called out Urban Outfitters and The Local Branch in 2015 for selling white sage kits that came with an abalone shell.

According to the Urban Outfitters’ website, the white sage kits are “no longer available” and “sold out.”

Urban Outfitters offers alternatives to the white sage kit. (Urban Outfitters catalog)

Sephora and Pinrose have not responded to Indian Country Today’s request for a comment.

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter @jourdanbb. Email: jbennett-begaye@indiancountrytoday.com

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Comments
lakewolf
lakewolf

Makes me want to vomit. I used to be Wiccan, & we always got our white sage DIRECTLY from Native peoples, probably because the High Priestess is a full-blood Apache.

This is nothing less than an abomination. I grew up with so many full-blooded Natives that I seem to think like one...& I DEFINITELY hold the same feelings when I see White savages doing things like this (thats right... I call them SAVAGES, because thats what they are. Look what White culture in the US holds sacred:

  1. Money
  2. Perceived power against the rest of the population by the leaders (TRUE leaders serve, not use people for their own selfish ends!)
  3. Sports, especially football, and
  4. War against poor countries, either to steal their oil, poppies, or whatever else they can get their hands on.)

I come from a bloodline that is ancient...and MY people werent savages!

Sick m*****fkers. Im ashamed to be white.

firewaterx4
firewaterx4

I am both Native American & Wiccan. I belive in alot of oldways. Not made up by what is cool in culture or said to be by Government or Religious Cultures. That all aside i have a few questions! For the protection of one's belives heritage & love for Mother Earth & everything she gives us. What is this Company going to do with all this sacred White sage it has harvested to sell in a store. Is the tribes they claim they are working with still getting paid for what they did? Did they pay them a fair wage or are they ripping them off like they have done since they pushed them off there land. I know & understanding business sell this already. But this was in a extream line store that changes with what is acceptable by the "Hollywood fads"! To harvest & sell at the extrem mass # that company markets to. People like my self & children & friends are afraid to state what they believe bc of society. But this company tried to make $ off of a mixture of customs from a mixed background. Not ok with my family.

JackBilly71TL
JackBilly71TL

I can go into ANY hippie shop (Southwest USA), organic store, nevertrumper outlet and witness see before my very EYES, bundles of sage and/or cedar being sold over the counter for PROFIT....in fact, any Southwest native american curios, jewelry where sage bundles/cedar are being SOLD.....so commercial=wise it is being sold there is no question about it.

RMKorvo
RMKorvo

I sympathize deeply with Native religionists' frustrations over this issue. The sad part is, we have our own tradition, which only a handful of Heathens seem to know about. It's called recaning (pronounced "reekening"), and it was the Anglo-Saxon practice of burning juniper or mugwort (there are some other herbs that were used, but those were the most common) for purification and medical purposes. The Gaelic tradition also burned juniper to "sain" or purify by smoke (saining was also done with water and candleflame). Appropriation of white sage is not only disrespectful and dishonorable, but totally unnecessary.