What Does the Bible Say About Burning Sage?

People burn sage for various reasons, including aromatic, spiritual, and health purposes. The Bible does not address burning sage but warns against engaging in spiritual practices that are not of God.

What Does the Bible Say About Burning Sage

There are many people who burn sage for the purposes of spiritual clarity, removing negative energy or spirits, cleaning the air, health benefits, and even just for the fragrance. Although burning sage is known to derive from Native American practice, it is most commonly seen among neopagan spiritualism and New Age practices.

Because there is no specific reference in the Bible to burning sage, many reasons for burning sage would be considered an issue of wisdom and a matter of the heart and conscience. Those who desire to burn sage for spiritual purposes would clearly be engaging in practices that are unrelated to worshiping the God of the Bible. As such, burning sage for spiritual purposes is opposed to the teaching of Scripture. Christians who are considering burning sage would do well to discuss the practice with pastors or other elders in their local church.

What Does the Bible Say About Burning Sage (KJV)?

Although the practice of burning sage for getting rid of evil spirits (also known as “smudging”) is thought to have existed among indigenous peoples thousands of years ago, the Bible never specifically discusses sage. There are, however, many occasions in Scripture where incense burning is included among the various spiritual practices associated with Old Testament sacrificial rituals, a practice which was uniquely performed by the Aaronic priests in the tabernacle or temple.

“And thou shalt make an altar to burn incense upon: of shittim wood shalt thou make it….And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy.” Exodus 30:1, 34-36

The altar of incense stood directly before the veil outside the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle and temple. The priests would offer a special blend of incense on the altar regularly (Exodus 30:7-8). However, only the incense which was commanded was allowed, in keeping only with those worship practices which God gave to Israel and banning all others:

“Ye shall offer no strange incense thereon, nor burnt sacrifice, nor meat offering; neither shall ye pour drink offering thereon.” Exodus 30:9

At times the priests would bring incense inside the Most Holy Place:

“And he shall take a censer full of burning coals of fire from off the altar before the LORD, and his hands full of sweet incense beaten small, and bring it within the veil” Leviticus 16:12

There are a few occasions when the fire on the censers, used to hold incense or other burning materials (such as coals from a fire) are associated with unauthorized practice:

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not.”Leviticus 10:1

The spiritual practices associated with Old Testament worship were exclusive and holy: to incorporate unauthorized worship practices would lead to covenant curses, including death or being cut off from the covenant community (Leviticus 20:1-8).

“You shall therefore keep all my statutes and all my rules and do them, that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out. 23 And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.”Leviticus 20:22-23

What is the Meaning of Sage in the Bible?

Sage is not mentioned in the Bible. When the Bible mentions burning incense it is referring to a holy (or special, set apart) mixture of sweet spices: stacte (gum resin of a shrub), onycha (some kind of spice), and galbanum (a kind of aromatic gum resin), along with pure frankincense (an aromatic gum resin).

Herbs generally were not uncommon in biblical times, and herbs other than sage are mentioned in the Bible:

  • “bitter herbs” associated with the passover meal (Exodus 12:8; thought by some to be horseradish or chicory, though it could refer to a number of bitter tasting herbs)
  • “herbs” more generally (describing some sort of edible plant or even vegetables)
  • “mint and rue and every herb” associated with the various garden herbs tithed by the Pharisees (Luke 11:42)

What Does the Bible Say About Burning Sage to Cleanse a House?

The Bible never talks about burning sage to clean a house. It is therefore important to (a) identify the purpose of burning sage, (b) look at Scripture as a whole to determine whether or not it would be biblical, and (c) and discuss the practice with pastors or church elders if there is any question about whether the practice is unbiblical or spiritually dangerous.

Burning sage to ward off evil spirits or remove negative energy is always in disagreement with Scripture and would be considered a sinful practice. Whether a person is dealing with demonic activity or anxieties, we should seek God through his Word above anything else. Only He has the power to defeat Satan (2 Thessalonians 3:3). He has the power to exchange anxiety for peace and rest, because “he cares” (1 Peter 5:7; Proverbs 19:23). Smoke from an herb will never have more power than the One who created it, and people should not seek spiritual help from inanimate substances in exchange for the One who lives (Isaiah 8:19). To put something in the place of God is sinful and the Bible does not support it.

If a person burns sage to clean a house in a way that is not associated with any spiritual practice, then it is presumably acceptable. A quick search of the internet will reveal various opinions on whether burning sage kills bacteria. Whether legitimate or not, burning sage in this manner would be more akin to using household cleaners or spraying antibacterial aerosols, which are permissible if used ethically, in accordance with their label and intended use.

What Does the Bible Say About Burning Sage

Is Burning Sage Against Christianity?

Burning sage is a widely practiced activity that has many purposes. To determine whether or not it aligns with Christianity, we must first understand the motivation for the burning.

Health Benefits

“Burning sage for health benefits is not necessarily against Christianity. There are many things that Christians ingest or inhale or even clean with, such as vitamins or essential oils, that are not in of themselves sinful. But if a person relies more on supplements or health remedies than they trust in God for the wellness of their bodies, placing their faith and trust in the created things rather than the Creator himself, such a person would be in danger of idolizing health and health products to do what only God can do ” Psalm 103:2-3

God is the Creator and Sustainer of our bodies. We should come to him with our health ailments and our anxieties long before we seek healing through herbs. While sage is thought to have positive health benefits, God is able to heal and restore with or without sage.


Sage is reported to reduce household toxins and many people burn sage because they enjoy the smell. When used merely as an air freshener, burning sage is not sinful or against Christianity.

“God is the creator of sage and is the one who gave it its fragrance. It is permissible to enjoy the aroma of sage. One should be careful, however, not to burn sage in the presence of a brother or sister in Christ who may be tempted toward occult practices as this could be a stumbling block ” Galatians 5:13


Some Christians burn sage or other incense as a means to set an atmosphere that helps them to focus on prayer and meditation on Christ. Whether or not this is permissible is a matter of the heart and personal conviction, and arriving at that decision should be done with the guidance of pastors or other church leaders.

A Christian should understand that burning incense is not necessary for prayer and has no power (other than aesthetics and aroma) to draw one to Christ.

When the Bible speaks of prayer as associated with incense, it most prominently associates prayer with the approved worship practice of the priests burning incense in the sanctuary before the Most Holy Place (Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:10; Revelation 5:8; 8:3).

Spiritual Practices

Sage is commonly burned for spiritual reasons in witchcraft, the occult, neopaganism, etc. It is thought to clear the spirit world of evil or negative energy. This use of sage is entirely opposed to Christianity. In fact, the Bible is explicitly clear that it is sinful to partake in sorcery and witchcraft (Deuteronomy 18:10; Malachi 3:5; Galatians 5:20).

Others who burn sage believe it has some sort of spiritual property, but they do not align specifically with the occult or witchcraft. Even this indistinct spiritualism (which may well be termed neopaganism) is against the plain teaching of Scripture (1 John 4:1) and could prove spiritually dangerous.

Stephen D

Stephen Dillard serves as a Bible Scholar with Wycliffe Associates and is a contributing writer on Revelations.org. He is a graduate of Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. He and his wife, Madison, have four children and make their home in Indiana.

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