Culture

Your ‘Palo Santo-Burning’ Habit Is Causing The Deforestation Of What Indigenous Communities Consider A Sacred Tree

With #Selfcare culture in full swing, Palo Santo has become quite the sensation when it comes to wellness. Instagram users and influencers have been quick to popularize alternative methods of self-care and taking them to the masses —eg. “Cleanse yourself of bad vibes and let the good ones flow in.”

In recent years people have been flocking to crystal shops, yoga studios, shamans and whatnot, to grow their stash of healing and instagram-worthy veladoras, sage bundlescrystalsand other elements of ancient indigenous cultures’ traditions. Well, turns out that one of these ‘trendy’ items is Palo Santo, and the demand for it has started to affect communities and ecosystems —so how about we read about it before we keep ignorantly burning what is an ancient ‘holy’ plant to some communities.  

First off, what even is Palo Santo? 

Palo Santo, is a tree found in Ecuador and Peru. Other varieties of the tree are found in parts of Beazil. Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. Palo Santo, which is Spanish for ‘holy stick’, is a sacred tree for indigenous communities and their sacred practices. Shamans traditionally burn Palo Santo sticks in bundles, to cleanse their space and ward off spirits —a tradition which has been commodified and appropriated by self appointed shamans  in the west. 

The ‘holy stick’ has many therapeutic benefits.

The therapeutic benefits of Palo Santo are many— the tree is actually medicinal and healing. The only way to get the full benefit of this tree though, is by letting it die naturally, and allowing it a four to ten year resting period on the forest floor. The highest quality oils form in the aged heartwood, which is used in sacred ceremonies and to heal by specific local cultures.

Why is it a bad thing that we’re all burning it?

Credit: vidaconsciente / Instagram

“Cleanse yourself of bad vibes” read countless marketing emails announcing the cleansing properties of ‘Palo Santo’. For a few years now, wellness, beauty and homeware brands have been betting on the “good vibes” that are welcomed into your space by Palo Santo. 

What is a sacred and holy plant to some indigenous communities has now turned into an indie shop trinket. Sacred bundles of Palo Santo can be found everywhere from Urban Outfitters to farmer’s markets, and of course, your Instagram feed. It’s become commonplace to stop scrolling through selfies and vacation posts to see a photo of crystals, sage, and Palo Santo neatly arranged against some marble-top, basic af, backdrop. Sample caption: “Good Vibes Only.”

We should all know better by now. But if you don’t? Consider this your official notice: It’s time to stop burning Palo Santo. Here’s why.

1. It. Is. SACRED.

It is simply problematic to take an element of someone else’s culture simply because you like how it smells, it calms you or because everyone on instagram is doing it. It basically qualifies as cultural appropriation.

Not only are we picking and choosing part of Indigenous cultures that we like, while turning a blind eye to the things we don’t like, trends like this negate the actual importance behind the practice. We’ve turned something sacred into a commercial commodity. And ignoring the meaning that cultures have appointed to Palo Santo for hundreds of years further robs these sacred cultures of their revered traditions.

2.  The Palo Santo tree is currently endangered —and it’s on a watch-list. 

There are no more than 250 mature Palo Santo trees in the wild at the moment. And According to the United Plant Savers Medicinal Plant Conservation, those numbers are plummeting. While the tree is not extinct, it has been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) list due to the over-harvesting that its been subjected to, which can lead to extinction. 

Fun fact: According to sacred beliefs; in order to gain the actual benefit of the tree, a Palo Santo tree should never be cut down, and it should not be sold as a commodity —LOL we’ve played ourselves. If you buy Palo Santo wood from ANY source, then you are contributing to the economic incentive that drives deforestation.

3. Burning the wood without being mindful of how it landed in your #selfcare kit, is the opposite of woke.

Acknowledging Indigenous communities, their traditions and rules when using the plant is key. Working with these communities, establishing a relationship and supporting their livelihood matters. However, most brands either don’t care about the process or have no idea where or how they get their Palo Santo.

There are many alternatives you can use for space cleansing, or for creating a calming atmosphere —just steer clear of Palo Santo and Sage, another vastly appropriated plant. If you find that you want to burn herbs for their beneficial properties, look for alternatives that you can use that don’t affect Indigenous rituals or that harm the earth. 

You can always use herbs that are aligned with your unique heritage and ancestry. Look into your own heritage to participate and continue your rituals. The best thing to do is source herbs that are grown locally, or even better; grow your own!

Black-Owned Occult Shops That Every Bruja

Fierce

Black-Owned Occult Shops That Every Bruja

Buda Mendes / Getty

Buy Black.

It might be something you’ve only caught onto amidst the most recent massive protests brought about by the death of Black people at the hands of police. Yet, buying Black has been a center point of the fight for civil rights since the Reconstruction era. Despite the fact that our government never gave Black Americans their promised 40 acres and a mule, Black people in the U.S. were able to build thriving businesses across the country.

Even Martin Luther King Jr. encouraged people to buy Black. In his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech he said “We’ve got to strengthen black institutions. You have six or seven black insurance companies here in the city of Memphis. Take out your insurance there.”

To promote buying Black, we’ll be highlighting Black businesses to buy from. Not just this month, but moving forward.

For brujas, here’s one you’ll be sure to appreciate it.

1. Skin Rituals Shop 

Etsy.com

This Houston- based brand offers vegan soaps, meditation, and intention candles. The brand has five stars with reviewers raving about its soaps and their smells. As of June 10, most of the items are not in stock but are said to be restocked by June 24th.

2. Piscean Spirituality 

Etsy.com

PisceanSpirituality offers tarot readings rituals and twinflame journies. All for purchase on Etsy.com. The most popular service they offer provides full readings covering topics on love and relationships, career, and spiritual journey. Full readings offer buyers a chance to receive answers for up to three questions. As well as three follow up questions once their reading has been delivered.

3. Heritage Apothecary 

Etsy.com

Heritage Apothecary creates crystal-encrusted smudging vials as well as resin-infused smudge sticks. Plus way more. What’s more, the brand creates its products with sustainability in mind.

4. Chakra Zulu

Chakra Zulu is a brand on a mission to share crystals with the world. The brand creates beautiful chakra sets and promises “one of a kind crystal specimens like wands, palm stones, and hearts.” The brand promotes crystal healing and is located in Florida but ships worldwide.

5. Just Kweenin 

Etsy.com

This brand is based out of San Bernadino and it creates jewelry and hand-poured soy wax candles. The “Issa Moon Thang” Manifestation Candle is made with “powerful magickal herbs and spices, a mix of essential oils and 2 crystals.” The candles include a money spell candle, a road opener candle, and a Silver Queen Nefertiti necklace.

6. Conjuria 


Etsy.com

Get ahold of these spiritual supplies directly from this store based out of New Orleans. The brand’s Hoodoo and Conjure oils come in over 30 different scents. According to Conjuria the oils have both essential and fragrance oils blended and its benches are hand-poured into amber bottles that protect the oil from the sun. Conjuria says that the recipes “are authentic and unique.”

7. Scrubtious Inc. 

Etsy.com

This natural urban skin and hair care apothecary sells 100% natural and organic that are completely handmade. Items from the store like the Banana Milkshake Hair Mask which is also a banana deep conditioner made with coconut milk and the unrefined Haitian black castor oil are among its highly-rated products.

This ULTA Employee Showed How Returned Products Are Handled And The Whole Thing Is Truly Eye-Opening

Fierce

This ULTA Employee Showed How Returned Products Are Handled And The Whole Thing Is Truly Eye-Opening

@biancaann5

No judgment but let’s be real. We’ve all been in the scenario where we’ve let loose at a makeup counter. You know, gone a little overboard with shopping, regretted a few purchases and then decided to take them back. Most stores like ULTA, Sephora, and Nordstrom have pretty great return policies when it comes to buyer’s remorse and so it never seems like too big of a deal when we show up the next day or even a few weeks later with our receipts and the items we no longer want.

But recently, an employee from ULTA revealed what happens after you’ve walked away from the return counter at a beauty supply store. And TBH it ain’t pretty.

Bianca Ann Levinson, who posts under @biancaann5 on TikTok, went viral after revealing how ULTA handles returns.

In the video posted to her TikTok, Levinson shows herself “damaging out” products of palettes and concealer tubes and dumping them into the trash. “This is what we have to do so that people don’t dumpster dive and steal it,” Bianca says in the video.

According to Levinson, her decision to post how the company handles returns wasn’t. mean to shame the company but shed light on returns to buyers.  “I don’t want people to come for Ulta and stop going at all. I want people to know that stores like Sephora, Bath and Body Works, Target, Walmart and many others all have to do the same, too,” Levinson explained to Buzzfeed in an interview.

At first glance, the process of damaging out is clearly extremely wasteful but it all chalks up to hygiene and scams.

As Levine points out in another TikTok, damaging out is done in the name of avoiding cross-contamination. Particularly in this time of the coronavirus pandemic. What’s more, Levine says the practice is done to avoid having dumpster divers try to sell products they find in the trash online. “If someone sells product out of the trash, it opens up the chance of someone getting sick or an infection and possibly suing Ulta,” Levine explained to Buzzfeed. “We can’t donate for the same reason. Most brands don’t allow it either. Ulta cares a lot about their customers and wants to do their best to keep them safe.”

“I wanted people to realize that when they return things, it’s not always put back on the shelf. They should reconsider before returning items they purchased. I understand some people have to return things, but if it’s not necessary, then I don’t believe they should return it,” she continued

Levine’s video has already accumulated over three million views. Clearly she’s taught us all a lesson. Hopefully, everyone does the right thing and puts the new lesson it into practice.