Sacred Medicines vs Secret Medicines: What is the Difference?

In indigenous culture, sacred medicines are believed to be gifts from the Creator and Mother Earth to be used with respect and integrity. 

There are four plants that are considered to be the primary sacred medicines and each has different uses for healing, wellbeing, and connecting with the Creator and the Spirits. Sacred medicines are an important part of indigenous culture and have been used in indigenous tribes and communities for generations.

Unfortunately, “sacred” is often confused with “secret.” 

What are sacred medicines?

“Sacred” simply means something that is worthy of spiritual respect and has a special connection with a higher power.

The sacred medicines are considered sacred not just because they are useful, but because indigenous culture and teachings imbue them with significance. Their connection to the Creator and to Mother Earth is what makes them valuable. They are regarded for a variety of reasons, but primarily for their ability to heal and to protect.

Each sacred medicine has its own specific uses, benefits, and significance and should therefore be used appropriately and in a way that is consistent with traditional use

Because the sacred medicines have such a long and meaningful history, they are sometimes regarded as Indigenous “secrets” -- especially when they become misused or disrespected.

What does “secret medicines” mean?

Some people believe that the knowledge of these medicines should not be shared. 

There is widespread belief among various tribes and nations that smudging and other cultural practices should be closed practices. This means that cultural practices or even the possession of sacred medicines should be held within a tribal community or by Indigenous people only.

In these cases, “sacred” is interchangeable with “secret” and therefore anything held sacred by Indigenous people should be exclusive to Indigenous people only. This, however, is not the belief of all Indigenous people or organizations.

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What does Tribal Trade Co believe?

We believe that indigenous cultural knowledge should be shared with all who wish to celebrate and practice it in a respectful manner.

This belief is grounded in the medicine wheel, which reminds us of inclusivity, equality, and shared beliefs. We believe that by sharing our beautiful cultural traditions, our goal of keeping the culture alive and sharing teachings with those who may not have access to it can be realized.

People with purely indigenous lineage are few and far between, making it nearly impossible to limit Indigenous teachings and practices to those with 100% native ancestry. By attempting this, it would be guaranteeing the eventual extinction of cultural knowledge.

Therefore, we believe it is important and valuable to keep Indigenous culture, teachings, and traditions alive by sharing them with all those who wish to learn and use them respectfully and responsibly.


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