The abalone shell of changing colors was most highly valued for decoration of the person and it was cut and polished into various forms...and used as the coin of the day.
The Indian tribes of the interior came here to get this abalone coin, and ornament - exchanging discoveries...and ideas of the Great Spirit, whom they all worshipped and who directed them all.
They were worshippers of nature in every form: the sun, moon, stars, mountain, lightening, rain clouds, flowers, animals, and reptiles.
The abalone (haliotis), is a large, local sea snail (a gastropod) that grows at the edge of our shores. It anchors itself with its strong foot - using an iron grip -to attach to outcroppings of rocks.
Abalone were found in large, thick colonies along the south coast of Califo rnia, as well as the Channel Islands, for thousands of years. But, because of changes in the climate, as well as having been "overfished", it has become more scarce - almost extinct - during the past 40 years.
The Chumash, who lived in harmony with nature, harvested the abalone for its sweet and nutritious meat, and for the beautiful shells that were used as bowls, money, jewelry. Abalone shell was also carved into sturdy fish hooks. Using the natural inner curve of the shell, the Chumash hooks were crafted to be strong and sharp. They mirrored the colors of the sea and sky.
Abalone shells have always been used by the Chumash - then and now - during religious and healing ceremonies, often as vessels for burning white sage.
White sage is an herb that grows with abandon in our valleys and mountains. Its fragrant leaves are soft and gray-green, the flowers are violet - a favorite of hummingbirds and bees. The Chumash gather the herb, with prayer, and dry it in compact bundles.
Once lit, the dried herbs smolder, producing white aromatic smoke. The smoke is fanned outward, over a person, or a particular area. Sometimes, the dry sage is burned in an abalone shell; the smoke is waved into the air by using a large feather. Often, it is a feather of the red-tailed hawk, an indigenous raptor, much beloved by the Chumash.
Spirit, Mind and Body in Chumash Healing, James D. Adams, Jr and Cecelia Garci, Oxford Journals
All these elements - items from the earth, the sea, the air - combine to offer cleansing and healing to a person - or a place.
White sage can help a patient become calm enough to be rational. White sage may be the foundation of treatment since it can help set the spirit back to normal. White sage tickles the spirit and sets it right again. White sage is our protection.
Ideally, we should all take white sage every day to help maintain spiritual health, when used with prayer. This can be done by planting and maintaining white sage plants in gardens. Seeds or plants can be obtained from some nurseries and botanical gardens. The Tongva and other people used to plant and tend white sage near their village sites.
White sage bushes grow in full sun, in sandy soil and are drought resistant. They have long, thin leaves about 3 inches long with a silver, green color and a pleasant sage smell. The flowers are small, white, sometimes with purple, and have long anthers that emerge out of the flowers. The shiny, black or brown seeds have a pleasant sage flavor.
White sage, like any plant, should be collected with prayer. Only the amount needed should be collected. A small branch or a single leaf can be broken off for each use. Each leaf contains vital medicine for the health of the spirit.