Updated: Sustainable Sandalwood

After further research, I’ve found two sources of sustainable sandalwood oil, but no incense.

Both Aura Cacia and Mountain Rose Herbs carry Australian sandalwood oil. Aura Cacia products are available at Whole Foods stores and other natural-products stores. For larger amounts, I’ve found Mountain Rose Herbs to be a good source of affordable, high-quality ingredients. (Please note that I’m not associated with either company.)

Santalum spicatum is a species in the same genus as “true” sandalwood (Santalum album), but it is native to Australia. The Australian government is working hard to manage harvesting and replant commercial sources of sandalwood while protecting wild populations.

This whole discovery has really opened my eyes to another aspect of my responsibilities as a consumer who also venerates the earth. I’ve been growing more conscious of the issues involved in my food supply, and am trying to make choices that are increasingly consistent with my values, but this is a whole different kettle of fish. Nothing I eat is in the process of being driven to extinction by human overuse. That makes it a relatively clear-cut choice not to perpetuate the problem by buying sandalwood. I can’t simply sit back and burn endangered wood while visualizing myself as a tree in order to ground and center in connection with nature. On the other hand, it’s also nice to find an alternative that allows for some substitution in my practices rather than radical elimination.

Like many other ecological and environmental concerns, this a difficult situation, where we must weigh multiple factors that are incredibly hard to compare. For me, putting my values into practice means navigating these kinds of situations as best I can, in an evolving fashion.

It’s easy to succumb to despair when trying to weigh incommensurate forms of good and harm in a world with so much environmental upheaval. One of the ways I resist despair is by coming together with others to face such questions, both by talking through the issues and supporting each other in our choices, and by sharing resources and assistance. Writing about this issue is not an attempt to scold or shame others; it’s an attempt to contribute to the ongoing conversation and community efforts to live more ethically. It’s not easy, but we can do better together.

Crowdsourcing: Sustainable Sandalwood?

While I was hibernating between Samhain and Yule, one of the things I did manage to work on was my herbal studies. I’ll be writing more about that in the future; it’s a lot more complex and interesting than I had anticipated. But for now, I’d like to appeal to my readership to help me navigate an ethical dilemma that I have just become aware of.

According to online sources, both true sandalwood (also called white sandalwood) and red sandalwood are endangered because of over harvesting for the incense market. I’m willing to stop using sandalwood entirely if I have to, but I’ve seen some stories that there may be sustainable sandalwood production based out of Australia. The problem is that I haven’t, yet, been able to find out whether my favorite incense maker, Morning Star, uses sustainable sources, or to find any supplier who deals in only sustainably-sourced sandalwood.

So I thought I’d turn to the wisdom of the crowd: can anyone give me advice about sustainably-sourced sandalwood?

What’s in your Witch-kit?

While I was taking a break from writing, I worked on some other aspects of my life and practice. One of those was reorganizing my Craft supplies – putting herbs into (labelled) storage containers, sorting candles, and generally moving things around so that I can get at what I want more easily.

Along the way, I’ve selected a handful of materials to put in a small cabinet – about the size of a medicine cabinet – which I’m going to hang near my altar to have at hand all the time. I debated quite a bit about what to put in there, so I’m going to share my list here and ask in turn: What’s in your Witch-kit?

What do you use on a daily or near-daily basis? What are the things that you turn to most frequently, both for planned and unplanned situations?

Mine has:

Two small candle-holders and an assortment of candles: several colors each of chime candles, Hannukah candles, and birthday candles

Small jars of some herbs: lavender, rosemary, juniper, juniper berries, holly berries (may switch this out for something more seasonal in the spring), chamomile, tobacco

Tiny (2ml) bottles of oils: peppermint, lavender, cedarwood

Tray holding pointed quartz crystal, a couple stones from significant places, and tumbled stones: clear, smoky, and rose quartz, fluorite, selenite, jet, amber, hematite, snowflake obsidian, malachite, garnet, amethyst, tiger’s eye, citrine, and lapis

Small boxes of stick incense: pine, cedarwood, sandalwood, amber, jasmine, vanilla, lavender, cinnamon