If you have never purchased Semah from us, it's important that you READ THIS ENTIRE PAGE.
You can now order Semah directly through our secure Shopify portal for pre-approved Semah customers. This portal offers us a greater level of security around Semah orders than ever before. Anyone may obtain a regular account with us to purchase anything on our site except Semah. But in order to obtain a Semah procurement account with us, you must be pre-approved otherwise the system will not allow you to add Semah to your shopping cart.
No, you do not have to be Indigenous in order to order Semah. But you do have to be following the Red path and using our Semah for ceremonial purposes in accordance with the cultural practices of the Anishinaabe of Turtle Island (North America).
Holders of pre-approved ceremonial Semah accounts are responsible for ensuring that no one else uses their account on this portal. Failure to adhere to these rules will result in immediate cancellation of your account and you may also be subject to legal charges if the CRA deems your actions are unlawful.
AVAILABILITY IN CANADA
Semah can now be shipped by Canada Post as well as Canpar up to 3 kg anywhere in Ontario via Canada Post or Canpar. We are still in the process of working out the details. If you'd like to stay informed, please sign up to our mailing list or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
PICKUP OPTIONS: Pickups here at the office are by appointment only. You may also arrange to pickup your order when we are at Kumik or Wabano or another event. (See our T.O.R. Events tab for the schedule.) Please provide ample notice of your intentions.
Qualifying for a Semah Account:
We have been establishing a relationship with Health Canada, and the Federal and Provincial government towards developing licencing specific to Indigenous traditional ceremonial use since 2015. We support the right for all people of all nations to ceremony in their own way. However, our licensing is specific to the ceremonial use of Semah according to the Indigenous culture and teachings of tribes within the boundaries of colonized Canada on Turtle Island (North America). If your intention for this Semah falls outside of this definition, then you must purchase your Semah elsewhere. We ask that you please be gentle and respectful of our ways if we refuse to sell Semah to you. Our refusal to sell to you is NOT in any way a judgement upon you and your ways of using this herb. It is, quite simply, illegal for us to do so.
Semah is used for ceremony in many ways. It is one of our most sacred medicines. Not all people who use Semah in a ceremonial way are Sacred Pipe Carriers. Most often it is used as an offering to request teachings, to the Land and Medicine Spirits when harvesting plants, or when taking the life of an animal for food and tools. The Indigenous ceremonial use of Semah in the Sacred Pipe is rarer and is a very, very different thing than smoking it for recreational purposes. Even for those following this path, to become a Sacred Pipe Carrier for the People is a very long process and involves the support of Elders and the community. Sacred Pipes are never purchased. They are made by the individual or else gifted by an Elder, and all this is done in a ceremonial way.
At TLTP, we do our best to honour all these sacred gifts and their teachings in the best way possible in order to protect the People and honour our path as carriers of these sacred items.
If you have more questions about our use of Semah, please follow some of the links at the bottom of this page.
CERTIFIED ORGANIC GROWERS:
Our Semah is purchased from Canadian certified organic farmers.
OUR HISTORY WITH SEMAH
Turtle Lodge Trading Post Inc. has been in business since 2006 but only began carrying whole leaf organic Semah for ceremonial purposes in 2015. This decision was not taken lightly. Our business began because of a real and growing need for high quality ceremonial medicines, particularly in the cities where many folks simply don't have the means to grow or harvest their own.
For many years we chose not to resell Semah because of our personal spiritual beliefs in the sacredness of this medicine. In times past, Semah and other sacred medicines were traded for labour or other necessities. Today, our system of exchange has changed a great deal, and this change has not lent itself well to our sacred medicines. There are many who still feel that it's wrong to purchase sacred medicines using money. But the reality is that so many people have become disconnected from nature from living in the cities. They have lost the means and knowledge of how to attain their own medicines. For many others their physical limitations leave them with no other choice than to try and order from reputable sources. We do our best to not only provide, but to help people plug back in.
For many years we personally observed the use of chemical-ladened mechanically-shredded Tobacco (for lack of a better option) in ceremony, and realized that something needed to be done. As these things happen, Karen came upon a local source for whole leaf certified organic Semah several years before she finally accepted that it was part of TLTP's calling. It was a lovely farmer and his family who, along with other organic crops, sold it primarily for commercial use.
While we recognize that this is not traditionally grown, (see licencing issues below) our high grade certified organic Semah is currently the best that we can legally provide because we can only purchase from Tobacco growers who are licenced to sell it.
Thus began our first first tentative steps into those deep waters where we soon found ourselves paddling through a sea filled with Tobacco rules and regulations, polluted by over a hundred years of the colonialization of our sacred medicine. We still get swamped every so often by waves of frustrating legislation, but we are determined to keep paddling.
SEMAH GROWERS & RETAILERS:
Due to government regulations, we are required to have several levels of permits in order to resell Semah, and we are only able to purchase Semah from growers who also have the required permits. There are currently no Indigenous Semah growers with the requisite permits in Canada that we are aware of. Note: If you are an Indigenous grower of traditional Semah or a business wishing to carry Semah as a product and would like to acquire the necessary permits, please feel free to contact us a email@example.com and we can help steer you in the right direction.
HOW MUCH CAN I PURCHASE AT A TIME?
An individual may purchase up to a total of 3 kg without a permit. You cannot resell, or purchase and repackage to sell yourself unless you have the proper federal and provincial permits. Vendors who would like to resell whole leaf Semah specifically for ceremonial purposes are now required to have a dealer's permit. If you are interested in reselling ceremonial Semah please contact us and we can direct you to contacts within the ministry who are already familiar with this particular process.
HOW MUCH SEMAH DO I NEED?
This is a very common question. Simply put, the size of the offering should suit the size of the request. Keep this in mind especially if you are purchasing on behalf of a group. For a general request from an Elder, or to make an offering to a plant, animal or elemental being, an amount equivalent to a "pipe full" of Semah is a traditional offering. Hold your offering to your heart. Does it "feel" like enough? If you are making a large request, or a request on behalf of a group, make the offering suit the request. Spend time with your offering, put your energy into it, beautify it with a ribbon, a piece of Sage, a flower, or something personal. Show the recipient that it really means something to you.
Please note that the smallest size package that we can legally sell is 50 g. This is equivalent in weight (though physically larger in volume) than a typical 50 g pouch of Semah you might purchase from a corner store. Our medium size cloth pouch was designed to fit our 50 g bag of Semah.
TRADITIONAL CLOTH WRAPPINGS AND POUCHES:
It is traditional to wrap Semah in a cloth before offering it to an Elder. Coloured cloth and ribbons are symbolic in many of our ceremonies, and so the colour of the cloth can also speak to the request. Colours have their own energies and are often associated with various directions and/or combinations of points on the medicine wheel. Red is the most traditional sacred colour as it is the colour of our blood and the blood of Mother Earth. Occasionally an Elder may request a specific colour of cloth from you for use in a particular ceremony. (This is why we carry a variety of broadcloth colours.) If you are not given this instruction ahead of time, or if it is a generic offering, any colour or pattern is generally just fine. Always go with what your heart is telling you. After you have been in discussion with the Elder, he or she will let you know if you need to bring anything else. Note: if it is a generic offering, Elders usually enjoy receiving a pouch, which can then be easily re-purposed in many ways afterwards.
A Semah (Tobacco) tie is a pinch of Semah placed inside a square of broadcloth, usually tied off in a special way without a knot, and ends up kind of resembling a mini Halloween ghost. Traditional fasts often require participants to make a specific number of Semah ties. The colour and number of Semah ties varies depending on the ceremony and the Elder's personal teachings.
We sometimes get asked about obtaining pre-made Semah ties. The short answer is that we don’t sell them that way. My understanding is that people should make their own ties and this is why: Obtaining a Semah tie, versus making one yourself, creates a ceremonial disconnect that must be addressed. When there are large groups involved it's practical to have Semah to offer to the people to put their prayers into. This is especially important in these times when so many are waking up and are in need of that extra help. But sometimes not enough information is shared about why this is, and what Semah ties are for. If people are making ties in bulk, the person making those ties has an important responsibility. They should be offered Semah and given the specific reason why these ties need to be made so the person can pray over them as they are making them. It is a very important responsibility because theirs are the last hands to touch that most sacred of our medicines before it gets encased in fabric and tied off. This person should smudge, and offer Semah to the Creator themselves for guidance in this effort, and should focus and maintain as pure thoughts as possible when doing this exercise.
Your Semah will keep exactly as it is for many months, even years, under the right conditions. Note that as it ages, it will become drier, more brittle. (Note: For Semah offerings, this is actually very handy, but for use in the sacred pipe very dry Semah can be a bit harsh.) As with all dried herbs, keep it in a dark, dry place at room temperature. Take care to handle it either with gloves or with very dry hands. Preferably take it out of the plastic bag and store it in a glass or earthenware jug. For optimal storage, allow the Semah to dry out completely before bottling it.
The easiest way to process your Semah is to leave the bag open to let it air out and dry, or spread it out it out on some cardboard in an airy dry place until it feels crispy. It doesn't take very long. When it feels nice and crispy, hold the stem firmly in one hand and strip the leaf with the other by clasping the base of the leaf firmly and stripping (pulling) it up from the stem. The leaves should crumble to a consistency that is easy to manage.
An amazing thing about whole leaf Semah is that you can re-hydrate it if you wish. This works best on leaves that are not too brittle. Simply mist the leaf with water, pat with a paper towel so its not too wet, wait, and repeat if necessary until it has reached the desired pliability. It's amazing how the Semah leaf absorbs water and becomes completely pliable again.
So WHY would you want to do this? We have several customers who use Semah leaves for making sacred items and prayer fetishes for their personal ceremonies. Once the Tobacco is hydrated, it can be shaped into all kinds of things: little canoes, flowers, animals, etc. which can then be incorporated into prayer projects. BE SURE TO LET IT DRY OUT COMPLETELY BEFORE STORING, otherwise you may risk it getting moldy.
Freezing Semah has the advantage of holding whatever moisture is in it so it will generally come out of the freezer in the same condition it went in. Just take care that you store it properly after it comes out of the freezer as it may become moldy if there is too much moisture. Freezing seems to increase the amount of moisture, or slightly changes how the moisture is distributed, so just be aware of that.
NATURAL DISCOLOURATIONS, MOLD, BUGS AND OTHER INFESTATIONS:
Imperfections on Semah leaves are not visible on commercial Tobacco because its usually shredded. Consequently, most people are not familiar with what a whole Semah leaf typically looks like. Semah is a natural pesticide, but that does not mean it is impervious to disease and pests. Our Semah comes from certified organic sources, which means that no pesticides or other chemicals have been used in its growing and processing. That also means that the likelihood of an occasional bug ending up on a leaf is higher, but generally nothing to worry about. Insects are a necessary part of the biology of every living system.
Our Semah is of very high grade and in the several years we have been carrying this product, we have rarely found bugs or mold. Sugar concentrations (white spots) can sometimes be mistaken for mold, but mold does occur from time-to-time. But don't be alarmed if you do find a tiny bit of mold on the stems. We are told this is normal and usually just affects the main stem, though can also be on the leaf itself from time to time. Unless excessive, it can simply be washed off or can be cut around and discarded.
Some common Tobacco diseases, pests and natural conditions are listed here:
Are brown or green splotches and white spots on my Semah mold?
White spots on the leaves are a natural discoloration that is common with Virginia Flu cured Tobacco leaves. These spots are a concentration of the plants sugar and occur when the leaf is fully mature. In many growing circles, these spots are a farmer's clear sign that the Semah is ripe and ready to be picked. Some farmers will pick the leaves before the spots occur for aesthetic purposes, but others wait so that the leaf reaches its potential maturity.
Brown and green spots on leaves are a natural discoloration that occurs during the curing process (Unless it is fuzzy and growing ON the leaf, which is rarer). This usually happens when there isn’t enough ample air flow to the leaves. This can be because the leaf was folded in on itself, or because it was in the middle of the bale. Discolorations are most common with cigarette Tobacco types, but you will occasionally find them on other types of Tobacco as well.
Real mold is generally black or bluish downy, and/or resembling webbing. Once a tobacco leaf is dead it becomes an excellent source of food for a number of fungi that could not feed on it while it was alive. A small amount of mold develops every year on cured Semah, especially the stems (mid-ribs), but this is not usually considered to be serious. However, when mold develops on the lamina (leaf blade), there is concern.
Unfortunately, bugs are one of the risks one takes when choosing organic versus non-organic products. A variety of moths and their larvae are one of the most common and destructive pests of cured Semah. Moths mate within the first few days after emergence, and females lay 150–200 eggs on the food source. Eggs hatch within a week, the larvae burrowing down into the food, and can remain hidden for several months. At the fifth instar, larvae begin to wander, leaving the food and climbing surfaces to enter diapause and overwinter. The worm itself is harmless to humans but may chew through some of your supply (and even the bag) unless measures are taken. If you find larvae or suspect there are eggs on your Semah leaf, dispose of it, ideally in a fire, or gift it to the Water, or to Mother Nature in a location away from your own gardens. Like fruit flies, Tobacco moths can become a problem if not disposed of properly.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
If you have any questions about our Semah, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Some links to more information about the use of ceremonial Semah: