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What’s in a Name? A Look at Salvia Divinorum’s Many Names

Salvia divinorum is most often identified as, well, Salvia divinorum. Which makes sense — that’s the scientific name for this hallucinogenic plant, although many people just call it “Salvia” for short.

But, like any other drug, natural or not, Salvia has its fair share of “street names” — slang nicknames people use to identify it. The stories behind these names are rather interesting, so I wanted to take the opportunity to expand on the origins and meanings of some of the most common nicknames for Salvia divinorum.

Diviner’s Sage

This term alludes to Salvia’s use among shamans among the indigenous Mazatec tribes of Mexico for the purpose of divination. Mazatec healers use Salvia to “discover the ’cause’ of a patient’s illness, to divine the future, and to answer important questions.”

“Sage” refers to the fact that Salvia divinorum is a species of the Sage family.

Sage of the Seers

As mentioned above, Salvia is a member of the Sage family, hence “sage” in “sage of the seers.” So, what is a seer?

According to the dictionary, a seer is “someone who foretells the future; a clairvoyant, prophet, soothsayer or diviner.” Note that last word, “diviner.” This name again alludes to Salvia’s use as a tool used by Mazatec diviners.

Lady Salvia

A surprisingly common occurrence when tripping on Salvia is encountering a female entity, which many people refer to as Lady Salvia. This mysterious female presence is so strongly associated with Salvia, that many people refer to the plant itself as Lady Salvia.

Ska Maria Pastora/Maria Pastora/Ska Pastora

These names all allude to the Mazatec Indians’ association of Salvia divinorum with the Virgin Mary; ska Maria Pastora means “the herb of Mary, the Shepherdess.” Other names for Salvia used by the Mazatecs include hojes de Maria, which means leaves of Mary, and yerba Maria, which means herb of Mary.

According to a paper by Sean Whitcomb, the Mazatecs believe Salvia to be an incarnation of the Virgin Mary, and they treat the plant “with great respect.”

Shepherdess’ Herb

This name refers back to the Mazatecs’ belief that Salvia is a manifestation of the Virgin Mary, and their association with her as a “shepherdess.”

Sister Salvia

I’m not sure where this nickname for Salvia comes from, but it’s interesting to note, considering Salvia’s frequent association with female figures — the Virgin Mary, and “Lady Salvia.” Here, again, Salvia is associated with a female role — that of the familial sister.

Magic Mint

The “magic” in the Salvia nickname “magic mint” seems to allude to the powerful visions people experience while affected by it. “Magic” seems like a flippant way to put it — the powerful, life-altering visions many people experience, and the deeply spiritual experiences of the Mazatec Indians are more than mere “magic.”

But the word was likely chosen because of the alliteration you get when you pair it with the next word: Mint. Why would Salvia be called “mint?” Mint is a prominent member of the Sage family, of which Salvia divinorum is also a member.

Sally D

I’m just speculating, but the etymology of this nickname seems obvious — “Sally” is simply a shortened version of “Salvia,” while “D” is short for “divinorum.” There may be more to it than that, but I’m not aware of any other explanation as to its origins. It is interesting to note again, however, that this nickname again characterizes the plant as a female presence, along the same lines as its other names, Maria Pastora, Lady Salvia, and Sister Salvia.


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