In the Spirit of Plants…
I am sitting at the ocean’s edge wrapping leaves together of Willow, Red Clover, Jasmine, and St. John’s Wort, in front of a lit candle. The full moon looms above me casting a long trail of white along the water. I am whispering into the herbs as I wrap them together. Once the herbs are bundled, along with a few strands of my hair, I sit with them in my hands. My mind clear, I fill the plants with my prayers – mingling their spirits with mine. I walk to the water when I am finished and throw the bundle into the waves, to be changed and released by the energy of the moon and the ocean. The spirits of the plants speaking, my prayers rolling across the waves. The sea will be my brew tonight. I am someone traveling the path of the healing plants, ancient magic, earth worship, and wise wo/man re-awakening.
Plants are gateways to the sacred, nourishing our relationship to Spirit and bringing us deeper into mystery. The Spirit realms teach us as we are ready – we are led into the mysteries often without instruction… Teachings come only as we are able to hold them properly, allowing them to live and survive through our work and lives. The Spirits ask those of us on this path to feed them, nourish them with prayer, ritual, sacred space… To continue to hold the council of all beings in order to heal/transform human relationships to the land once again.
As herbalists we seek nature’s power, the medicine Earth Mother has placed in our hands since the beginning. This is our most ancient medicine. The plants teach us to understand our own bodies as living breathing beings, transforming and changing every moment. Moving with the stars, the seasons, with the rise and fall of the sun and moon, the turning of the earth and the flow of tides. The plants come into our rivers of blood and fluid, sending their energy and power to every cell. Their chemicals dance with ours, soothing our nerves, calming the mind, awakening movement. For every need, there is a plant who can help us. Clear our thoughts, relieve an aching muscle, an upset stomach, a tight heart, opening us to life again.
As we know, herbs have been used for thousands of years throughout the world magically as well as medicinally. The two, in most cases, were used together. Wise healers, shamans, and medicine people around the world knew that plants were helpers that could be called on in times of need. Herbs were used in ritual and prayer, as physical medicines, and were often worshiped as gods themselves. For millions of years they have been healing the human soul and the human body, keeping us connected to the earth and the realm of Spirit. Traditional healers, medicine men and women, have recognized and formed relationships with the plant spirits for hundred of thousands of years. As a healer walking with the spirits of the plants, this ancient path is where I have been led through the lifetimes.
The green nations are powerful guardians of the earth and of our lives. Our own healing, as well as the healing of the earth itself, can occur only if we learn how to partner and coexist in intimate relationship with all of life. Why are so many of us not learning to be connected to the spirits of the earth, as well as learning nature’s science? We do not seem to understand what many wise shamans and healers around the world have always known. The plants have an active, living consciousness, and they are our only true source of healing, medicine, and food. By giving back to the spirits we form strong partnerships that will aid us until the day we die.
Each of us has the ability to develop powerful relationships with the plants. They are eager for us to come back into the partnership that many humans in the past have upheld – the existence of life on this planet depends on it. It is time for us to listen again, with our hearts and bodies. There are few who still do and there must be more. The plants are looking for those of us who will partner with them, help preserve and heal life, support during times of illness and the passing into other realms. I am a woman who is listening, though through the hustle and bustle of modern life. I have dedicated my life to the service of the plants and to teaching earth wisdom and healing to others in the hopes that these partnerships will again be forged.
The plants are calling back to us. The herbs that we use in tinctures and teas, salves and pills, are powerful transformers and ancient spirits. They call back to us, not simply to be harvested by the basket load, but to be used in a different way. Spirit based, folk herbalism is needed now, when westerners have begun to catch on to the healing power of the plants and are over-harvesting endangered beings. You can catch glimpses of spirit based herbalism in our culture with flower essence therapy, homeopathy, plant spirit medicine, and in many locally based herbal practices. Some living close to the earth have begun to bring back and reawaken within themselves the ancient practices of earth healing and green partnership practiced throughout the world for thousands of years.
The intelligence of the plant spirits has been understood for centuries by many cultures. Approximately nine million people were killed in Europe during the witch-burnings (80% who were women) for practicing traditional folk healing and herbal magic – common knowledge and practice during pre-Christian times. Millions around the world have died trying to hold onto their folk healing traditions and spiritual practices that honored the spirits of the earth. As westerners today, when globalization has caused so many folk healing traditions to slowly die out, we are called to preserve what we can of them, in the hopes that our relationship to the earth, our health, and the health of all life, does not continue to deteriorate because of our disconnection. And if we are meant to be present as the passing begins, may we be training ourselves now to hold what is most sacred in our arms as it transforms.
The universe is an interconnected web of energy, the earth itself a matrix of many spirits interacting with each other constantly. Each of us carries specific energy that interacts with our environment, just as every living thing in nature does. The plants have powerful energy that can be learned from and used by the wise for healing and creating change. This is ancient knowledge that was forcibly taken from many people in the last few hundred years. It is our job to remember and hold it now.
Without the spirit partnerships formed between herbalist and the plants, true healing cannot occur. They are asking for you to learn, to listen as you would to elders and teachers. If you listen, they will teach you how to heal and transform your life and the lives of others. The plants can help to nourish and rebuild the body and spirit in incredibly deep ways. They can support our dance into wholeness (healing) through dreaming, through cancer, bringing love into our lives, mending broken hearts, breaking our hearts, transforming sickness, rebalancing the body, and helping to rebuild one’s spirit… Plants touch us on an energetic, spirit level, as well as the physical. They can change and shift energy powerfully and can help us to learn to do so ourselves.
The key to working with plant spirits is understanding that you are not controlling or commanding plants to help you, you are asking its spirit and body to be directed in a certain way towards creating needed change, knowing that the plant itself might work in ways different from your original intentions or desires. Come to the plants seeking knowledge and transformation. You will see they will often change your life and the energy around you in ways that you may not have expected. The plant spirits will help to challenge as well as support you. Do not be afraid or hesitant with them. Come when you’re called… with a compassionate heart, and willingness to learn. Come to them in your own power, respecting your spirit as you respect theirs.
If you can, sit with a plant before and after using it for medicine. Take time to be with it, breathing each other in, giving it time to take in where you are in this moment. Become familiar with it, the plant’s surroundings, growth patterns, the color of it’s flowers… All of this will tell you of the energy and spirit within the plant. Look at what the plant tells you through its physical body, how it’s colors, smell, touch, and taste makes you feel. Ask permission to use it for healing and spirit work, giving love and gratitude as offerings. Open yourself up to the plants… call in their spirits. Slow down and listen from under your skin. They will teach you their magic. Approach them with no expectations, with openness and trust. If you come to them seeking help, healing, or teaching, a plant will most often give some of it’s body and spirit to you. From this intimacy, we begin to rebuild forgotten relationships.
For the past 18 years I have been journeying with the plants into unseen realms, learning through them the ways of nourishment, transformation, birth and death, magic, intimacy, and relationship. They are my grandmothers and grandfathers, a source of continual teaching, bridges into the realms of Spirit. Journeying within these realms is not an easy path, or one that does not demand of us discipline, devotion, and practice. I’ve come to understand that it is a lifeway and practice that is not learned in a handful of years, but one that evolves through a lifetime (sometimes many) of relationship. This intimate work cannot be taught or given, what can be presented to you is an invitation in. One is chosen for and chooses relationships such as these. Herbal medicine can be used by anyone, just as each of us can learn to grow our own food, we can easily grow and make our own medicine. However the path of a devote, of one training in the realm of Spirits, takes us into sometimes dark, sometimes light, places of mystery.
Listen and they will teach you. You will remember the wisdom that is imprinted in your cell memory. We are holding in us the knowledge of healing and transformation. There is a common language that we all speak. It is up to you to discover it. The plants will help you enter.
These are some of my journeys into the realms of Spirit, my journeys with the sacred plant teachers, and stories of the beautiful green land I call home in Vermont.
Earth Mother, bless me to be present today, to the magic of life as it is unfolding, perfectly, and with immeasurable beauty. May all awake to your presence within and around them.
© Sage Maurer