A member of our Wise Woman Bean Gealach Circle recently asked about working with Clover as a plant ally, and what that meant. I responded on a herbal/medicinal level but also suggested I would post separately about what it means to work with our Plant Allies from a shamanic perspective, not just a medicinal one.
So let’s talk Earth Medicine . . . and how working with our Plant Allies can support us in so many areas of our life – spiritual, emotional and, yes, physical.
We know that Mama Earth takes care of us in so many ways. Our ancestors knew this too, and many had a wide knowledge of the healing and restorative powers of their local plants: which plants they could use to clear rashes, to reduce swelling or infections, to staunch bleeding, to build immunity, to calm an over-excited mind, to induce sleep. In those traditions, it was also very important to try and use local plants as medicine, as they typically have the medicine to cure “local” ailments (quinine for malaria, etc). For many, that’s all they could access anyway!
Many societies had medicine men or women, wise women, healers – and this was both respected and honoured. As our societies and cultures evolved, so did medicine. Many of the pharmaceuticals in today’s pharmacopeia were originally – and are still – created from plants (aspirin from willow bark, digitalis from foxglove, etc), while others are chemically engineered.
That being said, many of us either prefer the “old ways” or are returning to these Wise Woman remedies by making our own infusions, tinctures, balms and more. Some also like to use plant essences and homeopathic remedies (the latter has very little original plant material but has basically its hologram).
In shamanic traditions, our family of allies can include our ancestors, spirit guides, animals (such as clan/family totems — or personal allies — such as Bear, Lynx, Butterfly, Mouse, Spider or Eagle) and plants (trees, weeds, flowers, herbs).
We can call on all of them for their wisdom, and one of the most powerful ways to do that is to create a relationship with them (being in “right relationship”).
CREATING A RELATIONSHIP WITH A PLANT
There are many ways to connect with a plant. This method was taught to me by BC and Yukon herbalists Darcy Tara and Lori Snyder, and it was also shared by Clea Danaan in her book “Voices of the Earth: The Path of Green Spirituality”.
🌿 Find a plant with which you wish to work and sit with it in a comfortable position. Work with something in your home, to start, or very close-at-hand such as your garden, balcony, window box, street or a local park
🍀TIP: You may want to consider starting with a tree and its big energy; you can also lean back against a tree and some find it easier to tap into its energy this way
🌿 Take a few moments to ground, to feel that connection with Mama Earth, and release any tensions through deep slow breaths and through relaxing your muscles. Let the earth absorb any stress from the day.
🌿 Ask the plant for permission to connect with its energy. Be aware that it may say “no”, and that’s okay. It may be busy! Or maybe it just doesn’t want your energy at the moment. You may feel that refusal in different ways – – almost like a solid wall of air, or some other block or sense of resistance. If that’s the case, pick a different plant in the area and try again, or come back another day.
🌿 If your plant says “yes”, wonderful! Direct your attention to the plant and extend your energetic aura around it. Embrace it, figuratively (or literally, if it will allow it), and start to use all your senses (including your six-sensory ones) to connect with the plant:
- Touch the plant, if you can. How does it feel? Smell? Sound?
- How does its energy feel – calm? bright? energetic? sleepy? young? wise?
- Is it a solitary plant, or does it like to be in a crowd with others?
- Does it need a lot of attention and nurturing or is wild and resilient?
- Does it sprout and mature quickly like the lodgepole pine, or slowly like the beautiful desert saguaro cactus?
- Does it respond to music, chimes or singing? (Think of how nurturing it might be to a tree or other plant to hear the sound of bird song.)
🌿 Spend some time with the plant absorbing all its energy. If the time feels right, ask the plant if it needs anything…. some water, some fertilizer, some shade. If the time still feels right, ask it for its wisdom…. how it can support you, what it’s medicine is for you – it may be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.
🌿 Record what you learned in your journal or notebook.
This doesn’t all have to happen in one sitting. It may take several visits over days or weeks to get to know this plant. Or maybe it takes only a few minutes. You never know!
You might like to visit your plant throughout the year, because its energy can change dramatically, especially in geographies with sharply defined seasons. Think of trees, now different they are in spring, summer, autumn, and winter. . . and what we can learn from them as we entrain to their energies and as they entrain their energy with Mama Earth. If you like drawing, sketch your plant in all its stages – new growth, full blossoming, harvest times (seeds, falling leaves) and stillness.
But there is also another way to work with our plant allies. For instance, we can journey with them and ask for their wisdom there, and also for their healing while in non-ordinary reality.
In the Alchemical Healing modality (created by Nicki Scully) one of the basic precepts is that “we do not require the physical plant in order to work with its magic” [Alchemical Healing, p. 138]. In this form of healing, we work directly with the spiritual medicinal essence of the plant.
I would highly recommend Nicki’s book(s) to learn more about this modality. I was lucky enough to take an Alchemical Healing introductory workshop led by Nicky recently and saw some amazing healing work by both Nicki and my fellow students. Her website is packed with info, and her books are carried by all major booksellers.
So, yes, it’s important in that healing tradition to know what plants do what. . . but they do not have to be local to your environment to do their magic.
Image of trees in Vancouver’s Stanley Park was photographed with my iPhone SE.
Words in the photograph from a poem by Mary Oliver “When I am Among the Trees” (2006).