Excerpt from Healing Magic- a Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious Living-10th anniversary edition, North Atlantic Books, 2014)
As we head into the spring season, we are not the only ones waking up, the trees, plants and flowers are all ready to show themselves to us.
I’ve spent more than thirty years teaching people about edible and medicinal plants that live everywhere we do—in our backyards, open lots, and city parks. Herbal medicine is effective—it works—and that’s one significant reason I teach it. Underneath that, though, is another reason: Reacquainting people with the plants themselves, and the birds and animals, is equally important. It enlarges our sense of who we are, which is spirit-enhancing and magic-inducing.
I’ve noticed that the most skeptical people are often the ones to feel the spirit of a plant, or even to actually hear a message, which always startles them profoundly. And beyond that, when you experience directly all the different things that the plants can and will do for you, like relieve your pain or calm your nerves, you come to care about them and want to protect these valuable foods and medicines and the ground in which they grow. You might even feel that they care about you—and you wouldn’t be imagining it.
I remember a woman on a medicinal plant walk telling me she felt a sense of love and kinship, like reuniting with an old friend, for a plant I had just introduced her to in Riverside Park in New York City. It puzzled her. I told her that the name of the plant was comfrey, and she lit up with a great big smile. It turned out that years earlier she had drunk comfrey leaf tea—which has been used for millennia to strengthen ligaments, cartilage, and bone, earning it the nickname “knitbone”—and it had helped speed up her recovery from a broken bone. (Internal use of comfrey [Symphytum officinale] is now regulated by the FDA.) “It is my old friend. This plant helped me so much. No wonder I felt like I already knew it.”
It stands to reason that the more personally you experience the value of something, the more you will prize it and want to take good care of it. Without question, the earth is a prize worth cherishing. Have you ever seen the sunrise in a lavender sky at dawn? Eaten a ripe, juicy strawberry fresh from the plant? Gone swimming in the ocean, or walked barefoot on a bed of cool star moss on a hot, dry day? Heard the whistling cry of a golden eagle flying over you? Smelled the alluring perfume of a night-blooming white moonflower?
Simple Practices for Reconnecting with Earth
BEING ON EARTH
Go outside and simply be. Sit, stand, or lie, with no goal or plan.
The simplest practice of all can be the most challenging for our busy, goal-oriented selves. Try it. Be still and know the earth.
Consciously breathe fresh air in a natural setting. Smell the scents that are being carried in your direction.
Walk barefoot on different types of ground—on grass in a meadow, sand on the beach, fresh pine needles in the woods, or on smooth pebbles in a shallow stream or river. Feel the sensations of different textures under your feet.
These practices help you learn to slow down and reawaken your natural senses. You can continue with more smells, sights, textures— and include tastes, too. Be creative about how you open yourself to perceive the multitude of details that are available. Tickle your cheek with pussy willows, brush your hair gently with a fallen pine bough, let an insect walk on your arm, smell a maple tree flower, taste an apple off a tree.
HEART-TO- HEART WITH MOTHER EARTH
Lie down on the ground, on your back or your stomach. If you’re on your stomach, turn your head to the right or left. Breathe deeply, in and out, and listen to your heartbeat. As you become quiet and relaxed, see if you can hear and feel the heartbeat of the earth coming up into you from the center of the planet. Feel the generous love of Mother Earth, the ancient mother of us all. Relax; she will not let you go. Open to receive. Melt into her. Feel your heartbeats merge and become one.
This practice helps you feel the protective love the earth has for you, her daughter or son. It opens you to receive nurturance and nourishment from the earth—which, in actuality, you are always receiving. Knowing the truth of this increases your sense of security and belonging, and decreases your sense of isolation and loneliness.
CHOOSING A GUARDIAN TREE
Go to a tree that you feel attracted to. It doesn’t matter if you know what kind of tree it is. Bring an offering that you can place all around the base of the tree. For example, you can give away water, cornmeal, tobacco, sunflower seeds, or even chocolate chips. Anything natural that you truly value is a good give-away. Imagine looking at yourself through the “eyes” of the tree.
Take a few minutes to be quiet together, and then ask the tree (in the privacy of your own being or out loud) if it is willing to be your guardian, your protector. If you hear or feel an affirmative response from the tree, imagine growing psychic roots from the bottoms of your feet and from your own root center, right between your legs, and letting them intertwine with the roots of your tree. Thank it, and visit it whenever you can. Call on it, in person or in your imagination, when you are in need of guardian energy, whether for physical or emotional protection. The tree will always hear and know you, specifically.
This practice of bonding with a certain tree helps with the special medicine that trees offer us. They know their place in the universe because they live with their roots in the earth. This security is something we humans have to trade in order to have our freedom of movement (something very intriguing to trees). Trees are also very patient (remember the slow-moving Ents in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings?) and can help you learn to trust your own timing.