Lessons in Weeding

It’s been a little crazy over here in my corner of the world. I love Spring, yet the season moves at its own pace. Sometimes it feels like it’s taking forever. When everything starts going, though, it can be quite the adventure trying to keep up. The plants are on their own time and they plan on doing their thing with or without me. The race between the plants and I is on.

Along with that race, my husband and I are in the midst of putting together the plan for our studio space, its set up, and what we are doing in it. Reiki, runes, shamanic work, tea, and more… it’s quite the fiasco! The date of our Open House closes in, and there is still so much to be done.

I know that this is the craziness of late Spring. Summer creeps upon us to envelope the sweet unfurling from the Winter months to greet us with a verdant world wrapped up in hot weather, plants everywhere, and adventures to be had.

It’s overwhelming and glorious.

In this craziness, I have to remind myself to take moments to enjoy it all and listen. This is a big part of my shamanic practice: taking time to stop and listen. My teacher Adhi has her apprentices taking time everyday this month to find something that the Earth offers and eat it. Whether it’s burdock, dandelion, or sorrel, we are to take time to taste and commune. If there’s a plant type that we continue to hit up, take some time to sit with it. Maybe make offerings or rattle to it. See what happens.

I’ve been turning my weeding regimen into a chance to explore this practice. Goutweed has found a home in a few of my garden beds and if I am not careful in eradicating it, it will happily (and aggressively) take over any space it can get. It’s also a medicinal and edible plant. It was used primarily for arthritis and (did you guess?) gout. While I am not aware of any magical history with goutweed, it is an interesting plant that is very intent on covering open spots.

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So, I am exploring my relationship with this weed. It’s tenacity is surely part of its magic. Its taste is a little unusual for the more modern palate, so I understand why it’s not a popular food in our cuisine. I have yet to really sit with it and listen. When I do, though, this is my plan. I can start with giving a plant an offering of tobacco. Say hi. Introduce myself. Then, I sit and listen. I don’t just listen with my ears. I use my entire body. I am in stillness, receptive to anything that the plant might throw at me. I can also try rattling to get my brain in a more receptive state, as well as another method of honoring the plant.

Take some time this week. Sit with a plant that you can identify. Taste it if its edible. Sit with it in silent meditation. What does it look like? What does it make you think of? Why? See if you can get any impressions from it. Plants and trees have surprised me many times with the insight that they have offered.  Don’t expect a voice (though, if your brain is wired to receive information that way, it’s possible). It can be a gut feeling. It might be connected to a thought. You can even try sleeping with a piece of the plant under your pillow to see if you can get something in dreams.

I’m still in the beginning stages of my relationship with this plant that I am trying to keep in check. I’m sure that there’s something to be learned even in the antagonistic nature of this plant. I just have to dig and find it.

In other news, I had mentioned in a blog a while ago about a project that I wanted to do with planting amulets under trees and seeing how it affected the surrounding area. For those of you who are interested in participating, please reach out to me. I’ll supply the amulet. All you have to do is get a tree and plant the amulet beneath it. Worse case scenario, you have a beautiful new tree in your yard.

I hope it has been as beautiful where you are as it is up here. Stay tuned to hear more about the new studio space and all the things that we will be offering there.

 

Until next week

 

  • The Green Mountain Mage

Ancestral Homes

I was visiting my friend Sandy this week, talking about life, adventures, and magic. I don’t quite remember how it came up, but we began talking about the ocean. She mentioned how she appreciated the ocean, but it didn’t do anything for her that the mountains and rivers up here couldn’t do. This blew my mind. I love the ocean. I love the power that it emanates. I’ve even wrote about it. I always figured that most people in this work felt the same way.

I knew that some people had an adverse reaction to it. My husband is happy to live miles away from the ocean. All the reasons that I wax poetic about it are the reasons that he wants to keep distance between the ocean and him. When I visit the rocky New England coasts nearest to us, I feel the primordial power of the massive body of water that life crawled out of billions of years ago. This ancient nursery of life is this old power that is so much bigger than us, and a force of equal measures creation and destruction. It draws me to it, while Josh recognizes the power and stays the hell away from it.

He likes to say that he comes from river people. His family has deep roots in the area. My dad’s family comes from the shores of southern New England. I’ve recently been researching ancestry, following my dad’s family tree. I can follow my patrilineal line pretty far back to when we first came to America. After my 8th great grandfather bought land in Rhode Island, he returned to France, loaded his wife and son on a boat, and moved his family to America. While he died on the road over due to being on the losing side of a duel, his family took root in the coastal town that they considered their new home. Looking through the movements of my ancestors, we’ve always lived next the ocean. My brothers and I are the first in 9 generations (not counting my French ancestor that died en route) not to live on the coast.

While I stand by my belief that the ocean is a powerhouse that has a certain healing power, I wonder if part of this is genetic. Is there something that my ancestors passed to me that influence the way I think about and experience the ocean? I recently read a quick article about research in genetic memory, and a quick Google search reveals more research. It’s an interesting confirmation of certain branches of shamanic work, specifically breaking unhelpful generational patterns. While there can be unhelpful patterns that are passed genetically, can there also be connections to place (connections that can be formed in only a handful of generations)?

It’s been an interesting exploration for me, especially as one that hadn’t felt a strong call to ancestral work to begin with. It’s even more interesting to explore the idea that parts of my spiritual practice are colored by where my ancestors lived, even when I didn’t necessarily think of it as an ancestral connection until recently.

Just a few thoughts as I explore my roots and my past. A quick post on ancestors and the sea, the primordial womb of Mother Earth, seemed appropriate for Mother’s Day. So, I ask you: how has your family tree influenced your spiritual practice? How much does your family history shape your view of the world?

 

Until next week

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

Spring Fever

Spring is here in the northern woods of Vermont, and I’m excited to be finding some of my springtime favorites growing in the woods around me in about a month. I thought that I would share a few of them with you.

The first is fiddleheads.

Taken from Wikipedia

Taken from Wikipedia

These little guys are a northern delicacy that have an amazing nutty flavor. They’re actually fern fronds that have yet to unfurl. I only pick Cinnamon Ferns (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum), but I hear that Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) can also be used. They are sources of fiber, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and iron. As for the more esoteric sides of ferns, I only know that they have a traditional connection to weather magic. The spiral is a symbol of cosmic forces and the cycles of nature, so that could potentially part of its symbolism.

The next edible that comes to mind would be ramps (Allium tricoccum).

Also taken from Wikipedia

Also taken from Wikipedia

This relative of onions, leeks, and garlic sprouts from the ground pretty early in the season. If they find a spot that they like, I’ve seen them claim the side of a hill. They are picky about their spots, though. A friend had bought a bundle of ramps from a farmers’ market that was harvested roots and all. I tried planting some of them in a few different locations that I thought might work for them. Only one spot survived, and they aren’t big fans of where I put them either. This pickiness, along with heavy harvesting, makes them a little scarce. I have yet to harvest mine, in hopes that they will spread a little more. As with most alliums (the garlic and onion family), I imagine that they would be classified as a fiery energy. They could be used for banishment work. They also have some of the similar medicinal qualities, due to their shared sulphuric compounds.

One of my favorite wildflowers happen to be an early spring popup around here. It had a few names: Red Trillium, Trillium erectum, or, my personal favorite, Stinkin’ Benjamin.

Another from Wikipedia. I need to get out and take some spring photos this year.

Another from Wikipedia. I need to get out and take some spring photos this year.

The beautiful red flowers are striking in the shady spots that you can find them. As you may have suspected from the third name, the Stinkin’ Benjamin has a… “unique” odor. The best way I can describe it is as if a fish was left in the sun for a few hours. Because of how early it comes up, it’s pollinator of choice is another early comer, the fly. Its roots do have medicinal uses, though. The root, along with the root of other trilliums, has been used for menopausal issues, women’s hormonal issues, and coughs. Even though the red trillium seems to be one of the few trilliums not endangered, I still leave the wild ones alone. Symbolically, their three red petals could be a metaphor for the Trinity of your choice. There might be some symbolism to the offensive smell. I have never read about trilliums in any books on magical properties, to I’m left to potential metaphor and intuition on that front.

The final springtime favorite that I will mention is maple syrup.

Another from Wikipedia.

Another from Wikipedia.

I work with maple trees often in my energetic work, so I couldn’t skip this one. Vermont and its surrounding states are all in the middle of what we call “Sugaring Season.” The taps that maple producers put in their Sugar Maple trees (Acer saccharum) months ago are flowing with sap, and will be until the trees begin to bud. While the days up here have been in the 40s Fahrenheit, the night temps are still dipping below freezing. As the weather warms, the trees will stop producing clear sap. It takes about 40 gallons of this clear tree sap to be boiled down to one gallon of sweet, sweet maple syrup. While maple has its place in indigenous mythology concerning how humans learned how to make maple syrup, most of the information on energetics and correlations of plants that is used in present day comes from Europe. With its lack of presence in these tomes, I take it that there aren’t really any maples that way. So, we are again left with metaphor and intuition. I know that the sweet nature of its sap lend it to works of love, and giving. That jives pretty well with the juju I feel from the maples I work with, so I’ll roll with that. Maple syrup is also a great gift to ancestors and nature spirits. I mean, who doesn’t love good maple syrup?

So, you all know of some of the things that I will be on the lookout for as this month unfolds, and everything begins to warm up. This spring weather is getting me ready for days of working in the gardens. Now, if only all this snow would finish melting.

 

Until next week

 

-The Green Mountain Mage

A Vernal Interlude

I started this morning mulling over how I was to go about continuing this blog’s discussion between bites of breakfast. I barraged my husband with all of the thoughts in my head, the articles that I would reference, the theories that I had. He looked me squarely in the eyes, and said “Sounds like you have a lot you have to sort through. Why don’t you talk about Spring instead?” as he gestured out the window to the apple trees filled with blossoms.

And he was right. Don’t tell him. It’ll go straight to his head.

Magic theory can wait until next week. Right now, Northern Vermont is going through the later stages of Spring. I always think of Spring and Fall the way that I think of Dawn and Dusk. They are this magical in between time. Not quite winter, yet not quite summer. Spring is especially dear to my heart. This time of awakening, when we are shaking the shackles of the dark Winter. And what a long winter we have up here!

I feel that awakening as I ready the garden for the growing season. I’m out there, planting seeds and weeding remaining weeds from last year. Everything seems to be unfurling at once, leaf, herb, and flowers. Flowers like my apple blossoms.

While the most obvious usable product of the apple tree would be the apples, there are many other uses for the savvy herbalist and mage. One of the parts that are usable is the apple blossom. I bring this up because one of the ways that I intend to capture a bit of Spring is to make a flower essence of apple blossoms.

You may have heard of Bach’s Rescue Remedy. It’s sold at health stores around the country, marketed for stress relief. Rescue Remedy is also a flower essence mix. Did I mention flower essences are, essentially, magic?

Flower essences are liquids imprinted with the vibrational qualities of certain flowers crafted for specific interactions with the subtle body of the person taking the essence. Not only is it used by people, I know pet owners and even an animal shelter that swear that Rescue Remedy helps calm anxious and nervous pets. The people who use it on their pets usually assume that it’s some sort of herbal extraction, not a mentrum filled with the vibrations of a certain flower to effect the aura of whomever takes the essence. Yet, they will rely on it with moderately good results. One could attribute the effects of Flower Essences on people to the Placebo Effect (*ahem*), but what of pets who don’t know that their water has a few squirts of vibrational medicine? An interesting question, indeed…

But now I’m getting dangerously close to next week’s continuation on the discussion on magic.

So, I plan on harvesting these blossoms, carefully cutting them off the branch without touching them. Dr. Edward Bach, the person who came up with this process in the 1930’s, was very specific in his instructions as to have as little human energetic contamination in the process. He wanted the magic to be all flowers, sunlight, spring water, and brandy.

To make the flower essence, the flowers will sit in a glass bowl filled with spring water all morning on a sunny day. The flowers wilt and are strained. Add brandy as a preservative, and you have apple blossom flower essence.

When Dr. Bach first outlined his ideas on flower essences, he mentioned 38 flower essences and how they affect the energetic body. Apple blossom was not mentioned. When I first learned to make these essences, my herbal teacher had me sit with some flowers in her garden and listen for their energetic gift before making medicine from their flowers. This is how we suss out the use of flowers unmentioned in Bach’s list. I have a notion that making a flower essence of Apple Blossom will be a great way to capture some of the energies of the in between time that we are experiencing. When I feel a need for emotional clarity in new processes, or feel the need for a sort of awakening and unfurling, I’ll have that Apple Blossom Flower Essence waiting for me there. I won’t know for sure, though, until I have a sit with my apple trees before making the medicine.

I invite you, the reader, to honor Spring with me. Life is waking up and readying itself for the warm months and the extended hours of sunlight. Why not do the same? Make a flower essence. Plant something. Sit and watch the buds of trees unfurl.

Magic is happening all around you. How do you celebrate?

 

Loving this magical in between time

 

-The Green Mountain Mage