For a good while now, I’ve been considering how to work with plants just as some coaches/practitioners work with animals. As spirit totems. Teaching how to work with plants not to only heal us physically, but also spiritually, emotionally, and energetically. Understanding what they have to teach us in terms of our relationships, career, life circumstances, money, and most importantly, how to form better connections with ourselves, other people, and with the earth.
Lots of herbalists out there write beautiful and well-researched pieces on materia medica of western herbalism, herbal energetics, and the medicinal and therapeutic actions of herbs. However, I think the deepest healing occurs when we form our own relationship with the plant and learn to work with the medicine it has for us individually. This is the story of my own journey with Hawthorn, one of my foundational plant totems.
Traditionally viewed as a heart tonic, Hawthorn reminds us to be patient with ourselves, slow down, and give our heart space to breathe, be still, and speak his or her truth. Though its prickly thorns protect the heart from outside assault, that very protection is what allows it to be such a nurturing and calming spirit. It provides sacred boundaries and a soft space to rest in times of heartbreak, grief, or when the energetic heart needs a rest.
For the past few years, I’ve been working and learning to listen closely to the whispers (or sometimes shouts) from my heart. Establishing boundaries, softening, opening, protecting, clearing, and filling up my heart with the things she desires, yearns for, and guides me toward. It’s been the hardest thing I’ve done so far because so often my ego wants to take over with the shoulds, the have-to’s, feelings of anger, guilt, and most of the time, fear. Hawthorn came to me soon after my heart got cracked open during part of my Visionary Craniosacral training that I learned to work with the four-chambered heart (another shamanic concept that I’ll write more on later). The lessons Hawthorn taught me allowed me to integrate the wisdom of my heart and of love itself, sometimes gracefully sometimes not so much.
Hawthorn is known for its associations with magic, witches, and fairies. As Darcey Blue writes, Hawthorn’s “rank smelling flowers and thorns and association with spirit worlds make Hawthorn a tree of ‘death’ and transformation, and also of protection and caution.” Death here, to me, doesn’t mean literal death, but rather a shedding, releasing, letting die that which no longer serves us. The archetypal theme of life/death/rebirth.
A key element of transformation, of alchemy of the soul is in the allowing of what needs to die in order for the rebirth parts of our self. It’s the Death card of the Tarot: learning how to detach and release, cutting through old patterns that bind us so that we can give birth to new forms and previously unexpressed parts of ourselves.
One of my favorite things about Hawthorn is the magical obstacles it presents to us at just the right moment. It reflects to us the exact lesson we need at the exact moment in life that we need it. Synchronicity at its finest. Somehow she knows what we’re ready for, what our next lesson needs to be on our path in order for us to meet our purpose. Hawthorn will “guard you as it teaches you – sometimes strongly, sometimes gently – but always with love.”