Category Archives: Herbs

Plant Totem: Hawthorn, Fae Tree of Heart + Transformation

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.

hawthorn-tree-12

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.

hawthorn thorn
Thorns of a Hawthorn tree

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.

Artwork by Ruby Clark
Ogham Artwork by Ruby Clark

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.

Death card from the Thoth Tarot

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.”

Winter Wildcrafting

I’ve made a new commitment to my soul.  I’m going to spend one whole day EVERY WEEK outdoors.  Whether it’s hiking, at the beach, riding bikes, gardening, or a combination of many things, my heart is happiest when I spend A LOT of time outside.  When I can breathe in fresh air, bury my hands in the dirt, walk through sand and water with bare feet, feel the wind on my face.

view from ortega

This commitment was inspired by the words of an 11-year old homeschooled boy who I saw interviewed.  When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, answered, “I want to be happy.  What do I want to do?  I don’t know yet.  I need to try a few more things.”

As a dear friend of mine pointed out the other day, we’re taught in school how to make a living, not how to live.  And then we wonder why so many adults are on medication for depression, anxiety, and heart conditions.  This isn’t to say that some people don’t have a real medical condition that requires treatment, but how many health conditions are really illnesses of the soul?

 

Motherwort: Heart Medicine
Motherwort: Heart Medicine

 

I also noticed something interesting…

Some chronic back pain (at the back of my heart…big surprise) that has been bothering me for years COMPLETELY DISAPPEARS when I’m outside doing something I love, usually involving romping through forests or tall grass, talking to trees, listening to plants…the usual.

mushrooms on a dead tree

So this Sunday I informed one of my friends and fellow adventurers that we were going hiking and harvesting plants for new potions to be sold here.  Of course we “accidentally” got lost and ended up spending all day climbing up trees, wandering off the trail (which we were specifically told NOT to do), getting covered in mud, and gathering some beautiful plants.  I returned home smelling like sage and pine, covered in dirt, with twigs, thistles, and bits of grass stuck in my hair.  And blissfully exhausted.

inside a tree

6 Reasons to Love Sage

As some of you may know, a dear friend and I have started an herbal medicine and body care company, something I’ve wanted to do since I was little and mixing potions in the kitchen.  Medicinal and energetic properties of herbs is something that is very near and dear to my heart.  More recently, I’ve come to find out it is also where my true nerd comes out.  My background in medieval history and latin has meant that learning the scientific names of the herbs has been more exciting than it is for most normal people.  So today we’re going to talk about one of my favorite herbs, sage.

sage

The name sage comes from the latin word Salvare, meaning “to heal” or “to save”.  My first memory of working with herbs is picking them with my uncle from the garden my mom and I planted in our backyard.  He was explaining to me how in the old days before there were medications, people would use plants they found or grew to heal themselves.  I had a mini mortar and pestle given to me by my grandmother, which I came across during a recent move, in which I remember so clearly grinding up the herbs we picked that day.  I loved to go out to our garden, especially when it was raining, just to listen, imagining I had fairies to guide me and plants to talk to.  Crazy, huh?  Not really.  Kids know what’s up.  I’d wear a red cloak that a family friend had made for me one Halloween (I was Little Red Riding Hood) that was far from waterproof, lean in and bury my face in each herb, taking in the peppery citrus of basil, heady pine of rosemary, and the soothing, warm aroma of sage.  Sage was my favorite back then and is still at the top of my list today.  Here are 6 reasons why you should love it too:

  • Digestive problems – aids relaxation of digestive tract, as well as acting as a carminative, working to alleviate cramping, bloating, and gas.
  • Memory & cognitive function – In part because of its grounding quality, sage improves concentration, especially for those who those nervous vata types who tend to jump from one thing to the next, as well as aides memory, and the ability to think clearly.
  • Purification & clearing negative energy – to drive away sickness and bad vibes, clear the air, and purify spaces.
  • Grounding – This is my favorite benefit of sage.  For those of us over-thinkers, sage helps ground, relax, nourish, and restore your nervous system you when you get that feeling like you’ve had too much caffeine or your blood sugar is too low with symptoms like sweaty palms and heart palpitations.
  • Pain relief & anti-inflammatory – As a poultice or in a salve, sage can be applied topically to cuts and scrapes to reduce inflammation, stop bleeding, and prevent infection. Sore throat.
  • Prevent infection – An aid to the immune system, sage is particularly beneficial for the respiratory tract when it is burnt, steamed, inhaled, or ingested

Kiva sums it up best on her blog: “Sage is a remedy filled with common sense, down-home wisdom and practicality — it gracefully does what needs be done and gets on with life, all while tasting good and filling the kitchen with its savory scent.”

garden sage

Sacred Plant Wisdom Newsletter from Darcey Blue

Happy Monday friends!!

Check out Darcey Blue’s herbal Newsletter…she does awesome work and you can follow her right here on WordPress!

From Herbalist, Darcey Blue, a twice a month subscription newsletter devoted to the Wisdom that comes from the Plants- and helping you find ways to connect with and learn from the plants in a Sacred Way. Each newsletter will focus on one plant, which has offered to me its desire to be included in this work- with information about what this plant wants to share and teach us at this time, poetry, art, recordings , meditations and journey prompts for you, in addition to journalling exercises to help you get the most out of the wisdom each plant is offering and applying it to your own life.
This will include medicinal uses, but will not primarily focus on the physical medicines- but the deeper relationship and sacred medicine this plant can offer us as teacher, wisdom keeper and guide. Flower essences, energetic and emotional teachings, practices and deep spirit healing and connection with the land.

Click the link here to take a look at her newsletter and blog!