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Thread: Plant Spirits

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    Supporter Jembru's Avatar
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    Re: Is your practice bioregional?

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    My town is also connected to Thatcham, possibly the oldest continuously inhabited place in the UK, since the Mesolithic. I have started picking and learning herbs that grow well in this region, particularly mugwort, frithwort (my name for St John's wort), yarrow, barley, lowland juniper and meadowsweet. .
    (My highlight)

    No one ever talks about 'spirit plants', always 'spirit animals', yet I do have plants amongst my ever growing mob of imaginary friends. Mugwort is one of my main pals from the floral realm. Other than Oak, Mugwort is so far the only plant I've worked with that speaks to me verbally. Other plants give me images or feelings, but don't engage me in small-talk. Oak will speak in words, but has a formal and somewhat regal style. He speaks, but only when there is something he needs me to know. Mugwort on the other hand is very friendly and down-to-earth. He will talk to me all the way home if I've gone out to collect some, and keep talking whether I answer or not. It's as though he has a vested interest in mankind and especially our creative and magical arts. I currently have a mugwort plant on my kitchen windowsill called Morgan that I've been taking photos of and may, depending on the outcome, be blogging about at some point when the current saga has concluded.

    Aaanyway.. I agree that mugwort makes a fabulous alternative to sage (sage was at one time also one of my 'spirit plants'), although in my experience, while both will purify the area, the atmosphere left is quite different between the two. Mugwort feels more magical and transformative, while sage feels more grounding and healing. I'd be very much interested in hearing about your own experiences once you start working with mugwort.

    Oh and mugwort seeds are ready to collect up here at around samhain. It might be a little sooner for you. The plants are flowering at the moment but they're considered a weed so if you want to you can find a nice established plant and dig it up roots and all and transplant it in your garden. In my experience it's quite happy for you to do this, but if you think about it but either physically can't (as in, its roots are under pathing slabs <-personal experience), or forget, it has a weird way of making you!

    Oh and if you're using in tea, try mixing with chamomile. I just use supermarket tea bags, but you will probably be able to locate it wild in your area if you prefer that, we have it here but it seems to do better when we have hotter summers and it's warmer generally in your part of the island so I daresay it grows better there. I won't say why in case I influence your experience. Just try it with and without the chamomile and see if you notice a difference.
    夕方に急なにわか雨は「夕立」と呼ばれるなら、なぜ朝ににわか雨は「朝立ち」と呼ばれないの? ^^If a sudden rain shower in the evening is referred to as an 'evening stand', then why isn't a shower in the morning called 'morning stand'?

  2. #2
    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    So...I figured this would be a great place to talk about plant spirits...

    I know Rae'ya has talked about them in the past...

    ...rummages around in the bowels of PF...

    ...tosses out tennis ball...

    ...box of candles...

    ...a jar of souls...

    ...astronaut ice cream...

    ...an astoundingly phallic representation of Priapus (even for Priapus)...

    ...a Venus of Willendorf...

    ...AHGH!!! BATS!!!...

    ...HEY! That's where I put that thing I was looking for...

    AH-HA! Here it is.

    *blows cobwebs from hair and sneezes, big streak of dirt on face*

    (it was not at all where I thought it was)

    (the context of this quote is from a thread about respecting plants/plant spirits while harvesting/foraging)
    Quote Originally Posted by Rae'ya View Post
    I don't work extensively with plants, but I have been through this exact same issue myself over the years, particularly since getting my bird, who requires fresh native flowers most days, and fresh whole branches weekly. I feel like I'm forever popping outside to tear a branch of a tree, or take flowers for Noodle... then factor in the herb plants in the backyard that I'm always snipping bits and pieces off, and the vegetable and fruit plants that we harvest daily.

    What I've worked out is this....

    - Plant spirits are connected in ways that human or animal spirits aren't. Trees are individuals, and are a little closer to how we would view an animal spirit, but as you get down towards shrubs and flowers, it starts to get a bit more... diffuse. If I go out to my strawberry patch, there is a spirit of the strawberry patch... not of the individual strawberry plants. I think this is largely due to how the plants reproduce... plants that multiple via runners or bulbs and spread out like a little community seem to have a community spirit. So if I were to rip up one strawberry plant, I wouldn't be killing that plant's spirit, but reducing the number of vessels that the strawberry patch spirit inhabits. Does that make sense? When it comes to things like carrots, it seems to be about the spirits ability to reproduce... if I rip out every single carrot, then that spirit has nowhere to live and I've effectively 'killed' it. But if I let some carrots go to seed, then the carrot spirit lives on.

    - Plants have a different view about life and death than we do. They are much more connected to the 'circle of life' type attitude than most humans are. I was actually taught this lesson by a giant Tingle tree that most people would consider 'dead', as it had fallen over. Torey and I went to a place called the Valley of Giants in Western Australia a few years back, and it was a really amazing spiritual experience for me. As we were walking through the Tingle forest, I was attempting (with success) to connect to the trees and that landwight of the forest. As well as the giant live trees, there were some fallen ones that had been left where they were as a part of the guided walk. I touched one of them as I walked past and it was still 'alive'. It wasn't in the ground anymore, and it didn't have actual life... scientifically it was dead... but spiritually it was still alive. It taught me that what a plants physical body dies, it's spirit is still a part of the land spirit complex of the place. It's spirit dies very, very slowly, and even then it's not the spirit 'dying', but being absorbed back into the environment around it. It's spirit dissipates rather than dies. This does apply to natural causes only... if a forest is felled en masse, you've killed that forest and all those trees and the spirit is gone. But if a storm rages through and some trees are felled, they are absorbed back into the rest of the forest spirit and sort of taken in by their neighbours, by the landwight, and by the ecosystem of the forest itself.

    - Plants that are foodstuffs don't seem to mind that much, because they are absorbed into us. This is actually on my spiritual to-do list... to work with the spirits of foodstuff plants more closely and to see the difference between homegrown and storebought. But the carrots don't seem to mind being pulled up and eaten. The asparagus doesn't seem to mind me chopping off it's spears when they get to a certain height. But my mum's garden is mostly self-propagating. She lets some of the plants go to seed each year, and sometimes collects seeds to use the following year. I think that plant spirits stay connected to their seeds in way that human spirits don't. When we reproduce, a new spirit inhabits the foetus. When plants reproduce, it's like their spirit extends into the seeds, so they are literally continuing on through their offspring. Trees and bushes seem to be a bit different though... they split off into new entities.

    - Chopping off a branch is not the same as chopping off someone's finger. The trees that I take branches off seem to be more concerned about HOW I take it off than what I remove. If I cut it off smoothly, they seem happy for me to take it. If I try to break it off and it tears, then there is more damage done to the tree and they don't really like that. When I cared for rosebushes, my relationship with them actually strengthened as the years went by and I pruned them regularly... the pruning allowed them to grow more healthily the following season, so even though I was chopping off branches left, right and center, they didn't mind in the slightest.

    - How much you take matters. Taking one branch and rotating which trees I take from seems to be well accepted. But I think that if I were to take from the same tree every week, which would affect the tree's ability to be healthy itself, then I would be in trouble for that. This MAY be specific to Australian Eucalypts, because that's the only tree I ever take full branches off... but Eucalypts will actually drop their own branches when it gets too hot or if there are not enough nutrients (never sit directly under a gum tree on a hot day), so they don't seem to care much if you take one here and there. I've read that when wild harvesting, you shouldn't take more than 10% of the plant's harvestable produce, or more than 10% of the plants in the area. I'm sure this is just an arbitrary figure that someone came up with... my experience is that it's the plants chance of reproducing that matters. Which means that for each plant, how much you can take will depend on the plant species, how it reproduces, and what time of year it is.

    - What you take matters. With the trees, I try not to take new growth branches. I have taken new growth branches, but only when there is a concentrated patch and it looks like they would benefit from being thinned out anyway (sometimes the branches are so heavy that they are drooping down, and I get the feeling that it's okay to lighten the load a bit). Cutting off dead branches is not always well accepted... this I was taught by a bush at my previous house, which had started to die off (lack of water I think). I was cutting off all the dead branches so that the new growth had a chance and it didn't look so terrible. But it wasn't getting any better, even with extra water. When I asked it how to help it, it told me to leave it alone. I stopped pruning off the dead branches and kept watering it, and it started to come back. So just because a branch is dead doesn't mean that the tree doesn't want it!

    - Let them know what you are doing. I always walk around the tree and look at the branches, then find one that I think will be okay. I touch the branch and tell the tree this is the one I'm taking. Then wait for a second and see if I get a feeling from the tree. Then I cut it off as smoothly as I can. I do the same for flowers that I'm taking off. Fruiting trees and plants don't seem to care... their survival is not dependent on the fruit they produce, so they don't mind what or how much fruit you take.

    - I actually don't give anything back, aside from my thanks and my respect. I care for the plants in my yard, ensure that they are watered and fed and that I'm not doing anything to their detriment. That seems to be enough for them. Neglected plants get a bit funny about you harvesting from them, but cared for plants don't seem to. The trees don't need me to do anything for them, and they seem to be happy with a respectful relationship. The rose bushes used to demand blood the first few years I had them (they'd been neglected by the people before us) but after a while they stopped biting me.

    - Weeds. I feel the need to say something about weeds here lol. Weeds don't seem to care about being killed. In some cases, I swear they just see it as a challenge. It seemed like no matter how many weeds I'd pull up, a new one would sprout the next day. I don't really know much about the biology and reproduction of weeds, so I don't know quite what impact pulling weeds has on the overall weed spirit. The only weeds that seem to care about being pulled up are the really big, well established things with the giant roots. The little ones are very laid back.

    - Invasive plants. I take a 'greater good' approach to life in general, whether that be plants or animals. I prioritise the ecosystem as a whole, and the big picture of the landwight. So killing weeds and invasive plants is not actually an issue for me. Yes, I am killing plants and spirits by pulling out the entirety of an invasive plant community, but I'm okay with doing that because it's for the good of the landwight and the other plants in the area. I'm also fine with killing invasive species en masse in certain circumstances. Life is life... whether we want it there or not. But you can't exist without killing things, so you just have to work out your moral compass in respects to how you prioritise life and work out a way to live with the fact that you've killed something (rather than live in denial about it). Most spirits seem to respect that.
    [/QUOTE]
    “You have never answered but you did not need to. If I stand at the ocean I can hear you with your thousand voices. Sometimes you shout, hilarious laughter that taunts all questions. Other nights you are silent as death, a mirror in which the stars show themselves. Then I think you want to tell me something, but you never do. Of course I know I have written letters to no-one. But what if I find a trident tomorrow?" ~~Letters to Poseidon, Cees Nooteboom

    “We still carry this primal relationship to the Earth within our consciousness, even if we have long forgotten it. It is a primal recognition of the wonder, beauty, and divine nature of the Earth. It is a felt reverence for all that exists. Once we bring this foundational quality into our consciousness, we will be able to respond to our present man-made crisis from a place of balance, in which our actions will be grounded in an attitude of respect for all of life. This is the nature of real sustainability.”
    ~~Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

    "We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes--one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way."
    ~~Stephen Jay Gould, Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

    "Humans are not rational creatures. Now, logic and rationality are very helpful tools, but there’s also a place for embracing our subjectivity and thinking symbolically. Sometimes what our so-called higher thinking can’t or won’t see, our older, more primitive intuition will." John Beckett

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  3. #3
    The Gaze of the Abyss B. de Corbin's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    I don't know that I have much to say about "plant spirits," per se, except that my giant brugmansia, and the daturas I've grow, when in bloom, have a very definite "presence" being strangely attractive, definitely female-like, and promising dark delights (but no, I ain't going there). Might be due to the scent...

    Also, subjectively speaking, some mushrooms seem to show some kind of being - the hallucinogenic ones being strongest. Ingested, they will definitely tell you things. And I don't mean this as a stoner joke - I mean they seem to manifest some kind of selfness.
    Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.

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    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    Great find, thal, and thanks to Rae'ya for having written it in the first place. I would never have known it existed if you hadn't.

    Invasive plants are, contextually, a menace, like Japanese Knotweed (Fallopia japonica) and Himalayan balsam (Impatiens grandulifera) which choke a habitat. However... it's not their fault. They don't belong here, true, but they didn't come here of their own accord, (often introduced by Victorians who frankly did as much harm to this country as good) they're just being wild plants, living where they can because they can. It's like letting snakes loose on a ship then getting angry with the snakes for biting people who are running around trying to stamp on them. I don't believe there is anything malicious about them. For this reason, I feel bad if I damage them unnecessarily when I remove them, so try and do it respectively.
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
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  5. #5
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    Let me preface this with I haven't read the other responses and am just writing as to how I see and relate to the idea of plant spirits and allies.

    For me plant spirits and allies are very different from animal allies. In part because where animal spirits and allies are individual's mostly plant spirit's and allies are seldom ever individual's but mostly hive or group spirit's or minds. As such the idea or perspective of the individual seem's foreign to them, almost an abomination. Sort of like dealing with an insect where the welfare of the individual is only of concern to the benefit and survival of the hive, colony, etc. Yet even that is wrong in the aspect that the totality of the system supports and cares for all its components yet no one element is of greater or lessor worth if that makes sense.

    I think that our plant allies have a sense of connection to us but also a sense of resentment towards us. A sense of connection in that if we ask them they are more than willing to gift things to us. Need a branch ask and many times a branch, leaf, fruit, etc will be given freely. Don't know how many times I've seen things that have fallen from some plant that I can't imagine how it got broken off or even where it got broken off from. That or speak to a tree or plant about needing to harvest something or needing something and looking over the tree or field and noticing some branch, plant, etc that seems to stand out and pull my attention to it. Not only pull my attention to it but almost seem to "Break" or come apart beneath my fingers with great ease when I take it. Especially if I thank it afterwards or have thanked the "greater" spirit of the area each time in the past for giftings I have gotten before. About the only time I see the resentment aspect is when it is ripping and tearing, especially with malice and hatred, when the gathering is done. Clean cut a branch and the tree doesn't fear or feel much pain. But ripe and tear and the tree screams. Yes, sometimes it can't be helped and I think that is understood. Just as it is understood that sometimes the damaged or injured and rotting part has to be cut away to save the healthy part even though it is going to hurt.

    It's like ingest a plant ally and you don't get the identity of an individual plant but the influence of the entire species "medicine". It's total and complete memory and experience, though it may vary depending upon the quality and presence of the individual plants makeup. The same totality is also derived from the amount that is ingested as to the what influence it will have upon your body and your bodies reaction to it. In some capacity some could say to the extent that the greater spirit of the plant guiding your union and bringing you through the juncture or killing you if you are found wanting. Regardless of the toxicity of the plant. Under one condition the plant allies may embrace you and bring you through another day they may just let you crash and burn, another let you expire all together.

    I believe our plant allies / spirits go through cycles similar to our animal allies yet I think many times we tend to ignore them. Periods where they are toxic to us, periods where we are toxic to them and periods where they are for want of a better term they are journeying and the landscape is supporting them. What I mean by supporting them is think of places where at times it is serene and peaceful then the landscape changes and become lets say brier ridden, nearly impassable and the very air fells hostile then a month or so later its changed again. Not to say there are not areas where we are just not wanted period and the landscape and the plants there make no bones about telling us to stay out. Even to the point of making us violently ill the moment we enter into them, perhaps getting sicker the further we go into them. Yep have actually been into one of those places. Though couldn't rule out sick air as it was a little cul-de-sac in a deep gorge.

    I do think though that at times some plant will reach out to us from either loneliness, perhaps boredom or maybe sympathy. I recall being near a mountain stream in the late winter very early spring with a bit of snow still on the ground and walking around a lake. I had stopped on the way home from work to stretch my legs and was talking to a young weeping willow as a chill hung in the air. No air movement at all and sound just sort of hung still in the air all about the place. But the willow looked sort of lonely and I know I was hurting and just needed to talk and started to talk to it. Had been there for a few minutes when all of a sudden a few of the hanging fronds enveloped me around my shoulders like it was hugging me. Didn't think about it at first then a few more twisted around me and it seemed like the tree sort of shook and shivered a bit. There I was all alone along this stream bed up above this lake on a semi snow covered landscape, no wind, no sounds, no movements under a rather cold grayish sky. Just me and this young female weeping willow with her fronds hugging me. Don't ask how I knew she was a female spirit I just did even though I never once heard her voice. But on that day it was sort of a combination of I needed someone and she needed someone and things brought us together. I stopped and spoke to her many times after that and saw her through the various seasons but nothing as revealing as that day occurred again but I have never forgotten it.

    So plant allies and spirits can be individuals but more often it seems they are group minds. You can collect things from them and they don't mind but many times all you have to do is ask and they gift them to you. But they are not animals so do not respond like animals so when they do respond many times are missed or their response is ignored. The dog may bark and wag its tail to show something where the tree will release a scent or release the subtlest of electrical currents into the ground. But I think many people have plant spirit's and allies but simply do not know how to recognize them any more than they know how to recognize stone allies.
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  6. #6
    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    What happens when two or more plant colonies, each with a group spirit of their own, meet? Might what appears to be a single colony actually be multiple side by side, that it isn't one spirit that has colonized the area through seeding or suckering, but different colonies that have merged?
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
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  7. #7
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    What happens when two or more plant colonies, each with a group spirit of their own, meet? Might what appears to be a single colony actually be multiple side by side, that it isn't one spirit that has colonized the area through seeding or suckering, but different colonies that have merged?
    I think the thing there is they are all plants. It's sort of like asking does the pollen from a rose not pollinate an apple? A Pine tree is different than an Oak tree but they are both tree's. Bamboo is technically grass just like Kentucky blue grass is a type of grass. So they all hail somewhat from the same spirit if you will being plants. In many ways sharing a symbiotic relationship that ties them all together and makes them one within and under the same spiritual energy is how I see it.

    One grass may choke out another grass but it is still grass in the grand scheme of things. So one grass has replaced another grass or they exist together. Same as various tree types exist together within a forest though the hardwoods tend to eventually replace the softwoods if climate and time allows it.
    I'm Only Responsible For What I Say Not For What Or How You Understand!

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    Copper Member Briton's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    Not quite, maybe I wasn't clear. Do the spirits of these plant colonies, if the plants are the same species, do they merge? Or live side by side? Ultimately they will pollinate each other, in which case which spirit spreads in that situation?
    I'm not one to ever pray for mercy
    Or to wish on pennies in the fountain or the shrine
    But that day you know I left my money
    And I thought of you only
    All that copper glowing fine

  9. #9
    Silver Member monsno_leedra's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    For me they are all the same spirit, simply aspects derived from the same super spirit. In that capacity they are not really different though they may seem different depending upon the environment they are residing in and the environmental influences present. Sort of like an area with lots of water will result in plants that grow differently than how plants grow in an area with a more arid environment, yet they are still the same general type of plant.
    I'm Only Responsible For What I Say Not For What Or How You Understand!

  10. #10
    Supporter Jembru's Avatar
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    Re: Plant Spirits

    Wow, thanks for starting this thread Thal! Great idea, and now I have somewhere to share more of my madness with the rest of you!

    Quote Originally Posted by Briton View Post
    Not quite, maybe I wasn't clear. Do the spirits of these plant colonies, if the plants are the same species, do they merge? Or live side by side? Ultimately they will pollinate each other, in which case which spirit spreads in that situation?
    I too believe that they won't 'merge' together because they already were part of the same whole. I'd like to make another point though. Personally I don't think plant and animal spirits are as different as they may seem. From my own experience of working with plant spirits, I agree with everything Rae'ya has said, only in my case, I feel that animals too have a collective spirit, and when we die our memories return to that 'whole' (like Jung's 'Collective Unconscious' or the more controversial Sheldrake's 'Morphic Resonance'). Likewise, plants can at times speak to us as individuals. As Rae'ya has said, this seems to be more common with larger plants like trees, but I have had a single plant speak to me and appear to have its own personality. It's as though animal spirits can behave more 'plant-like' and plant spirits can take on more animal-like qualities. This may just be the way I'm filtering my experiences through my own spiritual world-view though; the spirit of the plant or plants will be responding to the presence of my own spirit, and my spirit interacts with world around me on 3 different spiritual levels. The biggest difference that I can see is that animals tend to only morph between the collective and the individual after death, while plants can do this while living. In both cases, I believe they won't do this unless they are communicating with a living, conscious mind. In fact, as I've stated many times before, I believe there is no consciousness at any level beyond that point of communication.

    I also agree that plants usually don't mind being harvested. Something I love about the herb garden I care for is that it's not just there to show people the kinds of medicinal plants that would have been grown in medieval times, it's also there to be used by the public. That is, so long as they're not digging up the plants roots and all (which sadly has happened in the past), people are welcome to come along and snip bits off to use in their kitchens, or even experiment with for healing (all our herbs have little plaques detailing their medicinal uses). The ladies who run the gardening group feel very strongly that these plants are happiest when they're serving the human community they've been planted by. This definitely seems to be the case. Those plants that are harvested seem to grow much better, rapidly putting out new growth to replace the old.

    Today, we were cutting back the lemon balm because both patches seemed a bit tired (it's not harvested much by the public). While we were doing it I felt uncomfortable, as though I really shouldn't have been cutting it back, despite the others reassuring me that they do it every year and it always bounces back and looks much healthier from it. Reluctantly I kept snipping (although my patch had more stalks left than anyone else's), but the guilty feeling didn't go away. I've cut back plants before and never had this feeling.

    It wasn't until I was home and thinking about it that I realised the discomfort I felt was most likely because we were just throwing the cuttings away. The lemon balm had worked so hard, putting out lovely scented leaves, leaves that should have been taken home, dried, and stored, ready to be made into tea to help stave of those cold and flu symptoms come the winter. I know this probably makes me sound like a madwoman, but I really think we've offended the plant.

    It's too late now, but I'll be sure to keep the leaves next time we cut it back. I'm still just finding my feet in this whole new world of green. I've got a lot to learn yet.
    夕方に急なにわか雨は「夕立」と呼ばれるなら、なぜ朝ににわか雨は「朝立ち」と呼ばれないの? ^^If a sudden rain shower in the evening is referred to as an 'evening stand', then why isn't a shower in the morning called 'morning stand'?

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