of rattles and ritual


How I went from curious herbalist to bev-loving plant witch, Part 2

(See Part 1 here)

That is how I found myself sitting cross-legged in a circle, shaking a rattle and sliding down the trunk of a tree in my consciousness, landing with a thud in the Lower World. 

It would be false to say that, when a farmer friend told me about this apprenticeship program offered by a local shaman (?!), I realized that my teacher had appeared and that this path would help me connect with plants in the way I wanted to. 

Nope. That didn’t even occur to me. I almost didn’t do it (farming took a lot of time, after all). I joined because two of my close friends were doing it, and I didn’t want to be left out. 

 Thus I learned to sing the songs of stones and trees, visit the spirit of the land, journey to meet the spirit of a plant, ask questions of my ancestors, and access a whole Upper and Lower World’s worth of wisdom.

I began paying attention to, if not actually celebrating, the seasonal holidays. I acquired ritual objects and took joy from caring for them.

  I was shifting into a new way of Being.

 I vividly remember the first time that I received an insight about a medicinal use for a plant that I had not read in a book. The plant was feverfew, a ferociously bitter herb that is often only discussed as helpful for chronic migraines. I did not have chronic migraines, but I delighted in feverfew’s feathery leaves and forthright flowers. 

 That day, I was making myself a cup of ferociously bitter tea. I was jolted by a message: “I can help the uterus to shed fully.”

 The uterus, you see, does not always shed efficiently during menstruation, and sometimes blood is left behind, to be shed in the next cycle. Feverfew told me that a few cups of tea drank toward the end of menstruation can help the uterus to shed fully. Huh. I investigated, and it made sense: feverfew was very bitter, after all, and bitter herbs tend to have an emmenagogue effect to some degree. 

 I treasured this insight, holding it close to my chest, warm with the feeling that I was opening my heart to plants, beginning to channel their messages. 

If only I knew what was to come…

... check out Part 3 “why radical plant empathy actually sucks” for the next part of the story!

P.S. The photo above is of an earthenware bowl I had bought years prior in a market in Cusco. The bowl, and the incense that came with it, are for offering thanks to Pachamama. I didn't realize how into rituals I was at that point, but of course, looking back, it all makes sense.