“If you love anything enough, it will give up all of it’s secrets to you.” – Kahuna Auntie Margaret
At one time all people knew how to commune with plants. They were not seen as objects to be used at our own discretion, but were known to be wise beings, helpful and willing to share their gifts if approached with love and respect. As the western world shifted its focus to technological advances and modernization they lost sight of earth biased practices and the awareness necessary to communicate with the plant kingdom, but fortunately this skill can be easily learned.
Native peoples around the globe still know the gifts that the plant kingdom hold due to an indigenous world view that is based on valuing nature as a living, thriving community of sun, sky, earth, water, plants, animals, humans… all living in harmonious relationship, as one family on our mutual mother, planet earth.
I have had the honor of studying with traditional native healers and have been teaching people how to communicate with plants for over 20 years. Without exception, every person I have taught, that put forth a sincere effort, has successfully interacted with the plant kingdom. Most have experienced a significant shift and deepening of their spirituality and appreciation for the natural world.
Communing with Plants: here are some simple steps to help you start:
1. Before you tread out to meet the plant kingdom, bring with you an offering/gift for the plants. Loose leaf tobacco is recommended (FYI you will not be smoking the tabacco). Traditionally speaking, tobacco’s gift to the world is to hold and carry prayers and the plants highly value that ability. If you object to using tabacco, feel free to bring another gift of value, a sacred herb, water, blessed corn meal, and coins are all appropriate gifts to offer.
2. Take a walk, preferably in an area where the plants are growing wild and untended. See which plant looks appealing to you. Are these plants calling you to them? Do these plants have something you need that they would like to offer you? Select an elder plant to give your offering to, but do not collect from that plant, gather from a middle aged plant (not too young or to old) for they hold mature and strong medicine.
3. Speaking out loud, introduce yourself to the plant sincerely, for example, ” My name is Kate VrMeer and I live in Santa Fe, NM. I come before you in a humble way, with an open heart”.
4. Now create a friendship with the plant by admiring its beauty, acknowledging the plants community, and respecting their territory. Getting to know a plant or any aspect of nature is similar to creating a relationship with a human.
5. With offering in hand, pray for the plant something like this, “Beloved (name of the plant if you know it), I humbly come before you with this offering of tobacco. I pray that you and your community are protected and respected, and receive everything you need. May the water that feeds you be pure and plentiful, and the air you breathe be fresh and clean. May you and your community thrive and live in peace”. Now sprinkle your gift (in this instance tobacco) around the plant. You have just created a beautiful relationship with your plant.
Harvesting Plants (Please read the entire section below before harvesting)
6. After you pray for the plant, tell the plant the purpose and reason you are collecting the plant before asking if you may gather it. For example: “Beloved Juniper, may I collect your scales (leaves) to be used as a smudge to purify and protect me, my loved ones and my home?” You will find that this pleases the plant. The energetic light around the plant intensifies, you feel a warm feeling in your heart. A light wind may blow your way or a bird may fly by. All are signs of Juniper signalling to you, ” Yes! You may harvest me, and I in return will empower my foliage with gifts/good medicine for you to use and share with humanity.”
If by chance you followed all the steps but experienced a cold or flat response to your request you probably asked the plant to do something it doesn’t do. For instance, if you asked me to paint you a mural, I would have to decline, because I am not skilled in that area. Plants offer many gifts but unless you are a plant whisperer (and some people are) you must first do your research and find what their individual medicine/gift is before collecting.
Many people with the ability to listen and learn from Nature, will hear the plants tell them directly what the plants medicine is and how to use it. Respected medicine man, the late Rolling Thunder, was so gifted in this area that not only could he receive and understand the medicine of a plant that he had never been introduced to before, but if he needed a specific plant to heal with, it would appear for him, even in the cold of winter. Indigenous peoples did not learn the gifts of plants through trail and error but through direct communion with the plant kingdom, visionary dreams, and by passing this sacred knowledge on through oral traditions.
7. Before collecting, apologize to the plant for taking it’s life and apologize to its community for their loss. Collect in a way that benefits the plant, as in evenly trimming a tree. Only gather in abundant areas, if there are only a few plants leave them alone. Please, always gather your plants responsibly and never take more than you will use.
8. After collecting your plants allow them to dry in a brown bag or pillow case in a closet or dark room away from direct light. Light will break down the properties of the plant and allow the oils to evaporate.
Harvesting your own plants for personal use is the best way to receive the full benefits of a plant. Wild, local plants have the strongest medicine; first, because they have had to be full of power just to survive in a wild environment; and secondly, because they grow in the same conditions that you do and therefore know what you need to be strong and vibrant.
As a general rule, do not harvest more than one plant in a day, especially when you are first learning to work with plants.
The park system does not allow the harvesting of plants; therefore you will need to do your collecting on private land with the owners permission.
Click on Creating Sacred Space to discover plant uses and learn about smudging.
For more information please consult these excellent books:
“Rolling Thunder Speaks: a Message for Turtle Island,” Chapter “A Medicine Man’s Rx”, by Rolling Thunder and Edited by Carmen Sun Rising Pope
“Plant Spirit Medicine,” by Elliot Cowan
Books written by the South West herbalist’s Michael Moore
“Native Healer”, by Medicine Grizzly Bear
“The Nature Way”, by Corbin Harney