Hey all! I just got back from a retreat center where I kicked off my herbal apprenticeship. I and a small group of fellow apprentices hiked, identified plants, foraged, meditated, made medicinal tinctures, herbal smoking blends, and more!
On the Spring Equinox we had a cleansing fire ceremony where we meditated while my amazingly talented teacher, Becky Lerner (of Plant Spirit Reiki), played her shamanic drum, which was followed with an oracle reading and socializing around a fire. I had never meditated to shamanic drumming and it really does put you in a trance! It blocks out all distractions and makes you turn inward and you feel the sound deep in your bones. Very cool and intense!
My favorite part was getting up before dawn and going on a solo hike in the woods. It was dark and misty with this dreamlike dawn light. I came across a bed of cleavers. This plant is small, upright and a bright yellowish green with circular whorls of leaves covered in sticky hairs which “cleave” to you, hence its name. It makes me think of faeries.
In plant spirit work, you come to see plants as beings. You find that each plant has a unique essence, a spiritual gift or symbolic message for you that can be very personal. I’ve now sat with several plants on my own and in groups and had really remarkable experiences. After meditating and connecting with them in that way, you come to think of them as allies. You pass them and feel their energy. When I feel drawn to certain plants, I take that as a sign that it has medicine to share with me. It adds a spiritual dimension to herbalism and deepens your feeling and connection to nature.
Cleavers was calling to me that morning. It made me think of many youthful beings, with both male and female energy. I got a sense of a guardian spirit which in my minds eye I experienced as a kind upright, noble woman with reddish dark hair and a yellow dress trimmed in green. The energy I felt was one of gentle support. I sat there for a minute and mentally asked permission to harvest them and receive their medicine. I then felt the energies of love and gratitude and sent reiki to the plants for a few minutes before harvesting some to make a tincture later. I made sure to harvest from different spots to I didn’t take too much from any one spot.
Later during our class on Plant Spirit Work, we were given a choice of a few different herbs we could meditate with and interestingly, the class felt drawn to Cleavers as well. We all took Cleavers tincture and meditated with the plant as a group, and afterwards shared our experiences. As I listened to my classmates, my jaw dropped. I hadn’t shared my experience yet, but they were all saying similar things. Most said they experienced it as having a youthful, androgynous energy, primarily the color yellow and green. Some experienced it as an animal or water, but the overall experience was one of support. Wild huh?
If you are curious, Cleavers (Galium aparine) is lymphatic medicine with anti-inflammatory, astringent and diuretic properties. I was just remarking that isn’t it curious, how we can be generally sluggish from our bodies accumulating toxins in winter and nature responds by providing us with an abundance of revitalizing and detoxifying herbs in the spring? You just have to know where to look! 🙂
We harvested stinging nettles too and made pesto. Together we pulverized it (which takes away the sting) and added olive oil, pine nuts and garlic. I tried some with pasta later and my family said it tasted wild and blessed. ❤
Our retreat concluded with a special initiation ceremony in a circle of alder trees in the rain where we were gifted with medicine bags. Such a lovely experience! It was extra special too since we are her first apprentices. My fellow students are all lovely people and I am looking forward to getting to know them all better. As part of my studies, I am to document at least 30 herbs with their medicinal properties and my experience with them. I have the option of blogging them, which I am considering. Let me know if you might be interested in me doing that!