The Autumn Equinox has brought cool nights and graciously is bringing us warm days. The maples are turning yellow, golden and brown. The seeds of many plants are ripening as are the bountiful apples. What a blessing the earth brings to us for the season of returning.
This time of the equinox is the time when the earth’s energy returns to the ground. The energy is within and within. The roots of the plants begin potently stirring with wisdom. The fall berries are gaining vigor. Wild rose hips and Hawthorne berries are now full-bodied and ready to gather.
The season of returning. We may look inside and have heartfelt connections in the invisible worlds. In old stories that I have read, it is the time when Persephone enters the underworld. She journeys through the darkness to the deepest, darkest place to discover the wisdom of the crone.
I have been teaching shamanic herbalism for more than 20 years now. I have discovered that it is this time of year that brings the most potent teachings for someone studying to be an herbalist.
Of course the spring energies bring the return of the green and flowers and the summer energies bring the growth and expansion of the plant world. But it is this time of year when the apples ripen and things begin to die back to the earth, that the true nature of herbalism is revealed.
When I first started studying about herbs, I thought I had to learn what herbs do, what their traits were and how to utilize them to heal. I kept pushing at that perspective and way of being with the plants for many years until I had enough experience with the land that I realized that just one plant and its wisdom could be enough to teach me all I need to know about herbalism.
Instead of pushing further and further into learning more herbs, I pulled back to the land and the daily adventure of listening. I live amongst nearly an acre of wild roses. Year by year, day by day, I havespent time in the wild rose thicket. The roses continue to teach me over and over, ways of being, new perspectives and ways of healing.
My apple tree, where we gather for outside classes, teaches me again and again about how to love myself and be compassionate. Today in fact, she told me about how to see death as the turning inward of energy. Her fruit nourishes us here. Her branches shade us in summer. She is a protectress of the work that we do together.
And so to become an herbalist one needs to return to the land and listen. To breathe the breath of the plants one by one. “What have you for me?” you may ask a blade of grass, a dandelion, a blackberry vine or tall fir tree. Taking time to receive an answer take s patience and presence.
It is in these simple acts of listening and being that we come into alliance with the plants. When you begin like this, the plant world welcomes your breath and you can say you are an herbalist.
What of herbal medicine? What about all those properties of St. Joan’s Wort, Dandelion, Skullcap, Calendula? When you begin by greeting each plant, acknowledging its breath, listening and receiving, then you will learn the plant’s medicine. It takes time. It takes coming into a place of not-knowing. It takes trust.
This autumn time of change and return is when the deep wisdom of the plants become available. This is a powerful time.
Beginning the Path of Shamanic Herbalism:
- Spend time outside in this autumn energies noticing the changes taking place on the earth. Bring attention to your breath and breathe in these energies.
- Notice the seeds of many plants. Notice the sizes and shapes, the colors and textures of the seeds.
- Be with everything outside with as little disturbance as possible. Take time, be….don’t harvest, don’t pick anything, just be.
- Acknowledge the plants as beings just like you are a being.
- Walk barefoot.
You will notice that I am not suggesting to harvest anything like the roots, berries and fruits. Of course, we are doing this and will do this throughout the fall. But there is an energy of presence that you can evoke outside so that you are not a taker. It is an energy of being in partnership with each plant, each invisible presence, each winged insect.
This presence will allow you to be in harmony with the earth in such a way that you become tuned in with its energy. You will begin to know when it is time to harvest and when it is time to let rest. Your own intuition will be sparked so that you will begin to know yourself more intimately as you develop intimacy with the plants and earth.
Breath, attention, intention, listening……..
May it be in Beauty.