I have been gathering and harvesting St. Joan’s Wort, Hypericum perforatum for over twenty years now. This plant is a European immigrant and thought by some to be a noxious weed. What is really true about this plant is that she is an amazing healer offering us a type of nourishment for the soul.
St. Joan’s Wort is a nervous system nourisher. Not only does she heal the nervous system but also the liver, immune system, energetic system, healing thoughts, emotions and spirit. The beautiful yellow flowers reveal within them, a deep magenta-red substance who’s smell calms and who’s medicine is like no other.
You can find this plant growing along
roadways, in ditches and vacant lots. You will be quite fortunate if she will grow in your garden. We have St. Joan’s Wort growing on the island where I live and I know it to be the most potent I have ever wildcrafted.
St. Joan’s Wort is a summer solstice plant. You will find her blooming as early as late May and as late as the end of July. We harvest her when there are about half flowers and half buds all over her. I take a jar out to the place she grows and pluck flower and bud and place them in a quart jar, filling the jar at least two-thirds full. At first the task seems so tedious, but don’t be discouraged by this because soon, the deep magenta substance within her flowers and buds will penetrate through your skin and you will become relaxed and happy to continue this job long after you need to.
I make infused olive oil for massage and to add to healing salves. And I make tincture with organic alcohol. The infused oil is pain-relieving and uplifting. The tincture is calming and centering, also anti-viral.
When making the infused olive oil, I use organic olive oil when I can. After the jar is two-thirds full of her beautiful buds and flowers, I pour organic olive oil over this to the top and cover with a lid. I watch this oil and continue to top it off as the oil soaks into the plant materials. You can toss the jar up and down occasionally also. This I let sit for six weeks and then I strain it through a sieve with a cloth, squeezing out the oil. You now have a deep red healing oil that is wonderful for massaging into the skin.
When making the tincture, I pour organic alcohol at about 70% over the jar-filled buds and flowers. Within a minute or two, the liquid turns a very deep red. Fill this jar to the top and let it sit for six weeks. Strain as above and you have amazing healing tincture. One of the most precious medicines we have.
I am a student of shamanism, an apprentice to shamanic teachers that guide me through the everyday world of the plants into something much deeper and more expansive. St. Joan’s Wort connects us to the soul of who we are.
After a two week intensive shamanic training in California many years ago, the question that kept coming to me is, “What is the soul?”. I asked several people but was not satisfied with any of the answers.
A few years after this training, I was down on our land
on Whidbey Island, on the Summer Solstice, drumming
in the early morning. As I walked back up toward my
house, I looked up at the sun rising in the east and the words came to me, “The sun is the soul.” This teaching brought me into union with St. Joan’s Wort and her teachings. I understood her to be a guide, a bridge and a healer of our connection with our soul’s journey.
The Soul’s Journey and St. Joan’s Wort ~ Three Shamanic Exercises
1. Fully Connected with Who You Are: Go outside on the land. Walk until you find a place that you are drawn to stop. Sit or stand and notice your breath, breathing 3 breaths in and out. Bring attention to the sun and call in its energy, bringing it down through the top of your head, down your spine through your entire body and down into the earth. Now bring attention to earth’s energy, calling it up through the base of your spine up through your entire body and out the top of your head. Do this 21 times, breathing in and out naturally. When this is com- plete, acknowledge your soul, its energy and ask, “Who am I?” and listen. Offer gratitude when complete.
2. The Soul Field: Find a St. Joan’s Wort Plant, ask permission and harvest a bud or two. Find a place to sit or stand. Squeeze the bud of the plant, releasing the purple-red substance. Paint this ont0 your third eye and the bottom of your feet. Bring attention to your soul field and breathe 21 breaths.
3. The Soul’s Journey: Sit or stand near the St. Joan’s Wort plant. Breathe three breaths, then breathe with the plant for seven breaths. Ask, “What have you for me?” with the intention of asking about your soul’s journey.
Soul Retrieval ~ Shamanic Exercise with St. Joan’s Wort
- Imagine your soul field again. Get a picture of it in your mind’s eye.
- Look around at this image, is there a place on it that appears closed or disturbed?Breathe into that.
- Bring the image of the St. Joan’s Wort plant to the image and continue to breathe.
- Allow the plant and your intention to unlock it.
- Now you can ask this place for information.
- When complete, offer gratitude for the plant and open your eyes.The work with the soul is work that is beyond what we imagine the soul to be.
What I mean by this is that you must have an open mind and heart to do this work. In shamanic work, things are revealed that have been buried and that we have no idea about until the unearthing of them. This is beautiful and it can also be challenging.When doing this work with this very potent plant teacher, take time to allow what is revealed and explore it further with writing, drawing, movement or voice. Talk to trusted friends and advisors about what you discover.One of the things I have discovered in my shamanic connections with the plants is that each plant offers a unique gift to those that connect. I have discovered a world beyond the ordinary reality of medicinal properties that most people think of when they talk about healing with plants.
The shamanic exercises offered above will lead you into this expansive reality. From this, the door will be open for more explorations with many more plants.
Another important aspect of shamanic herbalism is that we not only work with the plants as teachers and guides, we also gather and prepare the plants for healing medicines. Taking the plants in is a vital part of learning the ways of each plant.
When you work with St. Joan’s Wort in the expansive way offered by these shamanic listening exercises and the herbal crafting techniques, you will discover more deeply who you are.
May it be in Beauty.