Spirit, Nature, and Healing

There are many resources in books, online, and in classes and at conferences about connecting with the spirit of the plants. Rather than simply re-post that information here, we want to share wisdom from Rosemary Gladstar. We asked Rosemary about the importance of intention in working with plants and in healing. Here is her response:

I think one of the most unique places about herbalism and modern herbal healers is that we still maintain that deep connection with the plants. We’re not looking at just single components as being the magic bullets in our bodies. There’s still a deep prayerful relationship, whether you go to the plants and consciously pray or you have awareness with them or just the way you are with them when you’re harvesting them or making your medicine or even giving the medicine. There’s a deep connection with the spirit of the plants. It’s not just that there is a chemical constituent that will cure your condition; it is the relationship that the plant has to us and how those plants have served as our healers for literally thousands of years.

For anyone who works with the plants, whether you’re gardening, or just being with them, backpacking with them a lot, that experience of having a plant communicate with you in some way happens. It takes you by surprise at first, but the plants want to talk to us, they want to help us.

They work on so many different levels in our bodies. Yes, they can work just as chemical constituents, but that’s the least potency that they have.

There are a few really wonderful teachers today who are teaching plant spirit medicine, how to connect with that plant spirit. But you know, mostly I don’t really do that so much. I will send students into the woods and have them sit with plants and meditate, but the way that I really find that sacred plant medicine is most effective is just letting people have the opportunity to work with plants. Because when you develop a relationship with plants, that kind of sacred plant medicine will happen. Just by working with them, they begin to speak to you and you begin to hear them.

It happens when you garden. You know, when people go into the garden, they transform. That’s why so many people garden. They go into that garden and they begin to feel things and be different, and in a way, that’s plant spirit medicine at its finest.

So the way that I teach traditional herbalism, and try to connect people with that plant medicine, is I have them begin to prepare herbs in the way that their ancestors prepared them. I have them collect the plants and make salves and tinctures—all of the traditional skills that have been forgotten. It’s kitchen medicine.

And they’re surprised. They ask, “I can make that tincture? You mean I can make a better tincture that that company can?” Which you can, in your kitchen—and in fact, you can make it stronger. Because when you grow that plant and you pick that plant and you put a little sacred medicine into the soil when you dig it, whether it’s cornmeal or spit or prayer and you take that root out and then you scrub that root and you’re working with that root and you’re giving thanks for its life and then you cut that medicine up like your cutting up the leg or arm of something that’s alive and you feel that in your body and you put that in a jar and you cover it with alcohol, you’ve made medicine the way your ancestors have, the way this medicine has worked. That is so potent. And people always get it. They never not get it. It’s so amazing to see.

That’s why I think I’ve been able to do this for 30 years and never gotten bored or tired of it. I mean when I think about how many years I’ve taught these simple things, what’s the medicine for me? The medicine and what keeps me going and keeps me juiced is when I see this magic happening. It’s the simplest thing, but when I see it transforming people’s lives, it feeds my spirit deeply. I know that they’re going to teach their kids and their kids are going to get it. And that’s how it’s always been done. I hear my grandmother’s voice in me going, “Oh yeah! It’s happening still!”

— Rosemary Gladstar

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