First published in Witchology Magazine, April 2019 issue
As a novice greenwitch and herbalism student, one of the first activities my teacher had us do was walk around the school’s herb garden and “listen” to the plants. She told us to tune into our subtle bodies and feel for one herb that had a message for us. And so I kicked off my sandals and slowly walked barefoot around the dandelion-covered ground, pausing in front of each plant to touch its leaves, smell its fragrance, feel its vibration, and taste its leaf/fruit/flower. It was amazing what I “heard” simply from slowing down to connect with the essence of each plant.
But there was one plant that grabbed me - literally. As I walked past some overgrown vines, eyeing a large African Blue Basil that was buzzing with bees, something grabbed a chunk of my hair, short-stopping my trance-like reverie. I turned to see who was so insistent on my attention, and stared into the sunny, yellow faces and heart-shaped leaves of Black-Eyed Susan. I knew immediately she had a message for me. I stood facing her, grounding down through the soil, reaching out to her roots just beneath my soles. I inhaled the oxygen that Black-Eyed Susan exuded, while she breathed in the carbon dioxide I exhaled. I cleared my mind, opened my heart and asked for her message. Almost immediately, I felt a tightness in my solar plexus and became overwhelmed with anger that triggered a mental image of my parents. I became very aware of the anger I had as a child from always feeling like an alien in a rank-and-file family that never quite understood or accepted my individuality. Black-Eyed Susan wanted me to know that it was time to release that anger because it was holding me back from being in alignment with my own belief systems and values that would help me walk my soul path. And Black-Eyed Susan was going to help me find the courage to do that transformational work.
An hour after beginning that exercise, we were back in the classroom and I couldn’t stop contemplating the symbiosis that just occurred between human and plant. It was a day that I’ll always remember, and even to this day, I have a hard time just walking down the sidewalk without wanting to stop and reach out to each wild weed and exotic cultivar to hear its message. As I’ve matured and my greenwitchery evolved into a lifestyle, the plants continue to be my greatest teachers. The wisdom these Earth Elders hold is available to all who are willing to slow down and listen. I wholly believe that we all have plant familiars who come in and out of our lives at the times we need them most. They might drop a seed pod on your head as you walk past, or captivate you with a beautiful flower, or cause a craving for its fruit, or make a surprise pop up in your yard. These seemingly mundane occurrences are the subtle ways your plant familiars reach out to you.
Of course, communication is a two-way street between all Gaia’s creatures, and you can call out to the plant kingdom to ask your plant spirits to show themselves to you. Here are three ways you can find your plant familiars:
Take A Forest Walk
I’ve found one of the best places to communicate with plant spirits is in their native habitat. I’m also partial to working with plants native to your bioregion as it deepens the connection to the land were plants and people have co-lived and co-evolved for many years. Look for state or national forests/parks, natural areas around your town, wildlife refuges, or even a botanical garden. If you’re so inclined, take off your shoes and get your Earthing on! Planting your soles in soil deepens your terra connection, increasing your sensitivity to the call of your plant spirit. Allow your intuition to lead as you slowly walk around, introducing yourself to the green world surrounding you. Trust your innate knowing when you feel called to a particular plant. Sit with the plant and meditate, breathe, open your energy channels and “listen” to the wisdom your sage new friend wants to give you.
(Be careful about touching or tasting unfamiliar plants; having an appropriate field guide is always a good idea, so you can know how to properly interact with a plant you don’t know.)
Invite Your Plant Familiar into Your Life
Open your energy channels and ask your plant familiar to make itself known. And then start paying attention. You might have a vision during meditation, or your plant familiar might show itself in the dreamworld. You might randomly receive a packet of seeds from your neighbor or become keenly aware of a certain plant already growing in your yard. Stay open to the wide world of ways that your plant can appear to you.
Use a Botanical-Based Tarot or Oracle Deck
As an herbalist and wildcrafter with an extensive inventory of fresh and dried herbs and flower essences, I often consult my herbal Tarot deck to help guide me toward a medicine that can help restore an imbalance that I am or a client is experiencing. I love this method because it helps me tap into the spiritual side of our holistic health. There is a wide array of plant-based Tarot and Oracle decks for you to explore. One of the newest being an Oracle deck designed by Maia Toll that accompanies her new book The Herbiary, which is a beautifully illustrated herbal that offers plant-based spiritual guidance and rituals.
Finally, when your plant familiars show up for you, do the same in return. Make offerings to your plant spirits: leave a strand of your hair on their leaves, place crystals on their soil, feed them with your monthly lunar effluence. Nurture your relationship to your plant familiars, and hold gratitude in your heart for the teachings of these spirit guides.
Now that you've learned about the Astrological Archetypes existing in nature, our psyche, and the whole human experience, we look to the birth chart to see how those archetypes show up for us as individuals and as a collective throughout time and space.
Your birth chart is a snapshot of the sky at the exact moment you exited the womb. The placement of the celestial objects, points, zodiac signs, and the geometric angles they make to each other serves as a map and guide of your soul's journey. To access a free birth chart, you can visit www.astro.com. Having an exact birth time is necessary while the general city or region is ok.
When studying the birth chart, it's typical to take a geocentric perspective, meaning that the birth chart is viewed as if Earth (You) were the center of the universe and all the planets are moving around us. Its also important to note that we perceive the birth chart from a bird's eye view - as if we were looking down on the birth chart - so the left side of the chart is considered the Eastern hemisphere, the lowest part of the chart is the Northern hemisphere, the Western hemisphere is the right half, and the Southern hemisphere is at the top of the chart.
When you look at the chart, you see a circle divided into 12 slices - usually unequal but that depends on the house system you use (topic for another article) - with the zodiac signs going around the outside of the circle and glyphs (symbols) for the celestial objects placed inside the circle. You may also see lines connecting 2 glyphs - these represent the aspects, which are the conversations being had by the represented planets. For simplicity purposes, we're going to break down the birth chart into 3 parts for this article: the celestial objects and points, houses, and zodiac signs.
Astrology takes into account a wide variety of planets, asteroids, stars, imaginary points in the sky and more. The main ones used are the sun, moon, Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, Chiron, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, and the lunar nodes. These objects represent things about ourselves and the collective, such as our personal belief systems (Jupiter) and values (Venus) and the beliefs and values of a collective or generation. How these "things" show up for us depends on the house and zodiac sign they fall into in our birth chart, as well the aspects (angles) to other planets/points in the chart.
The houses are shown by the 12 divisions made into the chart. Each of the 12 parts represents an area of life, your psyche, or human experience. The first line is considered the one on the Eastern horizon. The zodiac sign that this line falls on, is known as your Rising sign or your Ascendant and it encompasses the First House. The next line starts the 2nd house, and so on until you get to the last 12th house cusp. The line starting the 4th house is called the Imum Coeli (IC) or the Nadir, while the 7th house cusp is the Descendant (DC), and the 10th house cusp is the Midheaven or Medium Coeli (MC).
While there are housing systems that divide the houses into equal parts, many systems don't. Each astrologer has their own housing system preference according to the type of astrology they practice or the type of astrological chart being cast.
The zodiac signs also divide the circle into 12 parts, which don't necessarily align with the houses. There are 30 degrees in each zodiac sign and the signs make up the ecliptic path that the sun follows throughout the year. The planets and moon also stay in close proximity to the ecliptic path, while moving through each zodiac sign at different speeds. When houses and planets occupy a specific zodiac sign, that planet/house exhibits the style of that zodiac sign. For example, the house occupied by Capricorn often shows the part of life where you can have the most challenges, but also learn the greatest lessons and reap the biggest rewards.
Reading the chart requires you to weave together the different parts of the birth chart by blending together the archetypes of each house, planet, and zodiac sign. Further insight comes through the aspects that each planet/point is making to other planets/points. These aspects are conversations between archetypes that expand on the story of your soul. In Part 3 of Astro Virgins we'll dig deeper into aspects and how to understand them.
I don't head off to a church/temple/synagogue/place of worship every week. Nor do I religiously read the Bible/Torah/Vedas/Any Sacred Text. I don't abide by any strict dogma that governs my free will.
But I do believe in morality. I do believe in doing no harm. And I do see the divine and unity in all that exists. I feel the benevolent, creative source residing in all matter. And I do believe it's deserving of recognition and praise through regular spiritual practice. It's why I intentionally cultivate and practice my own rituals designed to nurture my spirit and show reverence for the cosmic and earthly realms.
When it comes to cultivating your own spiritual practice, what you do and how you do it are completely up to you. I'll share some ideas for daily rituals and practices you can do in a future post. But if you really want to be successful at connecting with God/the Universe/your intuition/your higher self/(fill in your own blank), consider these three things first:
Determine What Is Sacred
The first step in cultivating your personal spiritual practice is deciding what's sacred to you. Personally, I find the divine in nature and tune into the natural rhythms and cycles of my inner and outer worlds. Everything vibrates at a certain frequency, and it's up to you to find those frequencies resonating with you. To do that, pay attention to what floods you with pure joy: you may find it in a philosophy of your own creation, you might deeply resonate with Buddha's teachings, or perhaps you see the divine in a unicorn-shaped rock in your backyard. You're an ever-evolving spiritual being in a very magical, mysterious world so allow yourself to flow naturally.
Practice Rituals Regularly
Having certain acts of devotion are how you can mindfully set your intentions. While you're conducting your rituals, be completely in the moment, visualizing and feeling your intention. Your rituals can be as simple as lighting an incense each day or as a complex as crafting a church-style ceremony. As a personal practice, it's up to you how often you complete these rituals: daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, seasonal. Choose what feels good to you and fits into your schedule in a way that doesn't make you feel stressed. After all, your practice is a time to let go of inner and outer stressors.
It's called a practice for a reason. Resolving to take time and effort away from the mundane world's endless grind is challenging for many of us. But no matter how much you talk about doing something, nothing manifests unless you put some Mars energy and action behind it. Just like you show up to work and to pick the children up from school - show up for your practice. You have the freedom to carve it into your life in a way that fits perfectly - so really, you have no excuse.