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.