Plant Initiations

by Brooke Sullivan

It is my belief that our plant allies mirror and support the human condition. The main difference is their soft spoken, immobile (planted) nature and selfless action. I also wonder truly, are they selfless? More than humans, that is for sure. Flowers are the plant’s full expression when nurtured in such a way that the highest, most complete aspect of its Self can blossom. I see that they are unique like us with particular purpose and unique shaktis (powers) specific to their nature, habitat, growth pattern and relations. As humans we also have a purpose that we came in with (SvaDharma) and patterns unique to us determined by our environment, tendencies, conscious and subconscious desires. The point I wish to share in this moment though, is that I truly feel in our symbiotic relationship we have to our green allies, it is our consciousness, as we awaken into our highest nature, that mirrors the flowering blooms of plants. And it is the flowering bloom of the plants, that can help us awaken our consciousness!

When I was in Midwifery School we were blessed to be trained by an elder rich in creative initiations. Not a typical school, the House of La Matrona and the beloved teacher/director Whapio was a center of Spiritual Emergence, Empowerment and Supportive Life Rituals. She made us think, question, reveal and become vulnerable. She taught us to sit on our hands and trust the divine as much as to speak our voice to wield like the cutting edge of a sword. My newfound spirituality, connection to community and this rugged path of the healer was like a new born baby swaddled in the center of life’s potential. We had the ability to recreate ourselves, to detangle from old preconceptions and to grab and rip apart the self deprecation that had gripped most of us women. Our teacher, our guide, our midwife… was Granny Raking Bones as much as the White Buffalo Woman and She Who Sits On Her Hands. She taught me, with the wings of the ancient owl leading, how to access my power as a woman, healer, yogini and spiritual midwife. With her wise initiations, this potent, living teacher helped us to break free from our cocoons and emerge newly with fresh eyes, fresh energy and best of all, a fresh start.

It hit me strongly after my meditation today, that this is also the medicine of the flowers. They are catalysts for initiation…into one’s psyche, and for growth in the world. Dr. Edward Bach, the founder of our current flower essence therapy system, taught that by taking a flower essence, or the dew drops collected from the leaves or petals of a blooming plant, we take in their positive virtues. This potent force of energy, a positive light of awareness, when ingested, can rattle our predetermined beliefs to help us shift direction-broaden perspective-see things In A New Light. The Flowers are initiatory by Nature and as a part of Nature, when working with a particular plant, Nature (Prakriti) assists the plant and our Highest Self to activate an awakening. The Divine Essence shines light on our psyche and opens doorways that have been previously closed, helping us to meet challenges with courage, grace and awareness. These plant initiations are a sweet ceremonial fire that let our past go so we can actively take the reigns of our present and lead ourSelves more mindfully into our future.

We don’t always need harsh experiences to access these profound awakenings. We don’t always need to walk barefoot into the desert and starve, to face the coyotes and rattlesnakes to clear our minds of our fears. Our lives are often harsh enough. We don’t always need strong medicines that tear us apart so we have to reconstruct ourselves from scratch, such as the plant entheogens and harsh psychedelics. We don’t always need strong fiery methods although We Do need TO WAKE UP, which IS elemental fire and awareness!! We do need balanced means to continuously challenge our belief systems, mental grooves and actions that keep us perpetually stuck in vicious cycles and downward spirals. The flowers in my opinion, are gentle and safe, yet profound and filled with sage wisdom. Much like a ceremonial fire safe in the constructs of the havan kund, prepared with boundaries, just enough fuel and just enough flame to Not burn the house down, the flowers offer the catalysts, for our own awakening. They offer Divine Initiations right from our homes, our backyards and retreat spaces.

Bad Ass Antiviral: Blend Your Own Empowerment

Bad Ass Antiviral

Elder Berry  (diaphoretic, expectorant, antiviral,  antioxidant, anti-catarrhal) 1 part

Elder Flower (acrid, bitter, cool, diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, de-toxicant) 1 part

Lemon Balm (cooling, spicy, sour, calming, sedative) 1 part

Cleavers (astringent, bitter, cooling) 1 part

Yarrow & Elder Flower Essences  (2 drops each)

1part = 1/2 oz for a 2 oz. bottle

This is one of my favorite blends for those who love to avoid doctors and couching it when the flu season is floating around! My dear friend, teacher and colleague Daisy Marquis (The Shanti School Master Herbalist/Energy Healer) offered a key ingredient to my formula when I first started Vital Yogi Herbals (back in 2011)….the Lemon Balm piece. It is a powerful antiviral, even in just ‘drop’ dosages (2-5 drops/dose), but because it is in the mint family it is also very gentle. At the time I hadn’t worked a lot with Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) but as it is in the magical workings of Nature, as soon as we notice something or fall in love with it, we see it everywhere (which inevitably means in herbalism, it ‘calls’ you left and right, and so you use it left and right!)

I’m giving this formula out  because I feel it is so important to share information these days. Particularly info that is affordable, effective and easy to access. The fact that many of these plants are found right in our own backyards or nearby woods (both east and west coast) is even more enticing. I cannot stress how cool it is to learn about the plants around you!!! It is useful for your own health (as well as family & friends) and breathes a deeper connection and awareness to our Earth. Feeling love for our planet creates a desire to care for it, which as a human race is something we need to wake up to quickly!

When we learn about plants Nature opens up to us, like a book of wisdom or a conversation of depth and beauty. A win-win situation! I know that there is iffy politics around selling herbal medicines (the FDA is cracking down on really amazing herbalists and products right now) but circulating plant knowledge is still positively A-OK…

SO…..if you have made tinctures before and have them sitting on your shelf as simples, this formula is a nice one to concoct on a rainy, craft, or medicine making day. Buy yourself 2oz cobalt blue or amber dropper bottles, labels and a gelly pen. Make some Bad Ass blends for yourself or as gifts for a friend. If you know how to gather these plants (ethically of course and this requires a separate article) & can tincture them (another article), you would do so singly and then mix together. You can also purchase each remedy from your local herbalist (which is way cheaper than Whole Foods or a health food store) and make your own medicine. Its great to have a bad ass antiviral blend handy and tinctures keep for years.

Tincture with Love

Tincture with Love

About the Blend:

Rich with powerful plants that assist our immune system’s optimum performance, the Bad Ass Blend is both tasty & effective. It includes the invaluable Elder (which is a one-plant apothecary in its own right), Lemon Balm (antiviral & tasty nervous system supporter), & Cleavers (known as ‘nature’s first Velcro’ & a powerful blood cleanser). Cleavers are AMAZING in helping move lymph, which is a huge key towards heath. In my yoga classes I like to add a bit of shaking or bouncing to get this system activated. Folks love it.  I think of Cleavers tincture as the plant equivalent to trampoline bouncing in a bottle!! Wheeee!

The flower essences in the formula give additional support on the energetic realm because many physical ailments begin as energy and if not cleared or dealt with, then manifest in the body. Yarrow flower essence helps reweave the energetic fibers that create our aura, which is the subtle counterpart to our skin. Just like the skin, our subtle body protects us from environmental toxins & pathogens. Certain life situations such as traumas and former drug use perforate the aura, leaving open spaces for unwanted energies to attach to us. Yarrow strengthens the aura and the vital inner being in a way that makes this plant an ally as it reminds us of our innate power. I consider it the warrior of the herbal kingdom. The elder flower, another warrior, blooms many tiny flowers in circular white clusters with what appears to be mini arrows in their center. This signature reveals the strength and protection offered by this amazing plant, cultivating our own strength and vitality, particularly with the throat (great for sore or weak throats), the throat chakra (willpower and creative integrity) and the solar plexus (our seat of individual power.)

Slow Down and Eat UP

Its been awhile since I ventured into my kitchen with awe and inspiration. Maybe it is the summer heat or just running around being too busy to hang at the hearth. But my personal desire to stand at the stove or the sink seems to wane every summer, to come back strong again in the fall. When the air begins to get cooler it is as if I could set my watch to it. The magical shift of autumn awakens something very deep and ancient inside of me, changing my connection to relationships and how I give/receive nourishment.  As a result, I have been cleaning and organizing my cabinets, bringing in fall decorations (my corn doll, beeswax candles, orange and red napkins, a cute and kinda scary flying bat) and setting up my kitchen altar. The dust of summer clears to reveal Autumn’s slow-time, spicy beauty!

A Practice to Slow Down: Samavritti

When cooking something in the oven or on the stove, sit down for some pranayama. Take a moment to feel the quality of your inhalation. Let it become soft and smooth, deeply nourishing. Also feel into the quality of your exhalation. Are you breathing out fully or is a bit still trapped in the lungs? Smoothing out to equalize your inhalation and exhalation is one of the most dramatically effective ways to clear the mind and settle the body for a natural pause.  So simple, eh? This simple ‘awareness in the kitchen breath’ is shared by all of the wise ones, from grandmothers to yogins… Enjoy.

Hawthorne: (Crataegus Spp.) IMG_3580

A deciduous tree or shrub, now is the perfect time of year (Autumn) to meet this plant in its full berry glory. Rich in folklore and magical herbalism, the Hawthorne tree was brought to popularity (or unpopularity) in England in the 1600s, when the parliament decided to enforce the Enclosure Acts (parceling off formerly common lands into private lands so the rich could get richer (and yes the poor poorer)). Planted everywhere, the berries (and even the leaves) became staples in the English diet, offering up food/medicine to those with meager diets. The spring leaves and buds were historically referred to as ‘bread and cheese’ by the peasants. The magic of the Hawthorne is ancient, beloved by humans and fairies alike. It offers protection (most have thorns so beware!), guardianship and has the ability to heal the physical-and spiritual-heart. Contraindications for taking Hawthorne are: don’t eat the seeds because they are toxic, and if you are on heart medication it is best to avoid. Hawthorne helps to balance arrhythmia of the heart, strengthens the heart, and can lower or balance blood pressure. It is my favorite cardiac tonic. The berries can be made into syrup, elixirs, cordials and even jelly. I will have that recipe/video in the near future!

Hawthorne Berry Elixir

Take a Pint Jar and fill it halfway with dried or fresh:                                                                                       Hawthorne Berries                                                                                                                                                               Bilberries                                                                                                                                                                                     Rose Hips                                                                                                                                                                                   Hibiscus Flowers                                                                                                                                                                     Goji Berries

Cover the plant matter with Apple Cider Vinegar and then top with your local Honey. Place a square of parchment paper under the lid to protect from rusting and close the jar. Shake every day (or whenever you remember) for 2-3 weeks. This yummy tasting ‘Oxymel’ will be delicious as a Salad Vinegar or even put into a shot glass to sip on for boosting your health.


Plant Study: Mullein

IMG_3575mullein stalk spiral mullein-rosette1

Plant Study: Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Common/Folkloric Names: “Great or Common Mullein” “Lungs of the Earth” “Cowboy/Hippy/Indian Toilet Paper” “Flannel Leaf” “Velvet Dock”

Common Mullein is a reseeding biennial. Although not a native to the US, it has naturalized and can be seen throughout the country. In its first year, the ‘mother’ plant emerges as a rosette of leaves close to the ground, a spiral of green and silver growing from the center outwards. Looking into the rosette one spies the sweetest fuzzy leaves, appearing slightly silvery, as if kissed by the soft moonlight. It feels like childlike wonder to reach into and touch this sweet softness, like Mother Nature’s baby blanket or stuffed teddy bear (hence the name velvet dock or flannel leaf). As the rosette grows, the outer leaves become a deeper green and sometimes lose that silvery color and poofier‘fluff’. These outer leaves are still soft, but in many of the plants, not as fresh and tender-seeming as its center. After a few more weeks the leaves that have spiraled to the outer edges may become more thin, less fuzzy and in a more mature plant, yellow.

The mother plant will appear to die back during the colder months but in truth all of its life force has just gone to bed, down into the soil of the earth. From the same roots the following year, its dead looking rosette fills back with a beautiful green color and grows an additional tall stalk from its center, with spiraling blossoms of five petaled, symmetrical flowers.This stalk is stronger than it looks, sometimes growing straight up like a phallus (hence its more masculine common name  of “Aaron’s Rod”) and at other times (depending on light, stress or genetics) curving a bit or producing smaller stocks from the central stalk. At the end of its second year when the weather becomes colder, the mother plant will return completely to the earth in its final stage of death. However, the seeds from the flowers drop easily to the earth and are not discriminating. They can grow in most soil, both fertile and desolate. This easy seeding and hardiness, not particular to just fertile ground, is the reason Mullein can be found everywhere. It is considered invasive to gardeners who don’t know the benefits of mullein, and don’t use the plant for medicine. Instead they see it as an annoying, wild volunteer, taking over their gardens by growing prolifically amidst everything.

Mullein in its second year can easily be seen by the roadside, as it grows well in wastelands & places of disrupted soil. The beauty of common mullein is that its large taproot descends deep into depleted soils to find and gather essential minerals and nutrients. The taproots gather, then pull the nutrients up and into their fuzzy, furry leaves. This ability to gather nutrients gives mullein the permaculture name of dynamic nutrient accumulator. Due to Mullein and other beloved ‘weeds’ such as red clover, wild oats and comfrey, depleted soil & desecrated land can be returned to balance & vitality. So let it grow!!

**This Post is only 1/2 done! Stay tuned for The Herbal and Psycho-spiritual Medicine this plant has to offer!

Rapid Transformation August 2014