Tag Archive: herbs

Garden old (2)

Repost from Summer 2009/gathering past essays for a book.  Stories from our garden “weedwalk” !

The June 7th workshop on the wild weeds/herbs–Your Magic Garden: From Muggles to Mugwort— was a success! There were 9 of us which is great for a personally sponsored event such as this and everyone was very excited, going home to scout out the wild weeds on their own property, after we went on a weed walk right here identifying and learning about 28 healing plants. Everyone was amused and somewhat intrigued by the greeningspirit notion and practice of sitting and listening/talking to the plants in an inter-species dialogue, a semi-shamanic skill.

This will be an ongoing series each month, everyone inspired in between to further investigate in their own way, in their own yards and neighborhoods.

Margie, a research Librarian, called yesterday to tell me she found a book at her library that she took out immediately . It is called The Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. I will install Margie as our “dark arts” reference Mistress. (Margie has always been a forager, eating violet leaves, red clover blossoms, wood sorrel etc for her vitamins.) She really is a woman of good intent and a faithful Episcopalian but it’s good to be well-rounded.

Amidst a stand of lily-of-the-valley in her yard,Leyla discovered mugwort and is planning to make a tea from this herb of dreamers and wisewomen. Altho we do not use lily-of-the-valley in this country’s folkloric herbal tradition,  it is a premier cardiac ally, used by skilled practitioners in Europe. I suggest she honour this plant in spirit, for good-heartedness and kindness. Mugwort, however, is an herb of the wise elder woman and the herb of dreamers, as well as a digestive aid.

Julie who is once again set back and in pain with fibromyalgia is given over today to the simplest of tasks to mindfully and respectfully gather nettles for a tea, paying attention especially to the plant’s message to set up proper personal boundaries, even “stinging” when necessary to defend and preserve the sacred “time out” needed when you are depleted and in need of silence and stillness for healing.

Carolyn who is NOT a gardener but came along for the ride said the experience confirmed for her that she hates tromping through the woods and being outside where it’s buggy but that she really wants a puppy.

We don’t seem to be able to find Elaine, assuming that she is still out in her wild fields singing to the blackberry vines from whose berries she makes her famous blackberry cordial.

Helen, emerging Wildwoman, lives with a husband who is an engineer by profession. I am told that engineers love straight lines and linear thinking. Helen, who went right home with excitement to meet and greet her very own wild plant allies, is very frustrated to realize that her whole yard is “way too cultivated” and there is not a corner of wildness there having been put to order by her partner’s dedicated use of chemically engineered products of wild-weed eradication. She alerted me that she will be sneaking around my place after dark to dig up some wildness from here to bring over there and tuck in to un-obtrusive corners.

Martha has reported in:  She says that she found herself smiling throughout the whole weedwalk with great delight and excitement because she kept thinking “THIS is what I have been looking for! ” Having gone through a very major health crisis a number of years back, she has been concerned about keeping her body healthy and whole, yet still cautious about invasive medical techniques or relentless drug therapies that don’t allow much personal involvement and participation in keeping oneself healthy. She is looking forward to learning more about the nourishing and healing gifts of the plantword and the wild weeds.

Ruthanne, who herself has a magical mystique about her in every way, was very intrigued by the idea that there are plant “spirits” in the garden just waiting for communication with us, if we learn how to slow down and listen. I think she found it a very comforting concept that these faeries, devas or “friends” are here, with a very old wisdom to teach us new things.

I myself am re-reading The Medicine-Maker’s Handbook, an enchanting guide by an enchanting premier herbalist/educator, James Green. I am delighted by his warmth and humour and wealth of knowledge which is down-to-earth, accessible and full of love for both the plants and people.

Our second class in the series will be in July…and we hope to have some new attendees to share with! The theme for this class will be  on  “Communicating with 

From Christine, the Greening Spirit

Keeper of Mysteries

What happens when your authentic soul path leads away from your traditional roots?  A little memoir  about following or including different Paths in search of the Great Mysteries : “All that is Hidden, All That is Plain: A Personal Story”.

Please go to my new companion website to follow this thread: www.thegreeningspiritmysteryschool.com   *click on the post title there to read or leave comments. Thank you!

I bet many others have their own stories on following a path of Authentic Unfolding!

***Sunday, July 12 3-5pm YOUR MAGIC  GARDEN: The Wild Weeds and Herbs (Session 2) will be held at the Greeningspirit’s place. The teachings for the day will be: Communicating with the Plant Spirits (an exercise…bring a folding chair and notebook), Imagination and Play in the Garden,  and Honoring the Path of SLOW “Good Medicine: The making of herbal teas and decoctions. Participants from Session 1 will hopefully share  their own Magic Garden experiences since the last meeting!  (Raindate: Monday  July 14   6:30-8:30 pm)***

Cost : $30 Pre-registration necessary. E-mail cphoenixrising@earthlink.net with the header “Your Magic Garden!” Leave a phone number please!

“GOOD MEDICINE” is Wellness Medicine!

Morning Tea! Nettles, Mugwor, Red Clover

Morning Tea! Nettles, Mugwort, Red Clover

In the ancient Chinese medical system using herbs and sometimes strange ingredients from nature, the job of the doctor was to keep the Emperor well and in good health, NOT to fix him after he got sick! In fact, it is said, perhaps anecedotedly, that if the Emperor became ill, the doctor lost his job, if not his head. If that were so in this culture, we might have more than a few doctors running around, shall we say,” mindless”  since there is an emphasis in our allopathic medical system on “Fixing” rather than preventing. However, to be totally fair, it must be said that a major  part of the responsibility for staying healthy is on each one of us to practice “Good Medicine” in our daily lives through proper diet (REAL food, and at regular peaceful intervals), exercise, a spiritual practice,  and knowledge and use of the natural “medicines and nourishments” from the plant allies around us.

One has to be careful in this culture with the word “medicine”  so let me be clear that what I primarilly mean by this word is what indigenous peoples mean by this word in it’s highest meaning. “Good Medicine” is that which keeps you Well and Healthy in the first place, and secondarilly that which nourishes and brings you back into balance when you have been stressed into illness. The herbal allies after all, have been the basis for medical pharmacopeias in all cultures across the centuries. According to the World Health Organization several years back, it was noted that 80%  of the world’s population still practices “Green Medicine” for the common maladies that are part of our lives as we flow back and forth between being balanced and unbalanced as part of the stresses and challenges and celebrations of human living.

At this time, I am one of many people, who due to the work and economic chaos we are in, have found myself for the first time without health insurance. It is therefore very necessary for me to practice “Good Medicine” to take care of myself in all the ways that will build me up to stay on my feet and engaged in life with vitality and vibrancy. For instance, recently after a bout of intestinal distress, my digestive system was very irritated and sensitive. Two days of an herbal tea of comfrey leaf, mugwort, skullcap, meadowsweet, and spearmint  soothed all discomfort and brought my system back into a normal state, without the use of over the counter medications which actually mask the symptoms but do not bring healing.

My own “Magic Garden”  full of the wild and cultivated herbal allies serve as both a nutritional and medicinal resource, as well as grounding me in my connection to both the spiritual, magical and natural world that has been gifted to us  by the Great Beneficense, God, the Great Spirit, Mother Earth. For me, both that spiritual and earthly connection is part of my personal Wellnes Program, keeping me grateful, full of imagination and wonder, and giving me hope always, knowing that I am participating in my own health care.  It is a form of self-empowerment that spills over to many areas of my Life and I am very grateful to be able to experience this personally and pass on that wisdom to others in my community.

***On Sunday, June 12, our little band of Greeningspirits will regroup here for Part 2 of Your Magic Garden: The Wild Plants and Herbs to empower themselves and their families. Studying together in this way delights us all as we make Community with the GreenSpirits in the garden, as well as the GreeningSpirits of our new friendships with each other…all part of “GOOD MEDICINE” for sure! (New friends are welcome). Veriditas! Christine

Faeries? Fairies? Fayries? A surprise in YOUR MAGIC GARDEN!!


   Well, in our workshop  “From Muggles to Mugwort: Your Magic Garden/the Wild Herbs and Weeds”,   everyone was interested in the medicinal properties of the wild plants in the garden and woods. However there was a lot of playful fascination with the idea that we can  communicate with the spirits of the plants if we are respectful, humble and sit, listening, with quiet and earnest hearts. 

Over the days following the workshop, we have kept in touch and there have been a number of little stories of “green magic” as the participants went home to their own gardens to find good medicine and plant allies on their land, bringing a sense of delight and childlike wonder to what used to be an  “ordinary” way of seeing things…from Muggles Mind to Mugwort Mind!

However, when I went to develop several pictures of our time together here I must admit I was more than a little surprised. “Jewelweed Julie” had come the evening before the workshop to help me clear the Teasel bed which was totally overgrown.  A fierce and knowleable detangler, she worked in the garden untiil past dark to make a path in that wilderness so we could get in there during the workshop to meet Teasel who we are investigating as an ally for those dealing with Lyme disease. It was a gentle foggy night, but not raining…I took 3 pictures of Miss Julie, one right after the other from different directions…this picture was the 2nd  one and when I printed out the photos,  were we shocked to see these little plant spirit orbs,  either emerging out of the green, and drifting off to the right  where they wouldn’t be disturbed further OR coming in from the right to hide out in the green for the night! We have examined these with magnifying glasses, and none of us are sure what we are seeing, but in the many years I have spent with other greeningspirit folk, I will say that I have ocassionally seen such mysterious little translucent images caught on film (probably not intentionally..they are shy)…and whether they are, or they aren’t…we usually give in to a sense of childlike imagination and play, and call them Fairies, or…Faeries….or  Fayries. What might you call them?    ; – )

The state of healthcare in this country is in a mess! The economy is in a mess! I personally have become one of the millions of self-employed people who have lost health care because of what is happening now, caught at the dangerous and chaotic crossroads of cultural breakdown and the as yet uncertain new direction and possibility for overhaul and renewal. I am fortunately quite healthy and in the unusual position of being past “midlife” and on no medications whatsoever. Yet, in this culture, being without health insurance is cause for anxiety and for many people whose medical and medications needs are great, terrifying.

I am also an herbalist, and a lover of the Earth and in this, I am able to work past some of the feelings of vulnerability and helplessness by drawing on the indigenous traditions and knowledge that lead us into nature and our gardens for healing of body and spirit through the wise use of wild plants, herbs and home grown vegetables. Whether it is conscious or not, there is a trend culturally that seems to point to this emerging awareness of seeking wellness by going back to our natural “roots” as it were… farmers’ markets are emerging in odd lots with a delightful feel of festivity in many local communities, garden centers are everywhere, their herb sections are overflowing and enticing passers-by. People are drawn to them as if magic, altho often one will over-hear the statement…”I am not sure what to do with these or what they are for….”. The interest in Heirloom Vegetables (grown for flavour and immediate consumption from the garden rather than tasteless long distance transport and shelf life) reveals an emerging interest in both sensuous nutritional savouring and the fascinating histories that come with the “seed savers” movement. In all this is a fierce, tho possibly unrecognized, call to independence, natural values, connection with the earth, and desire for beauty and wellness in forms that are free from the rigid structures and indoctrination of the industrial, multinational and advertising conglomerates that have shaped our consumerist consciousness and that is often misleading, false, and downright dangerous to a healthy way of Life.

A case in point is the Dandelion..one of Nature’s most glorious healing plants both from a medicinal and culinary point of view…which, by the way…is what all natural food should be. In native culture the word “medicine” is not used for what fixes you after you are broken or sick. ”Good medicine” is what keeps you whole and healthy so that you don’t get sick! The Dandelion, is both food and good medicine. And the Dandelion is in DANGER! Except for those artistic gardeners for whom a perfect green turf is part of an aesthetic creation, the Dandelion is in danger by the cultural thoughtforms and the market that is “status” driven and has convinced us that a perfect bountiful green lawn is equal to a perfect bountiful GREEN bank account! A sneaky was to “strut your stuff” and success by a very patrician standard. Dandelions are wild and free and “mar” the image of perfection and wealth ( do only the riff-raff have “untidy” and wild lawns?)…therefore a thought form that emerges in the competitive neighborhood one-upmanship and is culturally sanctioned is: “ let’s eradicate that threatening force by calling in the chemical assassins of green imperfection”! I cringe every time I see an advertisement on television for weed killers that graphically, tho in playful colorful cartoon imagery, shows us the wilting/dying of a once joyous dandelion in full yellow bloom after a dead center spray of “weed” poison! Does anyone else recognize what is actually happening there? (What we do to the Earth, we do to US!)

On a May day a number of years back I received an enthusiastic call from a chemical Lawn Service: “WE are going to be in your neighborhood tomorrow!!!… and will offer you a FREE evaluation of all those pesky weeds, with a special one-time price to eradicate…..” I interrupted ” Err…Excuse me…please..WAIT!..I am an herbalist and all those weeds you “eradicate”..chickweed, plantain, DANDELION..we use for medicine and food…I teach people how to collect, cook and prepare them!” He said “hold on, Lady” as he placed his hand to muffle his voice while he shouted across the office “Hey LARRY!..I got this lady on the phone…and she EATS her lawn!”… and turning back to me he says laughing “Thanks Miss, you’ve given me a good laugh….! We’ll call back next year”. (I don’t think so…!)

I have just started my month of May- left-over-from-Fall yard cleanup…in the bright sun last week, my lawn was FULL of bright yellow dandelions…I plucked off the flowers for dandelion fritters for lunch with a cup of soup on the side, and dug up a small basket full of dark dandelion leaves for a stir fry with garlic onions and tomatoes over pasta for dinner, saved some leaves also for a tea for the urinary tract (the French word for Dandelion is Dente de Leon, or “tooth of the lion “ because of the shapes of the leaves, and its common name is “piss-en-lay”, or piss -in-bed since it stimulates the cleansing flow of urine). I saved the roots for a tincture for the health of the liver and digestion and elimination.

Dandelions in Danger! Protect them! Dandelions to the Rescue! Use them! ..A veritable treasure of “good medicine” when you need to bring health, nourishment , vitality and healing to your life and the lives of those in your community. Using this “good medicine” wisely will hopefully keep me in good shape as I use the “health insurance” of the Earth until I can once again afford the hundreds and hundreds of dollars necessary to purchase the Health Insurance of the dominant medical system.

****Christine will be offering a 2 hour-workshop in southern RI in early June called “Your Magical Garden” highlighting the wonderful wild plants/trees that are on the land you call “home”. Culinary, medicinal and magical uses of the plants will be explained, encouraging the participants to go home and identify the GreeningSpirit energies on their own property. Workshop information will go up in the next week. Christine can be contacted at cphoenixrising@earthlink.net

Celebrating the Greening Spirit!


A wonderful month to have been born into! Just a few weeks ago the yard was a mess, leftover wet burnt sienna oak leaves under the bushes, broken tree limbs all over the yard from winter winds and the weight of snow, headless dried sunflower stalks and brown grass filling the whole scene with an energy of resignation. How beige and neutral..and like our ancient ancestors who lived close to the earth and the natural rhythms of nature, our Spirits were almost ready to give up hope that things would come alive again.

We almost doubted that the color-scape would change, that there would be sunshine, warmth and gentle moisture, that there would be a stirring of the Life Energy once again surprising us with  flowers, scents , and an astounding palette of Spring renewal colors in hues of pinks, lilac, yellows and all shades of green! But it has happened! The Greening Spirit, “Veriditas” has returned in full and stunning force, making us almost  delirious with sensual delight!  And all in these first opening days of May…the month of Taurus, the bull. No wonder Ferdinand the Bull only wanted to sit and smell the flowers, savouring the Return of Life!

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