**this is a guest post from the lovely Michelle from Greenwoman Studio , for whom I am also submitting a guest post.. I want to thank her again for all her work on this, her blog presence that I enjoy reading all the time, and for this great idea to exchange these posts. Show her some love..
Journeying with plant spirits is a central part of magical herbalism. Plants are eager to share their wisdom with us, and to inspire us in working with them; but it takes practice and attention to become skilled at traveling with them. Today I’d like to share with you a few of my favorite techniques for connecting with the green ones.
1. The most basic method of journeying with a plant is to visit it where it grows. Take a jar of clear water–or some form of moon blessed water, so long as it doesn’t have salt in it–and a small snack. If you are new to journeying, you might want to take a timer with a gentle alarm. Sit as close to the plant as you can comfortably get. Then take a few moments to make its acquaintance, if you haven’t before–touch it, smell it, taste it (if you’re confident it isn’t poisonous).
Once you feel strongly aware of the plant, and connected to it, you can ask the plant to be your companion on a spirit journey. Ask it to communicate with you if its willing. Then get comfortable and close your eyes, and begin your journey. If you brought a timer, set it for 10 to 20 minutes, whatever you think you will need.
There are many different kinds of visualizations used to begin spirit journeys. If you have a favorite method of entering the necessary state of mind, feel free to use yours and skip mine. But if you don’t, here’s the visualization that works best for me:
See yourself at the top of a set of 13 steps. Breathe slowly and evenly, and picture yourself slowly descending one step at a time, counting each step as your foot lands on it, from thirteen down to one. As you descend, breathe in the fragrance around you, the breath of the plants. When your foot hits the ground at the base of the steps, you should be in a relaxed, receptive state of mind. Beside you, there will be some kind of landmark: a pillar, a standing stone, a pile of rocks, even a dinstinctive tree. Touch this and remember it: you can use it to bring yourself back from the journey any time you need to. Before you lies a forest, green with summer, and through the trees an earth path winds into the shadows. Follow the path until you come to a clearing in the woods. At the center of the clearing is a flat stone large enough to stretch out on. Here is where the spirit of your plant companion can meet you. Pay attention to everything you see, and to the sensations you feel in your spirit body. Everything you see and hear in your journey is a message–but don’t analyze it during your vision. Just observe, and remember. You can think it all over later. You may encounter a spirit that will speak to you, even take you by the hand and lead you to other landscapes. But even if you don’t, there are messages for you in this otherworld. Plants aren’t like people: they communicate in many abstract ways. If you only get sensations and fragmented impressions, that’s all right. There is no wrong way to journey, no failure. There’s only what the spirits wish to share with you when you visit their realm.
When you know it’s time to go, or when the alarm sounds, return to the landmark at the foot of the stairs. Then tell yourself it’s time to return to your body, and ascend the stairs, this time counting from one to 13. Open your eyes and move around, stretch, and eat your snack. Record your experience in a journal now, or after you return home.
Before you leave, thank the plant, and pour some of your blessed water at its roots.
But what if the weather is abysmal, or the plant is growing somewhere public, where you won’t be able to journey without interruptions? Or what if you feel strongly called to work with a plant, but really have no access to the live plant? That’s where the other methods come in.
2. Gather some of the plant and bring it home. In this case, find the plant growing abundantly somewhere. Ask the plant for permission, and wait until you feel a definitive “yes” from the plant. Take only what you need: what you harvest shouldn’t leave an easily visible impact on the plant population. Once again thank the plant sincerely, and leave an offering of blessed water. Return home with your plant. Then create sacred space, and sit comfortably, holding the plant in your non-dominant hand, or placing it across your lap with your hands resting on it. Then use the same journeying technique as described in the first method, including the snack at the end. And yes, thank the plant again when you are finished. And be sure to handle its remains respectfully, returning them to the earth if you can.
3. If you don’t have access to the fresh plant, you can work with the dried plant. Purchase dried herbs only from a reputable supplier. The seller should be able to tell you not only what plant, and what part, you are purchasing, but should also know the plant’s origin, and whether it was wildcrafted, organically grown, or conventionally grown.
Once you have your dried herb, make a quart of strong tea with it. How strong is up to you–for journeying, I tend to just throw a few good handsful of tea into a pint jar, and pour freshly boiled water over it. I cover the jar and steep for five minutes if it’s something delicate like leaves or flowers, 10 minutes if it’s berries, and 15 to 20 minutes if it’s roots. If you plan to drink some of your tea, strain it.
Then take your tea, create sacred space, and get comfortable. Sip the tea slowly if you like. And breathe in the steam created by the tea, closing your eyes and focusing on the fragrance. Do this until you feel relax, and completely tuned in to the energy of the infusion. Then begin your journey as described in the first method.
When you are finished, dispose of the spent herbs respectfully.
4. Instead of making a tea, grind your dried herb with a mortar and pestle, or a clean coffee grinder reserved only for herbs. Use the ground herb as an incense on charcoal. Spend a few moments breathing the scented air before using the visualization described in the first method.
This method works best if there’s someone to keep adding herb to the charcoal throughout the journey, so the smoke continues to scent the air. It’s a good method to use in a group, with one participant designated to hold space and feed the charcoal.
If you journey in a group, consider setting aside time for participants to share their visions with one another if they wish. Sometimes remarkable insights can be gained in this kind of circle.
When you are finished, dispose of the herb’s ashes respectfully.
If you are disappointed in the results of your efforts at first, don’t give up. Communicating with plants requires patience for most of us–but keep trying! Spirit rewards tenacity.
And finally, a few words of advice. Use common sense: don’t ever ingest a plant you don’t know. If you’re drawn to an unfamiliar plant, find out what you can about it before you start touching and tasting. There are very few poisonous plants in the world, but there are some. While I believe in trusting my intuition, I also believe in backing it up with facts.
If you suffer from asthma or any other respiratory disorder, don’t use method four. Smoke is not the friend of compromised or sensitive lungs.
And most important of all, always approach the plants with respect and care. Treat them–and their habitat–with reverence, and do what you can to protect the earth so the plants have a place to grow.