Having studied Biomedical Science for 3 years and not fully resonated with the practises, I was feeling more drawn to natural medicine and thought my path may well be leading towards Ethnobotany… So when the Plant Consciousness event popped up, my intrigue lead me there. What followed was about to blow my mind.
Upon arrival, we were offered a tincture of Hawthorn for inspiration combined with St. John’s Wort to open the heart. It tasted delightful, immediately giving me a boost. We were beside an ancient Rose garden, sacred to the old Druids (Celtic Priests). A herbal smell met us upon entrance – Mugwort, Sacred Basil, Tobacco and other plants lined the stage, brightening the space. Welcomed by Emma and David Farrell, we were taken through a guided meditation where we saluted the four directions and their representations (this is a Pagan tradition honouring the elements and natural world), after which we were encouraged to invite along any Plant Spirits we might want to join us… I thought of my Orchid at home and the Willow I’d been sitting under recently.
Without further ado, Barbara Griggs, author of Green Pharmacy, first spoke to us about the natural medicine which we have on our doorsteps in the UK. She called this our ‘Garden NHS’ – if it isn’t on your spice rack/cupboard, it’s bound to be in the garden. These plants are easily accessible and abundant; it’s really a wonder why we don’t make use of them more often! She ran us through several common plants with incredible healing and preventative properties. Marigold, for example, is a good all-rounder for health and an antiseptic, whilst Dandelion is rich in essential minerals and impeccable for detoxing amongst many other things.
Barbara compared the incredible potential of these plants with our Westernised medicine. I enjoyed her story about taking a well-known Swiss herbal tonic into hospital when her husband was ill, to which the doctors had said to her, “Do you believe in herbs?” to which she laughed and replied, “Do you believe in food?”.
Pam Montgomery then spoke to us about plants to keep us sane during insane times. Her book, Plant Spirit Healing, opened up a doorway for me – through it, I realised there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Based at Sweetwater Sanctuary in Vermont, she aids in Soul Retrieval, of which I had the privilege of experiencing for the first time.
A tincture of Mullein was passed around for each of us to take a couple drops of. Pam then taught us a method of Vertical Alignment to fill ourselves with Source Energy – something I have been using in meditation ever since. You visualise a beam of light connecting you to the heavens above whilst roots connect you to the Earth below. Placing our hands on the sacral point, we welcomed in the essence of Mullein.
What happened next was like nothing I had ever experienced before. A glow entered my body where my hands were and began to move through me in a scanning sort of way. It was a strange sensation, completely new and alien, as the energy actively moved about. I was fascinated after my initial shock and observed as it went about its work. Suddenly, in my left eye it seemed to catch hold of something. I felt what I can only describe as a thorn stuck underneath my eye. What on Earth…? I racked my brain – the only thing that came to mind was an injury I had sustained a year ago to this area. As soon as I recognised this, the pain vanished and Mullein continued to move, glow and scan, gradually fading to a subtle presence. It dawned upon me that I had experienced ‘Soul Loss’ via this previous trauma and that this plant had just helped me let go of the pain I was still holding onto whilst retrieving a part of myself I had lost. It stirred up a wave of emotions in me which I expressed thankfully, relieved.
Anthar Kharana is a Native Columbian from high in the Andes Mountains. He brought us knowledge passed down through generations of his Indigenous tribe, in the form of stories and songs. Music has been a part of his life forever and this natural way of expression was uplifting, wholesome and touched into deeper realms. He introduced us to Hayo – otherwise known as the spirit of the ‘Coca’ plant. His connection to the plant is an incredibly precious one and it was a treasure for us all to hear his sacred stories.
Hayo is known as the first woman on Earth. Men of the Andes and around chew her leaves in order to reconnect with the feminine energy and relearn how to treat their mother (both human and Gaia), leaving any biological aggression, frustration and violence behind. In their culture, it’s tradition to carry a bag of Hayo leaves with you wherever you go and upon meeting a brother, exchange leaves into the other’s bag as a form of mutual respect.
Back when Spaniards invaded Colombian land, their discovery of the Hayo plant and her effects had them take her away without any recognition of the holiness she contained. And when she returned, many years later, she was not the same. Deformed, mutated and wholly unrecognisable, she had even forgotten her own name. Now people referred to her as Coca and she had been forced into substances that came out black (Coca-cola) or white (Cocaine). Hayo is not black or white. She is green. This warped happening caused great concern for those who knew Hayo as she truly is. They realised they had to keep calling to her, helping her remember herself, but also that they had to help the people who had done this in the first place to realise the abomination they had created. Not with anger, but with understanding and compassion. Now Anthar travels around Europe, guided by nature and the wisdom of Elders, sharing Hayo’s story alongside his musical medicine.
Luke and Linda Black Elk comprise a different type of wisdom from Native American backgrounds. Their humble perspectives of a loving nature radiated out from their speeches and songs. In their culture, everything begins and ends with a prayer of song in thanks of gratitude.
Linda is an Ethnobotanist, one that was brought up to see plants as her relatives, so her view of the spiritual and scientific overlap in perfect harmony. As she shared stories from her culture, she told us how scientific explanations are gradually catching up to the supposed superstitions concerning nature, that have been passed down for generations.
As we heard about Linda’s struggles peacefully protesting against the Dakota Pipeline, not being able to feed her baby due to having been sprayed with gas, the whole room was moved to tears. The passion she spoke with rose something up within us all. As a Mother, a teacher and an activist, the way she was treated is completely inhumane and no one should be subject to that for standing up for what they believe in, on behalf of species that cannot defend themselves against man-made destruction. Hundreds of sacred plants were completely wiped out during the building of the pipe, along with them their stories. For each plant has its own unique purpose and personality, which arises as it’s own unique frequency of song.
On behalf of the Woodland Trust, Kaye Brennan told us about the constant struggle that sacred ground is facing in today’s world. Only 2% of ancient woodland remains in the world as a result of mass destruction. But the loss of one Elder tree is way more than just that. These Elder trees are an incredibly important part of our ecosystem, containing valuable information to help look after the younger species on Earth, connecting via the fungal network beneath us.
The Tree Charter was created as a means of uniting trees and people in strength. It’s principles recognise the rights that trees have as beings. Created from a collection of 60,000 stories, the original Charter has been written with Oak Galls ink and on Ankerwyck Yew paper (legend has that witnessed the sealing of the Magna Carta). Kay Haw guided us through a mediation invoking the spirit of Oak, who appeared to me as embodied strength in my chest, guarding the heart.
Will Lawson is a filmmaker for the BBC and ambassador for Biomimicry UK. He spoke of how mimicking natural design can help change our relationship to the plant kingdom and thus the planet. He brought to light how we as a society are experiencing severe Plant Blindness… highlighting how we need to start seeing nature as a teacher rather than merely a resource.
He gave the valid point that technology doesn’t have to be the enemy here – if we gain inspiration from nature, as indeed the best pieces of creation have, we can harness the maximum potential of anything. A prime example of this is solar panels having been arranged in the same format as a sunflower. By tilting them to align with a Fibonacci ratio, an optimum amount of sunlight is able to reach them throughout the day.
Ram Chatlani ended our gathering, a wise guru who talks a lot of sensible nonsense and who I would very much like to hear more musings from.
This event was a defining point of my life that opened my eyes in many ways. I am so grateful to the wisdom keepers who shared their knowledge with open hearts over the weekend – and most of all to Emma and David for making this gathering happen. Thank you for planting the seeds in each of us, encouraging us to disperse, grow and plant seeds of our own. Together, with the robust support of this incredible network, we will take the inspiration gained and spread the message nature intends. May this cycle continue to bloom into the upcoming healing needed to keep all of spirit thriving…
~ Photos courtesy of Archetype Events ~
- Wisdom Hub TV is an online platform where you can explore a collection of this Earthy knowledge
- Barbara’s book: Green Pharmacy
- Pam’s teachings: Wake Up To Nature
- Anthar’s events: Tribal Sound Healing
- The Woodland Trust
- Biomimicry UK
- Ram Chatlani: Tao Meditation
- Plant Consciousness Retreats/Workshops