Plant Spirit Interactions

Just some thoughts I was having today as I sat stringing leaves of a sacred plant for drying.

Personally, and contrary to some conventional wisdom I have seen in pagan circles, I have noticed that there is not necessarily a correlation between being strongly drawn to the folkloric and/or symbolic aspects of a plant – often leading one to successfully use it, or a representation of it, in magic – and having a strong relationship to the physical plant itself if encountered, either in terms of growing it, or ingesting it (especially in cases of entheogenic plants).

Those are different ways to approach a sacred plant, and they can augment each other but they can also exist independently. I don’t think it’s necessarily true that you have to deal with the living plant in order to have an authentic and reciprocal relationship with the overall spirit of the species (what are often termed grandmother/grandfather plant spirits), it’s just going to have a different flavor and different purposes. There are respectful ways to interact with a plant solely because of its traditional cultural associations, it’s just going to be a different dynamic than when one primarily knows the plant by its smell, its preferred location, its vitality – or by its interactions with the human consciousness. Sometimes a plant becomes part of the symbolic language of a ritual, and sometimes it is a direct participant. Both are important and powerful roles to play.

I thought about the “big four” nightshades used for Western occult purposes (basically the witch ointment stuff) – belladonna, datura, mandrake and henbane. They all have varying degrees of dangerous poison and/or entheogenic potential. I have been slowly developing a relationship with these plants for years now, and while it started as strictly symbolic, exploring the metaphor of poisoning as a sort of shamanic ordeal, I have at this point grown each of these as living plants in my garden, as well as experimented with (safely) ingesting them. I’ve also been using them as sympathetic magic ingredients for workings such as repelling unwelcome influences.

And yet, my connection to each of them in each of these contexts is totally different, with varying intensities. When I only knew them as elements of folklore and history, I was most drawn to mandrake, but had no associations whatsoever with henbane. When I started growing them, however, I could immediately sense the henbane’s spirit, whereas I never really clicked with mandrake; though datura actually attracted me the most. Yet I only consume a tiny hint of datura sometimes, while smoking henbane has become a powerful ally; I won’t let belladonna inside me at all. But making ink with belladonna berries has become a valuable magical tool.

I think it just shows how complex all of this spirit interaction really is, how many ways there are to communicate, or to create a bond, and how familiarity has so many levels and types. And how you can’t go in with assumptions or expectations but really have to be present with what actually is happening, and how the relationships naturally develop.

~ by Dver on May 16, 2021.

2 Responses to “Plant Spirit Interactions”

  1. Very interesting. I think this is a great conversation to have and don’t think I’ve ever seen it discussed before. I’ll be doing some pondering.

  2. […] has written an excellent post on working with plant spirits, which I highly recommend here. I find this particularly intriguing since I rarely consume any plant ally and yet work with them […]

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