Connecting with Sacred Plants
When it comes to Witchcraft and plants, the two seem to be inseparable. It makes sense when you dig a little (not even that deeply) into the practice of ancient Witchcraft and similar earth-base traditions. Within these traditions, plants are elevated to a divine-like status. Witches, ancient and modern, have learned to recognize the spiritual presence in each plant they use. This is in contrast to the modern world which has only learned to acknowledge plants for their active ingredients, piggybacking on the thousands of years of knowledge our ancestors developed. Roughly 40% of all pharmaceuticals are derived from the active ingredients in plants. One great example is extracting shikimic acid (a potent antiviral) from Star Anise to make Tamiflu, which is said to treat the Swine Flu. Another example of this is in the powerful cancer-fighting medication such as Tamoxifen. Witches, however, go much more profound when it comes to using plants in their practice. Witches don’t merely extract a single active ingredient and disregard the rest of the plant. Witches recognize the usefulness of plants as medicine in connection to the spirit world.
As Magickal Herbalists, Witches have come to know and use individual plants for specific reasons, in addition to their medicinal properties. Like roses for love or chamomile to combat curses. Many plants which have become synonymous with Witchcraft, are what many would deem dangerous. The reason for this is because they should only be used or administered by a skilled herbalist. A qualified herbalist is someone who knows the potency of the plants they use. This skill and knowledge can be understood through reading books and instruction, but their safe and proper application can only be obtained through calculated practice at the supervision of a Master Herbalist. I am sure you can think of a few of these herbs, plants, and fungi without even knowing much about witchcraft or magickal herbalism. These plants are often entheogenic plants and fungi. You probably know them by their common names like – Belladonna, Mandrake, Magic Mushroom, Peyote, and so on.
Entheogenic plants and fungi (and sometimes fauna) are known for their ability to help the practitioner reach altered states of consciousness. BUT they were not used for recreational purposes or as an escape from reality. It is believed that these plants and fungi were gifts from the Gods. With such high reverence, these plants are holy and only used for the most sacred of purposes. Animistic traditions view each plant as having a divine spirit or an independent entity living within. To call upon the use of the plant is to draw upon the essence of the Gods. This action is only conducted with the utmost respect.
As we discuss sacred and magickal herbalism, I cannot leave out the importance of gaining a genuine spiritual connection with the plants you use in your magick. We most often achieve this by nurturing the plant as it grows. In many traditions that honor the old ways, it is believed that you should only use plants you directly connect within your workings. Meaning, you should only use plants you grow yourself. This is where sacred or magickal gardening comes into practice. Witches have long kept gardens filled with an assortment of plants for a variety of uses. Again, think of the stereotypical Witch you might see in a fairytale. Many have gardens surrounding a small hut or cottage on the outskirts of town.
Plants in the Witch’s garden are treated with great respect as if they were family or deities manifested in a physical form. Great care is taken with each plant as the Witch tends the soil and anoints them with sacred offerings. Some Witches conduct ceremonies where life is breathed into the roots before planting, and sacred herbal mixtures are scattered over the earth near the roots of each plant. (This is an example for my own tradition.)
In most cases, the roots are carefully tended as they are representational of where the plant’s unique spirit manifests or exists. Plant spirits are often more willing to partner with Witches (in the quest for spiritual and esoteric knowledge) when they are properly nurtured. The same applies to manifest the Witch’s needs and desires.
In my own garden, I have many plants I have developed a close relationship. Through this relationship, I gained the ability to read the plant. The first question you might ask is, “How do you know?” How do I know if the plant wants to be used? How do I know it will help me obtain my needs and desires? How do I know when it just wants to be left alone to grow? Of course, these are not easy questions to answer. What I can tell you is that it takes faith. Faith in my ability to sense energies, and trust in the divine. Sometimes I get a feeling. Sometimes it is a word or a phrase that will pop into my head. Sometimes it is a sense of calm or a sense of reassurance. Trusting your intuition and having the ability to quiet your own ego-mind is essential in this practice.
One critical thing to remember is that plants are NOT a shortcut. There are zero shortcuts to spiritual comprehension or magical power. Conducting a ritual of relationship building is one key to working with plants. As you work to unlock their mysteries, you become bonded with the plant. The ritual process of developing a connection or relationship is vital to the practice of magickal herbalism.
Well, that’s great and all, but… What if you cannot grow your own magickal plants? Well most of us can grow something in a pot. I don’t know of too many homes or apartments void of windows, but I get it. Sometimes raising a plant is just not part of our skill set. Let me tell you a little secret. I suck at growing plants from seed. Seriously, I kill them every time. Sure, I can collect seeds all day long. I can preserve them too, but I can’t grow plants from seed worth shit! They sprout and start growing, but somehow, somewhere in the process, they die. WTF!! Right? BUT! Give me a decently rooted seedling, and I will nurture that plant like there is no tomorrow. This means I have to let someone else care for the seed until the plant is ready for me to take over. Weird? I know. It took me a long time to figure this one out. Now that I know my limitations, I can adjust and make my garden grow.
If you have a total black thumb and not even a well-rooted seedling will grow in your care, you can, of course, buy your plants. WAIT! Before you head over to the store to buy dried herbs and any old potted plant, you need to make sure these herbs were cared for by someone who knows for what they are intended. Or at least that you can reasonably awaken the plant into working with you. Usually, this means you will need to buy them from another Witch who raises and preserves plants for the intended purpose(s). Or buy them from a Witch who knows how to “activate’ them if they are grown from another responsible source. (Don’t forget, through time and effort you too can gain this skill.)
And Yes, if you are in a pinch grocery store herbs will do fine. Just remember, this method will require you to be at the top of your game when it comes to intentional focus and unwavering will. It means you will do a bit more of the heavy lifting instead of the energy being more balance between you and the plant. After all, we use herbs and other tools to ensure our greatest success beyond what we bring to the table (or altar). Always remember that magick starts within you. If growing your own plants is out of the question, I encourage you to find a reputable herbal Witch who knows his/her plants and their uses. Find someone who has connected and received confirmation that the plant is willing and ready for the task at hand. Often these Witches will have already blended the herbs into teas, incense, washes, and so on, available for use. In our busy society, this is usually a blessing! The hard work and research have already been done. All you need to do is MANIFEST!
Well? What are you waiting for? Get out there and connect with some plants! Go manifest your greatness!!! Make some exhilarating MAGICK!