Look deep into nature and then
you will understand everything better. -- Albert Einstein
Nobody sees a flower, really, it is so small.
We haven’t time — and to see takes time
like to have a friend takes time. -- Georgia O’Keeffe
Herbal medicine takes time. The longest lasting result from ingesting herbs is obtained from their tonic ability to restore bodily systems: nervous system, digestive system, circulatory system, and so on. Tonics can be tinctures, teas, extracts, infusions, or decoctions that are taken over periods of time, usually from one to six months. The Heroic and Mechanistic models of healing are popular partially because we want it quick and we want it now. But healing takes time and happens in the context of relationship.
It takes time to build relationships. To develop a meaningful and lasting relationship with the healing herbs and their devas is no different. Perhaps that is why the Wise Woman Tradition more accurately describes this model of healing. It takes time to gain wisdom.
Making a Commitment to Yourself and To The Herbs
If you chose only one herb and really got to know it, you would have a powerful ally. The failure of herbal medicine in many people’s experience, or mind, is not a failure at all. It is simply an issue of lack of compliance. To heal with herbal medicine, commitment and consistency are required. In most cases it is not a quick fix. The mindset that says, “If you have this symptom, take this herb,” is nothing more than a rephrasing of the Mechanistic model’s solution to illness, “If you have this symptom, take this drug.”
If you make a commitment to yourself and to the herbs, and if you are consistent, you will be richly rewarded on your journey with them. This is also true when working with the spiritual energies of herbs and their devas.
The commitment is made in the present moment, one moment at a time, and that commitment becomes a constant flow of energy and intimacy that deepens as you progress. Once you step into this kind of a relationship, healing is a given. While physically ingesting an herb is grounding, once we become spiritually grounded in relationship with the essence of an herb, physically ingesting it becomes secondary and, in some cases, not even necessary.
Working with Herbs and the Subconscious
Within the field of herbal medicine, many labels are used to define a traditional or folk medicine practice: herbalism, herbal medicine, botanical medicine, medical herbalism, herbology, and phytotherapy. Prior to the folk tradition, however, was the shamanic tradition.
When this tradition was sent underground, it was the midwives who carried the knowledge of the shamanic tradition forward. They preserved and even expanded that knowledge through the use of their herbs and through journeys into the spirit world and the subconscious mind. It is from this vast, rich resource of the subconscious that higher guidance is obtained.
Using Herbs in Their Whole Form: Physical and Etheric
While traditional herbal medicine does offer a way to discover new healing applications for herbs, research has been primarily focused on identifying botanical compounds and using them in isolation from the whole plant. Even though these medicines are derived from natural sources and are used in a similar manner as with folk medicine, something very vital is missing: synergy. The future of botanical medicine lies in rediscovering methods for using the plant in its whole form, all the elements that go into its creation, including the sacred element of ether.
There can be no doubt that we are remembering how to listen to the voices of the plants. From the accounts in Pam Montgomery’s book Plant Spirit Healing; Machaelle Small Wright’s Behaving as if the God in All Life Mattered; Eliot Cowan’s Plant Spirit Medicine; Paul Hawken’s Magic of Findhorn, first published in 1975; and Susun Weed’s teaching stories in the Wise Woman Tradition, we are reclaiming the ancient wisdom that informed our understanding long before there was a scientific method.
When we add the incredible insights given to us by science to the empirical knowledge of older traditions, and then infuse that combination with the empowerment that comes from trusting one’s own internal guidance, we create a new model for healing.
(*subtitles by InnerSelf)
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Bear & Company, an imprint of Inner Traditions Inc.
This article has been adapted with permission from the book:
Wisdom of the Plant Devas: Herbal Medicine for a New Earth
by Thea Summer Deer.
Thea Summer Deer reveals a new dimension of herbal medicine, one where the plant’s spirit is consulted for guidance and healing beyond the physical. Exploring herbal medicine from an energetic perspective, she reveals that by communing with the deva of a plant, we can call on the plant’s physical, psychological, and spiritual medicine and guidance -- without ingesting it or even being in its presence.
About the Author
Thea Summer Deer is a clinical herbalist, singer-songwriter, midwife, and childbirth educator. As a child she learned how to shoot a bow, canoe, weave and gather medicinal herbs. Raised with the Seminole Indians in South Florida until the age of eight, she lives surrounded by Cherokee ancestral land in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. Visit her website at www.theasummerdeer.com