Hawthorn: Heart-Tree of Enchantment & Resilience
The Tree Series continues........
Trees are living beings as well as symbols -- of physical and spiritual nourishment, transformation and liberation, sustenance, spiritual growth and union. Trees are the source of our oxygen, as we exchange with them their food of carbon dioxide. Trees breathe, we breathe. Many, many medicines for all levels of being including physical, emotional, mental and spiritual, come from Trees. Recent research documents how trees communicate with each other, passing along deep knowledge, assistance, food and other information for the community.
Finally we are here: Hawthorn: Heart-Tree of Enchantment & Resilience, Craetagus spp.
Let's begin with a short meditation. Rest your feet on the ground, close your eyes, place one palm or both on the center of your chest, and take some deep relaxing breaths. Bring your attention to the beating of your heart. Bring your awareness to your heart, beating for you now and through your whole life, without your having to ask it to or to even think about it. Feel, sense and know gratitude for your heart beating out the rhythms of your life in every moment. Give thanks to your heart. Let gratitude well up within you. Let gratitude fill your heart to overflowing. Let it wash over your heart, flow through your chest, flow through your body, flow out with your breath. Rest here as long as you like, and then find yourself in an open field, at the foot of a small mound where Hawthorn, our medicine tree, grows.
A Tree of Magical Enchantment
Right now in late December on this 7th day of Christmas, Hawthorn (Craetagus monogyna 'biflora' known as the twice-blooming Holy Thorn) is blossoming in Glastonbury, Somerset, England. This unseasonable manifestation of white flowers has given rise to much lore --- imagine seeing the white blossoms emerge in the chill and dark of December! Miraculous and magical as is this dark and luminous time of the year.
The Holy Thorn has become linked with the legend of Joseph of Arimathea, a wealthy follower of Jesus and perhaps Mary's uncle, sometimes credited with establishing the Christian Church in England.....there are so many legends and lore, perhaps just let it wash over your being.
So the story goes.....Joseph fled Jerusalem not long after Jesus' crucifixion. Joseph carried a walking staff made of Hawthorn from the Tree whose thorny branches were formed for Jesus' crucifixion crown. He arrived by boat in Southern England some years later. According to the legend, Joseph's boat sailed over the flooded Somerset Levels, coming to rest on Glastonbury Tor. Here Joseph is said to have wearily planted his walking staff in the ground on Christmas Day. He then promptly fell asleep; when he awoke, his staff had miraculously taken root, spouted and bloomed, turning itself into the original Glastonbury Thorn tree or Holy Thorn.
Doubtless this miracle impressed the local Celtic Druidic folks who had lived in the area for millenia. The Hawthorn Tree was already deeply revered, loved and respected. (We will get back to this shortly.)
The Thorn tree growing at the Abbey itself was said to have survived into the 17th century - when the Puritans came to power and cut it down as a relic of nature worship. Grafts were subsequently replanted. Other holy thorns grow locally near Glastonbury, near St John's Church and the Chalice Well.
The custom of sending a flowering branch to the Queen on Christmas Day appears to have begun in the 17th century and continues today. Queen Elizabeth receives a flowering branch that is said to decorate the Christmas Day breakfast table. (There is a custom that states unequivocally that it is unwise to bring the flowing branch inside......just so you know....but this long-standing tradition refutes that.)
I like to imagine that Hawthorn invited this magical second-blooming enchantment as play, even before the Christian period. The Hawthorn has long been believed to be inhabited by a great Nature Spirit which imbued it with magical healing powers. The Tree is a boon to wildlife, supporting many moths, butterflies and birds. Hawthorns are quick growing and tolerant of a range of growing conditions: wind, wet, sun, shade, drought, & varied soils. By a very long tradition, Hawthorn is a plant that calls our deep respect.
Hawthorn Botany and Etymology
Hawthorn, a small tree or large shrub of the Rose family, is found growing all over the temperate zones of the world in over 300 species, from a straggly single tree to thick hedgerows to stately old field inhabitants. She often grows at the edges, where the wild meets the cultivated, at the boundary of the field, at the boundary of a point in history, at the thin places between the human realm and the subtler realms.
Hawthorn may be most well-known for its association with May Day or Beltane, festivals of fertile spring, as well as for the strong scent of its blossoms. Hawthorn is a sacred tree to the Celts, symbolizing love and protection. Along with Ash and Oak, Hawthorn creates a sacred circle of Trees.
Known for living long, up to 400 years, Hawthorn loves humans yet remains true to her own untamed heart. The lobed leaves, fragrant white flowers and deep red berries all yield a medicine that governs the movements of the heart, the whole person, the community, the culture. She is gentle enough for children, gentle enough for long-term use with few if any contraindications. And yet her thorns are sharp --- one cannot brush by them like with her sisters Wild Rose or Raspberry, as Hawthorn thorns will give a sharp cut of NO to anyone who reaches in without asking permission and going slowly. And so it is with our own hearts: when boundaries are respected, connection can blossom.
The Latin name Craetagus is related to the Greek kraitaigos, which means strength and resilience. It is also a cognate of crataegeon, a word the Romans used to refer to the heart itself. The crataegeon was not only the heart, where life-giving oxygenated blood mixed with the spent venous flow, but also it was a great bowl used at feasts to mix water and wine together. Although the grape was the primary fruit fermented into wine, the Romans (and others) fermented Hawthorn berries and honey into meads as well. Mixed in the crataegeon, the liquor warmed and strengthened the heart, and the Tree of Resilience inherited the name.
In Irish, the hawthorn is known as Sceach Gheal, from sceach meaning ‘thornbush/ briar’ and geal meaning ‘bright, luminous and radiant’.
This Rose-Family Tree is so easy to love and yet knows how and when to protect herself. Boundaries, respect, steadfastness, courage, accompaniment for grief, opening for love.
The thorns are like nails, inches long and strong; and yet
a gentler more nourishing medicine plant is unlikely to be found".
Herbalist jim mcdonald
A Tree of the Thin Places, where the Realms meet:
Another myth concerns the ancient people of Ireland, the Tuatha De Danann, the people of the Goddess Danu, ancient earth mother goddess.
Before the Celts and the coming of Iron, the Tuatha De Danann were known and spoke as water flowing over a stone, as wind through the trees. They called the storm, they called the trees to bloom. They were people who walked in all worlds at once, and lived by the flow of the river within and the river without. (Sean Donohue)
Then the people of Mil came, the story continues. The sons of Mil and the people of Dana lived together, and the Irish people were born from this union. But eventually, the life of the sword and plow became too brutal and rigid. The peoples' lives were full of weeping. The Tuatha de Danann finally went back by the river's way, retiring beneath the mounds and the hollow hills. At the gateways to their world they planted Hawthorns to tangle and repel the brutish and unwary, but nourish the hearts of those who grieve for lost worlds. They became the people of the Sidhe, the "good neighbors", the "fair folk".
At the mound where the Fairies entered the Earth, there grows a Hawthorn.
Even today many Irish people hold the single Hawthorn in a field as sacred to the Fairies and would not dare to harm it, nor even to trim branches, saying there is a limit to human encroachment on the wild places. Stories abound of roads re-routed around a lone Hawthorn. A particular golf course advises players to apologize if they inadvertently hit the Hawthorn Tree with a ball. And the story goes that one of the reasons the Delorean car manufacturing plant was so beset by problems was because a Hawthorn Tree on the building site was finally bulldozed away, after many workers refused to cut it down.
In the Scottish ballad of Thomas the Rhymer (13th c.), Thomas loves to wander in the wild Eildon Hills. One day he stops to rest beneath a single Hawthorn and falls asleep. He wakes to find the Queen of the Fairies on her milk-white steed beside him; she invites him to ride with her. She shows him three roads, three ways of being in the world:
The first is the narrow road of righteousness, defined by the laws and rules of civilization, marked by extreme reliance on logical consciousness, where we wall ourselves off from the wildness of the natural world, forgetting that we receive our life from it. The second road is the broad road of cravings, instinct uncoupled from consequences, individuality untempered by respect and connection, leading to alienation and an endless hunger. And the third path, the middle way, that goes beneath the Hawthorn; this is the path of the Heart. "It's a path that leads to a wilder place, a place outside all ideas and judgements....a place beyond and beneath and before the stories of guilt, fear, and shame we all carry. A place of wild innocence where you can re-member your connection to the world around you...(and) your response to its unspeakable beauty." (Sean Donohue) Thomas chooses the middle path to ride with the Queen. When he wakes up, 7 years have passed and he has been gifted by the Fairy Queen with the voice of prophecy as well as the inability to tell a lie. This makes it challenging for him to live out in the world again! (Thomas was an actual person and you can find his prophecies written down and preserved.)
For the Physical Heart
Hawthorn has a long history as a blessed friend of humans, providing remedies for toning and strengthening the physical heart and circulatory system. Herbalists use all the species interchangeably, and several have been scientifically studied in more depth: Craetagus monogyna, C. oxyacantha and C. laevigata. The whole plant including leaves, blossoms, berries, branch tips and even the thorns are used medicinally. It is more foodlike than druglike in its actions and is generally considered safe to use in interaction with heart medications; however consulting with one's physician and holistic practitioner is always recommended.
Hawthorn is a calming, relaxing herb rich in antioxidants, helpful to the nervous system. It is considered tonic and adaptogenic, meaning it is most effective when used consistently over time to experience its foodlike benefits. It is often prepared as a tea, jam or jelly, tincture or a delicious cordial, elixir or liquer. A popular heart tonic in Europe, the berries are made into jam that is found in grocery stores as well as pharmacies. Hawthorn berries in preparations are delicious. My favorite preparation is a cordial and the recipe is below.
Some other physical benefits of Hawthorn's accompaniment include improving circulation, oxygen uptake and heart muscle tone; lowering blood pressure; reducing palpitations and arrhythmias; improving cardiac function in heart disorders with or without chest pains; and as a preventative for all manner of heart conditions. Clinical trials are proving out these benefits.
"A tonic in the true sense, Craetagus can be considered a specific remedy for most cardiovascular disease."
- David Hoffman, clinical phytotherapist, Fellow of Britain's National Institute of Medical Herbalists
For the Emotional Heart
Hawthorn is a profound ally through emotional loss and healing as well. Our Hearts are our largest organ of perception, fitted with many receptors for a wide range of hormones and neuropeptides, chemicals that affect emotions. Hawthorn is an unparalleled remedy for grief, despair, trauma, anxiety, depression and heartbreak of all kinds -- from personal loss to the state of the world. It "thickens the skin without making a callous" says Appalachian herbalist Janet Kent.
Hawthorn accompanies us through the unexpected times of grief's numbness, overwhelming sadness and the challenges of loss. Its presence is just as transformative for chronic grief, lifetime trauma and ancestral healing as for acute heartache. Hawthorn does not mask grief or push us through it, though; as a true pillar of compassion and a protector of broken-heartedness, Hawthorn holds the space for us to find our own essential pathway through grief, held in love.
Adding a thorn to the preparations infuses them with extra magic of the Tree, providing protection from anything that is too much right now --- physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. The thorn reminds us it is OK to have a limit.
Making a medicine bag with some berries and a thorn in it to wear around your neck is another way to be with Hawthorn's accompaniment.
Nourishing the Centrality of the Heart
The Chinese traditionally taught that the heart is an earthen vessel that holds the shen -- the individual spirit or consciousness.
Hawthorn journeys with us to nourish the Heart's centrality to our essential being-ness on the planet. Particularly today, in in-between times, in transition times, in times when the past has faded but what is coming is not yet clear, Hawthorn protects and nourishes our Shen: "The small heart spirit has the responsibility of making sure the big Spirit connects properly to the world of time and space." (Kaptchuck, p64)
I have wildcrafted Hawthorn tincture and flower essence available in
1 oz bottles for $15 each (plus shipping).
I also co-create custom remedies for acute and chronic heartbreak and grief,
trauma, anxiety and depression, working alongside Hawthorn.
(Start now and you can have it ready by St Valentine's Day.)
1 cup dried hawthorn berries (wild-harvested or find from your favorite herbal supply shop or online)
1 apple, chopped, seeds removed
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
zest of 1 lime
1/3 cup unsweetened 100% cherry juice
1/2 cup honey, or to taste
2 cups brandy
(recipe adapted from Rosalee de la Foret, with gratitude)
Combine all ingredients in a 1-quart jar. Infuse for 4 weeks, shaking often. Strain and store in the refrigerator. Best used within one year -- but it won't last that long!
Serve 1 Tablespoon with sparkling water for a low-alcohol festive drink or sip straight in a tiny, lovely cordial glass.
Thank you for reading and reflecting on beloved Hawthorn with me. This true medicine Tree has been a guide for me for a long time now and it is a joy to share a little with you. It is our birthright to listen to and get to know the other-than-human beings that we live alongside on this amazing Earth. May we re-member this.
May you know a lovely Hawthorn Tree nearby you and may you continue to deepen your relationship with this Heart-Tree of Enchantment and Resilience. Your Heart at all levels will be grateful.
My Energy Medicine Practice is open for distance treatments & herbal consults as well as contemplative practice guidance.
Thursday Evening Group Healing sessions resume January 7, 2021.
Please call on me if I may be of support to you in awakening, nourishing and strengthening your Inner Healer.
Thank you so much!
Many Blessings and So Much Love,
My sincere thanks for the teachings of Hawthorn to this lovely Tree herself, to herbalists Sean Donohue, Rosemary Gladstar and Guido Mase, and others mentioned in the article above.
This article is adapted from my final project presentation on Hawthorn and the Heart at Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine in October 2017. I spent a lot of time with the Hawthorns at Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway above Asheville while preparing that paper. I sense that Hawthorn has always been close to me. My mother grew up on Hawthorn Road in Winston Salem NC, though I have been unable to find a Hawthorn growing anywhere along this road now. It is a big road that connects the two big hospitals in town across several miles -- there must have once been many healing Hawthorns along it.
A Beloved Tree, Maple, well-known for its generous and delightful fall colors among all variations of this Tree. Who among us does not know the species Sugar Maple, whose lifeblood sap transforms through fire into maple syrup. And do you remember tossing the little whirlybird or helicopter (I only learned the word "samara" a few years ago) in the air during the fall?
As I sat with and also researched Maple, the phrase Generous Friend to Other Beings came to my heart. Generous with Beauty, with Shade, with its Lifeblood Xylem. To me, this sums up some of Maple's brightest gifts. What do you sense in relationship with Maple?
Maple first appeared during the Cretaceous period, between 120 million to 100 million years ago. Early Maples had three-lobed leaves instead of the familiar five-lobed leaves found today. They evolved into a diverse group of species, some of which have both male and female parts on a single plant and some with two separate sexes. The earliest fossilized remains have been found in Alaska.
During the Ice Age 2.5 million years ago, Maple were pushed further south ahead of the advancing glaciers. In Europe, where mountain ranges run east to west, the southward progress of Maple was frequently blocked, leading to localized extinction. The North-South mountain ranges of North America and the open steppes of Asia, on the other hand, allowed Maple to retreat southward from the ice.
Today over 128 species of Maple grace the landscapes in the temperate zone of the planet, from Asia, Northern Africa, Europe and North America. Most are native to Asia. The distinctive palmate leaf and winged fruit (the samara) make Maple easily recognizable. Most Maples grow 30 - 150 feet tall and can live up to 400 years.
Maple Family has both pioneer species that grow well in recently disturbed land as well as climax species that live in mature forests. Many unusual and beautiful Japanese Maples grace our cultivated landscapes; Maple is also popular as bonsai. Maple's wood carries sound well and is thus a favored tonewood. Living, growing and breathing Maples give us not only the gifts of color and syrup and play and resonance, but also the ever-present and necessary gift of breath.
A generous and welcoming shade tree for all of us, the animal and insect friends and the planet.
Medicinally there does not appear to be much in the way of a western herbal tradition of use of Maple. Indigenous people of North America had many uses for Maple, however, including using the bark for poultices for wounds, making a tea for kidney infections, coughs, colds and bronchitis, and using a decoction of the inner bark as a wash for sore eyes. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, an infusion of the bark, twigs and leaves is used externally to treat inflamed eyes and also used internally as a popular treatment to improve liver function and liver disease.
The xylem sap contains sucrose and also glucose, inorganic salts, protein precursors (peptides and amino acids), some enzymes, and a few mystery organic compounds.
The seeds, sap and inner bark are edible.
Some of Maple's gifts take work and yield Abundance.
I found references to both Algonquin and Iroquois people developing the art and craft of boiling maple sap to syrup, bringing abundance and success with a measure of practicality. The syrup could be used not only as food but also for trading, like money. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to boil down to just 1 gallon of syrup -- a concentrated sweet, a huge source of richness is multiple ways.
Here is the story of Maple told by Bob Red Hawk and translated in Lenape (the Algonquin-based language of the Delaware tribe) by Margret Lenfest:
In balance with the landscape, indigenous native folks do ceremony to ensure good sap harvests each year. These ceremonies are typically done right as the sap began to flow from the trees. These ceremonies may have involved gathering around, speaking, and offering tobacco, creating a sense of exchange and gratitude for shared life.
Generosity and Longevity in Reciprocal Exchange
Maple needs to grow for about 40 years before they yield sap. After this, sap can be given by healthy trees for many years; there are some sugar bushes with trees well over 100 years old! Patience and Abundance! Maple syrup can be made from any species of Maple Tree, although not all are as delicious as Sugar Maple, which is simply the sweetest one. Sap flows when daytime temperatures rise above freezing and nighttime temperatures go below freezing.
Maple is a Gentle Tree.
Maple exudes a peaceful, gentle energy in my experience and is a lovely tree for meditating near. Perhaps this is because Maple is so generous with us humans, providing us with food and a means of exchange among ourselves without needing to offer her life or have it taken. The Japanese Maple symbolizes grace, great blessing, serenity and peaceful retreat. Talking sticks made out of Maple are said to represent gentleness. Maple wands are known to assist with spiritual healing.
Maple symbolizes Balance, Intelligence and Practicality.
One reason behind these meanings may be that Maples have the ability to adapt to many different soil types and climates --- practicality, intelligence and adaptability. Many Maple species are pioneer trees, hardy enough to repopulate in disturbed or damaged ecosystems: this ability reminds us that to shift our reality we must take necessary action, in accordance with our true inner nature.
What might Maple be inviting us to tap into?
In the winter, Maple draws its sap up and within through its deep roots in order to survive and replenish. In spring, the sap flows down to replenish the roots. We humans may literally tap in at this point. Though we may truly tap in at any point. Always asking permission, and always giving thanks, and always listening deeply before asking for anything --- perhaps asking isn't even necessary if we learn to listen deeply enough.
Maple is said to reveal the options – even those that are hidden in plain sight – which lay before us. Maple enables us to make sound choices rather than rely on blind luck. It is also said to be a wonderful wood for divination.
What are your challenges right now? Restless or interrupted sleep? Inability to dream or remember dreams? Being resistant to allowing dreams to guide you? Excessive daydreaming or fogginess? Meditating with Maple, in person or in the spirit realms, may guide you.
Maple in Transformation.
A few weeks ago, a Maple friend whose rooted place is not entrusted to my care was scheduled to be cut down, due to some damage and the unusual way the tree had grown over a human dwelling-place. I did some resisting, some pleading, some arguing...."wouldn't a good pruning take care of this lovely Tree?".....then with deep sadness, I turned to allowing what had already been arranged to come to be. My son and I sat with Maple, listened....meditated, listened....touched, listened....sang, spoke....listened.
When a beloved one is dying, there isn't much we can do
but accompany, be with, abide, hold space, witness.
Whether or not you have a spiritual calling to do this work,
each of us can show up as we feel called when we see what is happening,
see it for what it is, and energetically provide support
for the passing that is happening before our eyes.
I was still filled with resistance, sharp and heavy inside, sadness like a backpack full of rocks. My back and chest ached. I felt I wanted to leave before the cutters arrived, and made plans to depart.
By the way, whatever happened to arborists?
Tight and grieving, my prayers offered, I felt my habitual response to pain kick in ---- Get away. Don't watch. Numb by disconnecting.
I drink the rain,
I eat the sun,
I give the breath that fills your lungs
I hear the roaring engines come....
I cannot run.
(Heartwood, from the album Lost Words: Spell Songs)
Oh. Tree can't run away.
So somehow, I remembered to breathe. Just one inhale and one exhale. Then one more. And I relaxed, muscle by muscle, tendon by tendon, joint by joint, nerve by nerve, blood vessel by blood vessel. Mercy and Grace flowed into this moment so I was able to stand by and witness the passing of the life of this Maple. And not run away.
What if they find a bird's nest?
I stayed close to devote the day to Maple, co-creating a mandala of transformation. What else really needed to be done?
I softened. My chest tightness began to relax just a little, although the heavy ropes were in place and the cutters were standing by, making plans to do their jobs. Chainsaws. Strong arms. A chipper. Some machine to drag limbs.
What about the little tree frogs?
I started picking up small limbs, and gathering and sorting leaves. I asked the Cutters to hew me some logs. I kept breathing and singing to Maple. "I'm not leaving."
The mandala began to take shape as Maple came to pieces under the cutters. I was still aching, still breathing. The cutters passed by, asking me what I was doing, that they had never seen anything like this before, never seen anyone do something like this before. I told them I was thanking Maple for breath, for shade, for its presence with us. "That's good."
A dear friend of Trees spoke with me and held space with Maple, from thousands of miles away.
Another friend texted to say she could use Maple logs for innoculating mushrooms, that Maple logs are a preferred species for mushroom propagation. I asked the cutters if they would but some 3' - 5' logs. "Whatever you want, we will cut it for you. This long? How many?" So some logs would go back to a forest farm.
The mandala created itself as the leaves, twigs, small branches spiraled into place. Another friend told me she wondered what swirling maple mandala dreams the cutters would be having tonight.
All day singing and witnessing. Remembering how to do this, again. So many things to reclaim. So much to relearn. We all have this capacity to witness and to ease pain and to stay present to what is. Even if we cannot change an outcome to what we want it to be --- in this case, to this particular and beautiful living being Maple not being cut down.
Since this day, I visit the stump with little offerings. I am making wands out of some selected branches. (Want one? Ask me.) I grieve the continuing loss of neighborhood Trees, a loss which almost seems to be accelerating for some reason, no matter where I go. I keep witnessing these losses, always ready to sing to Tree. You can do this too; just remember you already know how, and your love and care make a difference.
Our world is living, breathing, intelligent and alive. Trees and Plants and Animals and Insects are feeling, breathing, alive beings deserving of respect. (Even the ticks and mosquitos. I am still working on that part.)
If you have read this far, I thank you for journeying with me, and with Maple. I would love to hear about your friendship with Maple. Please share if you wish!
Peaceful Witness to Deeper Time
Come sit by me.
I have been here for such a long long time.
Lots of coming and going.
Still I watch.
Here is a spot for you, under my canopy.
No one can see you in here, but me, and no one is looking, not even me. There is a lot of space and even a low branch here;
I will hold you while you sit, and your feet can still reach the ground.
See what it is like to look out from here.
Magnolia, an ancient tree with large fragrant flowers, evolved before there were bees. (Bees evolved around 120 million years ago.) Let that sink in. Before there were bees, there were Magnolia trees.
Magnolias appear to be the first flowering plant. Before that, only conifers and cycads grew; and before that, only horsetails and ferns. Their flowers are pollinated by beetles, whom they attract with their strong fragrant scent. The flowers evolved to be somewhat tough to withstand the beetles exploration with their mandibles. Often appearing before the leaves on the deciduous versions, the flowers may be the first to bloom in spring in some varieties.
"Magnolias have witnessed the movement of continents, the proliferation of mammals, the emergence of hominids who use tools. They have endured the many climactic changes of the interglacial period. They hold the perspective of deep time. To contemplate how much they have seen is to remind oneself of the brief moment humans have walked this strange and wondrous planet." (Janet Kent)
Magnolia's historic distribution, prior to the last ice age, would have been across most of mainland Europe and the rest of the northern hemisphere, though since the last ice age its native range has predominantly been Asia and eastern America. Yes, one of those interesting plants that grows in both Asia and the Appalachians.
"The bark has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Japanese Traditional Medicine. It is very fragrant and contains large amount of two aromatic compounds called magnolol and honokiol. It was common to find it used to help support healthy digestion. Magnolia's 'stimulant' and 'tonic' benefits were included in the U. S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 -1894. Much of the research on this plant has centered around these two constituents. Magnolia bark and it's various constituents have been shown to modulate cortisol production. The bark is commonly used in formulas to support healthy response to stress and calm occasional nervousness as well as to support sleep." (Gaia Herbs website)
My grandparent's, my mother's parents Ruby and Lindsay, had a large magnolia in their front yard. Set back against the tall hedge that ran the length of their property, Magnolia fanned out wide, her low branches to the ground,her high branches facing the sky.Underneath that deep canopy was a playground of immense proportions to a child. While the grown ups sat on the porch on my Nana's white wicker furniture, I spent hours under there, alone and with my cousins, playing all sorts of games and passing the long afternoons of a southern spring, summer and fall. And maybe even a warm winter day.
What I remember most, though, is how safe I felt there. So tucked in and protected. The deep green large leathery leaves made almost a wall to the rest of the yard, there was a small opening on the right side of the tree facing the driveway, and a low branch just perfect for sitting on, rocking a little, and resting and imagining. My endlessly busy mind often drew me to other adventures --- up to the chock-full attic, down to the old garage barn (watch out for snakes!) or into the kitchen to see what my Nana was baking that day. Yet Magnolia was always there, with a wide apron and shelter. Kind of like my Nana (though she was anything but wide).
There is a volunteer Magnolia growing right next to the driveway in my little house in Winston-Salem. Over the past several years, the concrete driveway has started to buckle and lift up from the growing roots of the Magnolia. Last summer, concerned for my tenant living in the house, I thought perhaps I should remove the Magnolia and repave the driveway. SIGH. I even got a few bids. But I couldn't do it. My heart kept saying: what do we need? more concrete for car parking or more trees? (And thankfully, for now, my tenant says she likes the tree and isn't concerned about the driveway.) I have even envisioned shifting the driveway when I really have to tend it. I know, I know, I can hear the lawyers saying "what if your tenant ......?" And the neighbors with the very nice concrete and fancy yard saying "Isn't she letting her place go? She doesn't even live here. What a mess." And yes, I am letting things be for now. It feels right in my heart.
When I really look, what I see is Magnolia showing me what is it like to keep growing through and maybe, just maybe, break up what seems like permanent constriction (and construction). Eventually. Just keep breathing. And offering presence.
Anyway, there's a little view of my heart, and my heart's longing to step into deeper time and observe through Magnolia's lens, through the gentleness and the wisdom of eons of coming and going. Eons on the breath of Gaia.
The time we have been here as a species in very short. Each of our lifetimes pass in the blink of an eye. If this time of confinement is hard for you, for any reason, try spending time with these unfathomably old trees.
If you live in the Southeastern US, rejoice that you do not have to travel to see the Redwoods or the Gingko, more well known ancient trees: just walk outside and breathe in this ancient enduring presence. May we learn with Magnolia to breathe and endure through the changes, in peace.
Earlier this morning I watched a beautiful red-headed and -breasted male house finch eat a dandelion flower. Petal by petal. Patiently. Completely. Right in front of me.
Got me planning I want to harvest some dandelion flowers for today's salad and maybe dry some for later, maybe make some infused oil, probably a flower essence. Good for the liver (feeling irritated about anything?) and all digestive processes too! That's just a start. (All about your Solar Plexus Energy Center .... scroll down for more info.)
Those dandelions! They grow up through cracks in the pavement. They get sprayed with Round Up and who-knows-what-all and keep growing. They take the opportunity created by human disturbance to adapt and thrive. That is some kind of love to keep going through all that.
The physical structure of the universe is love. —Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
More about that Solar Plexus Chakra/ Energy Center, located in the upper belly area and often associated with the color YELLOW. It is concerned with our mental processing and is home to all the internal organs responsible for transformation of all kinds. It is relational. It is tough. It is loving. Have you ever thought about all your liver does for you? Thank you Liver. Thank you Gall Bladder. Thank you Pancreas. Thank you Spleen. Thank you Stomach. Thank you Diaphragm. Thank you Small Intestine. Thank you Large Intestine. Thank you Cell Metabolism. Thank you Hepatic Portal Valve (look it up!).
How does this resonate with your experience of the Solar Plexus Energy Center?
When in balance physically we have strength to fight infections, are free of allergic reactions, and are able to use the nutrients we ingest. When it is out of balance physically we will have low tolerance to infection, suffer from hormone disorders, or have low tolerance for many foods.
Mentally and emotionally when it is in balance, we can listen well (trust our gut!), make the decisions (trust our gut!) and take actions we need to take to keep our life going toward manifesting our true life purpose; out of balance, we may feel stuck, looping in old tapes and past mental and emotional patterning.
Spiritually, when the solar plexus is in balance we are free to trust our interpretation of the world through our own thoughts and emotions and not live in fear of others' different views. When the solar plexus is out of balance spiritually we may feel fear: fear of the displeasure of others, of disappointing others, or fear of subordinating our life and pleasures to the will of others.
Remedies include moving our body, taking risks, learning to feel and release anger in healthy ways.....
Nibble a dandelion and see what s/he tells you.
Pay attention and trust your experience.
What a beautiful day to visit with Grandmother Hawthorn!
The sun is shining and warm but we had shade and a breeze.
The sounds of the bees and birds provided the music.
Now, leaf, flower and twigs (and a couple of thorns!) drying for tea; brandy-based tincture soaking; flower essence coming with the new moon tomorrow....
Hawthorn/craetagus spp: An unparalleled remedy for grief, acute and chronic, at all levels of our being. Gentle yet strong, considered a food, and also quite magical -- the tree of the fairies. Want to know more? Just ask.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Heartease Tea
2 parts hawthorn leaf, flower and berry
1 part green milky oat tops
1 part lemon balm
1 part St John’s Wort
Prepare an infusion of the herbs. Sweeten with honey or stevia if desired. Drink 3-4 cups daily “until joy and hope again fill your heart”.
Come see me if I may assist you with your heart-healing. Grandmother Hawthorn may join us.
"If love resides in the heart, the heart will attune to love." (Cyndi Dale)
With special gratitude to Hawthorn,
and to Reisha,
You know, as in woo-woo.
As in, this is so woo-woo.
How can something this woo-woo work?
You are so woo.
I, and maybe you too, are used to hearing this about the realm of energy healing and the role of the healer in the areas where we do not have scientific evidence to explain our experiences. We have handed over nearly all power to the rational mind to define healing.
Being woo implies ungroundedness, flightiness and a distinct lacking of substance and presence. Not smart. Not real. Not effective. Distinctly off-center. Maybe a little cra-cra.
And yet this energy medicine is as old as time, bringing awareness to our aliveness.
Our core wound today is that many of us are cut off from our indigenousness. We have lost our connection to our multi-dimensional selves, our awareness of ourselves as beings of soul and consciousness in bodies on a living planet to which we are intimately and ultimately connected.
Energy healing teaches me that the physical illness is a communication from my body about an imbalance that may have its roots in the emotional, mental or spiritual plane. The physical manifestation of dis-ease means things have gotten pretty dense. That's woo.
The etymology of words can bring to light information that has been lost to our conscious minds. When I study etymology, I often understand what has been lost because the essential energy carries through somehow.
Consider the basis of woo or wu. In the earliest recorded history of ancient China, during the Shang dynasty, wu referred to a female healer, shaman, herbalist.
The Wu brought the harmonizing and unifying power of the cosmos into embodied presence on earth.
The Wu climbed to the mountains to gather herbs to heal and comfort the sick and dying.
The Wu danced, chanted and sounded healing into being.
Look it up.
But before you do that, go outside and breathe. With your bare feet, breathe your way through your feet all the way to the crystal at the earth's center and anchor there. With that connection in place, travel on your breath all the way out to your very own star in the cosmos. From the warmth of the earth to the light of the star, ride your breath back to rest in the center of your heart.
Yep, I am woo. And so are you.
With gratitude to Asia Suler, One Willow Apothecary, for inspiration.
from Asheville NC
I am blessed to have spent the past weekend learning from herbalist and healer Phyllis D Light (yes that is her true name that she has had for her whole life. And her mom was a Bright, and her niece married a Ray. Yep.).
Phyllis is a healer in the living tradition of southern appalachian and folk medicine, a primarily oral tradition which combines the healing practices of indigenous north american people, the folk medicine of the british isles especially ireland, the spiritual and folks healing traditions of western and northern africa and greek medicine as brought by the spanish and french colonizers.
In energy medicine we spend a good deal of time talking about and teaching GROUNDING, meaning fostering our human connection to earth. We breathe deep to sense that connection. We put our feet on the ground to sense, imagine, visualize, feel or otherwise cultivate our innate and necessary connection to our home.
One of the tenets of southern appalachian folk medicine is this: We are made of the clay of the earth, and we must go back to the clay for our healing.
Why the clay? Well, it's deep. It's not the topsoil (as important and necessary as that is, for sure!). The clay is where the minerals are. Our body is where the minerals are. Have we lost our balance?
Ask any herbalist or nutritionist about our food and what we need, and they will nearly all say we and the soil are mineral-deficient due to over-cultivation of so much of our agricultural land. So go deeper....
The plants that go to the clay have long taproots. And then there are the trees.
Some of the plants we visited in this context include Poke, all the Docks, Kudzu, Dandelion, Lady's Slipper (which grows deeper by the year, and can live 60-70 years!), Red Clover (12 feet of taproot!), Mullein, Comfrey, Boneset, Smilax. And then there are the trees.
So if you like go take a walk and look around you for the plants and trees whose roots reach deep to the clay. You don't have to pull one up to see. You don't have to -- although you can -- make a medicine to take in to your body. Breathe, put your feet on the ground, and feel the healing from your lived connection to the clay.
With love and blessings,
For those of you old enough to remember, there was a circa-70s TV commercial for dish-washing liquid. It showed a woman soaking her fingers for a manicure.
The aesthetician extolled the virtues of a certain dishwashing liquid while her client soaked --- it is a commercial -- as her client wondered if the product would dry her hands.
"You're soaking in it!" exclaimed the aesthetician, much to the surprise of the client, "Relax." Meaning, it won't dry your hands; it will soften, smoothe and protect them.
What does this have to do with our energy body? I was reminded of this phrase "You're soaking in it" recently when noticing I had become a bit stuck in some depressing calamitous news of the day. I was literally soaking in it. And it was having an effect. And it was decidedly not relaxing.
If you are feeling drained, anxious, afraid, sad, lonely or you-name-it from the overwhelm of information in a seemingly-out-of-control world, remember you can choose and are choosing at every moment what to let in to your being. If you don't believe this, I invite you to suspend your disbelief for a moment and try the exercise below.
So keep an eye on what is offered to you and how you wish to respond.
Here are some suggestions for shifting your energy in this context (If you can do this exercise outside, all the better):
1) Actively stop what you are doing right away, whether it is reading, listening, talking, mentally reviewing, planning. Permit yourself to choose, at least for this moment, that you don't have to listen to the news, finish the article, continue with your conversation (though you may want to make a quick and graceful exit).
2) Bring your attention to your breath, the inhale and the exhale. You don't have to do anything else, Just breathe. Take a few conscious breaths, with gratitude for your amazing body that it keeps the breath flowing even when you aren't paying attention to it. (This may be enough, or may be all you have time for.) Notice how you are feeling now.
3) If you want a little more practice.....Feel the breath flow all the way down to your toes and flow all the way to the top of your head. Notice this flow for a few moments. If there are places in your body where you can't feel the breath, simply notice and accept this. (For me, the area of my solar plexus is often a little congested or blocked.)
4) Then let your breath go through your feet deeper into the earth, and then bring that earth energy back up through the crown of your head into the cosmos, the sun, a star or in whatever beautiful safe and enlightened place you decide to land. Then allow the flow to come down from the cosmos through your crown, and so on. Watch this flow in whatever way works for you --- perhaps visually, by feeling it, by sensing it, by imagining it.
5) Take a moment for gratitude for yourself, for taking time to care for yourself. Then carry on with your day. Maybe you go back to the news, maybe not. Give yourself permission to choose what is healthiest for you in this moment.
If you have any comments on how this exercise works for you, I would love to hear them.
You Are Love.