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Harvesting Plant Spirit


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#1 Leonardo

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 03:07 AM

I’m curious to know how people here interact with and harvest plants. This is one of those things that we often take for granted, but surely many of us work with herbs and other flora; I believe that discussing how we approach gathering plants can shed a unique light on each of our paths.

I’ll share my practice and how I arrived at it in the hopes that others will do the same. Mods, forgive me if this post is in the wrong place and feel free to move it.

During my time in South America, I was taught by shamans that plants will ‘retract’ their spirit from harvested parts if they are not approached properly. It was described to me as analogous to how humans go into shock during a traumatic event, an act that shamans very much see as the involuntary withdrawal /loss of human spirit.

For them, a harvested twig, flower, leaf or sprig without spirit effectively only functions at partial capacity within a magical setting as only the chemical compounds remain. To ensure that they harvest ‘living’ and ’spirited' plant material, the Quechua and Aymara shamans would sing a song to the spirit of the planet, sometimes offer a prayer and then proceed to leave an offering.

As I began to look at other practices of harvesting magical plants, I found several similarities in the folk practices of Western magical traditions as preserved in the grimoires and in the practices of the Graeco-Egyptian witches, priests and magicians. Several spells in the Greek Magical Papyri deal with gathering plants. In these, while not explicitly stated, there is an underlying desire to honor the plant spirit and inform it why it is being harvested. Some spells, like PGM IV. 2967-3000 are incredibly involved requiring the practitioner to purify their own body with natron, fumigate the herb to be picked with pine resin, burn kyphi incense and pour milk libations as he/she invokes the spirit of the plant with beautiful prose (“You were sown by Kronos, you were conceived by Hera, you were maintained by Ammon, you were given birth by Isis, you were nourished by Zeus the god of rain, you were given growth by Helios and dew….I am acquiring you with Good Fortune and Good Daimon both at a propitious hour and on a propitious day that is effective for all things.”)

My personal ritual is a little less involved, but the gist of it is the same. I will make an offering of gratitude to the Earth and to the spirit of the plant - this entails an incantation (derived from PGM IV. 2967-3000) while I sprinkle some cornmeal on the ground along with some drops of my drinking water. I will then ask the plant to retain its spirit in its body so that we may work together to achieve whatever the reason I am harvesting it. I will then slow my breath and pass my hands over the plant until I feel a distinct increase in energy… the plant communicates what part of it should be harvested. This is the part that I take and it is generally pulsing with plant spirit and energy. While I can’t prove my results scientifically, It does seem that approaching the harvesting of plants as a sacred act and magical ritual in itself has greatly increased the potency of plants in my personal work.

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#2 bewitchingredhead

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 05:46 AM

What are your thoughts on simply asking the plants, trees, flowers, etc. for direct permission? This is what I mostly do when harvesting something, especially something I'm not personally growing. Something that I personally grow I usually talk to the plant, communicate my wishes, etc. and receive the messages from them. I know the pulsing of energy to which you're referring. Sometimes it's that (the pulsing) I feel as an answer, other times I simply hear the word "yes" or "no" (like if I want to pick a flower from a field, a branch from a tree, etc).

I don't have the experience w/the type of rituals to which you refer, but they certainly don't seem like a bad thing. I'm sure you get a lot of reciprocal benefits that way as well.

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#3 westofthemoon

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 08:00 AM

I ask for permission like BWR.
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#4 Michele

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 11:38 AM

… the plant communicates what part of it should be harvested. This is the part that I take and it is generally pulsing with plant spirit and energy. While I can’t prove my results scientifically, It does seem that approaching the harvesting of plants as a sacred act and magical ritual in itself has greatly increased the potency of plants in my personal work...


That is my understanding... that the plant tells one which part to take for the specific purpose one has told the plant they need it, and that must put/keep it's spirit in the piece you are taking.... I suck at physically feeling the plant, so I ask and say why I need the part so the plant knows what I want to do with it and then I keep checking periodically for signs. Sometimes it takes days and sometimes it doesn't happen at all (which is a "no" lol). For me, the sign is usually via the breeze - like a strong sudden breeze that makes the plant look "nervous" and jumpy I take as no or not now, lol.... if a breeze keeps getting one particular part of the plant or one particular leaf or branch or twig, then I investigate that particular leaf/branch/twig more. I also have a lot of spiders here, and they're much related to magic, so if the next morning or few days there's a lot of spider activity on one particular part, then I look to that, too. It's trying to understand how something that can't "speak" speaks to me, lol...

M

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#5 RoseRed

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 02:19 PM

Leonardo, what a beautiful and ritualistic way to harvest. Not many people take the time to do this every time. Once upon a time ago, I did. As my relationships grew with certain plants the formalities lessened. There are times and harvestings that I do in full Ritual but not everything I do requires that level of it.

I generally try not to evoke the Greek gods if I can help it. Actually, I prefer to not put myself on their radar at all. They have an strange sense of humor. But, ya know - if that's someone's thing - have at it.

That's a very nice transition from the original ritual to your personal practice. It's a beautiful flow that encompasses the feel of the original. Sweet.

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#6 Christine

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 03:14 PM

I sing. I'm just a singer, and I sing most of the time. I have at least one song for just about any occasion, so yeah I have a bunch of harvest tunes. I give offerings too, and some of my best buds get them whenever I stop by, whether I'm there to harvest or not. I give whiskey, generally. No one told me to do it, and I never really promised to do it, but I would feel uncomfortable with myself, and very rude, if I did not.
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#7 travsha

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Posted 26 June 2015 - 05:31 PM

I will first tell the plant why I would like to harvest some of it, and then ask permission. I usually get an internal sense which plants to gather from and how much. Usually I will leave an offering of mapacho/tobacco for the plant, and depending on the plant I may first blow mapacho smoke onto the part I want to gather before gathering it (I only blow on some plants that I gather though - usually ones I plan on dieting with, or plants that I especially consider powerful or sacred....).

I usually only sing to the plants that I grow, but I leave tobacco for any plant I harvest.

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#8 Leonardo

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 05:15 PM

Thank you all for sharing your practices.

I find it beautiful that while the details may differ, we all follow through with some form of covenant with nature (even simply asking permission is acknowledgment of the plant Spirit). For me - and it seems like for most of you - this type of exchange definitively empowers the magic.

Michele, I love that spiders help you communicate with the plants...they are in many ways the guardians of the plant kingdom.

RoseRed, I never work with the Greek gods in their Olympic forms as they can be rather unpredictable. The PGM tends to employ them in conjunction with Egyptian and Babylonian deities and outside of the Olympic hierarchy. For example Zeus is a storm/weather deity in this system - not a ruling 'elite' - no less and no more powerful than any of the others, as a result they end up working together not only with Egyptian gods (i.e. Isis, Ammon) but with the Titans and pre-Olympians (Helios, Kronos, etc.). The papyri preserve the folk magical system employed by the Hellenized Egyptians of the time, they present a very different view of deity than the commonly known mythologies and orderly hierarchies of the "state religion".

Travsha, why do you only sing to plants you grow?

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#9 RoseRed

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 08:18 PM

It's so much better to not be noticed by the Greek gods. I don't blame you.
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#10 travsha

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Posted 30 June 2015 - 09:30 PM

Travsha, why do you only sing to plants you grow?

..........

Sometimes I may sing to a plant I found foraging, but mostly I just leave an offering and try to tell them why I am gathering them ect..... Singing to them doesnt feel or seem necessary, unless the mood just struck me.

I do sing to the plants I grow at home because they are there everyday and I am around them all the time.... So I sing to them randomly - not when I am harvesting them. Sometimes I will sing to plants in the wild too - just not every time I harvest them. I am more likely to sing to a plant that I meditated with then one I am harvesting sometimes - not because of any reason, but just because that is what feels right....

I wouldnt avoid singing to a plant I was harvesting though - I just dont feel specifically called to sing to them.... Although - any time I make a medicine or preparation I will sing to it while I am making it, so in a way any plant I harvest will get sung to eventually - just maybe not at the harvesting stage of things...

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#11 Zombee

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Posted 06 June 2016 - 01:37 AM

I cup may hands around the part I want to take, and ask the plant, including an idea of how it will be used. Then I wait for a glow in the plant's aura. No glow, don't cut.
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#12 Michele

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 11:18 AM

I had a thought.... if it is correct that non-permission-given cuttings/harvests do not have the spirit of the plant in them, but only the mundane chemical make-up of the plant..... then anything store bought and/or grown would not be useful for magic, only for medicinal purposes.......

 

M


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#13 Llyr

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Posted 07 June 2016 - 01:28 PM

Leonardo may I just say that as a lover of nature I found your original post a joy to read. Although I don't go into that much detail and don't worship or call on any deities, I also feel it is important to honour the plant.

 

My wife has called me the plant whisperer in the past because of my ability to bring plants and trees back to life. All plants and trees emit a tremendous amount of energy to me and although a plant can look physically dead, if I can feel its spirit resonating with mine then I will know that it just needs support.

 

I do talk to the trees and the plants and if I am totally honest I can laugh and feel tickled by plants and trees more when I am alone with them than I laugh in a group of people!! I make regular offerings to them and I cant stress enough how much simple offerings and simple love for them can help you in any dealings or workings you have with them.


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#14 Zombee

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 06:34 PM

M - the old practice of the last sheaf of corn in the field being saved to make a corn dolly to house the spirit comes to mind...but how many corporate or private farms practice this any more? When I buy produce at the grocery store, I look for the liveliest cello-wrapped bag of carrots. It's usually in the middle of the heap, and slightly glows. Same with lettuce, i check this as well as firmness and size of the stem. If i stare at a heap of extra large baking potatoes, there's always a few with more character than the rest. Some stores sell fresh herbs that were probably greenhouse grown; who knows. Herbs in jars...? Ya pays yer money, ya takes yer chances.
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#15 Mistflower

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Posted 08 June 2016 - 09:00 PM

I don't have any specific rituals really, I just interact with my plants like individuals, on a daily basis. I chat to them under my breath and in my head. Sort of talking to myself. The same with the minibeasts that I find on the plants. It's different depending on the individual plant, how long they've lived with me, how many seasons I have supported them through, and so on. Sometimes I have to tell them off a bit, for example, I had to deal with a group of squabbling sweet peas recently. Their peers at the other end of the trellis were behaving, but these ones were just pushing and shoving eachother and bickering.  (I wonder whether it's anything to do with being annuals - the perennials seem a little more sensible)!

 

I've never felt this pulsing thing that some of you mention - for me, it's more like an occasional tingling in the fingertips, like pins and needles.


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#16 Belle

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Posted 10 June 2016 - 12:49 AM

I don't really commune with my plants. I care about them, and I hate to pull the weeds because I feel like they are people too. I don't like to cut them back because I think it hurts but it does make them feel better. I am not super gardener by any means. I have to tend my land because somebody has to do it.

 

I do have a houseplant. Usually I avoid getting them because I have been known to neglect them and it is horrible to watch the slow death process and feel the guilt and remorse for not watering them, yet still not watering them.

 

This is an orchid that somebody gave me as a gift. I was upset because I knew I would kill it but Orchie is still with me and it has been almost 3 years. In fact, he is blooming now. That is my one special plant and I even have a Christmas outfit for him to wear at Christmastime.

 

I don't feel bad about taking fruit from a tree or anything a plant will produce. I think they want to share their bounty, but I do feel bad about murdering a plant to eat it. I wouldn't want to plant carrots for instance. 


Edited by Belle, 10 June 2016 - 12:51 AM.

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