In my first post I was touching lightly on the idea of perspective and how a change in the fore mentioned can alter our lives dramatically for the better. This is also equally true when unlocking the doors that lead to the mysteries of the natural world.
Have you ever stumbled upon an author (not literally...haha) that you just adore....only to find out that they have passed into spirit. You realise that the joy of discovering each new work will not go on forever. This is not the case when you turn to the natural world....I have been studying, sensing,feeling, tasting and observing for years, and yet, I still feel there are many more doors to be opened, leading me to new and wonderful insights. It is a lifetime journey.
One of the rules I try to adhere to when I give presentations,herb walks..or whatever, is to structure the event in such a way that those in attendance develop their own awareness and understanding of the natural world. The idea is not to feed all the answers but develop a sense of how and where to look for those answers, to change their perspective in how they see the natural world.
I must confess, when I present my experiences to an audience, I feel uncomfortable with the words "lecture" or "expert". Each individual must speak for himself...but I feel myself more as one rung on a ladder heading upward to increasing awareness. I make a contribution based on the knowledge and experiences I have gathered along my journey, but I do not see them as definitive. They are more contributive to the ever growing collective knowledge.
Equally, when I read books entitled " The Complete Book Of Herbs"....or the "Definitve Collection of Herbal Knowledge" ....and so on.....I do privately wee myself laughing (oh..and if you wondered...there are herbs that help against weeing yourself laughing...but that is for another blog...haha!). As a professional herbalist I do, from time to time, refer to other's knowledge to expand my insight into the nature and workings of certain herbs....and I have never found a single book to date that had all the answers.
For me, one of the most trustworthy ways to begin to open the doors to the mysteries of nature is to get out there and observe and experience. Herbs are so complex because we can understand them on so many levels. It is for this reason that I do not feel we can ever understand them by taking a reductionist approach. We need a more shamanic approach that brings us closer to a "sense" of what they are about rather than a rigid definition. Over the years, my observations of the natural world has led me to discover patterns that leave me in no doubt that some wonderful intelligence has motivated it all into being. The divine presents itself on many levels...but I wish to start out with some simple examples. The reason for this is I see learning about herbs as a bit like learning a new language. You start small, learn a few words, build a few phrases...and soon you are able to communicate in that world...In this case, the plant world.
The two herbs I wish to bring your attention to are Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) and Clivers (Galium aperine).
When you start your regular journey out into the natural world you will notice that these two plants grow frighteningly often together. Why is that? Obviously, they share a taste for the same environment. In recognising this we begin to understand the herbs themselves.
Nettles tend to grow in a special area that I have coined the phrase "the wind shadow" to describe it. This is the area around the tree and beyond whose boundaries are defined by the dominant direction and ferocity of the local wind patten with respect to the falling leaves . Naturally, gravity claims the largest collection of leaves directly below the tree itself. This density thins as we reach the outer limits of the wind shadow. It is in this space that Nettles "thrive". I have used the word "thrive" because it expresses another consideration about understanding herbs that I will touch on in another blog. That Nettles thrive in this environment tells us something about them. The roots of trees go deep and they bring up many minerals from the deeper layers of the earth and translate them into an organic form that other plants and animals can use. This is expressed in the surrounding soil of the wind shadow by the falling leaves. The character of the Nettle for me is a bit like that of an over- indulged child. It sits within the protection and shelter of the parent tree and is fed a rich diet of nutrients. Those same nutrients can be passed on to us.
Clivers, grow amongst the nettles and depend on them for support to climb towards the light. Where the stems of Nettles are strong...those of Clivers are fragile...so this suggests an interdependence. Translated into the human body we know that Nettles are excellent for improving blood quality. They bring many nutrients to the body...are cooling (reflecting their moist and shadowed environment) and expel heat, in the form of acids, from the body.
Clivers on the other hand are associated more with affections of the lymph system....a system that interacts with the greater circulatory system in transporting nutrients and expelling waste, as well as defending the system as a whole. This association is well supported by its physical signatures (The Doctrine of Signatures) that I will get into later in another blog.
That both Nettles and Clivers grow in the same soil and show an interdependence is reflected in their associated interdependent fluids and systems within the body (blood and lymph).
Both Nettles and Clivers are two of the plants to appear early in spring...and they do so in large quantities. This reflects what I have mentioned above about suggestions of an intelligence and of the divine. For me these plants have been given to us because they play a role in clearing the acid wastes of winter produced by the easily wintered foods like meat, grains and nuts and improve the quality of blood and lymph. One sign of poor blood and lymph quality is skin manifestations.
Once we have opened this door of understanding we can build and act upon it. Both Nettles and Clivers can be used fresh or dried in tea...Better still, they can be blended into smoothies that bring instant and fresh benefit to our bodies and a sense of well being.
I could write pages on just these two herbs alone, but we are building a language together. So this will do for today.
Become a friend of The Green Man...get out there and experience and develop your own personal relationship with the natural world.
Health and Happiness
The Green Man