The name of this blog refers to the two plant allies I am working with this year – although they have long been friends, and I trust and love them deeply, this is the year I decided to honour their Medicine and deepen my relationship, by working with both as Allies. For those who might not know what I mean by that, more later. For now, a simple introduction to the Medicine.
White Pine (Pinus strobus) was my first ally, when I started working in this way with plants and trees.It was Susun Weed’s writings that started to shift my relationship to plants from “things to get constituents out of ” and magical correspondences, to the way I relate to, love and understand them now. For many years I fancied myself a bit of a herbalist; to be fair, I had walked around this area for a decade with my Peterson Field guides and well worn copies of John lust in my backpack – I could tell you the common names (and a few Latin) of most of the usual field and roadside plants – and add in a couple f uses as well. I proudly made mullein ear oil for the dogs and a blend of chapparal, echinacea and I-forget-what now, that I got from Jeanne Rose’s section on herbal help for animals. I could certainly tell you what storebought and usually trendy herb to get for your arthritic dog, or your own upset tummy…I had a dozen herbals and a pretty expansive knowledge of magical uses. The store I worked in, lat 1980s, had a line up from Acacia to Yohimbe, in glass jars right in the front window(a pretty bad place, if I may say so in retrospect). In my work with dogs, I’d grown accustomed to using the same dozen commercial herbs over and over. Plus, I had a working knowledge of about 20 Essential Oils, mostly blending them into formulas for such thing as anointing candles at Beltane or Yule.
I had no idea how much there was to learn.
I can’t recall just why I started the ABCs of Herbalism with Susun, but it was at a time when I felt I needed to ground my magical practise in something immediate and lived – “magic” per se felt like it was becoming a little abstracted and remote, whereas I prefer a green Witch, Earth Path kind of approach, weaving magic into cooking, caring for animals, even cleaning and organizing my home, and Susun’s straightforward and down-to-earth method of teaching appealed to that. I started with the idea of an Ally, rather hesitantly – what could I say to a TREE? It’s weird to look back on that now and wonder, whatever was I thinking, I mean I spoke with ancient deities, the Fae and Spirits of the Land all the time, but still somehow saw plants as inanimate objects. It goes to show how deeply our attitudes toward life and the Green World really are inculcated! As I found out, it was not so much what I could say to a tree, but of course, what he said to me, and how my process of hearing unfolded..
And so I started thinking about just this one tree, in a different way. Doing the daily breathe-with exercise. Speaking to him, learning his ways. Slowly making medicines – pine needle tea and vinegar, salve from overflowing resin and needles infused in almond oil, baking crushed needles into shortbread and quickbreads (with varying results). I learned as much as I could about the species (I’m good at things like that) learned to make things with needle and resin (I’m ok at things like that) and then I waited for some gnosis to strike me, so I’d *get* this “plant shaman thing.” (I am terrible at waiting).
I won’t try to sum up such a long and lovely unfolding of relationship here. I’ll just make a start with the first thing I really *saw* – and I’ve practised augury of various kinds for decades – I needed something concrete and unmistakable to wake up, an I think the Pine-being knew that. So one morning several years ago, I was out poking around the edge of the property – where my one White Pine presides, and found this on the ground in front of me, unavoidable, plain as the day.
you can’t see it here, but this was a perfect length and shape (forked end) for a stang. So now it looks like this:
Well, actually it’s been further stripped and sanded, and is awaiting adornment (I don’t make enough time for this aspect of my life) but I don’t have a newer photo, and this one has my beautiful cat Sita Mari in it, plus my Temple door and groovy Qabalah print (from my BOTA days). . So it shows the gift of pine..that started opening me to hearing plant spirit speaking.
For those who don’t know what a stang is, a good description can be found here: http://www.traditionalwitchcraft.com/Stang
Now it is years later and while I put aside the Ally work for a while, to focus on cramming as much book-learning into my head as possible(and yes, some medicine making and wildcrafting as well) I have come to immersion in the deep wisdom of the Ally. Althea had a great part to play in that realization, as did my Silver Maple tree…but enough for now. This blog is about process, healing, magic, beauty, and finding one’s purpose at whatever stage of life. It’s about perserverance and strength with a touch of softness, like both Mallow and White Pine. It’s about opening to spirit in places you had not thought were there. It’s about plants, animals and one woman’s journey. May you find your own Allies and love them as I do my own.