Sheep To Shawl

I wrote the following piece as part of my master herbal work and thought it might help others consider the work and activities they do through different eyes.  I hope you enjoy:

In fiber arts there is a saying, from sheep to shawl.  It is a quick way to describe a lengthy process.  Beginning with a raw fleece (unprocessed animal hair such as a whole lamb fleece), it gets cleaned and prepared.  Next, it is spun up into yarn.  Finally, it is turned into a garment from weaving, knitting, crochet, or some other means.  

It feels magical to take a material from beginning to end.  When you add in intention to the process, it is a phenomenal focal object.  I knit my husband an intricately cabled blanket once while chanting prayers that I had set just for him.  Each row took over an hour to knit.  The entire blanket took about a year to make working around my normal life.  It is the most magickal piece I have ever made.  

Taking that same concept into our herbal work, consider the magickal intent in your tinctures, syrups, capsules etc…  From soil, to seed, to plant, to healing concoction.  At a high level, let’s walk through the process.  You can dive deeper into each step if your interest is piqued.  

Beginning with the soil, we want to start with the healthiest ecosystem that we are able to.  What actions needed will depend on your starting conditions.  Is your soil contaminated?  Acidic?  Too much clay?  

In some cases, you may need to remove the soil present and begin again, such as the case of contamination.  Evaluate all products being used on or near your growing area.  If you live near the freeway and the residue of the road bleeds into your growing area, for instance, you may need to use a self contained growing area.  If this is the case, how can you mitigate the damage to your land.

This is beyond the simple growing aspect of your herbs.  Consider the land, animals, and spirits.  Do they feel safe?  Nurtured?  Honored?  This matters.  It goes beyond the woo woo spiritual whackadoo to the heart.  This is a heart matter.  Are you in tune with the world around you?  Are you being a co creator in a supportive and compassionate environment that supports you and supports the work you do whether it’s talking to an aged parent, writing a paper, to generating healing compositions.  

I would argue that how you approach your land, whether it’s a concrete balcony of an apartment to acreage of wild land is the most important part of your healing work.  If your land is soulless, without nutrients, your plants will be husks of what they could be.  Their spirits will be stunted.  Your medicine will be stunted.  It will be little more than a placebo.  

Don’t discount the placebo effect.  It won’t work because of you, but if your patient has faith their spirit will do the healing.  

Take the time to build a relationship with the land.  Learn what it needs to support life.  Your land is a reflection of you.  

Let’s next consider the seed we use.  When you are able to, in the future, you can collect seeds from the plants you’ve grown.  This will carry the work you’ve done forward.  

You will learn what plants you can grow from seed.  I personally have a few plants that I’ve tried over and over again and have been unsuccessful in growing from seed to full plant.  For me, I can start chamomile inside, but the plant withers as soon as I transplant it.  I can start the plant, here in Alabama, outside, but the plant never gets much bigger than the seedling phase.  While I continue to learn and grow as a horticulturist and continue my hand at growing chamomile from seed, I purchase these as a plant to grow in my garden.  

You will learn as well.

Let’s consider the source of the seeds we collect.  Are you purchasing organic seeds?  What about heirloom?  Consider the health of the plant grown from your seeds.  What do you feel will provide the most life, what will generate the healthiest plant?

As the seedlings grow, you will need to continue monitoring the health of your soil.  Watch for acidity, alkalinity, nutrients, and water levels.  These needs to line up to support the plants you are growing.  

As before, we discussed the health of the land.  Learn to watch and listen to the heart of the plant you are allying with to support health.  Again, this isn’t meant to sound woo woo.  I like to correlate it to a Buddhist principle.

I do not honor the Buddha to honor the Buddha.  I do not honor the Buddha because I believe the Buddha is real.  Whether or not I believe the Buddha is real is irrelevant.  I honor the Buddha to nurture the Buddha within myself.  I honor the Buddha to draw out and to realize the Buddha within my person.  

I do not ally with the plant because the plant spirit is real or not.  I ally with the plant because allying with the plant allows me to ally with the healer within.  The healer within will call out to the healer within others.  You are your best healer.  We can craft herbal medicines to support that healing, but there is nothing greater than supporting the healing from your inner being.

We carry this healer with us as we collect the plant ally.  We carry this healer as we decide the best form of medicine we will craft.  We carry this healer as we set our intention as we create the medicine.  

Ignore the airy fairy feeling of my words.  

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    - Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

There are greater things at work than our science understands or can put into words today that I believe in the future we will be able to explain.   

Mark 9:24, ESV: "Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”"

It’s ok if you don’t believe.  It’s ok if the Buddha exists.  It’s ok if the Buddha doesn’t exist.  

Despite my belief, despite my unbelief, despite me, how I work with plant medicine from seed to jar is a reflection of me and my relationship with the healer within me.  

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