While formulating a new oil, one of the potential ingredients stood out to me very prominently. In fact, I’ve grown that plant before in a koi pond. It’s impossible to get dried or preserved in any way, and increasingly harder to find potted. No, you’ve got to get it in small tissue culture cups specifically for planted aquaria.
In short: The only way I will get the quantity needed for the oil is to order a fussy and temperamental ornamental aquatic plant, and grow it for god knows how long - assuming I even can. And that’s sort of how it ought to be.
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It’s incredibly easy to just buy a big, bulk, vacuum-packed bag of Wormwood or Mugwort from an online retailer and stuff something full of it without really ever engaging with the plant. Given that I’ve now been blogging for over ten years I’m not sure if I ever posted about my “Process”, but if this is a duplicate post, blame my neuroatypical brain, because I certainly will (the traitorous bastard).
When I brush against a “new” plant or material I first try to learn about it in a broad-strokes generic way. Where is it from, what is its conservation status, how ethical is it to obtain, toxicity, etc. Then I dig deeper into “associations”, historical use or lore, whether or not it’s something that’s culturally specific, how common it is in cultivation, where it can be purchased reasonably/ethically, and a bit about its life cycle. If I ever acquire any, the first thing I do is a ritual act of introduction.
This is something I have actually gone into deeper in the long-suffering “familiar book”, but a general gloss would be this:
I, and my plant familiar intermediary, reach out to a presiding spirit of that plant. We make formal introductions of who I am, what I do, what I am offering and what I am seeking. The presiding spirit usually communicates via my plant familiar at first - I get a filtered version of “do not do these things, but please make sure that other things are done.” or maybe “call me by this name, or in this way” or maybe “Leave me alone.” - in which case I dispose of the material I have as safely as I can. I don’t think most people do any of that, or anything even remotely close to that, and that kinda… sits weirdly with me?
The Disclaimer: Obviously each person’s Craft is going to be different, and that’s a good thing. In no way am I saying one way is “wrong” (I mean there are some wrong ways but if you emerge unscathed, congrats on your epic caper). But I wonder to myself whether simply using herbs like components might actually be a contributing factor in cutting off access to the “deepening” of that Craft that so many people seem to be looking for.
For me… it’s sort of like: What is the point of all of this if it’s not forming meaningful connections to the unseen? Isn’t it highly practical to form a meaningful exchange with a powerful spirit who is ready, willing, able, and enthusiastic about contributing to the Work?
Consider that the herb in a jar on a shelf, that bead on your strand, that shew-stone on your conjuration table all came from thinking, feeling, ensouled, creatures (“O thou creature of salt…”). Creatures whose “bodies” produce power for magic by way of their mere existence (much as you do). Consider how it might aid things if you had not only their dismembered bodies, not only their perforce presence, but their ongoing and enthusiastic participation. Not just a herb in a jar, but rather a witch who happens to be a herb in a jar, joining in the unseen coven.
In a lot of ways that’s what people ought to mean when they describe plants as “allies”, but they often don’t. Where I find it I usually find it as a short-hand for “mind-altering” and very little about “partnership”. Rarely do I see acknowledgement of a specific plant having a specific spirit, or any reference to that relationship and how it may differ from others.
I don't want to be part of Woo that places humanity on top of the mountain, lording over. I don't want to be the guy on the mountaintop. I want to be part of a community of beings - embodied, disembodied, never-bodied… etc. Working together.
I work in this sphere - the meaty, bright, earthy, world of whatever we inhabit - and have been given the gift to see and feel and know and love my neighbors in other spheres that overlap this one (does my logo make sense now?). I have been given the gift of hands and flesh with which to DO things; The physical acts my nonphysical compatriots cannot accomplish without great personal cost. Through mutually beneficial and mutually cooperative work we can both achieve our goals.
I will not "rise above" this meat and earth. I will bring my internal godhead down into myself and work wonders from the earth, in the earth, for the earth. I will return to it what it has given me. If not... Get me off this ride, this ride’s going somewhere I don’t wanna be.
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Long ago I had my attention yanked in the direction of Dandelions due to the rising popularity of them being used as an ad-hoc “mannekin”/mandragore. I did a full blog post about it after I’d settled in with the plant, and I find them (on the whole) to be one of the unsung heroes of the Viridarium/Green/Mythotypal Grove.
Working with not only Dandelion as a material, or as a concept, but as a specific presiding spirit has intensified and deepened my relationship with the plant and plant spirit/s greatly. In our relationship I now know another witch who is keenly attuned to specific tasks that I find otherwise difficult. In return all I need to do is kick dandelion seed heads a reasonable amount, and not mow them until they’ve gone to seed. The spirit and I have worked out how best to “interface” to accomplish the work, and the work goes very well indeed.
Dandelion is a psychopomp in reverse. It’s a well that burrows deep and brings up what is hidden. It is indispensable, and even though it’s hated and forsaken… there it is. You’re never going to get rid of it so you might as well get to know it.
Since I began to really pay attention, keep up and work with plants (animals, rocks, locations, etc.) in this way I have found that everything flowed more easily. And imagine my utter shock when one of them (and then more) showed up to circles or dream-sabbats in their finery. So, yes of course ... I'll get the little tissue cultured cup. I will grow the fussy plant. It deserves it. And I will welcome it, if and when it decides to join in.
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And before you go: I've begun working on an as-yet unnamed Lenormand deck. If you hop over to https://ko-fi.com/rootandrock you'll be able to drop a few bucks in the tip jar to follow along with the creation process.