Having relationships with plants and especially herbs has always resonated with me. This started in my childhood in our yard and wildflower fields and forests around it, and the chamomile tea my mom made for me to help me sleep. It grew over time to pots of plants, overflowing tea cabinets and a whole cabinet in my kitchen full of dried herbs and jars of homemade tinctures and oils.
I am fortunate that I have been able to learn from some excellent teachers, but the most relevant lessons come directly from the plants themselves. In shamanic and other anamistic work, we engage directly with the spirit of all beings, be they plant, animal, stone, elements, places, and objects both natural and human-made.
We also use our second attention to track what is going on around us, always noticing and taking in information with our felt sense (felt sense is everything we notice inside as well as outside of our bodies).
And in the noticing come the lessons. All of my spiritual herbalist teachers have said that what is growing right around us is the medicine we need at the time. This applies to us personally but also to the collective as a whole.
This summer lemon balm started growing in almost all of my potted plants. Living in an apartment, I feel fortunate to have 2 large balconies, one upstairs and one downstairs. I had one lemon balm plant on the downstairs balcony. Yet, most of my plant pots on the upstairs balcony have sprouted lemon balm. I pluck it out, I harvest it and dry it for tea and it comes right back. It’s in the oak tree seedling in the bucket, the mini-rose I’m trying to keep alive, coming up from the thicket of thyme. It finally occurred to me the other day that there is a message it is trying to give me.
So I sat down with my drum and tuned in.
Almost immediately a feeling of cool green comfort wrapped around me. Calming the outer layer of my energy field, buffering any disturbance or chaos that may be going on around me. I heard them speak to me.
We help one to lose interest in the collective drama. We do this by bringing be-ing not do-ing. But when you must do, you can also be.
I was shown that bringing myself back to feeling the cool green window in my center that lemon balm creates for me helps me be present in what I am doing. It instills a sense of calm presence in the action.
And I got the feeling that lemon balm is also about fresh starts and new beginnings, the vibration of spring no matter what the season.
The message of lemon balm was simple and something that I felt so much in my body. I thanked them for the message and the medicine and decided I would just let it grow wherever it wants for now. After all they are sharing their energy and vibration with all the other beings in the neighborhood as well.
Lemon balm Melissa officinalis is in the mint family and has wonderful medicinal properties as well as the energetic properties they described. For a lovely dive into that, check out evolutionary herbalist Sajah Popham’s plant profile here.
We acquire power objects in many different ways, but most often the spirits of the objects reach out and specifically choose us.
Many of my friends and colleagues tell stories about a drum calling to them across a crowded room of vendors. Or passing by it and feeling pulled to it, connecting to that spirit right away. The stories usually start with, “I hadn’t planned to get a new drum, but then this one spoke to me and wanted to come home with me.”
Many times power objects will be gifted to us by our teachers. Releasing them is part of their learning path and receiving them is part of ours. Usually they come with no instructions or information at all. It is part of our learning experience to engage directly with the spirit and find out what powers they hold. Sometimes we are not ready to engage with that power. We have to go through initiations and learn to raise our energy to the frequency where we can work with the power.
If that is the case, and if it takes us a while to go through our initiations, the spirit of the object may go to sleep. When the timing is right, we may get a nudge from our team of helping spirits about what we need to do to wake up the spirit of the object. And then sometimes the spirit just leaves.
Many years ago when I was very new to my shamanic path, my first shamanic teacher, Lone Dove, met me for lunch at a restaurant. A couple other students who were in our study group joined us. When Lone Dove walked in, the entire energy of the place amped up a level. She sat down and placed a paper bag she was carrying next to her chair. I felt ripples of energy coming from that bag. After a time she handed it to me. By this time I felt like I had had three cups of coffee and my hair on my neck was standing on end. I opened the bag to find a turtle shell rattle which felt warm and alive in my hand. It was exquisitely crafted with a handle wrapped in snakeskin and beads. I was stunned. She didn’t tell me much about it, except that she was passing it on to me now, and that I would receive what I needed to know from the rattle itself.
I gave it a protected place on my altar, welcomed it with ceremony and danced with it in my medicine circle in the backyard. I journeyed with it asking for guidance from it. I didn’t get any then, but kept trying. Over the next few months I worked with it on and off but I was distressed to feel the power ebb from it. And Lone Dove had moved and gone on to other things, my studying with her had ended.
At that time, I was not up for the initiation that the rattle brought with it. I did not have the wisdom or the strong relationship with my spirit team then that was necessary to work with the rattle and the power it held. The overlighting Spirit that came with it that had a relationship with Lone Dove left the rattle. Perhaps it went back to her, I do not know. But the spirits of the parts of the rattle were still there and I did connect with turtle and snake spirit over the years. I learned much from the rattle since then.
In many cases the spirit of the object remains with the object and can teach us when we are ready. We may just need to reach the level of consciousness that resonates with it, or in some cases wake up the spirit within who may be sleeping. We will get nudges or even detailed instructions when ready.
When we are ready to pass power objects on, the spirit of the object can direct us to who they would like to go next. That is also something to think about before we leave this plane. I know of powerful shamans who have after their death contacted other shamans to retrieve power from objects they left behind. Ceremony can be done for the original owner so they can take the power with them in the Spirit realm they are inhabiting now.
When we have relationships with Spirits who are embodied in power objects, we have a responsibility to caretake them and the power they hold. If we are getting into our elder years we may begin to pass on power objects to family members, students or colleagues. We may think about leaving detailed instructions with our wills and trusts about our power objects. That way power can be passed on, retrieved or even freed to go where it will.
I like to think that the Spirits who power these objects can have infinite experiences in many realms, just like our own soul essences. It’s just possible that we partner with one another again and expand our relationship in new ways.
When we have a shamanic practice, we are going to have power objects. This is because we recognize and respect the Spirit in all things, and we create relationships with those spirits. Spirit in something can be as unique as each one of us is, and also part of the collective, as we all are. The life-force energy of something can vary across the spectrum, just like it can vary from person to person across their health and life span.
The tools we use in our practice become imbued with the power of our intentions, but they also have an innate original power within them that we acknowledge and then build relationship with as we work with them.
A shaman’s drum carries the original spirits of the hide of the animal that was used to make the head and lacing, and the wood from the tree that was used to make the frame. The drum may also carry the spirit of the maker or any helping spirits the maker invoked or worked with in the creation of the drum. As all these elements and spirits came together with the maker to create this drum, they then became part of an over-lighting spirit of the whole drum itself. We can engage with this spirit and ask it to become our ally.
We usually do this by going on a shamanic journey and asking to meet the spirit of the drum. We might ask what it would like to be called, and how it would like to work with us. Maybe it shows us or connects us with the spirits of any elements or animals or plants that are part of it and tells us how those relate to the over-lighting spirit.
Then we must ask how we can best honor its spirit and be in the best relationship with them. This is unique to the relationship between us and them, but it can also be very simple. Some of the requests made to me by the spirits of drums and other objects over the years have been quite varied. I have had requests to sing to them before starting work with them, to anoint them with oil, to smudge with palo santo, put them in the sunlight, put them in the moonlight, lay them on the earth, just to name a few. Sometimes it can be a little more specific, like being told by the spirit of one of my rattles that this is not an everyday working item, but is instead to be used in certain ceremonies.
It is important to ask, and then to follow through with what has been requested. If the request is something we cannot do, like dance with it in the ocean spray each day and we live a two hour drive from the coast, then we can ask for a compromise. For example, we can say that we will be able to do this once a month, but we can also bring some ocean water home from the coast and sprinkle it on them each day. I have found that Spirit is quite happy to work with us in these compromises.
When we consistently engage with and work with the spirits of these items, then these items fill with the power of that spirit and become power-full. We can also engage with those spirits if we need to when we are not even in the same location with them. They are energy, and when we have that relationship with them as an ally, they usually can be there for us as such anytime and anywhere.
I used the drum as an example here, but power objects and elements are any item that we may hold sacred. They don’t have to be a tool, they can be clothing, jewelry, art, heirlooms, or anything that we feel the Spirit of and consciously connect to in relationship, and in our spiritual practice.
We humans love to have sacred or power objects as part of our spirituality. For thousands of years there have been temples and shrines that have housed them, and objects so sacred they accompanied their owners to the after-life in their burials. Not limited to shamanism, many spiritual traditions have power-full objects. Christians have crosses, rosaries and blessed Holy water, Buddhists have prayer beads or bells, just to name a few examples. We all may regard and use power objects differently, but in their essence, they are a tangible and important part of our human-Spirit connection.
Connecting with the Spirit of the drum before a workshop
To help you tend to soul issues that may manifest in physical, emotional, mental or spiritual aspects of your life, and to give you tools to empower your path to harmony and well-being.
-There are so many kindred spirits doing the work out there. I include these links to help our community connect with one another.
FAIRY CONGRESS - Offers a summer weekend gathering in person with workshops, circles and of course faeries and nature beings! They also offer a winter virtual weekend with amazing guest speakers like Orion Foxwood, David Spangler and R.J. Stewart. I highly recommend joining the online network to participate in monthly workshops, circles, and book clubs.
SACRED HOOP Magazine Guide to Shamanism Compilation- http://www.sacredhoop.org/Pages/FreeGuide.html
Owner Valeria Pearson lovingly created SOLE TO SOUL YOGA studio with a community focus. There are classes for all levels and events that lift the spirit. I am delighted to partner with her to offer a kirtan chanting circle once a month.
My friend and herbalist mentor, LAWRENCE BIRCH is a Certified Clinical Herbalist, plant whisperer and shamanic practitioner. If you need custom tincture blends or are interested in a wildcrafting apprenticeship, he is the teacher extraordinaire:
ROGER WHEELOCK and GAYLE RUTH are shamanic practitioners and teachers in the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition. https://www.rainmother.com/ I am grateful to be able to take part in ceremony with them, and to support their love for the Peruvian people through the World Ayni Association. Roger has a practice in Asheville, NC https://www.communityshaman.com/
NEW WORLD KIRTAN = Kitzie's podcasts include interviews with artists and kirtan music. I love attending her weekly Satsang group and the New World Kirtan Band concerts -