When traversing through wild, uncultivated, or even less trafficked spaces, we human folk can far too easily forget that we are guests in sacred space. While our adventures into the wild may last hours or even days, they are the permanent home to many non-human persons. From animals, birds, fish, and insects- those beings we can easily perceive, to non-human non-corporeal spirits of place and land who are less easy to perceive, the wild world we walk is filled with persons.
One tell-tale sign of presence comes when we stumble across a carved path across the landscape. This is not the same type of path as a human-crafted trail, road, or path- but something quite different; otherworldly even. These paths can easily go unnoticed if we aren’t looking for them. They are the ways carved into the land over seasons and centuries by animal folk and spirit folk alike= and they hum with power.
Ancient tracks connect one place to another. They link dens to watering holes, lookout points to hunting grounds, where one was raised to where one raises their own. Animals of many types use he same paths and seem to intuitively follow along veins of power in the land that help orient them in their mystery traditions. These same paths traveled by deer, fox, hare, and bear can also be follow by hawk in the sky and ant in the dirt. They have a certain gravitas which, not too unlike a highway, draws one into a path of least resistance when getting from one place to another.
But the secrets of these tracks don’t stop here- in fact, this is just the beginning.
Ancient tracks are also used and frequented by the spirits of place- those beings who are without a fleshy form that call this place home. The Fairy of ancient British lore are know to travel these ley lines between their haunts, use them to move camps each season, or work with them in their land-based mystery traditions. One of the most common warnings in British Fairy Faith lore is to never ever impede, destroy, or otherwise block these sacred pathways unless one wishes to incur the wrath of the good folk.
These tracks, then, link physical places together. They also link otherworldly places together and are often the ways in which many spirits pass between one world and the next. They are alive; rivers of power pulsing as crossroads and bridges between this land and the land as it exists in otherness.
I invite you, the next time you find one of these quiet tracks, to place your palms on the earth which has been exposed from their constant use. Drop into the pulse of this great artery of power and trace with your mind’s eye, the great distance this path emerges from and goes toward. Feel this track, as though it were a thread in the great weaving of the cosmos, stretch from our world into the otherworld. Be connected to what you feel, and maybe lay a word or feeling of blessing here in hopes that it might be picked up by the traveling hordes as they pass by.
Plant Spirit Divination
To communicate with plants is a great feat. While on one level we are already in deep rapport with them via our shared breath and the fact that we are quite dependent on them for our very survival, the nuances of communication and conversation can be hard to find on the dial of our sensory radios.
Divination techniques offer us a more tangible way of interacting with the plant spirits and experiencing how it feels to have their wisdom and power move through our bodies. Tools engage the nervous system, give the mind something to focus on, and involve us energetically in the process of sharing where we’re more accustomed to just speaking, hearing, and seeing.
I work with a dozen different modalities of divination in my work- only two of which involve any type of physical tool outside my own body. These methods have been given to me by the plants and their guardian deities over the years and have helped me to train, refine, and sharpen my intuition to the point where I don’t use them nearly as much as I used to. They have taught me how to be present for the quiet movements and voices of the plant spirits and the green realm and how to begin to perceive them as they are, without the need for a middle-point tool. I was originally given the two methods that utilize divination tools, then slowly after that was given others that elide entirely on my own ability to perceive the subtlety of the green ones.
The way I work, divination can be used as a means to connect with individual plant spirits, deities, spirits of place, ancestors, and even energy patterns in a place or in a situation. I have specific modalities that I call on to approach each of these different categories of people, ones that seem to work best when aligning to the unique ways each of them speak and share.
I think it’s important for all of us, but especially folks who are new to working in more sorcerous, ritualized, and spiritual ways with the plants, that it can be hard to enter into those deep states of dynamic communication we all seek. Wanting it to happen is the intention that opens the ways, but the arte and craft must follow close behind. Plant spirit divination is a powerful way to engage the wholeness of who we are in the process so that we can strengthen and clarify our intuitive abilities over time.
In my work, divination utilizes the very bones of nature. When using tools, I work with staves (small bits of wood that have been harvested and prepared in ritual) and stones which are picked up, worked with, then immediately replaced to where they were. These tools carry a powerful connection to the land, the plant spirits, the spirits of place, the ancestors, and the deities of our ways just by being who and what they are.
If you’d like to learn 10 of my plant spirit divination techniques, I invite you to join us in The Grove where an immersive video course exists. Each lesson has been filmed out in the elements so that you can see how the process looks and how simple and direct it can be.
More often that I can count folks have asked me what it is I do. They aren’t usually looking for specifics but would rather have a nice tidy title that explains the tradition and path I work. Coming to an appropriate answer has been something of a journey for me since I have learned pretty much everything I do from my green allies directly and have been informed by lore and legend that is rarely neatly bundled in traditional expressions. So, what is it exactly that I do and how do I (very loosely) define the plant spirit path I walk?
What It Isn’t
Sometimes it’s easier to explore something based on what it is not in order to more fully understand what it might be. There are two things folks love to call what I teach- and two things I often see other folks calling themselves for lack of a more appropriate term: witch and shaman. Let’s take a look at each of these.
I am not a witch because I do not ascribe to any specific tradition of witchcraft, do not base my practices solely in the malefic, and don’t get most of my inspiration from witchcraft texts. While there’s no denying the overlap between folk magic, witchcraft, and plant spirit magic, they aren’t really the same. Modern witchcraft has become a different animal than it has been since time immemorial. What was once a mentor-prentice practice that was solely seen as nefarious, even before the ‘burning times’, has now become a religion wrapped in the trappings of new age philosophy and hung on a perspective framework of Christianity- no matter how much modern witches will disagree with that.
I am not a shaman because, while I do practice visionary workings that bridge this world and the green realm, I am not of the culture or initiatory tradition that the word Shaman belongs to. It can be said from a purely anthropological standpoint that I do shamanic things or engage in shamanic practices, but that is a far stretch from being a proper Shaman. The Tungus people of Siberia and related groups are the only real Shamans in the context in which the term is so flippantly misappropriated in the modern age. While many practices and traditions of what are defined anthropologically as shamanic in nature do focus on working with plant spirits, each is sacred within its own cultural vessel and is best left that way in order to support the preservation of indigenous traditions wherever they may exist.
As a brief aside here, the term plant spirit shaman is somewhat redundant. All Shamanism and shamanic practice is ultimately and almost exclusively concerned with spirits of many types. All shamanism is wrapped up in the plant spirits.
So, not a witch and not a shaman. What, then?
I have come to be quite comfortable with not only the term sorcery, but also the qualified term green sorcery as of late. Between you and me and the internet, I very much love the fact that this term has taken on negative connotations that would be more accurately placed with witchcraft while sneaking under the radar of pop-spirituality where it can evolve and thrive as it is wont to do.
Thanks to modern media, sorcery has a pretty bad wrap. I’ve become something of a horror film buff over the years thanks to the influence of my macabre-loving partner. I’ve noticed that sorcerers are more often the bad guy than witches, and that the way they are portrayed is almost always wrapped up in confused presentations of Christian heretecism, Hollywood satanism, and weird mish-mashs of occult ideas.
At its core, in my understanding and embodying of the term, sorcery is concerned with just one thing: the reality of the spirits. There is no need for religion, dry philosophical frameworks, armchair mysticism, or complication- all things rife in the modern occult world. Rather, sorcery is about what is being done. It is about how we seek out, experience, engage with, and nourish our working relationships with the countless non-human people who share this world with us- from deities to the dead, spirits of place to plant spirits.
Sorcery, then, is a radically animist and place-oriented practice. It can only be fully realized by one who has engaged completely with the where and when they live. It is under the trees that grow around you, the seasons as they express themselves in your bioregion, the animals whose paths you cross, and the feel of the soil under your own feet. Sorcery, in my opinion and experience, is the closest extant idea to a true shamanic practice that has been born out of the European lands.
While some forms of sorcery are incredibly complex and based on grimoire traditions that are synchretic and magical, not all are. In fact, many scholars have equated the term sorcerer with that of shaman, in a purely academic context of course. If our only real concern is living in right relationship with the spirits who share this world and this cosmos with us, then we can be directly informed by those relationships and brought into an organic green sorcery that is at once fiercely personal while dovetailing nicely with the harmony of the worlds.
So, green sorcery is a vital and evolutionary magico-ritual practice that is informed by and rooted in real relationships of place. It is an active and intentional connection to the plant spirits all, their realm, their mysteries, and their guardian deities and all that brings to the work.
My hope is that as time goes on, I will have more definitive and pithy ways of explaining what the plant spirit path looks like- but for now, I lean into the idea of green sorcery, plant sorcery, and plant spirit work and find them a worthy title.
Here’s a class I recently did on Green Sorcery for my YouTube channel. Enjoy!
Much can be said, and even more experienced, about the varying states of consciousness we ebb and flow through in our green sorcery. To me, consciousness is a spectrum and throughout the course of a usual day all people will move in and out of different states which can go from quite dense to incredibly translucent and permeable. These various states of consciousness can help to anchor us more fully in the here and now, or they can grant us a more direct perception of the worlds of otherness that surround, saturate, and contain our own.
Students often ask me about ways in which they can enter into altered states of consciousness to make their plant spirit work easier. They want to know how to quiet the thinking brain while activating the experiencing heart center- the liminal point of the body. Knowing that an altered state can make it easier to connect and communicate with non-human persons, most folks on a plant spirit path know it’s an important skill to hone. While many methods and techniques exist, one stands out above the rest in my work as both a personal favorite and one that I see facilitate the deepest and most profound effects in those who use it.
This particular altered state is one which, when entered, is never left behind. It becomes a new level of everyday perception by which we can more fully engage and experience the wholeness of the word we live in and lean further into the complex spiritual realities that weave through all the different levels of being. It is a way to be fully who and where we are- functional human people- while also having a dynamic access to the world of the plant spirits as we walk our respective paths.
This state comes as a natural effect to changing the way we see, acknowledge, and experience the world at large. The moment we step fully and whole-heartedly into an animistic perspective, we do in fact enter into a non-ordinary state of consciousness which allows more in and allows more of us to project out into nature.
Living with an animistic perspective means that we venture out into the world with the understanding that the world is inhabited by a vast and infinite number of fully sovereign persons who are not human. We choose to acknowledge and interface with animals, insects, trees, flowers, lakes, rivers, mountains, thunderstorms, and a whole host of not-visible people with the understanding that they are as much person as we are. Many of them, like the plants, know we’re there when we’re there. Some are just as oblivious to our presence as we are to theirs. Some engage with us directly in deep ways even though they aren’t like us, others engage in relationship with us through the power of avoidance and boundary. No matter who, or how, the animist perspective initiates us into a way of living that destroys human exceptionalism and decenters the human perspective in favor of wholeness.
By walking through life with the awareness that otherness exists, we wash away layers of dust which have accumulated over the eyes of our hearts so that, in a short time, we begin to re-experience the real magic of life and the real complexity of presence.