Plants as Portals
There is a great and simple mystery that unfolds when we step into the presence of a plant spirit with sensitivity and slowness- all plants are portals. In the presence of a plant, we are in fact in direct connection with the wholeness of things. In the same way that your phone, the one you might be reading this on right now, connects you to worlds and perspectives and wisdom far beyond your usual state, every plant does the same in a more spiritual way.
To sit with a plant as they grow in the soil, to breathe with them, to caress them with your vision while exploring every color, texture, and pattern, is to drop into an altered state of consciousness which awakens the liminal spaces within and puts us in direct contact with the great green mysteries.
Plants protect many dualities- one of them being the way in which they reach up and down, toward light and dark, into patterns and into mysteries. Like bridges, their physical forms act to connect the worlds. When we’re in contact with plants from the center of our own being, we are gifted access to these bridge-like qualities and can ourselves journey by inner vision and feeling into realms wild and mysterious.
Here, I'd like to share a simple ritual you can perform with the help of any strong plant or tree that is safe for you to touch with bare hands. This is perhaps my most favorite way to engage with the plants as portals. I tend to easily get stuck in my head- overthinking and overanalyzing whatever I can get my brain on. This more tactile method is immediately grounding, centering, calming, and connecting for me.
To tap in, sit with a plant that’s safe for you to touch. Spend some time exploring them visually and with touch while sharing intentional breath with them- offering your exhalations and receiving green blessings through your inhalations.
When ready, gently hold the end of a branch, a cluster of leaves, or place your palms against trunk. Close your eyes and settle in. Try to feel and experience the bridge-like nature of this plant. If you were to place your palms against a closed door, on some level your brain would assume the space behind that door. Do the same thing here. Reach down with vision and consciousness into the roots and reach up into the canopy. Imagine that the branch you hold is the end of a string which leads to the deepest of all mysteries. Feel connected to that mystery and allow it to lead you where it will.
If you struggle with this, try the following:
Once you become adept in this work, you may find that tapping in leads you into visionary and sensory communications with the plant you sit with, the plant world as a whole, and aspects of your own intuitive power and virtues. Follow these mysterious tracks with the guidance of the plant spirits and see where they take you!
Making Offerings to Plant Spirits
In this article I’d like to share some ideas with you about how making offerings to our spiritual allies can be a powerful and effective practice. We’ll begin with some important foundational information and move into the nitty-gritty of how to make offerings to the spirits- especially the plant spirits and guardian deities of the green realm.
Most of us live in a world that’s fueled by transactional love: ‘I’ll do this for you if you do this for me’. Transactional love feels safe. It helps to ensure that we’re not taken advantage of and that we experience some degree of energetic ecology; getting back what we put in. As we approach our deeper work with both the plant spirits and the spirits in general, however, we’re required to lay down the comfort of transactional love and step into spaces of sacred reciprocity. The differences can seem subtle, but they are in fact massive.
There is an ancient saying from Pagan Rome, ‘Do Ut Des’. This axiom affirms that ‘I give so that you may give’. It is different than our capitalist perspective of ‘I give so that you will give’. With Do Ut Des, we acknowledge that a gift is being made and with it a space is being created within us that can only be truly filled by the reciprocity of the one we’ve gifted to. The idea concealed in this simple sentiment is that to be in sacred relationship with the plant spirits all, the deities of the green realm, our ancestors, and the many spirits of place, we maintain the goal of being in an endless, organic, and dynamic offer-and-receive that has no real beginning or end. Like the breath, each gift received is responded to in kind which creates the space for another gift to be received… endlessly. This is sacred reciprocity and real green sorcery in action.
The inner mechanics of offerings are simple and intuitive. We offer meaningful gifts to our spiritual allies because we love them, feel devotion to them, want to express gratitude to them, and want to participate actively in their virtues. Our gifts are made not by prescription, fear, or transaction but by love and a desire to wander deeper into the mysteries of plant spirit work. With each gift, the material offering and any vital force (life energy) it contains is set aside (sacrificed) to the spirit at the center of our working. That gift also carries a more precious offering- that of our love, devotion, and attention. Offerings of all varieties act as vehicles for our personal virtues and love to be carries across the hedge into the world of otherness.
Because of this, our intention must be clear, calm, and strong when making even the most simple offering. The lighting of a candle, burning incense, pouring libations, cutting an apple, breaking bread, or singing a song to the rhythm of a hand-drum cannot be done without the power of intent which attracts the attention and presence of the spirit and pierces the veil which separates our world from theirs. Intention should be cultivated from the time the offering is chosen, through its crafting, all the way until it is gifted. From that point on it is laid aside for its intended recipient and is no longer ours, of our world, or appropriate for us to consume or take away. What is given is given, period.
When offering to the plant spirits, we must consider what types of gifts are both pleasing to their person and affirming to their wellness. Pouring a full bottle of wine at the base of a shrub could easily destroy the delicate microbiome of their soil and cause them great challenge. A sip poured is likely safer. Materials made from plastics, essential oils, fragrances or chemicals can be too strong for a plant to handle and can damage both the plant and the many other beings who live in, on, under, and around them. Offerings of energy-charged water, a pinch of grains, song, drumming, or a tear of handmade bread are often the right kind of gifts for outdoor plants.
Be mindful that tying offerings to trees and shrubs may look nice now, but can cause serious issues over time. Strings can cut into bark leaving the plant susceptible to infection, animals can get caught in dangling charms, and when enough folks tie to a tree, the ribbons can strangle and cut off sunlight. Again, be aware of what is affirming for the plant spirit through and through.
Offerings can be placed at the base of a plant, tree, shrub, or stand with words of gratitude, love, and devotion. Songs and chants can be offered up alongside physical gifts to help saturate the space with your presence and energy. The invocation of spirits who do not have a physical form like plants do can take some work, but as mentioned earlier it is the power of our intent to connect that leads to the loudest invocations being made. When you deeply want the relationship, the will, words, ways, and energy needed will bubble up within you in the moment and lead to open gates. For me, green sorcery is about stepping into these organic moments that are relatively unscripted and sometimes quite vulnerable and awkward. Letting yourself say, feel, express, and be the way you really feel is a magical arte in and of itself.
When in doubt, your time and your breath and your body are sacred. Sit with a plant. Allow for time to become less important than it usually is. Dig in, relax, and unclench. Slow down to tree speed. From there, you can actually enter into some spiritual rapport with the plant spirit and just share breath. Offer your exhalation saturated with love and the desire to connect, then receive the return gift of the plant spirit through your inhalation of verdant green energy. Follow this breathing exchange for as long as you can, returning to it as your mind wanders and body fidgets. In no time you will find yourself in wild spaces where the offer-and-receive of your breath has led to a dynamic, real-time exchange of virtue and vitality between plant and human.
Ultimately, this is not work to be overthought. Check what you do through lenses of appropriateness and ecology, and follow your heart. Remember that your heart is a crossroads within- a liminal point. You are always in communion with the green realm from this space so slow down, tune in, and participate.