You can’t fill a vessel that’s already full.
This is one reason why participating intentionally in the sacred act of reciprocity is so important. By giving to the spirits we’re allied to, that is, by making sacrifice to them and setting aside for them, we actually create space within us and within our lives for them to respond with their deep green blessings.
But that’s just the beginning.
Sacred reciprocity is a way for us to participate in the maintenance of the cosmos. It is an opportunity for us to enter into the cyclical give-and-receive which forges the relationships that make up the very fabric of existence. To give is to return the energy one has received. To receive is to replenish what has been given. When we look to our plant allies we can see them demonstrate this perfectly from year to year; they draw vital force from soil and sun, embody and manifest it via their own unique virtues, and then return their own signature vital force back to the land and the sky as part of their harvest rituals.
Since the entire cosmos is a complex web of infinite relationships that have been happening since forever and will continue to happen forever, sacred reciprocity is the law of movement which keeps the whole thing going. It is by entering into gifting cycles with our allies, our friends and families, our deities, our ancestors, and the varied spirits of place that we come to understand the ways in which the relationships we cultivate and nourish actually create our reality.
So, what does sacred reciprocity look like in practical action?
It is the direct recognition of relationships that brings us into conscious participation with the wholeness of things. One of the easiest ways to do this is to honor those who take care of us, especially those whose love extends across the hedge which separates the worlds, through offerings. These offerings need not be physical or expensive and should never ever be transactional. We give so that our allies may give- not so that they will give. The difference is subtle but deep.
Offerings can come in many forms. Here are a few of my favorite:
These offerings all have value to our allies from across the hedge: plant spirits, deities, ancestors, and spirits of place… and many of our human allies enjoy these, too!
To begin making offerings of gratitude and petition, I suggest first offering a small space in your home which will be dedicated to the relationship you are nourishing between you and whatever ally or allies you’re connecting to. This could be a small altar or shrine, a special bowl set aside for them, a corner of a bookshelf or kitchen countertop, or a tree stump in your garden. Over time this space will become both sacred and liminal making it easier for you to reach out and connect with the allies of your work. From here, offerings can be made, meditations and journeywork done, magic and medicine crafted, petitions laid, and inspiration received.
No matter what you do, choose to engage with the sacred act of making offerings and you’ll quickly find that the doors open, paths are cleared, and the presence of your allies becomes stronger as the cord that connects you is nourished and strengthened with your love.
In order for our relationships with the plant spirits to be all they can be, we have to both understand and experience their radical personhood. Without the awareness that plants are people with the same full consciousness, awareness, personality, wisdom, and complexity as us, there is no real ground upon which we can relate person to person.
To stand in front of a big tree and see them as tree is one thing. To stand in front of a big tree and experience the presence of their personhood is a powerful initiation into the plant spirit mysteries. When we become aware that the presiding spirit of a plant knows we are there as much and maybe even more than we know they are there, the socially imposed dam which separates us from the truth of nature begin to crumble.
So, how to we begin to open our awareness to the personhood of plants (and all beings, really) while also directly experiencing their personhood? I offer you some simple steps here which you can put into practice the very next time you step outside.
PRACTICE THE PRESENCE
This is my favorite way to cultivate a slightly altered state of consciousness wherein I can subtly perceive the presence of non-human persons all around me. To do this, go outside and engage visually with your surroundings- picking out the living beings who share their space with you such as trees, animals, insects, and so on. Focus on the non-human persons here.
Now, allow your attention to come to a plant person, ideally a large tree with a big presence as they tend to love these exercises. Using your inner vision, creative visualization, make believe, pretend, or imagination, allow a spark or bright light to emerge from the center of that plant as a representation of their spirit. Just still yourself and experience the presence of that light and that power and follow it gently.
ENGAGE WITH YOUR NEIGHBORS
Have you really stopped to connect with the plants who share space with you? Try it! You might be surprised at how strong the conversation can be. Choose a plant that you pass by often and choose to dedicate 3 minutes of your time to just engaging intentionally with them. Explore their colors, shapes, textures, patterns, and posture. Then, explore how you feel in their presence- what language within comes up for you as your heart and the heart of the plant spirit share space?
Repeat this often. Experience the subtle and strong shifts of energy and expression that this plant shares day by day, season by season. You’ll find that you come to know them- and have a deep sense of connection to them as person.
The next time you’re outside, try and step into a mindset where you feel seen or perceived. Imagine how it feels to be in a circle of humans who are all looking at you and are all aware of your presence, the space you hold, and the energy you bring. Try to extend that same feeling to the many plants, animals, insects, and other beings who exist in the space around you- then see where it takes you!