This is part 4 of a 5-part series on plant spirit communication.
Click here to read part one.
In this lesson we move deeper into the personhood of the plant and the presence of their spirit in our work. This is by and far one of my favorite practices- and it’s one that creates a great depth of intimacy between human and plant while helping us to remember the many virtues and blessings the plant offers us.
In order to accomplish this practice, you’ll need to know a bit about the plant before you. You can study materia medica books, read monographs written by herbalists, look up the botany of the plant and learn about where they grow, what their scientific name is and why, what plants they’re related to, and so on. You can also search for lore and legend that include the plant or see how people that work with herbal magic work with this plant. Make notes of key points that stand out as interesting, meaningful, or powerful to you.
Invoking the Plant Spirit
Even though we sit or stand in front of the plant as they grow, we will still be offering an invocation as it opens up our intuition to the deep personhood of the plant while honoring them with a recitation of their virtues.
Taking the list of key points you made earlier, you can turn these into points of invocation for the plant spirit using the following framework…
I call you, great (plant name), from the green realm.
You who are (say a virtue such as ‘from the Mediterranean but now thriving across the world’)
Bringing us (say some medicinal or magical virtues of the plant such as ‘calming to the nerves and soothing to the aching heart’).
Great (plant name), with your (describe the plant here),
I ask you to join me in this sacred space that we might strengthen our kinship and commune with one another.
Here’s an example of an invocation written for one of my closest allies, Linden…
I call you, great Tila, from the green realm!
Linden, who lines the streets with medicine and magic,
You who bring us medicine of the heart and comfort to the center of our beings,
You who encourage us to speak our heart’s desire and always honor our true self.
Great Tila, with your heart-shaped leaves and the intoxicating scent of your blossoms which provide much joy to humans and bees alike, I ask you to join me here in this sacred space where I can honor you and learn from your wealth of wisdom.
As you can see, the invocation is a way to call on the plant spirit by acknowledging traits that are special to them and that feel important to your connection. These invocations help to call the plant more into your presence while also attuning your own subtle senses to just who it is you’re working with.
Experiencing the Plant Spirits
Now that you’ve done your invocation, it’s time to settle in, sit back, and just bathe in the presence of the powerful plant person before you. Open yourself up, listen from everywhere, and try to focus your senses- especially your mind- on being in the presence of otherness.
If another human were standing in front of you, you’d be able to experience their presence, their seeing you, and your seeing them. Try to duplicate that feeling and apply it to the plant spirit.
Spend as much time as you like here, and follow any journeys or inspirations the plant may lead you on.
This is part 3 of a 5-part series on plant spirit communication.
Click here to read part one.
Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you’re in a deep and powerful relationship with the plant spirits all right now. With every breath you take you are receiving an inhalation of green blessings- and with your exhalation you offer your own gift of vital force to our green allies.
The breath is the most powerful way to enter into connection with the plants. It’s already happening, and it ties us human folk to the plant spirits in an essential way. What we inhale is the exhalation of the plants, and what we exhale is the inhalation of the plants. This cycle is one of sacred reciprocity whereby we offer of ourselves to the plants so that they can do what they do and offer of themselves to us, and so on and so forth from first breath to last.
Because of this powerful breath connection, the body, mind, and heart are eager to use the breath as a path into deeper spiritual work with the plant spirits all. In this simple practice, we ride the breath into connection and let the plant lead from there.
To breathe with the plants…
Continue this breathing of offering and receiving for as long as you like. Don’t force or manipulate the breath at all. Rather, let it be how it is for you and just add the intention.
You may find that the breath carries you into a journey with the plant spirit where communication, inspiration, or healing occurs. You may find that you feel a closeness and rapport with the plant. You may find that this time is simply relaxing and connecting. With practice, the breath becomes a gateway by which we enter into the mysteries of the green realm.
This is part 2 of a 5-part series on plant spirit communication.
Click here to read part one.
At every instant we’re receiving billions upon billions of date bits from the world around us. Our sensory systems are in constant engagement with colors, sounds, brightness, scent, temperature, touch, taste, and a myriad other points while also monitoring the goings on within us. As all of this data floods in from the world around us, gateways in the brain, heart, and gut exist to filter out what’s relevant and ignore the rest. This powerful system is intrinsically linked to thought, and it happens in places other than just the brain. We think in the heart and the gut too- that is, receive, interpret, store, and respond to incoming information.
To engage the sensory system intentionally is to focus in on what data makes its way into our thinking places. This is an active meditation that gently quiets what isn’t important in the moment while giving more space and volume to what is.
For all of these reasons, to engage your senses with a plant is one of the most powerful ways to create rapport with them, open your thinking places to theirs, and open a way between you. For some people, this practice alone will begin a gentle flow of inspiration from the plant spirit which brings ideas, images, memories, feelings, and sensations to the person- all part of how the plant communicates. For the rest of us, this foundational practice eases the path of communication by allowing us to slow down to tree speed and be our most receptive selves.
To engage and explore…
This is part one of a five-part series on plant spirit communications
Being able to communicate with the plant spirits is an essential part of both green sorcery and plant spirit work in general. There are countless methods one can find online and in courses that explain how to enter into a dynamic sharing of wisdom and experience with our green allies- but many of them overcomplicate the process. Here, in a five-part series on how to communicate with plant spirits, I offer you a simple way to engage across the hedge using two powerful formats: the breath and plant medicine. Let’s get started!
INTENT & RECEPTIVITY
In order to communicate with plants, we have to set a few things in motion in order to open the ways between us. This first step to deep engagement with the mighty green ones is crucial- it works to open the hedge which separates our world from their world while simultaneously making us more receptive and sensitive to the ways in which plants communicate, guide, and teach.
We accomplish this by getting to states into place: intent and receptivity. These two states are aligned to the breath which we will explore in a later post; intent is exhalation, receptivity is inhalation.
Our intent is the force which separates the veil that separates this world from the world of spirit. It pierces the veil and parts the hedge so that a pathway is open to connect our world to the otherworld and allow the free flowing of green wisdom between us and our plant spirit allies.
Intent is about a deep desire to connect, know, and experience. We have to want to be in communion with the plant spirits- and this wat creates a powerful magic.
Receptivity is our willingness to receive and embrace what the plant spirits send our way. It is an openness to the unique ways in which plant spirits communicate and an eagerness to listen from everywhere so that all the ways in which the plant spirits guide us will be received. We’ll explore this idea of listening from everywhere more in a later post.
So, our first step in communicating with plant spirits is to want it and to be open to it. Simple, right?
These two actions, coupled with their respective aspects of breathing, work to open the gates and lay fertile ground for the work ahead.
Next up: Following the Medicine
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!
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.
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.
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!