To Sam’s delight the foxgloves had come into flower in her absence. One of the few old school medicinal plants to endure sciences poking and prodding, yet remain in their favour. Her leaves increase the activity of muscular tissues, especially that of the heart and arterioles, leading to the creation of drugs for heart failure from them. Such beauty, but not to be messed with. Some say she should be treated with kid gloves, literally.
Digitalis was a protective force grown in the gardens around a house, but Sams main draw nowadays, was her connection to the otherworlds, reflected in the naming of her flowers as ‘folks gloves’, after the faeries. As she gazed at them she pondered her return to the city and the harshness with which she’d judged it, bit polarised really, like an ex you’ve had a messy break up with...
There is medicine in all places, between cracked concrete and in bushier spots. Like so much else it’s a matter of perspective and what the attention is drawn to focus on. She remembered a character who had gone around planting vegetable and herb seeds in urban wastelands, adding to the wild harvests there. Creating potential food refuges for those on the streets, or living on low incomes, along with dumpster divers. Hindsight softened her images, but she had no problems admitting to being glad to be here. Clary’s place was kind of another world unto itself, marked so by the foxglove sentinels, amongst others.
Some say the faeries were the indigenous folks of Europe, living in ancient turf roofed structures ‘under the hills’, of smaller stature than the races that followed. Pastoral or hunter gatherers, rather than agriculturalists, at ease in pasture, forest and wilds. Dressing in natural colours to blend and camouflage long before it was needed as a form of defence against waves of more aggressive peoples. They certainly had skills shared with tribal folk of other parts of the world relating to knowledge of nature and living close with her magics. Sam was open to such ideas, they had parallels on many continents, and described the closeness between witches and faeries. Both respecting the green, both very real, if not quite as fairy tales described...
She thought of the patchwork bag lady, Nell, who might well have been touched by the fey, with her bewilderment at modern civilisation, its cruelty and alien box dwelling. She had more time for dogs out walking than most people.
They had tried to house her, but even when they took a percentage of her pension, she refused to abide indoors. It had been the end of her, pneumonia. Winters were harsh even in bus shelters.
She’d grown up country and would regale the meanings of the constellations as markers for navigation. Often a dandelion or rose found its way behind her ear, as she told tales of the wildflowers she gathered as a child, the gardens she had known. Her passing had been another stroke in the demise of Sam’s created vision of her city flat, although she had died a woman very much living on her own terms and had local respect for that. Still there was prejudice she endured daily and hers was certainly not an easy life.
How is it that human’s choose scapegoats with every time, as if to distance ourselves from any shadows when they are part of what makes us human. It was behind war and hatred, this sense of undervalued ‘other’. It blinded to beauty and different perspectives. The post apocalyptic herbal could have learned from Nell. She would have enjoyed a peek....
The foxgloves swayed in agreement.....
“Altars can become a sacred space to connect with spirit. Often made up of natural forms and found objects, combined with active ingredients like offerings, incense and candles. Displaying such things for the pleasure of deity, or your conception of spirit enhances ones world and opens the eyes in the gathering of pieces. However, once you start, they do have the tendency to overflow into other areas of the house. Loose altars pop up in odd places, next to the kitchen sink, on the stand in the bathroom, on top of cupboards. Basically any flat surface is open slather, so be warned you may gather around yourself symbolic and significant items that reflect your soul.
So what’s the difference between a flat surface, covered in books, notes on paper fragments, seeds due to be planted, watercolour tubes, and an altar? Well the aforementioned chaos, is certainly a shrine to what’s been going on today, but it’s formed organically in layers like falling leaves, rather than been arranged consciously to focus intention. Altars are generally put together with a specific deity, purpose or occasion in mind, perhaps to share with others, or just to get one’s self into a shifted state.
The human brain is a chaotic place sometimes and structure helps keep it on target, whilst flexibility can allow its creative side to flourish. This combination can work with altars too. Working to have a regular altar practice where we change flowers, clean, light incense, candles, but also just spend time hanging out and keeping the energy flowing by appreciating what’s there, simply gazing and seeing where our attention leads. Like a 3d mandala...
It’s all pretty meditational and I imagine that the point of the practice is that your life may metamorphosise into an extension of your altars energies, treated with the same respect, soulfull, appreciative type energy. The creation of one sacred space, expanding to become part of the larger reality and awareness.”
Sam pondered the space she and Clary shared, shrine to their work and play.
Where she placed her cards was her altar, a small bedside table. It also held the notebook where she’d begun to journal her trance journeys, visions and ideas. To make sense of them, to record things, to digest in the writing, processing in her own time. It was a simple space where she collected bunches of flowers too, including leaves and stems, often for the scents. It was kept clear and at times a photo of her parents sat there smiling back at her from another time and place. She lit candles there and gazed at their image, the cards, her legacy. Sometimes she had to put it away in a drawer or change the focus, it was still too raw to always be present so close.
One shelf at the back of the library / living room had become an altar too. Just one shelf amidst the chaos of bookery, that was always dusted. There dwelt the grimoire of their predecessor that was dipped into with an attitude of shy respect, it was so personal a thing that only occasionally did Sam take it down and allow the pages to fall open. It had detailed drawings of altar set ups for various reasons. There also was the post bound tome, their layer of work, adding pages as they emerged, like a tapestry. The two volumes sat behind an embroidered cloth that could be tucked up to access them, but the eye simply scanned across the fabric when it hung down. Not seeing anything apart from the detailed stitching of it, as if bespelled.
Sam was flicking through her journal on the sofa when Clary came in from an early morning walk with a basket of white clover flower heads to tincture up. Not as potent as red clover, but similar actions.
“Morningk... what are you pondering now?”
“ I was just thinking it’s been a while since I tranced out naturally and perhaps I could try a conscious journey. Cast a circle and all.”
“Missing your otherworldly friends who gave you such a fright at first are you? Casting circle first would certainly let them know so.”
“They just help things to make sense, in a trickster kinda way. The info they help gather is deep rooted and organic in its tangents, leads me forward.”
“Why not set up on the verandah? I’m happy to be your watcher...”
A little later they swept an area a few metres wide on the verandah, then washed it down with eucalyptus diluted in soapy water. Clary brought out pillows for both of them to get comfy and clap sticks for rhythm. Sam placed a candle on each of the four directions, lit some sage on a charcoal burner, and welcomed the elements, casting circle. Clary started her beat on the clapsticks, they’d agreed at 15 minutes till ‘callback’.
Sam let the rhythm resonate with her bodies pulse, breath and felt herself relax. Before she knew it she shifted and morphing into crow form, she hopped out of her body and took to the sky. Circling overhead she had a bird’s eye view of the cottage and gardens, heading for a big old gumtree she often walked by with a gaping hole in its trunk. Landing by it she shifted again into the form of a snake and slid into it, following the roots down through soil like a tunnel, she became an earthworm, wriggling between soil clumps and water globules. Then she was a woman again, back at the dry river bed. Wolf was waiting..
“It’s been a while human” he smiled, then snapped at her without warning, “Just checking your reflexes...”
“Thanks”, a reminder that he was a wild animal not a domesticated dog, again.
“Shall we go visit Brigid?”
“You shall...come lets walk..”
As they navigated rocks and trees in the riverbed Sam had a vision of Brigid surrounded by many people, much food and merriment, she balked not wanting to engage with that many people, but as they approached her cottage all was quiet.
“Come in Sam”, how did she do that, before I even knocked?
Inside there were unwashed dishes, white flowers everywhere and the scent of baking bread, “Cinnamon, star anise and cumin..”
“Aaah smells great. Had a few visitors?”
“Sit down and take it easy, I’ll finish these dishes for you.” Sam offered and Brigid nodded as she did so. Humoured that even goddesses might have dishes to do..
“You are a strange individual Sam. You seek company, only to find how much you enjoy your solitude. You don’t trust me yet, do you?”
Sam found this to be true. “If I offered you some of this bread, would you eat of it?” Tales regaled of eating food from the underworld and thereby being stuck there surfaced in her mind, she was hesitant.
“Do not visit me again until you can trust me..” Brigid was obviously offended and took on an intimidating glamour rising hackles up at her hospitality denied.
Sam didn’t want to offend this Goddess she was trying to come to some peace with. She remembered a story where bread was the only thing that could be eaten, and hoping she knew her stories, she took an offered piece of the bread and ate of its warm sweetness.
“It seems trust is something in evolution, a living thing. A learned gift, requiring the taking of risks over time.” Brigid smiled.
“Had i offered you this..” she held out a half pomegranate, “would you have partaken of it?”
“Persephone would recommend otherwise, and in all honesty, no.”
“So, we learn a little more of each other.”
Sam finished the dishes and came to sit with Brigid, “You look tired, your many guests drained you a little it seems.” Again a nod, even from someone so youthfull.
“I’ll leave you to rest now”
“Thank you Sam, come again.”
Wolf met her at the door and they walked together silently a time. “You came seeking guidance, did you receive what you expected?”
“No, as usual..”
The rhythm came back into her awareness, calling her back to body with its speeded up timing. She moved faster farewelling wolf..
He called after her, “Look up Agrimony.....Angelica....Borage....Burdock...” his laughing wickedly mixed with what became high pitched barks as she was a worm again, then snake, then crow flying overhead and back to her body, where Clary awaited as she opened her eyes gently, wiggling her toes and fingers. Clary handed her paper and pen so she could write while it was fresh, although doing dishes didn’t seem an awakening, there were other details to remember...
They closed down the circle, “May the circle be open but unbroken” before they spoke.
“I think it’s time to start a plant journal of my own Clary. One plant at a time, as they say.”
“Sounds good, unavoidable at some point, to help solidify learning individual character traits. There’s only so much one can learn from your own experience, its helpfull to read and learn from others as well. Different applications and ways of working with a plant, especially if it doesn’t grow nearby to consult with.”
“I also think I might be tied to the otherworlds a little more, and to Brigid.”
“You always have been, my friend, it’s just that you’re remembering now. Come lets eat!”
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