Nature Speaks Medicine
Part of my work as a counsellor, meditation teacher and through my shamanic studies, looks at interpreting symbols and signs. Repeated themes in our lives and our dreams can bring such richness to us and enable us to see beyond the visible and into the unconscious and perhaps beyond.
Nature has provided a huge source of comfort to me and helped me to realise that there is no separation. The world responds to our own thoughts and feelings, mirroring them in a perfect dance with our own souls, helping us to see the interconnectedness of life.
There are many books and sources from the internet that speak of such things, giving their interpretation on what this symbology means, from dream interpretation to power animals. I am not going to say don’t listen to these, but I am going to say try to gain meaning from these using your own intuition. For me, these messages are really personal to me and that gives me a great sense of my own power in all of this. I have within me my own guide to sensing what sits right for me.
My friends often say to me that I am the “Feather Woman” as I am always finding nature’s treasures out on walks. Feathers, animal skulls, strange and wonderful plants and fungi; not because I am special or lucky but because I have attuned myself to where I am walking. This is best done alone. Silence is your friend. It enables you to really sink into the world around you, that mindful, meditative state where your senses become more aligned with the earth. You notice more (hence finding the treasures) and in noticing more and feeling more, the earth responds.
When I first became interested in plant medicine, I had a huge calling to find and work with Mugwort. Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, is also known as the mother herb or wise woman. It’s great for women and their menstrual cycle, good to use to clear away negative energy by burning it and also used to enhance dreaming and meditative states. I looked everywhere for it, near where I live. It favours roadsides and verges, poor soil conditions. I walked for miles trying to find this plant but couldn’t find any within a few miles of my house. Then I found her. Growing in the middle of my garden. It was as if the earth had responded to my call and brought her to me, in the safety of my garden, away from pesticides and car fumes. The earth is listening to you.
This isn’t the only example of how my wishes have been responded to. I really wanted to find a barn owl feather as I had found tawny feathers before but not a barn owl. I was walking my dog in a local woods and asked. I am careful when I ask for things that it doesn’t impact on the earth. I would never ask for a sign or symbol if it meant that nature would lose out by me finding it. It is also about respect. Well I found my owl feather. Not just one though. Another, then another… I followed the trail of feathers and realised that they came from an owl that had been predated. Some of the feather shafts were neatly cut at the base, showing that a fox or other mammal had sheared them off. I also found a talon nail. I openly cried, knowing that this beautiful bird had lost it’s life and I felt so guilty for asking for them. Then I remembered what I had asked for, and for it to not impact on the natural world and I realised what I had been given. There is death in nature just as there is life. I had not caused the death but I had been given the opportunity to mourn the passing of a beautiful creature. In holding on to the feathers, I had been also given a chance to honour this bird and it’s memory. So what is the symbology of an owl? Owls are steeped in myth and legends from across the globe. Linked to women and the moon, farsight as they see when other animals cannot. Messengers and heralds, full of wisdom and linked to psychic ability. What do owls mean to me though? For me, this was a message. From the earth. Speaking loudly, showing me that I am connected, I touched the heart of the universe and it listened and responded to me. Owls allow me to process grief (something I will admit I am not great on) and this was a huge gift. All I can say is thank you for this.
I can spot hemlock a mile off. Hemlock (the U.K plant, not the USA tree), Conium maculatum, is a highly toxic plant of the carrot family. Socrates was said to have poisoned himself using this plant. Hemlock is another that calls to me but it’s not something to be ingested as it really is deadly poisonous. So what’s the deal then? I can’t use it as medicine. I decided that I would journey with this plant using my drum to take me into a deep meditative state, helping me to connect to the power of this plant. It felt like it had a message to teach me and this is one of my preferred ways of helping me to connect to nature. The message was clear and simple. Hemlock showed me standing there in all it’s magnificence. It’s not a bright and bold plant by any means, in fact its quite easy for this plant just to blend into the background and be missed, but there it was. Fully in it’s own power. Just as it is. For me this was a beautiful message about being able to stand in my own power without having to be showy about it. That it’s okay to stand and accept your own self and that beauty that is you. Just be, was the message. No need to make a song or dance, no need to do anything other than just be. What an amazing gift that was! Acceptance and love without conditions attached. Beautiful.
Sometimes the signs are just phenomenal. I was seeing Jays everywhere. The Eurasian Jay, Garrulus glandarius, is a beautiful but shy member of the crow family. I was seeing them everywhere. As I pondered their meaning, I asked my mum if I could borrow something from her bureau and as I opened it, there was a brooch pin of a jay. Wow. Coincidence? Later on that day my daughter came home from school with a new reading book called Waterlilies and Other Stories. She wanted me to read the next story to her and it was called The Jay and the Peacock. I was blown away by this. So for me, Jays have a special meaning, once again. Jays remind me that I do not have to be anyone else but myself and in being myself, I will find others like me, who accept me fully for being me (seems to be a theme going on here). Be yourself. You will find your tribe.
I have nothing but love and gratitude for our earth. I have been given so many wonderful signs and symbols for my own heart and spirit to follow. In fact, I have been meaning to write this up for a while and since deciding this, I have seen many signs about signs and symbols and their meanings.
Go and be with nature, however you can. Walk, sit, meditate, journey, dream. If you have access to a local counsellor or psychotherapist that specialises in walk and talk or eco/wild therapy, then give this a go too. So much of our own self is reflected in nature. Remember that when you see that beauty in the natural world, you are also glimpsing your own beauty. You are nature, not separate from it. You are a wonder and that is bloody beautiful.