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Herbal Ally
posted on Tuesday, December 7th 2010 12:32 pm

(this is part 4.2 of a 10-part series, a life’s journey to become an herbalist observing gail faith edward’s article on the subject. you can find part 1part 2part 3 and part 4.1 here.)

gail’s second part of her fourth step in her ten-fold path is to find a herbal ally. she says:

“Pick a new plant each year to focus on. Be sure to grow the plant, or meet it in the wild, observe it, make different medicines and foods with it, use it in many ways, consume it regularly, or use as applicable as often as possible, and constantly observe. Noting all you observe. Keeping your own notes is critically important. Learn to meditate with plants. Learn to take care of them, learn to process and use them, one by one. Fall in love with each and every plant you work with, one by one. Recognize the living being there, the spirit of the plant. Respect its power. Open your wild heart to it.”

i have toyed with having herbal allies in the past but have never made it a year with one plant. at most, i’ve studied on intensively for 2-3 months. 

even though i haven’t had a year long dance with an herb, each month i have a month long dance with learning/relearning and immersing myself in one herb through my writings for herbal roots zine. i have learned that no matter how much i think i know about a plant before i start writing about it, as i refresh my memory with my favorite herbals and new herbals that cross my path, i discover something new that makes me run and grab a tincture or infusion or even a fresh cutting of the herb to study it some more. 

i hope to start a journey with a plant ally in january and go through the year with the selected herb. how does one select a plant as an ally? susun weed says this in her article you can have a green ally

Choose a plant that grows very near to you … no more than a one-minute walk from your door. You don’t need to know the name of the plant, or anything about it. You will be sitting with your plant every day, so, if possible, choose one that grows in a quiet and lovely place … in a pot on your balcony is just fine … in a park is great … so is an alley … or a backyard.

over the next few weeks, i plan to make a list of all the herbs i have growing around me, both cultivated in my herb gardens and growing wild in the wooded and open areas behind the pastures. from this list i’ll narrow it down to one herb even if i have to draw the name from a hat! the challenge for this is going to be that most everything around me is in the dormant stage due to winter so i’ll have to figure out alternatives to learning about it until it re-emerges in the spring. after reading an article by barbara hall, i discovered which herbal ally i should be studying this upcoming year. you can read all about my choice and get more ideas on how to choose your own herbal ally in my next article, finding a herbal ally

susun offers 6 different green ally exercises to get to know the ally more intimately so i will try to do as many of them as possible. here is a short summary of those exercises:

1. meditate/sit and breathe with my green ally for 3-10 minutes a day
2. make a detailed drawing of the ally as accurate as possible. next make a soft, impressionistic drawing
3. find out what parts of the ally are typically used. find out if other parts are useful. make oils, tinctures and vinegars of all the useful plant parts (separately)
4. observe the conditions the plant chooses to grow in. 
5. write a story from the point of view of my green ally. if i’m having trouble getting started, i’ll write a warm up page praising my green ally and telling him how much i like him and why
6. introduce a friend to my green ally. tell them all about my ally.

other exercises i plan to add to this list are:
*write a song about my green ally
*write poems about my green ally
*if edible, eat my green ally as often as possible
*try my ally in tea form

*start some seeds of my green ally so i can watch him grow from a seedling into full life

*fharvest my ally at all stages of growth
*sketch, draw, paint my ally at all stages of growth

all of this information will be kept in a blank journal that is dedicated to my green ally of the year. i’ll paste all my sketches, drawings, paintings in there along with my poems, stories, songs and discoveries of this plant. at the end of the year, i’ll have a complete book just about the one plant. 

once a month, i’ll post a update here to tell of my journey with the herb i’ve chosen.

i’m thinking this is a great exercise for anyone who wants to know herbs more intimately. my monthly zine is a great starter for getting kids thinking this way about an herb (and adults too). for those of us wanting to delve more deeply, a year’s journey is a great way to do it. if anyone is interested in joining in with me, let me know in the comments. if there’s enough interest, i’ll do another post about preparing for this journey, what you’ll need to get started and some guidelines to follow. then we can report back say once a month to update each other on how this journey is going. 

anyone want to come along for the journey?


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