How does one properly articulate the role of “The Mystic”? Rudolph Steiner came close to capturing the essence of this timeless, mysterious archetype when he wrote: “The mystic, then, is one who seeks for truth and the Divine directly within himself, by a gradual detachment and a veritable birth of his higher soul. If he attains it after prolonged effort, he plunges into his own glowing centre. Then he immerses himself, and identifies himself with that ocean of life which is the primordial force.” Plants have long been inseparable from processes that connect humans to the soul, the Divine, to the quest for the understanding of ourselves.
Ethnobotanists have collected accounts from across the globe where flowers, roots, barks, and resins have been used as complementary agents in practices to connect directly to sacred forces, for example, in achieving transcendence, conducting white and black magic, divinatory practices, meditation, prayer, trance, rituals, chanting and drumming. Even in more popular religious texts, plants feature heavily; it is no secret that the Buddha achieved enlightenment beneath the Bodhi Tree [Ficus religiosa] and that Mary Magdalene anointed Jesus with Spikenard [Nardostachys jatamansi] in preparation for his crucifixion. This relationship between plants and the sacred is ancient and may have existed before homo-sapien became the dominant species of our lineage: an analysis of the famous Neanderthal grave of a Shanidar IV (Iraq) revealed the following flowers: Achillea sp., Centaurea solstitialis, Senecio sp., Muscari sp., Ephedra altissima, and Althea sp, suggesting that there was a belief in the afterlife, and that these medicinal plants were included intentionally to accompany the deceased to the afterlife.
Strongly hallucinogenic, psychoactive plants used for these purposes are beginning to feature more heavily in the public imagination: ayahuasca brews [typically a combination of Banisteriopsis caapi and Psychotria viridis], Peyote, popularised by author Carlos Casteñeda [Lophophora williamsii], and “magic mushrooms” [i.e Psilocybe sp.], for example, have historically been used in ritualized settings to commune with non-ordinary reality for the purposes of personal growth and spiritual development. However, there are dozens of plants available at local apothecaries that do not illicit altered states of reality to the degree of those listed, that our ancestors discovered that they contain special secrets of their own.
For instance, Frankincense [Boswellia sp.] known as being a gift to Jesus Christ of Nazareth at the time of his birth, is commonly used as an incense in Judaic, Christian, and indigenous practices where it grows. Indeed, the word frankincense comes from the term franc encens which means quality incense in old French. The resin contains a potent inhibitor of 5-lipoxygenase, an enzyme responsible for inflammation. Another constituent, incensole acetate, elicits anxiolytic-like and anti-depressive-like behavioral effects in mice. Energetically, it is associated with the third eye and considered a very high-vibration plant substance, can increase intuition and spiritual connection, and is used in hoodoo folkloric traditions to “boost” the efficacy of other plants.
Plants, through their physical and metaphysical properties, can act as potent portals to learning more deeply about ourselves and the cosmos. While appreciating the chemical, aesthetic and tangible benefits of our plant fellows, let us not forget the numinous, the sacred, the divine qualities that whisper to us from a realm beyond the senses.
Join Altaire on Halloween for her talk, “The Sacred Garden: Herbology for the Modern Mystic” where she will guide us through 13 plants known throughout history to connect mystics to the sacred realms. With storytelling, plant sampling and a discussion of ritual practices to commune more deeply with the plant kingdom, you will leave equipped with a new understanding of the secret powers of plants.
DATE: Weds. October 31
LOCATION: Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism, 424 East Simpson Street, Lafayette, CO
PRICE: $20 Suggested Donation
Please RSVP at Altaire.Cambata@ClinicalHerbalism.com