A Cherokee story was told to me by a medicine man.
Native tales hold power and need to be shared in a specific way. Since this story is not mine to tell, I’ll paraphrase it for you and maybe, if you’re lucky, someday a person of Cherokee decent will tell you the tale whole, the way it’s meant to be shared. The short version is this:
A long time ago, on the land right under your feet, people understood more than we understand today. They translated the murmurings of the four-leggeds and the calls of the winged ones. The buzz of a bee had meaning, as did the glub, glub of the salmon swimming upstream to spawn.
Most important for us here and now, those long-ago people understood the whispers of the green world. The gentle twisting of flowers toward the sun had meaning as did the way the wind whistled through the slow-growth forests hugging steep mountainsides.
For reasons only the Cherokee can share, we lost our ability to communicate . . .
. . . And we have searched for this lost language ever since.
Understanding the languages of nature is a universal human obsession.
The ancient Greeks developed the Doctrine of Signatures, a complex code designed to reveal a plant’s medicine through observation. Everything from the color of a flower, to a plant’s growth habit, to its favorite location and soil type, was used as a method for deciphering its gifts to humanity. So a plant which could survive in the desert, for instance, was seen to have the Medicine of moisture.
The Victorians crafted a language of flowers assigning each bud a meaning — blue violets for faithfulness and vervain for enchantment. Each posey that was gifted contained a secret message encoded in its petals.
I wrote The Illustrated Herbiary as a codex which gives you a window into the unique gifts of the flowers and trees, a key to understanding their whisperings… though there is a very simple beginning to this relationship between human and plants:
Plants do something that neither animals nor minerals (nor fairies or unicorns, for that matter!) can do– they enable our breath. Plants exhale oxygen, which we inhale; we exhale carbon dioxide, which they inhale.
Their exhale, our inhale. Our exhale, their inhale.
An invisible dance, a necessary exchange.
The first thing we do upon arriving in this world is inhale and through that in-breath we come into our first contact with the plants and the green world.
Another word for inhalation is inspiration.
Ultimately that’s the magic of plant medicine: it inspires you to look at your life through a different lens, so you can tap into the collective unconscious as well as your own intuition and self-knowing.
What was your first conscious experience of the green world? Share with us over on Facebook.