What to do with all these seeds? I wanted to plant them and to let the plants that lined the Pilgrim’s way tell their story.
On April 21st 2018, I hosted a day workshop at Utopiana for people to come and make medicine with the plants that I found on the Pilgrim’s Path, to hear their stories, embody the lessons they teach us and to plant the seeds of the Pilgrim’s Garden.
We tasted, smelled, touched and felt the herbs and their medicine using all our senses.
Here is a transcript of the Seed Pilgrim’s Love Story:
Seed Pilgrimage – A Love Story
Honouring seed, the giver of life
As the sovereignty of our seeds, food and medicine is threatened, I walked a pilgrimage gathering seeds of medicinal plants along the way. I contemplated how we can make the changes that we need to see in the world to protect our clean earth, air and water.
…And the fact that making these changes is an act of LOVE, love for ourselves and love for the planet and all beings.
The uncomfortable, the obscure, the frightening and unknown are all faces of change.
As is the exciting, the new, the expansion, the possibility, the abundance, the HOPE…
Are we willing to do the work that change involves?
Do we love ourselves enough?
Restoring our loving relationship with plants gives us some tools to keep us motivated and working for the loving change the world needs…
Here are some lessons from the plants along the Pilgrim’s Path:
LOVE Rose – Rosa canina
Making the changes we need to see, the creation of new paradigms is an act of love…
Dog rose flowers are uplifting and calming. A cooling, anti-inflammatory, astringent plant, rose is useful for enflamed guts, diarreah, painful, heavy periods. Rose hips are packed with vitamins C, A , B and K and can be made into an immune boosting syrup. May/June – Make rose tincture with flowers. Sept – Make rosehip syrup – an immune booster for the winter months.
Rosehip Fizz – Drinking a toast to True Love: a commitment to change
Rose gifts us sweet and generous love: Silk soft petals that cool and calm. Deep scent that awakens desire. Sweet fruits to nourish and feed you through the darkest times.
But her thorn in our side is there to show us that true love is not passive. Time to change our perceptions of love from soft and comfortable, from passively “falling” in love to instead, it being a conscious choice – a “will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.”
Find rose on the ceilings of council chambers and stately homes – so that business is carried out “ Sub Rosa “ – in secret. Rose is our medicine to do the quiet work of love – to work towards the changes we need to see, humbly and with gentle compassion
“ When we are committed to true love, we are committed to being changed.”
LISTEN Lime Blossom / Linden – Tilia Spp.
Lime is a cooling herb full of mucilage. Lime is medicine for the cardio vascular system – dilating blood vessels and cooling excessive heat in the system. Turn to Lime in times of anxiety, panic attacks, headaches caused by anxiety and stress. It’s a calming sedative and invites you to quiet contemplation.
Contemporary society does not allow us the time and space to do the work involved in choosing loving change. Lime reminds us to take the time and create the space in our lives to be silent and listen.
“Devotional silence, [the ability to listen to each other, to ourselves and to God(dess)], is a powerful tool for the healing of a heart and the healing of a nation.“
HONESTY Elder / Sureau – Sambucus nigra
Elderflower: decongestant, relaxing and fever-reducing. Use it at the onset of cold, fever, flu, sore throat or for bronchial congestion. Dispells mucous and congestion from allergies and asthma. Elderberries are anti-oxidant and anti-viral. Make Elderberry syrup in September to boost the immune system throughout winter.
Hilde Moer – Elder Mother or Earth mother, so strong in our psyche that the church needed to hide her under tales of crucifiction, of angry witches and poisoned smoke. But she is the crone – the wisest Earth mother. When we gaze into her black, mirrored berries, we see our true self reflected.
The black mirror of Elderberry Syrup
If we accept lying to ourselves or others, we are able to turn our back on reality. Elder is honesty, she is real – she is promotes movement even in uncomfortable situations. When we dedicate ourselves to the truth, we need to adapt our map of the world each time new truths enter our consciousness – truth is the chisel that carves new reality.
Dedication to truth is our gateway to change.
Drawing with Elderberries
COMMITMENT / TENACITY
Dandelion / Dent-de-Lion – Taraxacum officinale
A bitter diuretic, dandelion leaves support the kidneys, and urinary system to clear and cleanse, improving the elimination of uric acid while replacing the potassium, lost through increased urination. Dandelion root provides gentle detoxification support for the liver.
Heard that expression “ You can never love anybody if you are unable to love yourself Sayings like these are common as muck – it’s easy to overlook their deep wisdom – just like the humble dandelion – who has adapted to grow on every continent. Dandelion’s root is a long tap root – that goes deep, “getting to the root of the problem”. Dandelion will regrow from the tiniest piece of root left in the ground – its persistence is the bane of gardeners.
We must dig deep and get to the root of feelings of unworthiness or feelings of lack that keep us afraid of love-based change. Once we accept that love is a conscious choice to nurture ones own, or another’s, spiritual growth, then we accept that love is change and love is work. Committing to dig deep down and do the work of love takes tenacity – when we get waylaid, we must recommit, regrow our enthusiasm for change.
Making a Dandelion flower essence: Tenaciously committing to the changes we want to see
RESPONSIBILITY Greater Calendine / Chelidoine – Chelidonium Majus
Yellow sap is rubbed on warts because it slows cell division and kills bacteria. Small doses of Calendine can ease the gall bladder and promote good digestion. Alkaloids in its latex are a mild sedative and anti-spasmodic acting on the central nervous system and also useful in spasms associated with Asthma.
But this medicine is very strong and toxic; you must use the correct dose. Calendine reminds us of responsibility. Her yellow flowers bring sunshine to our liver, the seat of anger – she reminds us to use our anger in the correct dose.
Transmute your anger into action for change.
SERVICE / DELAYED GRATIFICATION Burdock / Bardane – Arctium lappa
Burdock is deep cleansing medicine. Use burdock root to gently detoxify the liver and for skin conditions where the elimination from liver and kidneys is not efficient and toxicity is being eliminated via the skin instead. Boils, eczema, ulcers, acne, rashes.
Burdock reminds us that the work for change involves some dirty work: cleaning and caring. Burdock reminds us of the importance of loving service and of delayed gratification.
Wild Carrot / Carrote Sauvage – Daucus carota
Wild carrot seeds are a natural contraceptive. Traditionally soaked in water and drunk as a “morning after” contraceptive, she coats the womb and prevents the egg taking hold.
Wild Carrot is the freedom to chose. She is the witch that shows us back to the old ways that need reviving and reminds us of the oppression and injustice inherent in centuries of patriarchy. Her seed is so plentiful, she reminds us to embrace abundance – there is room on the Earth for all beings. When you live from a place of abundance, you are more likely to share, less likely to hoard, less interested in competition and it’s easier to align with justice – shared power, shared resources etc.
WORK / GREED Borage / Bourache – Borago officinalis
Borage is one of our European adaptogens, restoring energy and vitality. Borage Contains silicon which has a re-building effect on the nervous system and also acts on the endocrine system – a remedy indicated in exhaustion – especially in menopause or post partum.
The modern workplace is dominated by coffee and sugar. Both are tools to help us override exhaustion and our body’s needs, in order to prove ourselves useful in the workplace. When we burn out, its Borage we reach for. Borage reminds us of the fallacy of greed. Humans crave connection to a community and capitalism sells us a connection to a community bonded together by material objects and brands, but vacant of real person to person connection. We keep buying, but our needs for a loving, supportive community are not met. Burn out is a symbol of where capitalism fails us. When people burn out, they often turn to a simple life in nature to recouperate. Borage reminds us to desire less so we can work in a way that nourishes us. Borage gives us the courage to put real connection to life, to each other, to ourself and our health ahead of a connection to material goods.
Simplifying our lives is a way to love – curb wasted energy and we can prevent burnout for ourselves and the planet.
/ AWAKEN TO THE MAGIC OF SYNCHRONICITY
St John’s Wort / Millepertuis – Hypericum perforatum
St John’s Wort is a wound-healing herb, especially indicated where there is damage to the nerves because it restores and protects nerves, this also makes it a useful herb to use to manage pain. It is medicine for shingles and herpes and has become famous as a mood lifter. St John’s wort is best harvested on the day of St John at summer solstice when it is said you will harvest it with the fairies.
Named perforatum for its perforated leaves, St John’s Wort lets rays of light in so that we can transcend darkness. Hypericum reminds us to dance with the fairies – to ask for help, to invite serendipity into our lives “the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things which are not sought for,” so we can live in light. Good health requires being in touch with the needs of our spirit. Living consciously means shining a light on the spirit – bringing the conscious mind into synchronicity with the unconscious mind. Hypericum reminds us to transcend, tune in, align with our hearts and bring light to the world.
“ a commitment to spiritual life requires conscious practice, a willingness to unite the way we think with the way we act.”
DEATH Yew / If – Taxus baccata
Used in modern medicine for chemotherapy because the alkaloids in the leaves kill cells by stopping mitosis. Found across Europe in church graveyards and revered as sacred by ancient cultures including the Druids, Greeks & Siberian Shamans. All parts of the plant apart from the flesh of her bright red berries are toxic. The Yew enhances our relationship with death; a Gateway tree – guiding us across the threshold into other worlds.
When we face our fear of death, we become comfortable with the unknown and comfortable with the idea of loss. If we change the paradigms we live by, we must accept the death of our old behaviours. Being comfortable with death and loss paves the way for the changes we need to see – changes that go beyond our current perception and changes that leave behind our old lives and ways of being. Acknowledging and facing our fear of death invites it to become a force for change in our lives:
“The time to do what we feel called to do is now and not in some distant future.”
CLARITY Lavender / Lavande – Lavandula angustifolia
Relaxant that can aid with stress-related migraines, headaches, palpitations or insomnia. Lavender is calming for the digestion and its volatile oils are anti-septic and anti-microbial which increases resistance to coughs, colds and infections.
The name lavender derives from the Latin lavare, meaning, “to wash”. Lavender counsels clarity. It is That we have a clear definition of what loving ourselves and others, including the Earth, feels and looks like to us. Clarity gives us a compass – a vibration that we can seek and constantly reorient to. Clarity makes us whole and resilient. If we are knocked of our path, we are clear about where to head for.
PARADOX / ALIGN WITH GRACE Yarrow / Achillea millefeuille – Achillea millefolium
Used by the Roman’s to staunch the blood of wounded soldiers, yarrow is known as a vulnerary herb. It is also a digestive bitter and helps with all kinds of pelvic stagnation for men and women. Yarrow can be used for physical protection from radiation and psychic protection too. But yarrow is full of paradox. Yarrow brings on menses AND can slow heavy periods. She can cause a nose bleed – and stop one. Great for treating inflammation rashes, chapped skin – but can also cause rashes.
Yarrow reminds us of the paradox in love and grace. The essence of serendipity/grace/spirit is that if you do not tune your awareness to it, you will not notice it, but you cannot create it by focusing on it. . You can align with grace and allow it into your life when it comes, but you cannot chase it. You must leave space to sit back and trust.
HEALTHY BOUNDARIES / SEPARATENESS
Plantain – Plantago major & Plantago lanceolata
& Horse Chestnut / Maronnier – Aesculus hippocastanum
Soothing and cooling, plantain is great for all the membranes of our body – skin, lungs, urinary and digestive tract. It grows abundantly, often among grass. Use with nettle to soothe swollen respiratory system caused by hayfever. A great wound healer, excellent for drawing out infection, splinters etc. Its astringency can be used to tone the vascular walls, so helping with haemarrhoids and varicous veins.
Horse Chestnut is also astringent. Soapy lather from conkers was used in shampoo and as a moth repellant It can strengthen the walls of blood vessels, increasing the integrity of our venous system and tone the skin. It is also a choice remedy for varicous veins and heamorrhoids.
Plantain and Horse Chestnut show us that we can gain resilience when we maintain authentic boundaries. Healthy boundaries let in what we need to nourish us, keep us thriving and keeps out what will harm us. If we truly love, and work for the growth of another, then we must respect the individuality of the other – even if that means we might lose them. Plantain reminds us that a healthy boundary allows the space for every being, including ourselves to grow.
Horse Chestnut and Plantain Gel
– for varicous veins, tired legs and feet, hemorrhoids and healthy boundaries
Vegetable gelatin, Strong Plantain infusion, Horse chestnut tincture
Follow instructions to make a gel that sets using 75% plantain infusion and 25% horse chestnut tincture to make up the liquid.
NOURISHMENT Nettle / Ortie – Urtica dioica
Nettles nourish your immune system, help with allergies, stimulate digestion and can alleviate anemia. Use them to help with hayfever. Dry them and make a topping to sprinkle on your food daily.
Nettle reminds us we need nourishment, we need community… and counsels tolerance.
Nettle grows en masse, often found in huge swathes – reminding us we need community to nourish our soul. Nettle is a natural anti-hystamene and can relieve allergic reactions, counseling us that we are more resilient when we practice tolerance. Nettle is packed full of vitamins and minerals; iron, potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium, calcium, nitrogen along with vitamins A, B1, B5 C, D, E , K which feed our bodies and also the soil, reminding us to nourish ourselves and that we are only as healthy as our soil is.
What do you need to nourish you? Planting a bed of nettles to feed us and the garden. Planting intentions for self-nourishment.
HOPE in ADVERSITY
Blackthorn / Epine Noire – Prunus Spinosa
Sloe is the first to blossom in the spring – and often the last food source still out in the depth of
winter supplying nourishment in the harsh, often-freezing weather. Sloes are full of immuno-boosting nutrients. Sloes are medicine for overcoming adversity. Sloe reminds us to keep hope alive, especially in the depths of adversity.
RHYTHM Hawthorn – Aubepine – Crategus Sp.
Hawthorn is tonic for the heart and circulatory system. It repairs, strengthens and smooths the capillaries – increasing efficiency of circulation and reducing friction. Also tones large vessels. Hawthorn is nourishing and cooling, relaxing and calming to the nervous system – particularly useful for ADHA.
Hawthorn counsels rhythm – it steadies an irregular heart beat and raises or lowers blood pressure according to what the body needs. Hawthorn reminds us to find our own rhythm. And to acknowledge the rhythm of nature – Gestation, Action, Rest; Gestation, Action, Rest.
Instigating loving change is constant work – hawthorn reminds us not to get discouraged when we are frustrated, tired and the work’s not happening. That everything has its rhythm. There is a time for activity and a time for rest. Hawthorn reminds us to keep showing up, steady and consistent in this cycle.
TRIBE Crab apple / Malus sylvestris
Each pip in a crab apple holds the blueprint for the creation of a completely genetically individual fruit tree. There is a whole tribe united in each fruit of the crab apple tree. These rose family fruits, astringent and wholesome connect us to our tribe, our community. They help with feelings of loneliness that can come with prolonged periods of illness.
Now more than ever, we need to connect with our tribe. As our environment and paradigms shift rapidly, our relationships with each other are what will determine the quality and integrity of our lives as this unfolds. Find your voice and share it – reach out to your tribe, form your tribe – make a ruckus, start the ripples of change. Challenge each other to love fully – to extend yourselves for spiritual growth and to walk the pigrims path for change.
And so we planted the seeds. The new garden at Utopiana is much less diverse than the garden that was at Avenue des Eidgenots. The Pilgrim’s Garden will increase the diversity of plants in the garden – and bring medicine to a new neighbourhood in the city of Geneva.
The Seed SistAs are working for the day when every community has their own medicine garden. Medicine gardens ensure an abundance of diverse, clean, healthy plants that can be used for medicine. Medicine gardens stand as hubs for teaching people about their birthright to plant medicine. They are archives of stories and knowledge. Each autumn, they burst forth in seed – seeds that can be saved and spread. As long as we save and grow our own seed, we are preserving diverse plants and ecologies that promote health in our air, water, soil and bodies. Know your seeds, save your seeds, grow your seeds.