I wanted to share with you a thought process that goes back centuries and since first learning about this folklore, I now look at nature with fresh eyes.
Since with 1600’s philosophers have believed that plants are created with signs that guide us to understand what the plant’s purpose and intended use is. There were illusions to this theory in the writings of Galen in AD131 – 200 but it was not until a chap called Jacob Boehme wrote a book called ‘The Signature of All Things’ in the first half of the seventeenth century that this idea took hold. Boehme was banished from his home town for this belief and was told he could not come back unless he promised not to write anymore books – he could not make this promise, so he left!
Paracelsus, a Swiss doctor and mystic of the early 1600’s, was one of the first to take this idea seriously and worked out an entire system of knowledge, based on nature as a living, intelligent being. He named this knowledge ‘The Wisdom of Nature’. He described a different way of perceiving the world, based on the intelligence of Mother Nature and believed those who live close to nature can learn this knowledge through their experiences.
Can the patterns in nature correspond to patterns in people? These signals don’t take the form of carton like images popping up all over the country side, but they are there and sometimes they are very obvious, once you start looking. For instance, look at a Hawthorne berry – red and round. What type of person, or part of the body might that be useful for? Traditional herbalists will use the Hawthorne Berry to regulate the function of the heart, and this little berry does resemble that organ. The sort of people that have trouble with their heart are quite often a little flushed and perhaps a little overweight… red and round like this magic little berry. Another heart healer is the Pepper – like the Hawthorne Berry, it is not only red but inside it is divided into four, as is heart.
It is not just how the plant looks that we can pick up clues from, but also it’s habitat. As an example, plants which grow in sunny locations are often them selves drying and uplifting, like the sun – Rosemary or Calendula are prime examples. In contrast, Angelica, grows in damp and shady places and has warming properties which remove damp and is used traditionally to treat damp, cold conditions such rheumatism.
Hidden within nature is a vital life force, some like to think of this as a substance, rather than an energy as it is easier to think of it as something tangible. Careful and imaginative observation of a plant’s habitat, season of flower, smell, colour, texture, shape and even taste can all help us understand and learn what the plant’s energy is intended for.
So, next time you are walking in the woods, or even down the street, take notice of the plants and flowers that force their way up through the pavement, or creep along the forest floor. What does the texture of their leaves reveal to you, how do the colour of the petals make you feel and what is it about where they are growing that could direct you to it’s use? You will need to use your imagination, but I don’t think it will be long before you start making connections.
Whether we believe that these patterns are created by God, Mother Nature, or all just strange coincidences, and although it may not be possible to scientifically prove this kind of thinking, does that mean it should be ignored?
Answers to ‘The Wisdom of Nature Quiz’ are:
Don’t the shapes of the stems and tiny flowers remind you of the bronchioles and little air sacks in the lungs? Traditionally their anti-catarrh and relaxing effect is used to soothe the lungs and combined with their anti-inflamamtory properties they are used by Herbalists for asthmatic conditions too.
Hawthorne Berries: Heart.
As mentioned above the little round red berries resemble the heart, they are even split into four internal sections just like the heart. They are full of flavonoids which are very effective for repairing the walls of small blood vessels. The flowers and berries are used by Herbalists as they open up the small arteries of the body, which increases blood supply and oxygen to the tissues, which in turn lowers blood pressure.
Calendula / Marigold: Depression caused by nervous anxiety.
Who could not look at this beautiful, orange flower and not feel just a little uplifted? Used by Herbalists for many skin ailments, it also has a relaxing effect on the nervous system which is known to help treat depression caused by nervous anxiety.
ALWAYS SEEK MEDICAL ADVICE FROM A QUALIFIED HERBALIST BEFORE USING ANY PLANTS AS MEDICINES.
The Book of Herbal Wisdom by Matthew Wood
The Botanic Medicine Society, Ontario, Canada