There are many times we might feel called to pick up a stone, feather, shell, or stick while walking in nature. These little friends might catch our eye or even seem to "call out" to us. We might feel a pull or even seem to audibly hear them. This is especially the case during meditation walks when seeking items for certain ceremonial working such as creating a spirit arrow or staff, when in need of a particular energetic or elemental medicine, gathering for a devotional offering practice, re-stocking Burlá Ghuí/Despacho kits, when creating medicine pouches, or simply wildcrafting herbal medicines, but we may also feel this urge spontaneously. Some of us may even develop a habit of collecting a particular item, heart shaped rocks or feathers are a common favourite.
There are a few important aspects to consider when gathering from Nature to ensure that we are doing so in a good way.
How to cultivate a relationship with plant, stone, or crystal medicine - article full of easy methods
Stone Spirit Medicine - online course for those drawn to stones in personal healing and spiritual practice
"Return to Reverence ~ working with the elements of the natural world" is a monthly column that I write for the Powell River Living magazine. The articles shared aim to help guide us in cultivating, enriching, and deepening our living experience through wisdom sharing and engaging practices available to us all.
February's article touches on stone spirit medicine and how we might support ourselves by entering into relationship with these ancient teachers. You might find this a most welcome practice at this time of year if the wildness of life feels a bit much ;) I have converted my Stone Spirit Medicine workshop into a full online available offering should anyone wish to take this old, near global practice deeper. Find it here http://www.3foldbalance.com/online-courses.html
Do you have an affinity for a particular herb?
Have you been drawn to certain crystals?
Maybe you collect rocks that always seem to catch your eye.
These are each invitations to cultivate a relationship with these beings and their unique medicines. Perhaps you have already studied a bit or have begun to work with them and want to take things deeper.
There are a good number of methods that you can gradually get to know your new allies with or dive right into a full immersion experience. Here are a few of my favorites.
Take a fresh sprig of the plant, a crystal or the stone you want to work with and place it under your pillow (or inside the pillowcase if you are worried about losing it) Thank them for sharing information in your dreamtime. This may come through directly where you meet the spirit and have a lucid dream of asking questions or being shown energies and how to work together, or it may come through as an indirect influence of metaphor where meanings reveal themselves over time.
Depending on the type of crystal or plant (watching for toxicity or dissolving) having an ritual bath is a lovely way to immerse yourself in the energetic medicine of your new ally, especially if you are sensitive to energy. Rose quartz, amethyst, lavender, rosemary, or stones from special places are all wonderful to bathe with. This isn't a "get-clean" kind of bath, it's a quiet time to feel subtle energy. Light a candle, do some mindful breathing, meditate, and allow yourself to notice how you feel, invite these energies into your thoughts and see how they shift.
Make a tea or water:
Again using caution around potentially toxic plants and crystals if using a direct method, or stick to an indirect method to be safest - you can transfer the energy of your new friend into teas or waters and bring these medicines right into your body. A direct method is one where the plant/crystal/stone has been washed then placed directly into your water cup, or if a plant it can be brewed as a tea. Some safe crystals for this are rose quartz, clear quartz, or non-irradiated citrine. Generally some safe plants are lemonbalm, lavender, or red-belted polypore (of course I need to advise consulting a professional for any contradictions with existing medical conditions). An indirect method involves placing your item into a flat bottomed glass, then placing this glass into a bowl that has been semi-filled with water. Your item never gets wet, but will infuse the water surrounding the glass with its energy. Again, being thankful and respectful of the gifts being shared with you. This indirect method is safe to use for any plant, crystal or stone. If you are very sensitive you may only need a couple drops of your water or tea to feel its effects, you might choose to sip all of it slowly over the day, or you may wish to drink much over a few days.
'Shamanic' Journey or Meditation:
If you have learned the shamanic technique of journeying, or if you have a meditation practice suitable, you may glean a lot of information by visiting the spirit of the plant/crystal/stone that you are working with. You can ask for a healing, for guidance on how to work further with them, thank them for showing you just what the medicine they are offering is and importantly how you can reciprocate in the relationship.
Tuck your stone, plant or crystal into your pocket, into a medicine pouch around your neck, find or make a pendant where it touches your skin (some plants like Devil's Club can be dried and made into beads) In this way you are in constant contact with the medicine, the energies of this helper. Skin to skin or simply in your energy field, there will be a conversation happening as you move through your day.
Mesa/Lia Mala/Crane Bag/Medicine Bundle:
Some shamanists or medicine people carry a Mesa, Lia Mala, Crane Bag or other Medicine Bundle. If you have one of these, tucking a new stone, crystal, or part of a plant into the folds is a nice gentle way of bringing their medicine into yours. If it is right to do so, you might add this piece fully inside to work more deeply, to alter the harmony already present, and to stay as a longer term influence. Each lineage will have differing ways of working with your medicine hearth so you may want to consult an elder for guidance around this.
Some plants, even certain fungi, are beautiful to cleanse and bless with while burning. You may already know how buffalo sage brings about a different cleansing than tobacco or palo santo, but you might also find rowan berries become your go-to for protection while lavender opens the door to your Ancestors. You may find that some plants instantly connect you to different healing work, helpers, or area of focus than others. Over harvesting of certain popular herbs gives us an extra nudge to look local and to our cultural heritages. What is naturally growing in abundance around you? What might your great-great-great-grandmother have burned? I have been sweetly surprised to learn certain plants coming to me have a long history of being added to sacred smoke rituals. I had been working with fomitopsis pinicola for about 20 years before I discovered some First Nations used it during smudge rituals. This knowledge deepened my respect for this powerful healing ally. Oh! how I love working in these ways!
Remember, we don't just ask and take from our human or animal friends, we also care for them and support them when they need it. The same is true for our plant, crystal or stone friends. We are entering into a spiritual relationship, they may become sacred objects and part of your medicine basket, we need to always treat them with respect and honour. Never leaving them laying around or placed directly on the floor, cleansing and recharging them with moon or sun light, salt, the running water of a clear stream, or by saining. Feed them offerings, whisper your gratitude, sing to them, wrap them in special cloth or place them on your altar. This is a special and personal friendship :)
In our neurofeedback office, we have clients spending 20 or more hours each, working through whatever emotional healing they may need – be it anxiety, stress, trauma, grief – you get the idea. In the corner on a little pedestal we have a candle with various crystals and stones around it. Some are ‘programed’ to help absorb some of the dense energy our clients may be giving off, while others like citrine or lithium are given to them to hold for emotional support, a few have the special task of being held and ‘dumped into’ energetically during a specific visualization where the client releases into the stone all that is not serving them anymore. Perhaps sadness or specific events that hold hardship, whatever people feel they need to let go of they intend for this willing stone to take it for them, it’s all of dense energy and stones are similarly dense, ancient helpers who also give a tangible weight for our clients to identify with. Afterward we are always careful to smudge, extract, cleanse and thank this stone.
One day, as I passed one of these stones to a client, I felt it had had enough. It just didn't seem as willing anymore. I passed it to a couple of my colleagues to feel out and they all confirmed it felt tired and needed a break. I am lucky enough to live near a most beautiful waterfall with local legends speaking to it’s rejuvenating and spiritually cleansing powers. The gals in my office and I figured this stone deserved to retire within these waters and perhaps a new stone would offer up it’s ability and be willing to come on an adventure back to the office with me.
After work as I walked toward the rushing water of the falls with the stone in my pocket, I began thinking of how I would further thank this stone for all its hard work, envisioned a ceremonial moment connecting with the land and water here, the stone… and at this point I was just stepping to the waters edge when I heard the very distinctive sound of stone hitting wood. BONK! I turned just in time to see our beloved stone disappear between two logs into a crevice where no one could ever reach it. KER-PLUNK! into the water traveling under the logs. Ahhhh! It certainly wanted it’s retirement in such a beautiful place! Well that was that. No ceremony and pomp needed. The matter was taken into the hands of the spirit of the stone who didn’t want to bother waiting a moment longer than it needed to. I couldn't help but laugh. Laugh at the entire event that would seem so bizarre to many, laugh at the spontaneity of spirit and laugh at how sometimes we humans get all wrapped up in doing things ‘just right’ with a lot more fuss than perhaps is required. Then I laughed at the thought of telling my friends at work who would want to know of it’s send off.
A new stone did volunteer to come back with me. I was sure to be specific about the task at hand and this new stone felt full of energy and was raring to go.
The gals at the office felt so too when they met – after they had a laugh.
A bean feasa of Celtic lineage shares stories & insights from her animist and 'shamanic' practice on the West Coast of Canada.