Most of this post was taken from and inspired by a similar post on Kristine Brown's blog, Dancing in a Field of Tansy I've been following Kristine's blog for several years now and have learned many things. She also produces a wonderful children's herbal ezine called Herbal Roots.
As part of a spiritual/herbal renaissance, Kristine is following in the footsteps of Gail Faith Edwards. The idea of a herbal ally comes from Gail's book, “Opening our wild hearts to the healing herbs” I read this book about three years ago and have forgotten much of what she wrote so I am grateful to Kristine for bringing it back into my consciousness and for providing me with a task for both myself and my apprentices.
Gail says, "Pick a new plant each year to focus on. Be sure to grow the plant, or meet it in the wild, observe it, make different medicines and foods with it, use it in many ways, consume it regularly, or use as applicable as often as possible, and constantly observe. Noting all you observe. Keeping your own notes is critically important. Learn to meditate with plants. Learn to take care of them, learn to process and use them, one by one. Fall in love with each and every plant you work with, one by one. Recognize the living being there, the spirit of the plant. Respect its power. Open your wild heart to it."
Susan Weed suggests “Choose a plant that grows very near to you ... no more than a one-minute walk from your door. You don't need to know the name of the plant, or anything about it. You will be sitting with your plant every day, so, if possible, choose one that grows in a quiet and lovely place ... in a pot on your balcony is just fine ... in a park is great ... so is an alley ... or a backyard. "
Susun offers six different green ally exercises to get to know the ally more intimately.
1. Meditate/sit and breathe with your green ally for 3-10 minutes a day
2. Make a detailed drawing of the ally as accurate as possible. Next make a soft, impressionistic drawing
3. Find out what parts of the ally are typically used. Find out if other parts are useful. Make oils, tinctures and vinegars of all the useful plant parts (separately)
4. Observe the conditions the plant chooses to grow in.
5. Write a story from the point of view of your green ally. (If you have trouble getting started, write a warm up page praising your green ally and telling him/her how much you like him/her and why.
6. Introduce a friend to your green ally. Tell them all about your ally.
You may wish to include these other exercises Kristine suggests
• write a song about your green ally
• write poems about your green ally
• if edible, eat your green ally as often as possible try your ally in tea form
• start some seeds of your green ally so you can watch them grow from a seedling into full life
• harvest your ally at all stages of growth
• sketch, draw, paint your ally at all stages of growth
I am going to choose violet (viola odorata) as my herbal ally. She is a herb I have been meaning to learn more about for a while and have not made time to do so. 2011 gives me the opportunity to rectify that omission.