From the Plant Spirit Oracle: Meanings, Recipes, and Journeys:
Plant-human relationships are as old as humanity itself. We have evidence that the Neanderthals, predating modern humans, used herbs and mushrooms as part of their regular diets—they have been found preserved with sachets of herbs and strings of Birch Polypore and other mushrooms. The first records of herbs and their uses were inscribed on clay tablets over 5,000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia. We have records of herbal practices from all major civilizations and, in some cases, rich traditions of herbalism that span hundreds, if not thousands, of years, including Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Traditional Western Herbalism. Working and healing with plants is one of our most important ancestral traditions.
Today, people are seeking to strengthen and rekindle ancient bonds with healing plants through working with herbs on many levels, including the physical and metaphysical. The rustle of leaves outside your window, the beauty of an unfolding flower, or the song a plant sings to you are all simple messages that plants may offer. These messages weave landscapes beyond what we can experience with our five senses, and these messages invite us deeper into the mysteries of the earth and all living beings. The spirits of plants take a number of forms and can appear to each of us uniquely. The more that we open ourselves up to understanding them, honoring them, and working with them, the stronger our connection with the living earth in her many forms.
While many plants are medicinal for our physical bodies, other plants offer teachings to the heart, mind, and spirit. The Plant Spirit Oracle (PSO) serves as a gateway to some of this physical and metaphysical work, starting with the understanding that healing happens at all levels, and that the medicine of plants can be accessible to all. Plants from the PSO are all commonly found in the North Eastern and Midwestern parts of the United States, although many plants in this deck can be found globally.
The Plant Spirit Oracle is a 49 card, full color oracle deck. An Oracle deck can be used for a wide variety of different purposes. The most common purpose is for divination; that is, you can use this deck to ask questions or help guide your path by connecting with nature’s deeper wisdom. In addition to being a divination tool, the PSO is can also be used as a magical tool, a learning tool, a meditative tool, and a journeying tool. This book will cover each of those possibilities. The PSO weaves together spirit communication with plants and exploration of the herbal medicines that plants provide.
Herbalism is the term we use for working with plants for healing purposes. Herbalism is much older than modern medicine; it offers us ancestral wisdom and connections. Plants have physical bodies and various kinds of chemical constituents that make up those physical bodies. Over millennia, humans have come to depend on those chemical constituents, using them for a variety of healing practices. And so, on a basic level, plants have physical bodies that can aid in healing and supporting humans’ physical bodies.
As a specific example: the chemical compounds in the Reishi mushroom, which is included in the PSO, have been well studied. We know that this fungus fights cancer and free radicals and boosts the immune system due to specific compounds that scientists have been able to isolate and observe. If we take a Reishi mushroom extract, every day, we can gain the physical benefits of Reishi. The chemicals contained within the physical bodies of the plants are predictable; Reishi’s chemical composition doesn’t change much, if at all, from one fruiting to another. For some people, it is enough to know that Reishi can support the immune system, and so, giving Reishi to someone with a compromised immune system is likely to help.
Further, a rich body of folk wisdom about the use of healing plants exists in many parts of the world. Today, materia medicas often contain this knowledge (such as Matthew Wood’s Earthwise Herbal books). Herbal knowledge can also be passed down in families, communities, and cultures. Thus, for medicine of the body, we can look at what science says, or what common folk knowledge over centuries tells us. But physical medicine is only one piece of what the plants can offer us.
In the spiritual practices of many cultures and peoples, humans recognize that all living beings have an essence or consciousness beyond the physical, a consciousness rooted in spirit. Healing plant species like those in the Plant Spirit Oracle have been working hand in hand with humans for ceremonial or spiritual purposes since before recorded time. These are the plants that people carefully cultivated and cherished. Traditionally, when people moved to new regions of the world, they often took their sacred plants with them because their healing power was so great they could not leave them behind. To understand a plant from the perspective of spirit, we must do more than just identify its features and healing properties, and understand where it grows. We can deeply connect with the spirit of the plant for lessons, wisdom, and healing. To return to the example of Reishi, by connecting with the spirit of Reishi and observing what Reishi does in a typical ecosystem, we can learn more about the medicine—of all kinds—that Reishi provides. Reishi helps our spirits overcome trauma and suffering; it breaks down the old so that the new can be kindled. This is what Reishi does in an ecosystem, and what it also can do for the human spirit.
Working with plant spirits requires an acknowledgment of the spirit in all things, also known as animism. This perspective understands that plants, animals, places (rivers, forests), and many objects (stones) have a spirit, and we can interact with that spirit. An animistic perspective acknowledges that all spirits have agency; they are not just passive recipients of the world around us. Interacting with spirits can lead to positive impacts for both your nonphysical and physical being. Most animistic worldviews also recognize that the world of spirit is quite close to the physical world and that each affects the other. There is close interconnection between the mind, body, and spirit (for more on this, see Land Within and Without card entry in Chapter 3).
This oracle helps connect you with the medicine of the spirit through both divination meanings and spirit journeying. It also helps you connect with the medicine of the body through various herbal preparations and recipes.