October, and the shift into autumn, summons deep transformation. It’s a time to celebrate the abundance of the year and honor death. The season of spice, flame, berry and root represents a subtle shift when the boundary between this realm and the otherworld can more easily be crossed. During this time, plant and ritual are of special significance. As the veil grows thin and we transition into the darker half of the year, we will need to embrace tools to connect to all that is seen and unseen, to lift our spirits, and nurture our hearts.
These liminal moments can be disorienting. It can be difficult to know our role within the upheaval of transition. This is when working with plants can be extremely enriching, meaningful and fun. Hawthorn, Mugwort and Rose are ideal for slowing down, cultivating our inner worlds, and opening ourselves to mystery and contemplation.
Autumn is an excellent time to delve into shadow work, to confront wounds and hard truths with honesty and compassion. We all struggle with parts of ourselves, and we all have ancestral trauma that we can heal. It is time to call in the wisdom of our ancestors, to acknowledge their vast teachings, and to leave offerings.
Creating Space for the Darkness
Shadow work asks us to create space for the darkness (and consider the racist assumptions in darkness being bad). As we honor and mend in the dimming light, we will find renewed balance and inner strength so that we may more fully show up to the work and shed, personally and collectively, what does not serve us.
The secular west is sadly lacking in noncommercial, spiritually rooted practices of honoring natural rhythms and death. We witches and radicals must reclaim. We must heal from legacies of violence due to white supremacy, patriarchy and the church.
Tea Ritual for Shadow Work
What follows is a tea ritual for shadow work + self-love. This ritual can be preformed alongside other festivities, in accordance with the new moon or you could even preform this ritual daily to see what shifts.
What you will need:
Matches or a lighter
Candle (or many)
Kettle, pot or cauldron (hah) to boil water
Hawthorn leaf, flower + berry (organic or wildcrafted)
Rosehips (organic or wildcrafted)
Cinnamon or other warming spices of your choice
Mugwort smudge stick or loose herb for burning
In the evening, just as the sun begins to set, prepare your space. Burn mugwort and call in your ancestors, set up an altar with candles, stones, keepsakes, photographs of family (blood or chosen) plant allies - whatever has meaning to you. Boil water and cast a spell, an intention, into the pot. This spell should focus on themes of natural rhythms, shadow work, heart-centered intuition, ancestral honoring, healing, death and rebirth, release and shedding and/or compassionate embodiment. For example, “I call in my ancestors to aid me in accepting my shadow. I trust death to take what no longer serves. I accept the darkness within me and tap into the love, power and wisdom of my ancestors. There is no light without dark. Give me the death I need.”
Repeat the incantation in your mind. Ask the water, the herbs, your ancestors, the universe to support you. Allow the water to boil, and pour over herbs. Burn more mugwort while you allow the tea to steep for 5 or so minutes. Sit at your altar and sip. Sink into your body. Focus on your breath, the flame of the candle, your spell. When the tea is gone, pull out your notebook and pen and stream of conscious your thoughts. Get it all out.
2 pt hawthorn leaf, flower + berry
1 pt rosehips
½ pt cinnamon
Hawthorn: Gatekeeper of the Heart
Hawthorn Cratageus spp.
Hawthorn plays a significant role in Celtic lore as a portal between this world and the next. Its magic and medicine are ancient. Grown along hedges for centuries, this boundary plant designates a point of perception, a gateway. This gateway is most accessible during the time of bloom and berry, birth and death, when the veil between realms is thinnest - spring and autumn (the flowers blossom near Beltane and bare fruit near Samhain, two important pagan holidays).
As we enter this time of inward energy, we find ourselves more willing to tap into quiet moods that dance with darkness and embrace the mysticism of the heart. We are more willing to sit with death, to release what no longer serves, and sip from the cup of what could be.
What we experience outside of ourselves is so often a mirror, a signature of healing, an indicator, to the worlds within us. As above, so below. The microcosm and macrocosms behave alike. As Hawthorn stands as a reminder of our proximity to realms just beyond our own, realms which are cloaked in consciousness and wonder, so does it act as a gateway to our own intuitive, resilient, feeling center - the heart.
Hawthorn’s gift is the gatekeeper of the heart. There is no better herbal ally for calling in love, mending a broken heart, navigating the overwhelm of collective growth and grief, or tapping into our intuition on relational matters. Hawthorn is an excellent plant to work with when healing ancestral traumas as well, as it allows us to reach out to those no longer with us, and begin to heal our lineages. Furthermore, Hawthorn teaches us boundaries. The thorns of hawthorn remind us to be guarded with whom we allow into our sacred spaces, too trust our intuition and say no when we mean it. Boundaries and discernment are skills the heart must know intimately for self-preservation and radical love.
Mugwort: Sacred Plant of the Goddess Artemis
Mugwort Artemisia vulgaris
Mugwort, also known as cronewort, is a sacred plant of the Goddess Artemis, the goddess of the moon, the wildlands, the midwife and the healer. The silver glow of mugwort, and most plants in the Artemisia genus, signifies a connection with the moon and therefore a kinship with the goddess.
Mugwort has the ability to aid in divination. Mugwort opens us to the magical world; its aromatic fragrance bewitches our senses, and invites us to travel from the physical realm of our day-to-day reality into a realm of expansive consciousness and intuition. This powerful witch ally will spin a spiraling spell for you. All you must do is ask with intention. Mugwort has a long history of use for dream and prophetic work. When burned as smudge, ingested or anointed on the skin at night it can bring lucid dreams. These visionary states allow us to move beyond the social constructs and binaries of our waking life, and shift the narrative to one of self-empowerment and personal healing. When we dream, our subconscious mind untangles the stresses and traumas that we hold within us. We awaken renewed and able to carry on with greater resilience and trust.
Look into which varieties of mugwort grow in your area, as these plants may be a better choice for dream work, clearing and grounding because it incorporates the energy of the land where you reside. Always ask the plant for permission to harvest, and contemplate any assumed entitlement to take and the role of colonization in how we interact with the land. Always leave an offering of thanks.
Rosehips: Medicine of Transition and Fruitful Cycles
Rose Rosa spp.
Rosehips are the ripe, red fruit of the Rose. You will notice them early to late fall, but wait to harvest until after the first freeze. Rosehips provide sweetness, courage and self-acceptance to our days. When enjoyed daily as tea or syrup, Rosehips are deeply nourishing and very high in Vitamin C, making it an excellent ally for not only the heart, but also immune support throughout the winter.
A medicine of transition and fruitful cycles, Rose is a lovely ally for seasonal depression. It lifts the spirits, soothes agitation and mends bitter or broken hearts. This medicine will embolden you to open your heart, stand up for justice and know your worth. Rose teaches us to embody softness and compassion for self and other. Kiva Rose uses Rose for “balancing out both intense feelings and intense apathy, and provides a solid foundation from which to sense and connect to the world we are a part of.” As we move toward healing, and step into our unique, radiant beauty the thorns of the plant provide protection. Rose guides us in the complex work of embodying delicate blossoms and sharp thorns.
Susan Weed http://www.susunweed.com/
Kiva Rose http://kivasenchantments.com/