Shadows: Lamenting Rivers and the Daughters of Fire
MYSTICAL MEDICINE OF THE ROSE:
Reclaiming Communion with Nature through the Gateway of the Heart
I. THROUGH THE ROSE GATE
Welcome beloved. Sit comfortably, relax, and get a warm, soothing cup of tea.
Today I invite you to a place you have been before, but only remember in the distant caverns of your sweet, forgotten innocence. A place you catch glimpses of in the last winter wind that first smells like spring, like fresh dew and wet grass; or perhaps the sight of leaves turning orange.
Today I offer you a portrait of the mystical medicine of the rose, a flower that throughout time has come to symbolize love. And yet the underground magical songlines of our ancestors whisper of even deeper meaning: that the rose represents an awakened heart, a heart which is capable of the greatest alchemy: healing the soul, integrating the shadow, and restoring unity with nature and within oneself.
As we enter the fairy-realm of plant consciousness, we remember as our ancestors once knew that everything in the green world is alive, animated, interconnected, and perhaps most importantly, full of memory. Memory means stories. Stories mean wisdom. There is a place in every single human soul, no matter how disconnected we may have become from the natural world, that carries the reminiscence of a time when humans communicated freely with the green world. A time when people sat around fires telling stories that their ancestors told them, stories which helped guide them to live in a good way. And in those times, the trees, the birds, the flowers all listened.
The most profound shift in consciousness we are asked to make at a time of ecological and psychological crisis is that of returning to our roots—our ancient memories of the LIFE and MAGIC inherent in the green world. We are asked to open our hearts to hear the songs of the Earth Mother again, as they pour out to us from the breeze, the trees, the flowers to inform us on the good ways of living, growing, and loving as humans.
III. NATURE, THE SHADOW & THE FEMININE
When taking care to remember the ancestral songlines of interconnection and reclaim our magical roots within the green world, it is helpful to know where to look.
“Shadow” is a term coined by Carl Jung, and refers to everything within us that has been suppressed and denied, often due to societal pressures, and therefore made unconscious.
The shadow is infamous for containing our repressed emotional energies, our unresolved traumas; but what is often not talked about is that the shadow is also the home of the soul—the primal yet pure unconditioned self, the infinite self which knows it is the child of the earth and the stars.
When we understand that the outer world is a reflection of our inner territories, it is clear that the human-caused destruction to the natural world is also occurring internally to our own psyches.
The pattern in human consciousness that we see reflected in the destruction of nature, is the repression and demonization of the feminine principle, which includes not only the material reality of Nature Herself, but also our deep emotions, our instinctive cycles, our sensual feeling bodies, our intuitive knowing; the wild unquantifiable wisdom held in the bodies of women, animals, and plants.
This is why reclaiming our communion with the natural world cannot possibly be accomplished without also traversing the inner psychological landscape. You cannot do one without stumbling upon the other. It is in the land of shadows, amongst our own unfelt grief, rage, and terror, that we discover the ecstasy of the soul, our memory of oneness with Gaia, and our original innocence beyond the world’s ideas of right and wrong.
As we know, energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed.
It follows that giving ourselves permission to FEEL, to grieve, to rage, to moan in sensual ecstasy or burst into riotous laughter, to express all we have kept hidden, is a primary gateway to the natural soul.
IV. DECODING THE LANGUAGE OF NATURE
To understand the energetic essence (or “soul”) of a plant, and therefore its spiritual medicine, we go to the gatekeeper of the world of symbols and plead entrance to the archetypal realm.
By observing the patterns that repeat themselves in both the natural world and the human psyche, we discover great wisdom and keys for our spiritual evolution that are held in the symbolic communication of all living forms.
This way of observing the sensory patterns within nature and interpreting them symbolically to derive meaning is also known as observing the “doctrine of signatures” of a given plant.
Another wonderful way to open the gates of perception to nature’s wisdom is through examining fairy tales of our world cultures. Because humans have lived symbiotically with plants since time immemorial, many of our great stories and myths contain powerful remnants of this time, this state of consciousness of profound human connection with the green world. Fairy and folk tales often hold secret codes of our ancestor’s primal understanding of the natural and spiritual realms.
Let’s enter the castle of the rose.
V. SONG OF THE ROSE
The medicine, magic, and myth of the rose are vast like our starlit universe, and I do not claim to cover her whole range.
Today I wish to explore the rose with you through the lens of her symbolic connection to the Holy Grail.
First let’s listen to the song of the rose, how she communicates her essence through her form.
A flower-like no other, the bloom of the rose is a kaleidoscope of infinity, blossoming and opening seemingly endlessly around a still center point.
The gradual opening of her petals around her core can be seen as a mirror of the energetic-alchemical process of opening the heart. As we will see, this process of opening the heart is ultimately what catalyzes our epic return to our soul (our center point).
VI. THE ROSE AND THE HOLY GRAIL
In the underground mysteries of the holy grail, the path of opening the heart to life and love is the basis of the alchemical Great Work, which ultimately means purifying and unifying all aspects of self—psyche, soul, body, heart—in order to allow one’s deepest divinity to blossom in their human form.
The rose is depicted in many of our legends and stories surrounding the holy grail. Remember that symbolically interpreting fairy tales is a key to reclaiming the lost mysteries. Our ancestors relied on symbol and myth to cleverly encode their magical wisdom, which was dangerous and possibly lethal to possess through many centuries of systematic religious oppression.
One such tale which contains encoded wisdom of the holy grail is Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast, which features repeated imagery of the rose, exemplifies the inner alchemical marriage which takes place through the heart. Only the pure love of the heart (Belle) is strong enough to love and integrate the shadow (the Beast), and therefore undo the curses of civilization and false conditioning (Gaston) and restore beauty and harmony to life (The Castle).
This is the archetypal significance and power of the rose: the ultimate redemptive journey of the human heart. Through the process of opening our hearts to our own shadows, we undo our karmic curses, restore our inner and outer kingdoms, and transform the psychic and environmental wastelands into beauty and love again.
VII. ROSE MEDICINE FOR A NEW ERA OF LOVE
Though the rose is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful flowers and the ultimate symbol of love in the botanical kingdom, we find that her leaves are not all soft and inviting; rather, she has thorns. This communicates to a receptive mind that the source of love, the heart, has a capacity to embrace all sides of life and oneself: light and shadow, pleasure and pain. Ultimately the rose (and the heart) teach us to embrace the totality of life and ourselves; to open ourselves to the wild, ever-flowing rivers of life and feeling. This radical openness to life paired with the ever-burning inner flame of love is the only way that the shadow can be integrated, and the curses of civilization will be undone to rebirth a new era of love.
It is through the gate of the ever opening heart, like the petals of a rose, that we are led into deeper and deeper dimensions of love—our core essence.
VIII. WORKING WITH ROSE MEDICINE
There are as many ways to work with the medicine of plants as there are people. Once you have reclaimed the understanding that plants are multidimensional beings that possess intelligence and consciousness beyond just their physical forms, you can develop a unique communication with the plant of your choice. Our ancestors used ritual, prayer, and great reverence to connect to the spirits and healing powers within the botanical kingdom.
Feel free to develop your own ritual to the rose, as an ally on your path to awakening your heart. You can meditate on her, light a candle with a rose scent, massage your body with rose oil, drink rose tea, photograph roses in your area, or grow your own roses at home. You can simply pray to the rose and invite her essence into your life to aid your path of growth. Or, one of my favorites—you can invite her to communicate with you in your dreams.
Plants respond to our love and our receptivity. They may not help us in the ways we think we need, but they will impart the lessons and healing we need on a deeper level of the soul if we are open and aware.
I believe if you are reading this, the rose and the many magical lineages of people who have carried her wisdom and medicine are with you, reaching out to you to touch your heart.
Ultimately, trust your intuitive guidance for ways to develop a relationship with the plants that call to you. It is primarily by showing up to engage in a loving relationship with Gaia that we learn the ways of her medicine and her magic. She will speak to us on the subtle level of the intuitive-imaginary realms. Tune your ears finely so you may listen!
VIIII. THE ROSE CASTLE
Blessings on your path beloved, and thank you for joining me to travel through the castle of the rose. We may have explored a beautiful ballroom, but don’t forget this incredible flower contains many more rooms and secret chambers. There is always more to explore as we uncover deeper and deeper layers of ourselves and our communion with the natural world, through the chambers of our own hearts.
You may return any time you wish.
(note these definitions are my own and do not necessarily encompass the full scope of these terms.)
ALCHEMY: Alchemy refers to the esoteric practice of underground traditions that were concerned with observing the cyclical patterns found in nature in order to accelerate the evolution of the human soul. A path to total enlightenment, alchemy consists of fusing opposing energies, such as feminine-masculine, matter-spirit, earth-heaven, in order to birth the “divine child” of spiritual illumination in human form.
ALCHEMICAL MARRIAGE: Also called “heiros gamos”, this term refers to a real, literal, energetic-physiological process that is the result of uniting and harmonizing our internal dualistic energies, such as mind-heart, creativity-discipline, masculine-feminine. It is also the result of integrating the shadow (unconscious, dark) into the light of our awareness (conscious, light.) The alchemical marriage can be undertaken not only on the individual internal level but also through a sacred romantic partnership.
ANCESTORS: Everywhere humans have settled on earth, there are those who came before us and lived in a state of deep connection with the natural world, as reflected in their ways of life, their seasonal celebrations, their knowledge of the botanical and spiritual realms, and their reverence for the sacred in all life.
FAIRY TALE: A story that contains encoded ancestral wisdom and memory of the evolutionary journey of the human soul and our lost original communion with nature.
HOLY GRAIL: The holy grail refers to an underground mystical wisdom tradition, which has been kept alive and encoded secretly in many myths and fairy tales. Though it will always be enshrouded in mystery because it requires direct experience to be understood, I believe the holy grail refers to the magical ecstatic perception of an illuminated, awakened heart.
SHADOW: The shadow is all that has been repressed and denied and therefore made unconscious. The shadow refers typically to our individual interior landscapes, but it can also refer to the larger sociocultural shadow that spans across civilizations and collective narratives.
SONGLINE: An ancestral memory of interconnection with nature; a magical state of consciousness where we are not separate from the green world and always in communication.
SOUL: The core energetic essence of a human, animal, or plant; wild yet pure and rooted in an untainted divinity beyond the conditioning of man-made civilization. The unseen intelligence and consciousness that inhabits all forms. Though some traditions differentiate between the terms “spirit” and “soul”, here I use them interchangeably.
In Praise of Brighid
Maria Luna (United States) is a mystic, artist, herbalist, meditator, poet and medicine womban currently based in Miami, FL.
Maria’s current project Luna Serpent, featuring an herbal apothecary and online mystery school, aims to restore the alchemical-mystical pathways between the human heart, Mother Nature, and the primal wildness of the soul, primarily through shadow work and direct revelation of the heart. Maria’s work is mainly informed through ecstatic altered states of consciousness, with the aid of plant work and meditative energy-cultivation practices.
Her unique approach to herbal medicine incorporates western herbalism, pagan spirituality, alchemical-mystical traditions, and what she calls "shamanic psychology".
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