by Jon Enos, FES Staff
In doing the Mugwort harvest yesterday with Ian, I had several thoughts regarding intentionality. In the process of taking herbs from the land and processing them into medicine and relief aids, one aspect of the mind’s interaction with the work of harvest, is the realization of abundance. I realized that this is a potent concept, which I had previously overlooked. I’ll explore this more in a moment; but first some background. (Read more about herbal Mugwort, it's use as an oil and the indications for Mugwort flower essence here.)
When ‘intention’ is an important part of any work being done (and it almost always is), I believe one aspect which is essential to the effectiveness of the intentions, is how engaged or excited the worker’s imagination is, or how activated his or her aesthetic sensibilities are to the manner in which the work is being done. The more ‘turned on’ the worker is by what they are doing or the manner in which they are doing it, the more potent their powers of intention. What seems to be the case is that almost any structure of symbols or procedures may be efficacious in producing particular results, if the minds of the human beings involved in that activity are ‘awakened’ in an extraordinary way. Much of this depends on the personality of the individuals involved in the work, and much of it depends one’s particular aesthetic tastes.
If your personality responds to, for example, the drama of a whirling dervish, or the peaceful scarcity of Zen aesthetic, or the flamboyant playfulness of Neo-Pagan costumery, or the pageantry and tradition of Catholic mass, or the feathers and drums of Native American spirituality, then these activities will awaken a particular state of attention in you, your intentions will be highly focused, and whatever you are doing (be it prayer, meditation, magic, healing or what have you), will be more effective. It may even be this state of mental excitement itself which is most likely to produce results which are dependent upon intentionality.
I think this is why so many different forms of practice can be effective for different groups of people. It is why religion comes in so many different flavors—almost all of them are effective for somebody. If the human imagination can be engaged, if your aesthetic sense can be attracted and awakened, the intentions are energized, and focused working becomes more potent.
Tying these ideas back to the other day’s harvest, something struck me in conversation with Ian. He had had experience in wild-harvesting of herbs through various classes he’d taken. Of course, when wild-harvesting, sustainability is always a concern, and the usual rule of thumb is to severely limit how much of any given herb you take from any given place. While this is a wonderful practice which is in tune with wild nature, this practice of limiting harvest may have the unintended effect of creating an unconscious impression of scarcity within the mind of the herbalist.
This became clear to me when Ian’s eyes nearly popped out of his head when I said we were going to take almost the entire patch of Mugwort. “All of it?!” he said. I explained that the patch had been cultivated for that intent, that it was not really a wild-harvest situation, and that we would plant again. He agreed, but was still overwhelmed by how much there was.
We made invocations to the plants, asked their permission to harvest, and began to reap their abundance. Armful after armful filled first one, then a second, garden cart load to overflowing. The smells around our noses, the oils on our hands, the sonorous buzz of clouds of bees—the harvest was a heady experience. But part of the headiness, in addition to the power of Mother Mugwort herself, was the sheer amount of her. Neither Ian nor I had ever taken so much volume of herb before. In both the harvest, and then in the processing and hanging of bundles of herb for drying, it kept coming into our minds how much there was, how wonderful it was, how blessed the bounty of a good harvest.
This led me to consider the ideas mentioned above, about intentionality. If appealing poetry makes a prayer more powerful; if exciting imagery makes a ceremony more engaging; if awe-inspiring goals imbue an action with profound respect—then the potency of human intentions are ramped up in keeping with the level of metal excitement. Having so much abundance as an aspect of the Mugwort harvest, being thankful for it, being amazed by it, added, I think, to the experience of working with the plant.
Considering that this powerful herb, its spirit, its essence, and its physical medicine, are going into oils which will be used for healing and blessing, it struck me as being particularly auspicious that abundance (as both an idea in our collective consciousness, and as an actual fact) was a factor in our working with it. By directly contradicting the subliminal sense of scarcity often present when working with precious herbs, abundance becomes a potent factor in the magic of the process.
Daniel (former FES gardener) described a similar experience with last year's overwhelming St. John’s harvest. He found himself in a gigantic field of it in Camptonville, and had more than his quota in a surprisingly short period of time, and had barely made a dent in the amount available. He was ‘excited by abundance’, and I think this came through in the oils made from it: rich red jewels, brimming with vibrancy.
After thoughts for Jon from Patricia Kaminski
The insight you had about how and why we harvest and the importance of not allowing the image of scarcity to fill our mental field is important. I think this is a very real concern because we all feel the need to find sustainable ways of working with the earth, and those of us who are sensitive to our environments are painfully aware of devastating levels of destruction driven by greed and callous unconcern for the living Being of Nature.
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