In this fun, informative and engaging guide, you will be delighted by the history of the religious and spiritual use of herbs in many faith traditions and inspired by unique and soul-strengthening activities and ideas for using herbs for spiritual growth.
Michael J. Caduto
Foreword by Rosemary Gladstar
7 x 9, 208 pp | 21 b/w illus. | 978-1-59473-174-7
Enhance and enrich your spiritual journey with the power of herbs.
Herbs have been essential to spiritual beliefs and practices throughout time and history. From Christian Scripture to Hindu observances, Jewish ritual to early Islamic literature, Native American traditions to Buddhist symbolism, plants are seen as a blessing from God and a way to remain in harmony with Spirit.
In this fun, informative and engaging guide, you will be delighted by the history of the religious and spiritual use of herbs in many faith traditions and inspired by creative ideas on how to use herbs for spiritual growth. Unique and soul-strengthening activities can teach you how to:
- Create herbal art inspired by your faith
- Craft herbal wreaths, pillows and soaps from herbs selected for their spiritual qualities
- Prepare herbal teas, infused oils, meals and condiments with herbs chosen for their ability to nurture, strengthen and heal
- Make candles infused with herbs that promote balance and centering
- Nourish the soul with herbal sachets and potpourri
- Use incense and smudge sticks to imbue clarity and purity
- Design a simple herb garden of plants chosen from among different spiritual traditions
- Construct spaces in which to use herbs for reflection and meditation
“Brings awareness to everyday experiences with plants and helps us realize the intricate symbolic relationship we have with them. A valuable guide for anyone and essential for those who simply treat with reverence their daily experience.”
—James Mattioda, PhD, founder, Arcana Herbal and Nutritional Pharmacy, La Jolla, California
“Healing, sensory satisfaction, peace and harmony ... these are among the meaningful messages derived from reading this book. Let it speak to your spirit.”
—Brother David Andrews, CSC, executive director, National Catholic Rural Life Conference
“Will amuse your senses and engage you in a practical exploration of the use of herbs to flavor and fill your life. Sensual, sophisticated, smart, and very practical …gives both spirituality and herbs a good name. Enjoy.”
—Rev. Donna Schaper, coauthor, Labyrinths from the Outside In: Walking to Spiritual Insight
“Overflowing with history, gentle wisdom, activities and inclusive truths ... encapsulates the common ground of humanity.”
—Tina Marie Wilcox, president, International Herb Association
“Thorough, well-researched, engaging multi-cultural volume_. Herbal experts will treasure the extensive spiritual application contexts, and beginners will find comfort in the cultivation basics.”
1. Healing Herbals 9
A Touch of Scent 20
Growing an Herbal Heart 21
Purification and Protection: Smudging 23
Purification and Protection: Scents of Protection 25
Purification and Protection: Garlic Wreath 26
Cards for Celebration 27
Cards for Solace 28
Treatments from Trees 29
Pillow of Peace and Protection 32
2. Of Aesthetics, Spirit, and Virtue 35
A Wreath of Pure Beauty 42
Sachets of Courage 45
Bathing Balm 47
Soap for the Spirit 49
A Light of Life 51
3. Feeding the Spirit, Giving Thanks 55
Easter Carnival (Rustic) Pie and Pepper Biscuits 64
Herbal Easter Eggs 67
Herbal Easter Basket 70
Herbal Christmas Decorations 71
Herbal Christmas Tree Centerpiece 72
Herbs on a Cone 73
Hanukkah Candles 74
Valentine’s Day Heart for the Heart 75
Valentine’s Day Card 76
Ramadan Beverage 77
Pots of Herbs 78
Interfaith Manna from Heaven 79
Ritual Cleansing for Meals 82
Daily Havdalah Spice Box 83
Egyptian-Style Thanksgiving Garland 84
Pots of Potpourri 85
4. Circle of Life 87
Herbal Memorial: Lustral Water 95
Herbal Memorial: Egyptian Floral Bouquet 96
Bereavement Bouquet 98
Egyptian Herbal Oil 100
Marriage Blessing: Marjoram Marriage Garlands 101
Marriage Blessing: Flower Blessing Rings 102
Egyptian Wedding Bouquet 103
Tea for Two 104
Promise of Pomanders 105
Herbal Newlywed Blessings 106
Baby Blessings and Milk Biscuits 108
5. Cosmic Herbals 111
A Cosmic Herbal Garden 121
Protective Herbs for the Cosmic Garden 123
Heaven and Earth 124
Cosmic Labyrinth 125
Cosmic Community Centerpieces 128
Lavender Birds of Peace 129
6. Reflection and Meditation 131
Retreat, Respite, Rose 142
Herbs of Meditation 143
Totality Tea 146
Art of Herbal Reflection: Driftwood Herbals 147
Art of Herbal Reflection: Herbal Ball 148
Art of Herbal Reflection: The Art of Knowing 149
Seeds of Success 150
Mesopotamian Meditation Incense 151
7. The Practical Realm 153
Planning and Designing an Herb Garden 154
Choosing and Obtaining Herbs for Your Garden 158
Preparing the Soil 162
Caring for Plants 163
Harvesting and Preserving Herbs 165
Appendix: Sources for Herbs, Seeds,and Herbal Supplies 170
Glossary and Index of Herbs and Flowers 173
Index of Activities 181
Lists of Herbs
Herbs for Healing 8
Herbs for Aesthetics, Spirit, and Virtue 34
Herbs for Feeding the Spirit and Giving Thanks 54
Herbs and Flowers for Circle of Life 86
Cosmic Herbs, Flowers, and Fruits 110
Herbs and Flowers for Reflection and Meditation 130
What are some of the most important things you would recommend when using plants for spiritual practices?
The three things that come most readily to mind are respect, knowledge, and safety. If you decide to learn the use of herbs for spiritual practices from people of different faiths, it is wise to proceed with reverence. In many cultures, spiritual practices with plants are a sacred component of religion. It is always good to proceed with care, to be cautious and circumspect when learning about new spiritual practices. Learn what the boundaries are that your teachers feel should be honored in order to respect their traditions, and then honor those wishes.
Before you grow a plant, learn about what it needs to flourish so that you can provide well for it. Before you pick and use a wild plant, be absolutely certain of the identity of that plant and of what parts are safe to use. If you have any questions or concerns, trust your natural instincts for caution and consult an expert before going any further. This caution is, of course, most important for avoiding contact with, and ingestion of, toxic and poisonous plants. I have never studied mushrooms in depth, so I avoid them entirely. And even the improper use of the most innocuous-seeming plant can have consequences. One summer, when I was working as land manager for an Audubon Society, the black cherries bore an abundant crop. When the berries matured and ripened in the summer sun, they began to taste good and sweet. One day, I decided to make my lunch entirely of black cherries. That was the day I discovered wild black cherries (Prunus serotina), when eaten in quantity, have a powerful laxative effect.
Where do you feel the closest to our green neighbors?
The garden is my monastery; it is both my test and salvation. At times, after days of heavy rains, I return to the garden and mutter frustrations under my breath at the beds full of weeds. But then I start to pull the unwanted guests, watching the beds gradually return to their glorious state of clear soil and order. Pruning here, feeding the roots there, weeding everywhere_these are the acts of daily devotion that define who I am, and who I will become. In those rare moments when I lose my self in the process of caring for the garden, I feel closest to God. Herbs are one gateway to reaching for the Divine.
What do you truly enjoy about using herbs in spiritual practices?
I have always been drawn to experiencing things directly. Yes, it is possible to go out and purchase some incense and herbal candles, to buy an herbal wreath and ready-made holiday decorations, but it is far more satisfying to make your own herbal creations. The creative act itself is another level of spiritual connection with herbs, especially when you share the experience with friends and family members. These are the collective experiences through which we grow close to one another, and which are so often missing in our hectic daily lives. Research has shown clearly that families who share regular meals have lower rates of divorce, child abuse, juvenile delinquency and drug abuse_because these problems are all symptomatic of a lack of connection and support from both family and community. Preparing and using herbs for spiritual practices is one way to bring ourselves closer to those we love, and in so doing, we bring ourselves closer to God.
I recently did some work in the Middle East during the holy days of Easter and Passover, and was fortunate to be able to visit with peoples of the Jewish and Islamic faiths, as well as staying with a family from among the Druze faithful. In a few short days I experienced how herbs are incorporated into these various religious feasts and events. The Druze, in particular, have a very strong rootedness to herbalism that is seamlessly woven into their faith through meals, healing, and daily practices. On one occasion, as we were touring the countryside, I pointed to a tree whose branches were pendulous with thousands of blossoms. _What is the name of that tree?_ I asked. In an instant, we swerved to the side of the road. My driver and host, Salman, jumped out of the car and enthusiastically motioned for me to follow. A minute later we were eating the pea-like flowers of the tree which offered a quick taste of sweetness from the nectar, followed by a sour flavor as the petals were eaten. It was obviously a point of great joy and pride for Salman to show me this tree, which he has known all of his life, and to then describe how to use the flowers. The experience taught me how one of the wonderful spiritual uses of herbs is that they can become a common point of sharing that brings together people of different faiths, cultures, and customs. Herbs are a shared point of reference that fosters human connection.
- How can you use some of the ideas and activities in this book to enrich your own faith and your ongoing spiritual practices?
- How can herbs and herbal practices be used to find common ground among peoples of different faiths?
- A good meal feeds our bodies. How can herbs be used to feed our souls?
- Many herbs are associated with love and connection, with beauty and attraction. Why do you think there is such a strong correlation between herbs and these two aspects of our beings and life experiences? What are some of the traditional ways that herbs are used for events along the Circle of Life, such as for courtship, during weddings, at births, and for memorial services?
- Herbs are often used during ceremonies and celebrations that mark points of passage in the circles of our lives. In what ways have you used herbs to honor or signify an event within your family? What about your religious community?
- If you could plant only one herb in your garden, what would it be? What about that herb do you find so compelling?
- What is the connection between herbal healing and spiritual health? What do indigenous people mean when they refer to a state of health as an outgrowth of �living in balance�?
- What is the spiritual meaning of medicine? How can herbs be used to heal our spirits?
- What is the connection between the beauty and pleasure herbs bring into our lives and the desire to live a virtuous life? Do your personally feel a connection between aesthetics and ethics? Why, or why not?
- Herbs are often used by indigenous peoples in ceremonies for giving thanks. How can you incorporate the use of herbs into your spiritual practices to show gratitude to the people and plants that nurture your life?
- How are herbs used during holidays in your own spiritual tradition and/or practices? Which herbs are especially important and what do they symbolize?
- Why do you think so many herbs are used for purification and protection? What is the connection between these two aspects of our spiritual growth?
- In what way is a garden like Paradise? How can you design an herb garden to enhance the qualities you associate with the concept of Paradise?
- What about herbs makes them such a perfect medium for fostering reflection and meditation? Explore what I mean in chapter 6 when I refer to �weeding the Buddha.�
- When is preparing and drinking a cup of herbal tea a spiritual experience, and when is it simply a cup of tea? What makes the difference between a simple daily act and a spiritual practice?
- What is the spiritual element inherent in the act of preparing herbal creations for spiritual use?
- How can the act of creating herbals help to build family, friendships, and community?
- If you create an herbal gift and present it to someone, does that act become a means of using herbs for spiritual practices? How so?
- Why do you think a shamrock is only good luck if you find it when you are not searching for it?
- Why is the symbol of a circle divided into four equal quarters such a common image for representing creation among so many religious faiths? Where did the image originate from? Where have you seen it in other forms of expression, such as artwork, architecture, and garden design?
- Hildegard of Bingen was a visionary and mystic who lived in the twelfth century. As you read her writing and learn about her life in this book, what themes begin to emerge? Why does Hildegard write so much about herbs, and how does this connection to plants feed her own faith?
- Early Islamic gardens were designed to reflect a particular image of Creation. Describe the basic elements of that image and discuss what they share in common with the images of creation found among other faiths?