Traditionally, many paths of Witchcraft are named by their color, red,
white, grey, and so forth. Many of these disciplines have changed their
names as Witchcraft has gained global unity, but it is Green Witchcraft
which has kept its color name from country to country.
To be a Witch means that you worship the Earth as a mother, and to
be a Green Witch means that you heal the children of the Earth by bringing
them back in communication Her. The disciplines of the Green Witch are
many; she listens, watches, learns, heals and, most of all, she teaches.
The Green Witch listens
An old story tells, Raven created the world and it was he who created
the gods. He scooped them from the earth, filled their veins with ocean
blood and their lungs with mountain winds. Raven gave them the spirits
of the stars, so that, like him, they would never die.
Then Raven went on creating. He made our world as the gods whispered
their counsel to him. Raven made rivers, mountains, trees, and all manner
of beings. As Raven created, his brother the Destroyer, mangled his
creations. "Create speed," counseled the gods. Raven made
a perfect animal with long running legs, keen vision, and absolute agility
and named it Deer. Destroyer could not bear the thought of perfection
and so gave Deer the quality of Fear. Raven cursed as his perfect animal
bolted into the woods at the sound of leaves rustling. So, he tried
again. "Create strength," counseled the gods and Raven created
an animal with burly shoulders, strong jaws and claws that push aside
the earth, and he named it Badger. But Destroyer gave Badger the quality
of Anger. Raven cursed as his creation swung around to bite him. "Vision,"
counseled the gods. Raven again created the perfect animal with wide
knowing eyes, night vision, and the ability to see in all directions
and named it Owl. Destroyer gave the creation Day Blindness. Raven cursed
as the animal flew into a tree to sleep until sundown. Finally, Raven
was ready to create humans.
"Imagination," counseled the gods. "These animals,"
spoke Raven, "are special to me because of their ability to create
in a way that can be both beautiful and dangerous. You must be willing
to help me if Destroyer interferes." The gods nodded in understanding.
So Raven created the humans with long, flexible fingers, quick minds,
and a need to communicate. Destroyer gave the creation Weakness. Raven
called upon the gods. "My creature will sicken and go mad destroying
everything in their path. We must help them or all creatures will be
in danger." The gods conferred and did a very wise thing. They
broke off pieces of their wise star spirits and scattered these pieces
across the earth. From these pieces rose plants of every variety. Trees,
shrubs, flowers, mosses grew in profusion. "All that will challenge
Raven's children, the humans, whether disease, madness, or wounds can
be healed by these plants," said the gods. "How will they
know which plants will heal which sickness?" asked Raven. "When
they call upon us, we shall teach them the language of their plant cousins,"
The Green Witch watches
Healers throughout the world have been seeking the language of their
plant cousins for centuries. Sometimes our animal brothers and sisters
teach us their secrets, as in the case of the herb Eyebright. The story
goes that an herbalist had a young bird family nesting in her tree.
The spring was a difficult one with excessive rain for the season, and
sickness took its toll on the young birds. The herbalist noticed that
the fledglings had crusted eyes. She shook her head; the birds' singing
had given her such joy every morning, "what a shame," she
thought "that they won't survive." But the next morning, the
herbalist noticed that the mother bird had brought a plant back to her
nest instead of the normal grub. "Was she rebuilding her nest?"
wondered the woman. She observed the mother bird holding the plant sprig
in her beak and wiping the eyes of her fledglings every day until the
chicks eyes had cleared. After some investigation, the herbalist discovered
the herb in use was Euphrasia rostkoviana, Eyebright. Eyebright produces
tiny white flowers with yellow spots and red veins that reminds me of
nothing so much as a blood shot eye. This plant is still used as an
eye tonic for strains and infections. People suffering from allergies
use it to relieve irritated eyes due to hay fever and sinus infections.
The Green Witch learns
Many healers study the physical nature of plants for clues to their
properties. The spotted lung pattern on plants like Lugwort (Pulmonaria
officinalis) led ancient herbalists to try treating bronchitis and other
lung and throat ailments with this plant with good success. The stomach-shaped
pods of Senna (Senna alexandrina) lead herbalists to discover the shrub's
usefulness for treating the digestive tract.
Even colors speak to those prepared to listen. For years, Coptis species
was used as a detoxifier to cleanse the body system. The inner bark
of Coptis is yellow, the color normally associated with the liver and
with bile. The liver holds and attempts to filter the body's toxins.
When the liver is asked to filter more toxins than its capacity, it
ends up as a great storage tank for the unfiltered poison. In the 1930's,
overharvesting of Coptis species made it endangered and a new detoxifier
had to found. Attention was turned to another plant with a yellow inner
root bark, Goldenseal, (Hydrastis canadensis.) This plant became the
second most popular herb in American apothecaries for the following
50 years. Now goldenseal has become overharvested like Coptis before
it, and the new substitute for Goldenseal is another yellow inner barked
herb, Oregon Grape (Berberis vulgaris). The need for flushing the toxins
from our systems has brought the toxin "scarcity" into our
mother's body to be healed as well. Oregon Grape is being monitored
by environmentalists, and organic farmers are planting Coptis and Goldenseal
to reduce the need for wild harvesting of these plants.
The Green Witch heals
Sometimes the land speaks to the herbalist. St. John's Wort (Hypericum
perforatum) came from the semi-dry soils of Turkey and spread throughout
Europe and central China as it followed the advance of farm land turned
barren by overuse. The wounded land was its nesting place, and the herbalist
watched St. John's Wort's sunny yellow flowers line roadsides and other
places too rough and ruined for other plants. This is a "bandage"
plant, a plant that heals the body of the land as it heals our wounded
bodies. The Greeks revered its healing properties and hung it over portraits
of the dead, hoping that whatever ills the deceased had suffered would
be healed and not passed on to the living. This represents a tradition
of using a tool of physical healing to facilitate healing of different
levels; many times the healer uses the herb to heal several different
levels at once. This is called Deep Healing and it is an important aspect
of Green healing.
The Green Witch teaches
The day after a neighborhood friend had his big birthday party, I was
in the kitchen getting an easy Saturday lunch together when I noticed
three little heads bobbing under the dining room window. I stepped into
the dining room to see what the children were "up to." As
the window was open, I could hear as well as see them clearly; my eldest
daughter (age 7) was rustling around in one of the herb patches under
the window under the close scrutiny of my youngest child and the birthday
boy (who was holding his stomach.)
Since my children are still quite young, I don't grow any toxic plants,
so I wasn't concerned for their safety just curious. My daughter
held out a handful of freshly picked leaves for the boys to see. "You
should chew on these," she said confidently, "This is peppermint.
Mom makes us drink the tea when our tummies hurt too. It tastes pretty
good if you don't chew it too much." I leaned quietly against the
door frame blessing the sacred hoop that showed me this moment.
The previous week, I had experienced a terrible day. My plans were
dampened by the misunderstanding of another; I was heart sick. I wandered
over to the herb patch in the back of the house to check on a new chamomile
patch, when a motion caught my eye. A large raven was sitting in the
hawthorn tree. When I saw him I thought "Ah, the Hawthorn berry
is good medicine for people with heart conditions. It is also given
to people grieving of a broken heart. Raven must be pointing out that
this is the healing I should seek." But of instead eating the ripe
hawthorn berries as I expected, the raven was picking at the beads of
the medicine bag I had hung in the tree branches. He caught hold of
the sinew stitching with his beak and pulled. The sinew snapped back
and he lost his footing and fell backwards, flapping his wings wildly
to keep upright. An avalanche of berries fell and rolled towards my
feet, which I hopped over as I laughed. Meanwhile, Raven had escaped
in an indignant huff to the confines of the nearby cedar tree. His squawks
of irritation soon turned to what sounded like laughter, laughter at
himself and laughter at me. Raven had given me a merry heart and just
when I needed it. I thanked him and heaved a handful of ripe seed heads
under the cedar tree as an offering.
To live the life of the Green Witch is to live with many different
levels of understanding at once. I call this path Green Living. It means
that what we see is a window to all worlds and that when we are asked
to help lift life back into balance, we do so. It means that we heal
with the knowledge that all beings are Raven's children and deserve
love and respect. Green Living means learning the sacred language of
the beings around us, a language without words the language of
Suzan Stone Sierralupe, Copyright 2002.
is a Green Witch, herbalist, and storyteller living in Eugene, Oregon.
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