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Path of the Green Witch

story by Suzan Stone Sierralupe


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," they replied.

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 life. h

— Suzan Stone Sierralupe, Copyright 2002.

is a Green Witch, herbalist, and storyteller living in Eugene, Oregon.

For permission to reprint this article contact Sage Woman: 1-888-sagewoman (888-724-3966).

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An Herbalists Notebook part 2

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