I have been sitting for the last few hours watching in wonder the activity surrounding a pine tree in my backyard. It does not surprise me that it is known as the peacemaker of the Standing People. It is a safe haven for many of the birds who visit my backyard offering branches to perch on or limbs to secure a nest on. Squirrels scamper up and down the trunk or across the many branches as they play and forage for food. This quiet sentinel reaches out to the feathered friends and the furry friends and offers a place of peace and harmony for all of us to co-exist around. I can’t help but wonder if one of the reasons that we humans and the creatures are drawn to the calm and relaxing scent that the needles of the tree produce.
Early man found the pine tree a source of food with the pine nuts that could be gathered in the fall and stored to help feed the tribe or clan over the cold winter months. Archaeologists found a cache of stored pine nuts in North America that was at least 6,000 years old. It is through this food source that pine teaches us to conserve energy. Instead of jumping around in nervous and fast motions, we learn that a slow and constant pace helps us to complete our tasks and goals while not depleting all of our energy along the way.
Pine trees and pine cones have been held in sacred esteem by many cultures throughout history. The branches were used to sprinkle water by priests or shamans during rituals. We can also find the pine cone used in many religious images going pretty far back into history. There were deities either carrying the pine cones or having it as a part of a staff that they used. Take a look the next time you see the Pope, there is a pine cone on the end of his staff.
Pine is believed to be the bridge between mind and body, physical and spirit and earth and heaven. If you decide to not be in a hurry you can grow slowly with the wisdom of this elder in the tree realm who will help you understand a higher state of being.
We do not find much in the way of explaining garden totems when looking at possible messages and medicines derived from plants that we would grow in a garden. That seems odd because there are several plants of nature that carry symbolism and have specific lessons to teach us. For the most part the plants that we can find information on are trees and some flowers but not so much what we would grow ourselves. Certainly many tribal traditions were considered farmers and many held the three sisters (corn, squash and beans) in high regards but none seemed to put much significance to the plants that were grown to feed the people. They were life sustaining but did not seem to have much to teach us.
So, I have been reflecting on this for a couple of days now. Is there medicine from these plants in a garden? I believe that there are but maybe it is in a more general way than a specific way for a single plant. For me, working in my garden is one of the ways that I get spiritual energy. I was born under an earth sign and having my hands in the soil makes me feel connected to the Creator in many ways. I could also say that gardening is in my blood as both my Indian ancestors and my European ancestors grew crops. Granted it was something to help feed the families but it was and still is a way to connect with nature in general.
When we garden we are encouraging growth and that can be something that becomes significant in our spiritual journey. As humans there is always room to grow so the act of gardening is showing that we are open to the growth of our inner selves. I think that we can also safely say that it is full of feminine energy because of the nurturing and creation of a life.
My reflection on this topic started when I began to research tomatoes to see what lessons my favorite garden plant might have for me. I found some interesting facts about this fruit that we call a vegetable but nothing in the way of totem medicine. For instance, did you know that this versatile plant originated right here in North America? Mexico to be precise. From what I gathered it did not grow anywhere else and was introduced to Europe after Columbus and the Spaniards returned from their explorations on this continent. I also saw a statistic that said that Americans consume about 22 to 24 pounds of tomatoes per person in any given year. Another stat said that around 93% of all gardens in the US have tomato plants growing in them.
At first I was a little disappointed that there did not seem to be specific lessons from the plants that we grow to feed ourselves but then I sat down and started to write down what came to my own mind. Patience would most assuredly be a message as we have to be patient as the seeds begin to sprout and then grow into the produce that we will consume after harvesting. Respect came to mind because maintaining the garden and the soil shows a great deal of respect for Mother Earth and the gifts that we receive by taking care of the needs of the ground and the plants growing in it. Family and the importance of it also was something that I jotted down. As a gardener we are taking care of a plant family but also our physical family by providing food for them to eat. It can also symbolize connecting to our own roots. Sharing is another symbol that can be associated with garden plants, we share the bounty from our own labor with our family and usually friends and neighbors. Physical fitness because if you have ever gardened you know that it is not for wimps! It is hard work.
So, even though we may not find a specific lesson from a specific plant; garden plants do have several messages and lessons for us to apply to our own spiritual journey. If you would like to learn more about how I garden, you might enjoy reading about gardening in Indiana.
Just out of curiosity what is your favorite plant from the garden?
The corn plant and the luscious ears that grow from it provide us with some really great tasting food. Whether we eat it straight from the cob or the kernels removed this plant has provided food for humans for something like 7,000 years. Native Americans have valued this plant for centuries as a way to sustain life and have used it as a sacred part of some ceremonies.
Did you know that the corn plant is not a plant that exists naturally on earth? It is actually a human invention and can not survive unless nurtured by humans. It is believed that the first corn came from central Mexico over 7,000 years ago. It developed from teosinte, a grass, and did not resemble the corn that we have today. Over time the corn plant evolved into the plant we now grow and enjoy. The indigenous peoples of both North and South America came to rely on the corn plant as a major source of their food and by the time that the Pilgrims arrived in North America the Natives had become quite adept at cultivating this wonderful food. I’m fairly certain that corn would have been served at the first Thanksgiving dinner. Along with the other two sisters of crops, squash and beans.
Although corn has been a staple of Natives for thousands of years, it also symbolizes goodness, abundance, and fertility. When we feed the body, the mind, the heart, and the spirit in our daily lives we find beauty. Living our lives in balance is the beauty that “grows corn” for both physical and spiritual sustenance.
- The root of the corn plant gives us the message of the beauty that we can experience daily by connecting to the Earth Mother with our roots.
- The stalk of the corn plant signifies the attitude that we need to have to walk in beauty and balance.
- The kernels of corn represent the fruits of our labors and the good energy used for the labor and gained from the labors.
- The corn silk catches sacred pollen to give us abundance in our lives.
If we think of our body as the corn plant and nurture it as we would a plant growing in the ground, we can both grow and walk in the beauty of life in a balanced and sacred way.
~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related
Often we think of the rose as the flower of love but there is also a plant totem of rose. Did you know that? The main lesson or totem of the rose is one of empowerment. Finding a balance between love and power is key to learning the lessons of rose.
Our ancestors knew that seekers of love would also find the ultimate power and that seekers of power eventually find the ultimate love. There is no good way to have one without the other. People who possess power without love will be corrupt and cruel while possessors of love without power will be destroyed by martyrdom and victimization. Both love and power need to be in a perfect balance.
The rose, with its graceful beauty and distinct fragrance, opens our hearts to higher emotions. The thorns of the rose act as a defender from any affronts. We might think that the essence of the rose is female, yet it is typically given a male spirit. Although, this lovely flower in plant totem has both female and male qualities. The feminine shows in the softness, beauty, and fragrance. The maleness comes from the thorns and hardiness, a part of its warrior spirit.
The plant totem of Rose reminds us to keep balance in all things. We need to be loving and giving but we can not allow ourselves to be taken advantage of. While we keep ourselves grounded and create boundaries from the weeds of life, we must also freely share our inner beauty and our gifts of love. Just as the rose opens up to the loving kiss of the sun we must open our hearts to those around us. Knowing when to close our blossoms when we are encountering harshness. The plant totem of rose teaches us to trust with the strength of wisdom.
~Mitakuye Oyasin~ We are all related
The Quaking Aspen tree has totem medicine or lessons and gifts that it can give us. This medicine can come to you on a daily or regular basis or it can also be a part of your birth totems in the Native American tradition. Quaking Aspens get their name from the leaves that flutter in a breeze and can be found in the colder climates of North America.
If the Aspen is a part of your birth totems, you were born under the Rest and Cleansing Moon which fall between January 20th and February 18.
Physical medicine comes from the leaves, bark and buds of this lovely tree. This member of the Tall People gives us these to be used as a tonic or a tea to aide with liver and digestive problems. Other uses of the Quaking Aspen are as a relaxant, for faintness, for hay fever, for internal organs and as an astringent. If used daily it can help with skin conditions such as eczema, ulcers and burns.
Powder scraped from the bark of a Quaking Aspen is sometimes used as a deodorant. It has also been said that this powder can be used to help with cataracts.
Teas and tonics can help with respiratory problems such as congestion, hay fever, asthma and bronchitis. Quaking Aspen teas and tonics can also help in reducing toxicity in our bodies and congestion of the digestive system. Native Americans also used teas from the Quaking Aspen as a substitute for quinine.
As a spiritual totem the bell like song of the Quaking Aspen increases your sense of play and belief in magic much like the Otter who shares in the birth totem medicine under the Rest and Cleansing Moon.
In the Native American view, the Tall People (trees) give us many gifts and lessons to help us in our daily lives. The Quaking Aspen is just one of many.
~ Mitakuye Oyasin ~ We are all related