On a long walk in the cool, misty December morning I fully composed the elixir that has been slowly taking shape in my mind. I am always gathering inspiration from my surroundings…this thrift store find, that pile of roots, this bakery case or that passage in a book.
I build my elixirs like a little nest, picking up shiny things with my beak, layering them with Birch sticks and fluffy feathers.
Today’s elixir is called The Stormy Beaver and it is made of: Pond Lily rhizome, Alder twigs, Calamus and Angelica with Date molasses. I wanted to evoke the darkness of these very short days and to make a meditation elixir which says Nor’Easter, swamp water and furry, snuggly rebuilding times.
I am 100% pro-Science and pro-Serious Herbalism,using simples and blends for medicinal purposes. But then, and not mutually exclusive, there is art. I’m often putting together some kind of blend in my head or in my basket or in my hands and people ask me “What is it for?”….here is my answer.
Warning: it’s my philosophy.
I see herbal elixirs as both a symbol, an idea, and the exact opposite–the symbol made tangible. It is the physical manifestation of the intention. Stay with me here. Symbols are one of the oldest forms of human communication. They are everywhere, from a cobbler’s sign shaped like a shoe to a cross necklace to a flag waving in the wind. It’s how we create our identity, individually and collectively. Letters are symbols. Metallica patches are symbols. There are symbols in ancient caves, on the ladies’ room door, the Ikea instructions, the Facebook post.
Some resonate with us more than others.
We can use symbols to bring something that interests us into our lives. We can use symbols to create a meditative experience, to honor a person, a place, a moment in time. We can use symbols to communicate–with parts of ourselves, with others.
We can use these plants symbolically to evoke something, to bring about a taste, a feeling, an idea. It’s not a New Age concept for me at all, it’s very straightforward. It’s just creating a connection. It’s basic mind-body medicine, our senses as the road to our subconscious. It is pleasure.
The main way I’ll use this type of medicine is during meditation, during a long think-y walk, at the end of the day or at the start of or throughout conversation with people I like. One might also use it during sex, prayer, a creative pursuit such as writing or dancing…. I think of most of my personal elixirs as idea-generating, mood-enhancing, stimulating to my imagination or creativity, grounding or moving, calming. Celebratory.
And it sounds a little wacky to tell people that I made this elixir as a celebration but that is at the root of my process. Blending elixirs is an artistic outlet in which I express my nature and that of the plants around me by combining them in ways that please me. Each one is a little poem and can be used as you would use poetry, to create a feeling, to spark a lust for life, to understand something better.
To balance out a darkness or ground an exuberance.
To move stuck feelings or to invite inspiration.
To help us finally just let go of something.
I encourage others to experiment with this art, too. Don’t overthink it, just have fun. There is no right way to do it, no recipe, no Elixir Overlord. Just choose a theme, paint a picture with plants, and let it sit for a few weeks. Voila! You’re an artist.