Have you ever started researching a plant’s magickal properties only to find loads on the energetics and medicinal uses, but very little that explains the magical way plant medicines work? Energetics, or the most basic actions of an herb, have been used cross-culturally for centuries to describe the eseence of how plants do what they do. Based on empherical evidence and loads of direct and indirect experience, energetics give us insight into how a plant’s energies can shift a condition or situation. The concepts described in various energetic systems can apply to the human body and healing of disease as effectively as they can apply to the psyche, emotions or Spirit. Many modern herbalists who also practice magic recognize energetics as a half-way language that connects a plant’s healing properties with the more ephemeral realms, helping us describe the potential of a specific plant to help in certain situations that manifest beyond the human body.
What are Energetics?
Modern herbalists use the language of energetics much as our ancestors did, to describe the actions a plant can have in or on the human body. Most traditional systems use energetics in some form to create a map of human health and well-being in which plants play a role as medicine or nourishment. The three big systems most modern herbalists draw upon are Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, and Traditional Western Herbalism. All three, as well as most other traditional systems, rely on a direct experience with the plants that’s rooted in the senses when they describe the plant’s actions. If you are feverish, taking yarrow can help you cool off, thus yarrow is cooling. If you’re parched, eating a bit of cucumber can help you replenish, thus cucumber is moistening.
When you distill it down, you’ll see the essence of each system describes the actions a plant may have are of Hot verses Cold, Damp verses Dry. Plants can be described as heating, as is Chili Pepper and Ginger, or cooling as is Cucumber or Yarrow. They can be described as moistening, as is Comfrey or Marshamallow, or drying, as is Netle or Cottonwood. Generally, they’re described as a combination of both.
It’s not hard to make the leap from a plant’s medicinal properties described Energetically to understanding how a plant might be helpful in a magical working. The language of energetics is poetic, as is the language of magic. If, for example, you want to draw more money to your bank account, you might consider drawing on Ginger to heat things up, so to speak. Ginger has been used as a talisman by business people through the centuries because of it’s abiity to heat and move energies. In the body, this looks like an increase in digestive fire, and in business this can look like an increase in customers or orders.
If you’re researching a plant for use in a magical working, you can use energetic language to translate the plant’s medicinal properties or potential into magical terms fairly easily. Energetics are kind of like a Rosetta Stone for translating from Science and Modern Medicine to the Mystical and Magical and back again. This works in part because energetic properties are rooted in the senses. Modern Medicine and Sciencentific language tends to describe what we can observe and measure. Energetic properties tend to describe what we can observe and measure, too. The primary difference between the two languages is that one is more poetic and lends itself to metaphor more easily than does the other. Both, though, describe the potential for action that resides in the plant in question.
How to Use Energetics in Your Practice
Just like when you translate from scientific language into magical language, you can use your imagination to help you connect with the magical or medicinal potential in a plant using energetics. Energetic systems lend themselves to the imagination pretty easily. The key is to understand the result you want to achieve fairly concretely.
Let’s say you’d like to find the perfect mate. You’ve been dating and striking out a lot, and you’re frustrated with pretty much all the potential partners you’re drawn to. The question of how to attract the perfect mate is complex and layered, to be sure. But, you can ask yourself a few questions and use the answers to build a magical path through the complexity toward your desired results.
- What qualities do the potential mates you’ve found and rejected share?
- Which of those qualities are the ones you desire or like?
- Which were the ones you rejected?
You can make a list of the qualities you like and those you don’t and translate those into energetic terms. If, for example, you notice that the potential mates you’ve drawn toward yourself all share an emotional instability that rises up only after you’ve begun to feel a connection with them, in other words after you’ve been dating awhile and you let your guard down you notice emotional instability that you hadn’t noticed before, you might look at that as being like an icy lake that’s thawing. When you first meet, they each looked beautiful and enticing, like a crystalized lake in the crisp air of winter. As you get more comfortable with each other, the ice begins to melt, resulting in an unstable emotional surface like a lake in spring, with spots that are thinner than they look and unsafe and other spots where water has pooled on the surface with another thick layer of ice underneath.
With your metaphor in mind, you can look at the energetics of the situation – in our example it’d be icy followed by melting and unstable – and look for a plant ally who might help you shift your own energy or perspective to draw to yourself someone who doesn’t fit that same old story. A plant who knows how to manage water well, like Cottonwood, might be a perfect ally in your search. Cottonwood’s energetics are drying and mildly warming. From a magical perspective, Cottonwood may help you recognize those who are holding a lot of emotional energy under their surface, so you’re not surprised when those emotions begin to surface. It can also help you manage the emotional energy that arises with more expertise and grace, just as the Cottonwood helps manage excessive water in the land around rivers, lakes, and in damp areas.
Energetics can be a powerful way to look at whatever it is you’re tyring to change in your life. Often, the key to changing is locked within our own minds, often in a pattern of thought or experience that projects outward and shapes the world around us to support and reinforce it. Thinking about whatever it is in terms of the senses and energetics can help us to step outside of the usual perspective far enough to see the easiest place to begin changing that old pattern. The Rosetta Stone nature of the language of energetics makes it a useful way to connect The Plants to the changes we want to make no matter whether they’re in the health of our body, mind, or Spirit. A little creative thinking is all it takes to turn plant medicine into Plant Medicine that works on all levels.