Making an Offering: Asking a Plant’s Permission

Mar 21 / Matthew Wood, MS

The thing about tobacco is that it does help consciousness travel through the barrier from the material world to the spiritual world. That's a real thing. And right, a pinch is not going to hurt anyone, nor the soil. It is a plant, after all, and it is native to the Americas and can be grown in the garden. It does exhaust the soil of nitrogen where it is grown. But it is a sacred plant.

So you think of a scholar like JRR Tolkien, who changed the world, sitting in his study smoking his pipe, and dreaming up an alternative world. Then you think of the old cigarette advertisements where they have some twenty-somethings running around with sort of hard shells around their hearts, enjoying mindless activity. That shows you the essence of tobacco, the right and the wrong.

An alternative is corn pollen, which is the offering of choice among the Pueblo People of the Southwest. You really would want to get organic corn pollen because the GMOing of corn violates the spirit of the plant. Corn Maiden is a real and important person. As long as the violation of Corn Maiden goes on there will be no peace on this planet; the repercussions are much more severe than is recognized. The Earth can "GMO back at us," not out of malice, but to stir up the gene pool when being stressed--these are called "viruses."

When the White Buffalo Calf Woman, who carried the sacred peace pipe and the tobacco, appeared, two warriors saw her standing on a limestone rock in modern-day South Dakota. One of them treated her with respect; the other one lusted after her. A cloud enclosed them and after he had his way with her and the cloud dissolved there was just a pile of his bones lying on the ground. The other warrior invited her back to the village.

If I don't have tobacco on hand I put down a copper penny if I can. Copper is a friend of the Earth Spirit more than the Plant Kingdom, so the reaction can be somewhat different.

The European tradition was to put a bowl of milk out under an elder bush or tree in the spring, for the Elder Mother. Then they would take the plants to the church and have them blessed on the feast of the Assumption of St Mary in mid-August. Both the Earth and the Heavens. This offering is more appropriate for garden plants. Also, and this is really important if you own land: you put aside an area for the beings that live in the Earth, the people of the Elder Mother.

When giving an offering to a person, say a medicine man or woman, or even just making a request of anyone, you don't try to put the offering in their hand; you put it on a table so that they have a choice whether to respond or not.

Just so, we aren't demanding anything of the plants, we are asking and also telling them what we are up to. Sometimes they just love to be picked. "Yes, yes. We want to be medicine." If they tell you not to pick them it is usually for your own good. Sometimes it is just, "Pick us over there, over there." And then you go there and you see you picked there six years ago because they told you the same thing then. Some plants are doctors for their community. Never pick the chief or chieftess plants. Many times it is, "Well okay, if you must, but the medicine here is not very strong."

"The focus of Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism is on a spiritual practice of herbalism, healing, and medicine. The main points in this approach are an overall emphasis on Nature as a Living Being, acknowledging the body, soul, and spirit, the four directions or elements, the seven lessons of the medicine path, and the plants themselves. This is undertaken from a vitalist, holistic, natural, and traditional perspective. “ - Matthew Wood, MS

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