For some people, the book ‘Intuitive Herbalism’ presents a number of new term that may be unfamiliar. This is my personal glossary/interpretation of these terms:

Allies –  Some speak as plant-spirit-beings as friends, teachers or guides, but I prefer allies. This word affirms the possibility of an equal relationship with them – we learn from them, whilst they are nourished by our love, care and attention. A strong plant ally can emerge from our relationships with the plants, particularly when we allow ourselves to be taught, changed and initiated by the plant. In my teaching I hope to facilitate situations where people choose to step into such initiations. As long as you remain an observer, this can not happen. You need to step into the ring and dance with the plant – some will dance you gently and affirm you, whilst others will appear to tear your life apart leaving you in tatters. All have their own dance and their own teaching, and they become allies when we truly open ourselves to them.

Ancestors –  Humans have always recognised the importance of their ancestors. Today we mostly hear about them in terms of ‘genetics’ rather than ‘ancestors’, which can deepens our enquiry into this area, but potentially limits the range of ancestral experiences we can recognise and value, reducing ‘ancestors’ to a purely technical, biochemical phenomenon. In practice I see everyday that the experiences of our ancestors are woven into the very fabric of our being – our genetics to be sure, but also in our physical bodies, our preconceptions about reality and our psychic ‘blueprint’. Any work with ancestors starts with the most obvious ones – our parents. Patterns of belief, behaviour and physiology are passed from generation to generation and through the process of bringing the patterns that we carry from our parents into consciousness, deeper layers of ancestry generally start to reveal themselves. By honouring our ancestors, we honour these parts of ourselves and thus bring consciousness to them, allowing the possibility of free will and free choice, which will remain unobtainable as long as we repeat these ancestral cycles unconsciously. This is a lifetimes work, but is a path well worth walking, since our consciousness can heal those destructive patterns within us (and our ancestors) whilst also reinforcing those that create more compassion and love. For me this is the essence of living a spiritual life – to be commited to moving towards ever greater compassion.

Armour –  We all carry armour around with ourselves most of the time, protecting us from perceived threats, but also restricting us and closing us in. The concept of armour is strongly linked to that of ‘Body Memory’, since we tend to protect ourselves following any traumatic or unresolved incident. This is completely natural, but unfortunately we tend to forget that we did this and the armour is still in place decades later. In my work with intuition, I see the process of recognising and dropping our armour as essential. An example may be – someone who had experienced violent anger from a parent develops a ‘sixth sense’ for any expression of anger and thus avoids confrontation for decades later. Whilst there is potentially value in this, the danger is that they also end up suppressing their own passion and never learn how to access their own anger in a healthy way. Armour can be clearly seen in interpersonal dynamics and with subtle bodywork where it can appear in many forms, though coldness and lack of feeling are common ones.
– Synonyms: Protection, Ego, Shielding

Bodywork –  The physical dance between practitioner and client – though I prefer not to use these terms since it implies limited roles. When we touch someone, there is the possibility of a circuit forming between their being and ours. The deeper we allow ourselves to surrender to this circuit, the more we enter into a deep empathy, the more we see the truth of who that person is. When I am working, I am listening with my hands, sensing the vitality, warmth and flow of energy at various places in the body. As your sensitivity develops the ability to discern a range of qualities opens up. The simplest is warmth and cold, alongside engagement and separateness. Exploring these qualities alone will take you a long way along a path of sensitivity, empathy and healing.

Consensual reality –  A wonderful term that seems to have emerged from anthropology and neo-shamanism. It refers to the state of consciousness that we exist in the majority of our waking life. This consciousness is like a costume we put on enabling us to fit in and operate in the world we choose to exist in. It is perpetuated by our friends, family, social groups, work environment and media, making it seem that it is true. However, you only need to step into nature, by yourself, for a few days to find that the rules and beliefs we live by are not by any means universal. Every plant invites you to step into another bubble of consciousness – this is obvious with poppy or weed, but applies equally to nettle and dandelion. The limitation to us stepping into their reality is our ability to let go of our comfort zone of consensual reality. In teaching I find that there are two major barriers to moving beyond consensual reality – one is fear/resistance/armour and the other is calcification of habit.

Embodiment –  An ideal centred around us being fully present in our bodies. Many of us spend much of our time ‘in our heads’ which I understand as a symptom of disassociation. Disassociation is the opposite of embodiment, whereby for a whole range of possible reasons we have becomes separated or numbed from part of ourselves. This relates closely to the concept of Soul Retrieval, which can be seen as an embodying process whereby soul fragments are brought back together.
– Synonyms: Also see, disassociation, soul retrieval

Faerie –  Not little winged creatures, rather, Faer-ie, etymologically ‘A place of wonder’ or ‘A place of the fates’ is, for me, a state of being, not a ‘thing’. To enter into faerie is the same as saying entering into a state of ‘fey’ or a state of wonder. This can be achieved through deep immersion within nature, trance induction and a whole variety of rituals including sensory deprivation, repetitive beats and entheogenic plants. Faerie is easiest to approach at liminal times such as dawn and dusk. It is a state of altered consciousness where the spiritual truth of our reality becomes more prominent whilst the physical, manifest world that is generally considered ‘real’ fades away into the background.

Lower world –  Also known as the under world, but I tend to veer away from this term because of the complex associations it now has. I recommend the lower world as the place to start learning to journey. It is generally access through our imagination, by descending deep into the earth. Is is a place inhabited by all history, our ancestors, and the trillions of spiritual forces that form and create manifest physical reality. Amongst these are the plant spirits – these also exist in other worlds, but the lower world is where the dance of growth and creation can easily be found, alongside the web of interconnectedness where we understand that every being is woven to every other being.

Visceral –  A type of experience I encourage in students, whereby the person is experiencing a ‘physical’ feeling within the body. This may the type of physical feelings most of us are familiar with (aches/warmth/contraction), but as you develop your sensitivity we can also listen for the flow of energy, a range of pulses, and even allow ourselves to fully experience ‘feeling shapes’ shift and move within us. Many people disassociate before they explore this too deeply, since it is not unusual for people to experience things that they feel to be unpleasant. However, if we are to heal, I believe that we need to come into loving relationship with these stories within us.


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