Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Language of Plants: The Doctrine of Signatures

When I was a kid I wanted to know how native people knew what plants to use to heal themselves of various difficulties. Later as an adult I actually found myself drawn as if by magic to plants and flowers I needed for my own healing. I use this skill to this day in my own life. It's like an internal dowsing mechanism where I get an internal YES to make me take note.

Of course, that's not exactly what the Doctrine of Signatures is about and probably not why you came to this blog post. There's instinct, there's internal guidance, and then there's codifying it for someone else. How do you teach people to recognize characteristics in plants they can use for their own healing if their own internal guidance isn't available for their use?

Umm, personally I'd teach them how to access their guidance! But in a more scientific age that's not always appropriate. The Doctrine of Signatures is NOT considered a scientific approach by today's standards. But when the idea was first conceived I think it made a lot of sense. By using the same tools of observation and trial and error that scientists are taught to use early botanist/healers looked for various characteristics in nature to show them what they needed to know. They noted the plant's "signature" growing style, its signature color and taste, its preferred habitat and growing companions, and whether it looked like the part of the body it was likely to heal. They tried using the plant and observed the results. All these observations were written down and when certain associations seemed to fit it became evidence that this approach worked.

Now, of course, it does not always work—too big a leap was made in many cases—so science-minded skeptics have a real heyday with this method. And yet I have seen it be sufficient in regards to flower essences in too many cases to count.

My favorite example is the Dandelion and you can watch an entire video I created on the signature of the Dandelion and how that relates to its very well-documented healing aspects here.

I've also taken trainings where over the course of  a weekend or a week the associations are noted and made use of over and over again. That's probably the best way to learn about this. But those trainings are not easy to find so the next best thing is to read about it.

Julia Graves is another healer who has had similar experiences to me when it comes to plants. She trained as a flower essence practitioner at Findhorn, is an herbalist and has a lifetime of experience working with plants. She writes about both the intuitive and observational methods of listening to nature in her book The Language of Plants: A Guide to the Doctrine of Signatures. Check it out!

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