Ritual Properties

APPLICABLE PLANT COMPONENTS. Components (herb, flower, seed, fruit, root, etc.) have been listed next to the property number when known or generalized on this entry line when not known. Often during my investigation I found references alluded to properties but didn’t specify which component of the plant was entreated. This conundrum invites more prayerful research. I have used the term herb generically to refer to leaves, fronds, needles, etc.

PROPERTIES. I have listed the properties in the order in which I might entreat them for a ritual. This by no means suggests that it is the only approach. Every practitioner is, I believe, unique and divinely guided.

It is difficult to draw a line between ailments of the body and afflictions of the soul when in the world of hunter-gatherers everything was regarded as a manifestation of the spirit. If you are looking for a biological, scientific medical reference you will not find it here. This work is limited exclusively to Spirit Handling. With that said, it must always be kept in mind that we have forgotten an immeasurable amount of knowledge. Frankly we just don’t know anymore what was once common knowledge about the plant kingdom. Spirit Handling can be every bit as dangerous as ingesting certain species.

Nevertheless, incredible and safe gardens can be designed from most of the material offered in this work. I envision beautiful collections of plants grown according to habitat requirements that are spiritually, energetically balanced and complete. This is explored further in the section entitled Spirit Gardens.

The following terms and their corresponding numbers are used throughout this work as a reference to properties.

1. SANCTIFICATIONAL. I have chosen the word sanctificational for a variety of reasons. I believe we are all inherently holy. No one should ever be made to feel as though they are undesirable, contaminated, polluted, unwelcome, or whatever. I must insist that everyone is priceless, invaluable, irreplaceable simply because they draw breath. Contemporary connotations of the word purification are reason enough not to use it in my work. The encumbrances of everyday life such as stress, anger or fear, while we try not to take them into rituals are often the very reasons we enter into them. We frequently tow energy, even entities, inadvertently. Some of us are afflicted and want to get well. Perhaps we might never fully recover but want to come to terms with that which we must accept before we can move on with our lives. I imagine there are as many problems of the spirit as there are people. So I adopted a couple of simple rules. If a ritual is for the benefit of someone else I park my personal problems or aspirations at the door. Every participant has a responsibility to focus on the beneficiary. But should a ritual be for resolving everyone’s problems in general I dragged my own stuff in with me along with everyone else.

2. INVITATORY. Invitatory refers to species that invite beneficent spirits of the natural world into rituals.

3. CONVOCATIONAL. I have used the term convocational to apply specifically to convening or consulting with Ancestors. A few plants do one or other while many do both. Intention becomes highly significant regarding that which one invites or those with which one wishes to convene.

4. FORTIFICATIONAL. Fortificational refers to those species believed to strengthen individuals.

5. INTENSIFICATIONAL. Intensificational is a term I have selected to refer to species that intensify the energy of the practitioner or the intent of the ritual.

6. PSYCHICAL. Psychical is a term I have used for species that enhance the practitioner’s skills, his awareness or his psychic ability.

7. DESISTANT. The term desistant has been used in this work to refer to species believed to stop dangerous dissipation of energy. For example, one could be played out by illness or exertion. Transcendental journeys can trigger an oozing out of one’s life force or cause an inordinate expense of it. In any case, regardless of the circumstances, such losses must be stopped before recovery can be enjoyed or everyday life restored.

8. HARMONICAL. There is no question that if we manage to attain harmony we sure want to sustain it. The term harmonical in this work has been employed to refer to the species believed to sustain harmony. But it can be fleeting and we usually find a far greater need to restore it. I have included two terms to distinguish these differences.

9. PACIFICATORY. Pacificatory suggests the need to turn enemies into friends or at least associates. This can include allaying indignation or soothing wounded feelings.

10.RECONCILIATORY. Reconciliatory has been used as a reference to species believed to create peacefulness or bring a situation into harmony. Most species can be entreated for either purpose but a few do distinguish between these two properties.

11.REVERSIONAL. Reversional simply means to return or revert to a former state.

12.THEURGICAL. Theurgical is a term used in reference to those species believed to have the ability to expel negative spirits with or without the help of beneficent ones.

13.TRANSMUTATIONAL. Transmutational means simply to change one thing into another. This can apply to an entire range of possibilities from one’s present circumstances to shape shifting.

14.PROLONGATIONAL. Prolongational denotes species thought to enhance longevity.

15.AMORISTIC. Amoristic is the term I have selected for love. To some, amoristic suggests sexual or romantic love. I have applied it to include love for children, family, home, community and the incredibly wide range of human emotion that love embraces.

16.PROTECTANT. Protectant denotes plants believed to afford protection. This can include protection against something or shielding from loss or harm.

17.TUTELARY. Some species are believed invested with guardianship, having spirits that watch over us in order to keep us safe. I have distinguished these with the word tutelary.

18.PRESERVAL. Others are believed to specialize in preserving life by keeping it from harm. For these species I have used the word preserval.

19.VULNERARY. Vulnerary is a word that means to promote healing.

20.SANGUINARY. Sanguinary is a term I have used to refer to plants believed to promote confidence, hope and well being or address the lack of those things.

21.PROVIDENTIAL. Plants referred to as providential are believed to promote prosperity thus providing for future needs. These are further characterized by foresight, perhaps a result of divination or predilection decreed by the spirit world.

22.PLENITUDINAL. Plenitudinal refers to fulfillment, completeness and abundance, which include fertility of the land not necessarily just conception. Hunter-gatherer people regard the extremes of greed and avarice as aberrant.

23.PLENARIAL. Plenarial is a term used in reference to plants believed to promote potency, invincibility or empowerment. However, hunter-gatherer people regard power that lacks the balance of compassion, humility and forgiveness as an affliction requiring exorcism.

24.ENSURANT. An ensurant is a plant believed to insure success, a guarantor, so to speak, highly appropriate to anyone hunting enlightenment or solutions.

25.SOPORIFIC. Soporific denotes species believed to promote dreaming.

26.ECSTATIC. I have used the word ecstatic to denote plants believed to promote trance-like states, bliss or rapture. Soporific and ecstatic plants can be psychotropic but I can assure you that a vast majority of them are not. Sadly psychotropic plants are now referred to as the “sacred plants”, implying that all those that are not are somehow less sacred. Such an idea couldn’t be more incorrect. By far the plants most frequently referred to as sacred by tribal societies are first foods, famine foods, abundant foods and those species that provide shelter and clothing. Don’t be deceived by the assertions that only mind-altering plants are sacred.

27.DIVINATORY. Divinatory again suggests psychotropic species. Wrong! Mankind has divined from stones, bones, seeds and sticks since forever. There are those who can divine from clouds, wind, rustling leaves or the path by which water travels. In fact divination and healing can be accomplished with anything by anyone. Divinatory therefore refers to plants that are believed to enhance divinatory abilities or needs.

28.AFFIXAL. Affixal refers to species believed to affix, bind or seal the objectives and accomplishments of rituals.

29.AFFIRMATIONAL. There are occasions when affirmation is being sought and therefore the species believed to afford that are referred to as affirmational.

30.RESURGENT. Resurgent is a term I have chosen to denote rebirth. In ancient times every event was perceived as an aspect of birth, death and rebirth. This was particularly true of ritual problem solving.

ANECDOTAL. The anecdotal section of each entry will include among other things various idiosyncrasies of a species as well as objects and practices associated with them.

Baskets, mats and medicine bags once woven are imbued with the properties of the plant from which they have been woven. They often depict plants in their pattern designs. Even geometric patterns contain remedies and secrets, perhaps understood and unique to the weaver. This would have to be true of embroidery as well, especially the work still being rendered in Eastern Europe and other places. Like so many forgotten arts this is an area worthy of more research.

All ritual objects, in fact, are imbued with the properties of the species from which they are rendered including musical instruments, bows and arrows, everything. This is also true of fires. Although not specifically referenced in this work lodges can be tied up in any species of tree and those lodges will be imbued with the properties of that tree. Further, lodges can be tied up with any number of poles depending on the practitioner's’ predilections and needs.

You will find a few references to brooms and this is another area worthy of more investigation. Like other objects brooms impart the properties of the plants from which they have been constructed. The process of sweeping holds the same exorcismal qualities as smudge or steam.

Animal Medicine, when referenced in this work, is limited to the plants with which animals have been witnessed doctoring themselves or spotted eating. In antiquity such observations led to expanding the resources enjoyed by man and the belief that animals’ generosity of this knowledge led him out of his state of desperation to survive. Many animals are honored in clan systems. It does not include any other animal behavior although this area is deeply explored in Ancestral Airs.

It is appropriate to mention that before entering into ritual something sacramental takes place, when a prayerful petition is made and a sacrifice or gift is offered. This is the time when one’s intent is collected or stated and brought into focus. The same type of sacramental act is essential when approaching an elder for advice, regarded as a serious ritual unto itself. Such gifts are unconditional and often an elder will dismiss a person several times before conceding, while each approach must be accompanied by a gift. This is a way for an elder to determine if the petitioner is sincere or ready to hear the answer. A votive offering as an expression of thanks is made after a ceremony concludes.


Index by Habitat (referred to earlier)

Index of Common Names to Latin (on my website)

Index of Latin Names to Common (on my website)

Please note that the name indexes include all of the species referred to in Ancestral Airs, not only the 400+ species in The Compendium for Spirit Handling. The Index by Habitat pertains to this work only and includes the property numbers next to each entry.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. The bibliography, found on my website, includes the works consulted for Ancestral Airs and The Compendium for Spirit Handling.

SPIRIT GARDENS. For garden enthusiasts I have composed suggestions for spirit gardens based on the seven habitats described. Every garden includes a species for each of the 30 properties in Spirit Handling and are numbered accordingly. Substitutes are easy to make by consulting the Index by Habitat where each species displays the property numbers for which it is appropriate. There could be lots of reasons to make substitutes. Perhaps you have children or pets and my choices are simply too toxic to have around. Maybe a small, container grown collection is all you are able to accommodate or another species is simply more desirable. No matter what, an energetically harmonious collection is based on the habitat preferences of the species. Before selecting any plant check each one in the Entries section and by all means consult additional sources regarding toxicity.

Cultivation requires a responsible search to insure that choices are not considered invasive in your region. In some areas certain species can be so invasive that they destroy natural habitats and can even be illegal to grow. Check with Cooperative Extension before committing to your final selection.

In making choices for spirit gardens please select species not hybrids. Energetically species are superior to their hybridized cousins that have been altered dramatically from their original design in the natural world. More significantly species are disappearing either because of habitat destruction or the invasion of hybrids into habitats that easily cross with species, equally undesirable. In terms of preservation species are by far the very best choices.

Do not under any circumstances collect from the wild, not even seed. It is environmentally irresponsible, period. Transplants collected from the wild by even the most skilled rarely survive. Seed might appear abundant where you are standing when in fact the species might not grow anywhere else in world and is endangered. This spells not only irreparable loss but can lead to extinction as well.

Do learn the art of germinating seed. Any plant started from seed has an intimate relationship with the grower. There are countless sources of books, growing equipment and seeds. Ferns can be a challenge but there are many growers that specialize in them. That is true of aquatics as well.

For more than 30 years I have used the spun peat sponges called Bio Sponges from Park Seed Co. under two, four-foot grow lights. I sit them in trays with about an inch of perlite in the bottom. Sow your seeds first then put them in the freezer for a month or so before situating them under the lights. The lights should remain about 2” above the surface of the seed starters and later the foliage. And by all means put your lights on a timer, beginning with 12 hours and increasing the time over a week or two to 16 hours. With a little trial and error you might just find that growing plants from seed is one of the most exciting things you have ever done.

Park Seed, Burpee’s, and Thompson & Morgan have terrific books on germinating and lots of other things too. My absolute favorite source for seed is Chiltern Seeds in Cumbria, England. I haven’t a clue how many thousands they offer. But brush up on your Latin because that is the language of plants and the language of Chiltern’s catalog.

I would love to hear about the collections my readers have created and the reasons each species inspired them. I dream of a second edition where all of you have contributed, reinstating the jewels of this lost treasure I affectionately call Spirit Handling.

FORMULATIONS: I have included a section regarding choices for plants for rituals, medicine bags, etc. I drew heavily from Ancestral Airs and based the combinations on the clan and society magic discussed in depth in that story. I want to emphasize once again that these are only suggestions and believe each of us has the capability to create highly personal formulations. It is perhaps appropriate for me to mention that in handling plants in rituals or carried for long term need that one must be sensitive to fact that plants get tired too. These profoundly beneficent creatures must be returned to the Earth carefully and prayerfully. Never hold on to spent remains and trust intuition to assess when the time is right. Even lodges are pulled down and built anew for the same reason.