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Plant Spirit Medicine: A Journey into the Healing Wisdom of Plants Paperback – April 1, 2014
"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
For the first time in paperback, from Dean Koontz, the master of suspense, comes an epic thriller about a terrifying killer and the singular compassion it will take to defeat him. | Learn more
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“Through the pages of the book, you will meet many people and enjoy a narrative of healing, hope, and transcendent connection with nature.This is a magical journey, told very descriptively and with great reverence and love. It is a story about repairing the web of life - on this side and the other. The best news is that we can practice these ancient teachings in our own backyards or with the herb gardens on our kitchen window sills. Cowan tells us how to do that.” ―Anna Jedrziewski and InannaWorks.com
“Cowan has charted the territory for a medicine of the past and the future and restores one of the vital links for this to happen―which is the healing power behind our relationship with the plant world. This book is an excellent addition to the alternative medicine collections.” ―Malidoma Somé, author of Ritual: Power, Healing and Community and Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman
“Eliot Cowan’s inspiring Plant Spirit Medicine explores the intrinsic unity and connectedness of all living things. It extends the boundaries of consciousness to include not just humans and animals but plants as well. Important not only because of its profound implications for healing, this book is a blueprint for our survival. It illuminates the kind of sacred regard we must develop for all of life on Earth if our species is to survive and thrive.” ―Larry Dossey, MD, author of One Mind: How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters
About the Author
- Item Weight : 11 ounces
- Paperback : 232 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-1622030958
- Product Dimensions : 6.02 x 0.61 x 9.07 inches
- ISBN-10 : 1622030958
- Publisher : Sounds True; 1st Edition (April 1, 2014)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #105,304 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The chapters about plants like marijuana and ayahuasca are full of information that will be important maps to the influx of people looking to do spiritual experimentation with them. Eliot writes about good intentions often not being quite enough to honor these sacred plants. This book helped me further connect with plants in a way that is beyond the physical nature of all things living on the Earth. Plants and animals and rivers and humans all have a spirit that houses their true essence and the connections are available to us if we are willing to discover truths beyond our Western conditioning..
Plant Spirit Medicine was recommended to me by an herbalist friend, Jennifer Tucker. With my years of practice and teaching hypnosis and ecstatic trance I have been guided by many spirits, ancestral spirits including the spirits of animals, birds, reptiles, and insects. Several years ago, I realized that what was missing from my journeys into the world of the spirits were the spirits of the Earth’s flora. Thus, I began sitting with plants, asking them to become my spirit guides. This direction diverged from the work of many of my herbalist friends, because, like with my animal spirit guides, the plants do not need to be ingested to learn and benefit from them. As with my animal spirit guides the plants were very ready to open themselves to me. I still have so much to learn, and Eliot Cowan’s exceptional book has opened many new doors to me. For him the spirit of the plant is most central in his work as a healer.
In Plant Spirit Medicine Cowan does not address the medicinal powers of specific plants but offers many fascinating stories of calling upon the spirits of the plants and how these spirits bring about the healing of those who come to him. While listening to the plant spirits in an altered-state of dreaming and waking visions, the plants are very ready to offer him direction.
Cowan was raised in the conventional American way of life, but upon graduating from college he realized he knew nothing about the earth. Feeling an urgency to learn he left for a farm in Vermont where he began to take an interest in sustainability and herbal medicine, an interest that led to his interest in the spirits and the restoration of the ancient ways of healing. In this pursuit he has learned from a number of indigenous healers. He evetually became an apprentice to don Guadalupe Gonzalez Rios, a Huichol shaman of Mexico who eventually performed a ritual to make Cowan a guide to other shamanic apprentices in the Huichol tradition.
Though it is most appropriate to identify the indigenous healers by their tribe, e.g. the Huichol, I am attracted to using the broader term of indigenous when appropriate because of the word “dig” imbedded in it, digging in the Earth for our sustainability. The high and unsustainable expense of our high-tech medicine is leading us to return to the effective ways of the traditional and indigenous healers, elders who rely upon the plants, animals, rocks, water, fire, wind and the entire natural world who know and love us as grandchildren.
Cowan tells many powerful and fascinating stories of listening to dreams and other visioning experiences of plants and their spirits, experiences that bring us into a new yet ancient world of healing, of healing the imbalances of life, the causes of illness. Our dualistic lives are centered on that which is us and ours vs. that which is not us and not ours. This dualism isolates us from the interdependency of all that is of the Earth, a separation that brings us to violence and is leading our demise. Though this book was published in 2014, well before the election of Donald Trump, this separation and violence are now so vividly evident. Cowan hangs on to the belief that at least some humans will survive into the new age of sustainability, health, balance, and living in oneness with all that is of the Earth, but there are many who do not hold this vision and will not survive. Cowan beautifully shows us the path for this survival, a path of again listening to, learning from, and valuing the spirits of the Earth’s flora.
Over the last few years I have read about the Chinese five elements: fire, earth, metal, wood, and water, or more commonly the four elements of fire, earth, air and water as they relate to herbal medicine. I have not resonated with this model but now find that Cowan’s spiritual descriptions of these five elements make much sense. The heat of fire, heat coming from the sun, sitting around campfires, and from other sources brings vitality and passion to life. Humanity lives by the fire in many ways, in cooking, eating, laughter, care for children, as well as in listening to the elders. Plants capture heat and light from the sun. Fire controls the activities of body, mind and spirit, producing joy, happiness, pleasure, laughter, relationships and sexuality. The lack of fire brings illness to the heart and mind.
Earth provides nourishment, security, identity, mother’s breasts, and intimacy to relationships. Mothers need strength, and we all need Mother Earth’s nourishment to overcome the stresses of life. The spleen and pancreas provide the transportation of nourishment from the stomach to the cells, bringing sugar to the cells to give us energy and keep us healthy. Earth brings us the nurturing plants upon which we depend.
Metal shows us what is valuable in life. Cowan’s mentor, don Guadalupe, acknowledged that everything of value came from his father. He showed his son the way through the world, the ways of cumulating spiritual wealth, of not hording possessions.
The mysteries of water harbored in the spirit of the kidney are pooled by the bladder spirit. All the juices of life, e.g. adrenaline we call upon in danger, and the digestive fluids for food that we eat, are of the element of water. The streams and rivers, the flowing blood of Mother Earth, bring us life.
Wood seen in the growing tree needs room, sunlight, water, minerals and soil nutrients, the same as our needs as humans. But our current economic system is destroying the forests as well as our lives. Besides the illnesses caused by the imbalances in these five elements Cowan addresses two other imbalances, the imbalance of being possessed by some unhealthy spirit and the imbalance of our male and female aspects, an imbalance that affects the relationship between husband and wife.
Though this book does not focus on the use of specific medicinal herbs, Cowan provides a chapter describing several herbs that he finds useful in bring balance to these imbalances: the warmth of scarlet pimpernel for imbalances of fire, and the soft and nurturing nature of mullein for imbalances of the earth. As a purifier of the soul, Plantain aids in treating imbalances of metal. To treat problems related to the element of water, Cowan uses the stream orchid, Epipactis gigantea, native to western North America. For wood Cowan uses the flexible willow to treat rigidity and uptightness.
Besides these five plants Cowan finds several other herbs indispensable in addressing other issues beyond those of the five elements: mugwort for opening the acupuncture meridians; anemone for a person who is preoccupied by worldly problems; St. Johnwort for binding together wounds including the wound of depression; and the Southwest desert plant filaree as a spiritual messenger when seeking answers to questions.
The final four chapters are of what Cowan has learned from four of his mentors, don Enrique Salmon and don Lucio Campos of Mexico, Siri Gian Singh Khalsa from West Africa, and Grandma Bertha Grove from the Southern Ute Reservation. With each teacher Cowan’s questions pursue his interest in their uses of the spirits of plants as opposed to the prescriptive uses of the plants as used by most contemporary herbalists and high-tech medicine. These valuable interviews were very enlightening. In conclusion Cowan again tells us of the importance of ritual for treating each person individually over and above using the medicinal herbs in a prescriptive manner. He teaches his ways at his Blue Deer Center in Margaretville, NY, only 48 miles from where I live in Ulster County, New York.
In my practice and teaching of ecstatic trance I rely on the shamanic body postures as researched by Felicitas Goodman, postures that give direction to the trance experience, offering a viable alternative to Cowan’s eye-opening ways of journeying with the spirits of plants. I have previously written about these ecstatic postures and find four of the ecstatic postures exceptionally useful in medicinal plant journeying. I am eager to find my way to Cowan’s Blue Deer Center once the social distancing of the COVID virus has subsided to expand my ways of journeying with the spirits.
Top reviews from other countries
Whether you are a healer, a plant lover or "just" a human being, you will be enriched by reading this book. Thank you Eliot - and the dedication, which I only read after finishing, brought tears to my eyes. I now recognise my fears and will go forth with love.