Symbols representing plants, both graphic and highly stylized, can be found everywhere. Plant depictions are commonly found in ancient petroglyphs, cave paintings and the art work of native peoples. Prescription sticks, also called medicine sticks, were used to document herbal remedies by drawing pictograms onto pieces of wood or tree bark. At least a dozen of these valuable objects have found their way into both public and private collections. The Navajo or Diné people of the Southwest use plant symbols in their art work and healing ceremonies. Sand paintings are created as part of the healing ceremony and once used are returned to the earth.
We have received symbols from several of the plants we work with on a regular basis. We have placed representation of these symbols into their corresponding plant articles. Each person so far who has worked with these symbols develops their own visual picture for the symbols. They are truly meant to help open the door to building a relationship with the plant. After that, each person will develop their own symbolic language. New symbols may appear to you. As your understanding and relationship deepens, you may see a multitude of layers in each symbol.
While the symbols are presented in two dimensional drawings, please understand that these symbols are three dimensional, active entities. When you visualize these symbols, understand that they will move, swirl, vibrate, etc. A description accompanies each symbol (and variation, if there are any).
There is no substitute for building that spiritual bond between you and a plant. Even if you are unable to grow the plant, you should try to at least touch it, consume or otherwise connect with it on the physical plane first.
Using Plant Symbols
The symbols we were given were used in a variety of ways. First and foremost, they were used to connect with plants during “plant sits”. A plant sit is when a person sits with a plant and meditates with the plant in order to open a connection and get to know that plant. Plant sits are recommended whenever a practitioner wants to start working with the medicine of that plant. Myself and others were able to use the symbols to deepen those connections. You might consider making the symbol with your fingers in the air over the plant while you chant or sing the plant’s name (common and Latin binomial). As you reach a meditative state, you might receive impressions from the plants in the form of visual communication, auditory whispers, feelings in the body or intuitive insight. This is how many plant shamans from around the world learn how to use the plant’s medicine. They let the plant tell them what it can heal.
The symbols were also used to enhance herbal medicinal products. The symbols can drawn over cups of tea, bottles of tinctures or the herbs themselves as they are being used to make medicines. For optimum enhancement when making your medicines, plant symbols could be visualized or drawn over the plant material at every step of the process. For example, let say you are harvesting basil in order to make a tincture. You could use the basil symbol to connect with the plant prior to harvesting. You could then visualize the symbol as you process the plant and put it into the container. After you have added your alcohol or glycerite you could draw the symbol on the lid and label on the jar. That way, when you shake your jar every day, you could focus on that symbol, deepening the connection. Once that tincture is complete, the symbol could be drawn on the new container. That way whenever you pick up that bottle, you will focus on that symbol and reconnect with that energy.
Symbol variations can be used to set intent. For example, when we received the symbol for oat, I immediately saw a second symbol with a circle at the bottom. That circle represents the earth. I was told that variation would set the intent for “wholeness”. Interestingly enough, I had been drinking a lot of oat straw tea at the time as a nervine because my stress levels had been through the roof.