There are plenty of ways to approach green magic. You can learn from books, you can learn from teachers, and you can learn directly from the plants and spirits. For most of us, an herbal education is some combination of the three. But when you're first starting out, it can be difficult to know how to listen to and learn from the plant spirits. There are a lot of plants out there, and if you don't know very much about any of them, how do you know where to start? And how do you know what the plants are trying to teach you?
As with most things in magic, I think the first step in working with plant spirits is attention. Often the plants who have something to share with you are trying to get your attention, but you aren't picking up on the signals.
So next time you're looking for a green ally for a magical or spiritual need, look around and see if there's something growing nearby that can help you. Here are some signs a plant wants to make magic with you:
1. You (literally) trip over it--or get caught on its thorns (hawthorn! blackberry! rose!), or get stung by it (hello motherwort) or end up with it stuck in your hair or all over your clothes (cleavers, I'm talking to you). I've talked to witches who were preoccupied with a problem or a need, and stepped outside and tripped over a plant they hadn't paid any attention to before. I've found my ankles tangled in bindweed when I needed help with a protection spell, and been literally grabbed by wild roses in the woods when I was too preoccupied with heartache to pay attention to my surroundings. Make no mistake, many plants are tricksters, and they will trip you up or bite you if they can't get your attention with gentler methods. It's not that plants want to hurt us--it's that we can be oblivious, and they have something important to tell us. If you find yourself wanting to swear at a plant, take a minute to consider why it seems to be harrassing you.
2. It waves (or nods) at you, or throws parts of itself at you (falling leaves brushing your face, for example). I've experienced this myself, on a still day, when there was no discernible breeze. If you notice a leaf or flower swaying or nodding in spite of the apparent stillness in the air, it's probably a sign the plant wants your attention.
3. It seems to glow, or be brighter than the plants around it. Or the light shines through it in a way that catches your eye. Of course, some plants are just showy. But if you can't seem to tear your gaze away, or it jumps out at you visually, it merits a closer look.
4. You see it (or hear its name mentioned) everywhere--when you take a walk, in people's yards, in art, on television, on social media, everywhere. I won't say there are no coincidences, but I will say coincidences are rare in a witch's life. If you are tuning into the magic around you, you'll probably find there's a reason for just about everything. So if something keeps crossing your path in some way, it probably means something.
5. You "hear" sounds that no one else hears when you're around the plant. In my experience it's more like a low murmur or vibration in my head, similar to the way I hear voices in dreams. I don't hear voices the same way I hear people talking around me--but I do have a friend who hears plants and stones and animals speak to her so clearly it's like they're speaking with a human voice. It can be a little unnerving to hear something no one else hears, but it doesn't necessarily mean you're delusional. (Of course, use a little common sense if you think you hear voices. For example, if you're being told to hurt yourself or someone else, then it's probably time to see a qualified mental health practitioner rather than cast a spell. Be smart, and be careful!).
6. It appears in a dream, vision, or spirit journey. Some people go on spirit journeys specifically to seek an herbal ally, but sometimes plants appear to us unbidden when we're dreaming or seeking guidance in a vision. The first plant to appear to me in a spirit journey was dandelion, and at the time I was a little disappointed that such a common plant had turned up. But over time, as I worked with this ubiquitous weed, I came to adore dandelion and all the magical gifts she has to offer. So don't ignore a plant that comes to you just because it isn't what you expected or isn't what you consider to be beautiful. Chances are if you get to know the plant, you'll quickly realize it has a lot to share.
It might seem hard to receive the messages from plants (or stones, or other voiceless beings) at first, but in my experience, when the spirits realize you're listening to them, they communicate more frequently. And of course, any skill, magical or mundane, grows stronger with practice. (And don't forget, if you don't feel like you have strong powers of observation, you can practice!)
If you've experienced plant communication in a unique way, share it in the comments! I love hearing about the experiences of other plant lovers.