Prunella vulgaris, the common summer weed also called Self-Heal, is much beloved by herbalists for its vulnerary capability for wound care, its ability to ease sore throats, its blood and lymph moving properties, as well as its spiritual meanings. A beehive-shaped spiked bract composed of many purple flowers in various stages of blossoming, Self-Heal is in the Lamiaceae or Mint family, with square stems and opposite leaves. Its taste is bitter and cooling, and can be used in a variety of medicinal preparations including oils, salves, teas, tinctures, and as a fresh green in salads. The flower essence is said to fortify one's own belief in one's ability to not only heal but thrive in wellness.
This is a plant I should whole-heartedly embrace. But for some reason I could not open myself to her.
I had taken a flower home from class a few weeks before and placed it on a statue on my bedside table, hoping for Self-Heal-inspired dreams or much welcomed magical visions. No dreams visited me; no visions came. Instead, she was forgotten.
And now I am tasked with exploring the spirit of this plant, who has remained silent for me. I am asked to remember her.
So I did what I do, and turned to music.
But first I took a walk to see if I would find a good specimen of the living Prunella for inspiration; however, in the terrible heatwave we all suffered the Prunella I could find were all sun-scorched and brown. I bent to pick a spent flowerhead and the whole mower-chewed plant came up, meager roots and all.
In herb school, the question often comes to us: in the midst of so much taking, what can we give the plants in return? What can we give back? And I thought about the taking of this tired weed: did it want to be taken, or more specifically, to be tended?
Self-Heal, Heal-All, Heart of the Earth. Names reminiscent of the violet Hearts Ease. I'm often amazed that the color purple in some plants in the nervine category can be indicative of their calming nature to the nervous system, their ability to calm the mind and ease anxiety. The lavenders, the skullcaps, the catnip and catmint blossoms, all the calm touch of purple. Similarly, our association between the gemstone amethyst and calm peacefulness can't be a coincidence, or the color purple being assigned to the Third Eye or 6th charka governing our minds can't purely be arbitrary. Just looking at the purple flowerhead of a patch of Self-Heal brings up the calming energy of this range of the color spectrum.
Guided by the energy of purple, I set up an altar with amethysts and quartz. I lit some candles and arranged a semicircle of singing bowls. The tired little Self-Heal plant I placed in a blue dish of water with some small amethysts. The dried flowerhead I placed on an amethyst cluster in the middle of the altar. And then I sang.
I found a sadness inside of me when I sang; a sense of grief.
But shouldn't a song of healing be a song of joy?
To heal fully, like the wound, like the emotional heart, we must first open fully: to cleanse, to open to the light.
And I thought about the pain, the vulnerability in opening. The cracking and splitting of the seed to let the new life spring forth.
And what if your identity is that of one who is broken? One who is ill, one who is struggling, less-than, weak, and all the things it means to be a human body in a physical, hurting world? How does your heart feel when she meets the spirit of a plant telling you to cast this all aside, to forget your fractures, and remember your beautiful, vibrant, innate ability to return to wholeness, or as Susun Weed puts, holiness?
Healing is a journey, not a destination. As Lisa Bassi said so eloquently: "Perfection means stasis." We are dynamic beings, moving in and out of balance. The art is in the returning.
After I dismantled my altar I kept the Self-Heal plant in its dish of water. I placed her by the window where she can see the light. There I will be able to watch over her.
Or maybe for her to watch over me.