The heat hasn’t left us yet in the mountains, but the nights are cooling and the days are growing shorter. No more 8 p.m. walks with our doggo... At any point this year, amongst herbalists and witchy types, I feel there was and is a constant conversation around what new star or planet or astro-thing is making us all sad or challenging us, but I am going to offer another view at this juncture. There are challenging retrogrades and eclipses, capitalism is the worst and makes many of our lives shitty and hard, but as a recovering alcoholic, I have to constantly ask myself, where is my role in how I feel? What am I doing, or more likely not doing, that is preventing me from feeling strong, comfortable, healthy or happy?
Because always, we are acted upon from all sides by forces wishing us harm from capitalism and the forces of oppression it supports. Yet, as a privileged white, able bodied, cis woman, I am also incredibly lucky and often (but not always) can choose where to feel victimized, attacked and, well, bad. I speak about this purely as my own experience and am not saying how anyone else, however similar to me and my situation, should feel or act or experience the world. I merely want to suggest, that in all things, looking at the ways in which we DO have power to shift or at least coast through can be immensely powerful and it’s ok to look at the ways in which we act and the patterns we have and want to change them and GROW. It’s ok to say I want to feel like a victim today but I WON’T. It’s ok to say I feel sensitive and bad today so I need space, but I won’t project it onto the ones I love. It’s ok to say sorry and mean it when we do anyways, despite our best efforts.
I yell about being an alcoholic in recovery all the time, and because I am a person that easily and readily will lie to myself to enable my addictions, I need to be bluntly honest with myself that sometimes, I am powerless over certain things. I am powerless over alcohol this is for sure, and what life throws my way to an extent, but I am powerful beyond measure in other areas of my life. How can I take responsibility for the ways I treat others, myself and my environment? THIS is what has been on my mind, despite the desire to blame and project onto the people and events transpiring around me. Where can I pick up the reins that I put down, and where can I say sorry where I need to and say HELL NO where I need to and say thank you where I need to. Awareness and compassion: these are cups I drink from in equal measure, though sometimes I spill down the front of my shirt.
All my soap boxing aside, I love you, and if you are having a hard time, that is real, and all of my waxing poetic about how you can change it may not be real for you, and guess what, that is also TOTALLY OK. You do you my darlin. With the Vernal Equinox approaching I feel the first stirrings in myself to draw more inwards. I know, me, the queen of extroverts, yet I am a crafter and the Fall and Winter are my times to MAKE. What shall I make this year? What are you excited to make?
Making more potions and elixirs and tea blends and vinegars has been on my list. Making more MEDICINE! When I think of the recipes and things that inspire me most, it is always the concoctions I read of in old books and hear about from my elders. The rabbit tobacco, the pokeweed, the sassafras. The Appalachian plants. And on that note, I want to talk about a favorite native plant of mine that is flowering right now. Joe Pye Weed. Who was Joe Pye? And why was this his weed?
Joe Pye weed, or Eutrochium spp. Is a member of the aster family native to the U.S. This plant is known by many names like Gravel root and ague root, but my favorite is Queen of the Meadow. When you see those tall, waving stalks topped with cotton candy pink fluffy flowers, it’s not difficult to see why this name is so appropriate. The name Joe Pye also has a curious history. There are sources claiming all over the web and in old literature that an indigenous man named Joe Pye used the root to heal typhus in New England. Yet, upon further inspection, it is also surmised that no such man existed and the word Joe Pye is an Anglicization of an indigenous word from an unknown location “jopi” used to describe this plant. Either way, the plant was used for typhus, and surely was taught to settlers by indigenous people. Our stories of plants and their names...
In Appalachia, this queen has historically been used as a kidney remedy. Hence the name, Gravel root. Kidney stone, cystitis, fever, typhus, all these ailments were plied with Joe Pye tea. The leaves, roots and flowers are important denizens in the native medicinal plant lexicon.
Patricia Kyritsi Howell describes the Queen of the Meadow as diuretic, anti-lithic, kidney tonic, anti-inflammatory, astringent, and anti-rheumatic. Alabama herbalist Tommie Bass used it for kidney stone, bladder disease, and even prostate issues.
Cherokee and Iroquois both used the plant as a kidney remedy and to combat fluid retention. The hollow stems were also used as a straw to suck water out of shallow streams by the Cherokee and used as a blowing device to deliver certain throat medicines and powders around a person’s body. Different tribes identified its metaphysical uses as a strengthening plant, as a love charm, and as a good luck talisman when carried on one’s body. The broad medicinal and magical uses of this native plant show that clearly it was highly regarded by all who came in contact with it.
In Hoodoo, the plant is seen as a bringer of good luck as well, especially for job searches and success magic. Before an interview, the tea is used in baths, as well as carrying the root in one’s pocket to get a raise or find a job. Some identify this plant with Saturn, due to the fact that it can grow in shade and it’s purple color. To check out more awesome info from a person way more qualified to speak on the subject of Hoodoo, check out a rad friend of mine, Demetrius LaCroix, at Botanica Macumba. He’ll be teaching some classes soon on the topic in the New Orleans area.
This plant is a beautiful pink babe and I love it. It’s not one I use a lot personally in medicine as I hate to dig up roots if I don’t have to. I often turn to goldenrod tops for a more abundant kidney tonic. Either way, meeting this plant and appreciating the ways in which it has been used for love, luck and pee pee health is all a great way to make your acquaintance. That all being said, as we near the Autumn equinox, the second harvest festival of the waning year, I hope you find more ways to hold gratitude, be gentle with yourself, and to GROW just like the brilliant colorful plants all around us.
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