pale leaf Gaia's Garden leaves




Determining a Plant’s Magical Qualities
by Clea Danaan

As Green Witches, we invite plants into our magical workings as ingredients in teas, incense, and herbal remedies, and as guests on our altar, in our magical gardens, and even in vases on the kitchen table. Many of these plants we can look up in grimoires and herbal encyclopedias, but sometimes we either can’t find a given plant in our tomes of knowledge or we don’t know what kind of plant it is. This article will discuss how to determine a plant’s magical qualities: what gift does it bring to the manifest and magical planes?

The first rule of working with plants is to respect the plant in the same way you would a teacher or valued colleague. When you chose to work with a plant, you are asking a divine being to work with you. Ask the plant for permission to work with her. Thank her for her contribution. Take only what you need, listening to the plant to know which part or parts to harvest. And give back a gift to the plant or the fairies or nature devas when you remove a plant or its parts, even from your own garden. A hair from your head, a bit of seed, some compost, whatever feels like the right gift in exchange.

Plants are reflections of Spirit. We are all of the same Creator, and we all reflect all aspects of the Divine Being. In truth, you could use any plant or no plants at all for healing or magical work, for everything is a reflection of Divinity. Therefore, the relationship you have with a plant is the most important part of your working with it.

Plants are, however, manifestations of particular energies as well as reflections of the whole Universe. When we choose a plant to work with, we are asking it to magnify certain aspects in our own lives, like love, prosperity, protection, or some other desired energy. We work with them to manifest in our lives those individual qualities that they embody. These individual qualities are what we refer to when we talk about a plant’s magic or medicine.

To determine the magical qualities of a plant, first look at its form. What is its shape? Size? Color? In biology, form follows function; in magic, function follows form. What does the shape of the leaves, roots, seeds, or flowers remind you of? To take an obvious example, look at a cactus. Cactus medicine is protection (and chastity!) which is manifested in its thorns. Roses look like the luscious folds of a yoni, and they bring fertility, lust, and love. Kidney beans look like kidneys, and guess what ­ they help nourish the kidneys as well.

Next look at the plant’s location. Does it grow in a ditch, in a desert, atop a cliff? A plant will lend you the properties it has had to cultivate, and this too is part of its magic. Determining this can be a little more challenging. For example, cattail grows in wetland areas. It is able to withstand soggy roots without rotting. It therefore demonstrates fire properties, for what it has had to cultivate is its gift to you. Kelp is another water plant, yet it moves with water, extracting nutrients from its environment and balancing the amount of salt it takes in. Its magical properties include protecting (as from too much salt) and aiding in water travel; its element is water.

So to first discern a plant’s medicine, examine what it looks like and what it does. For example, a very common plant grows from both seeds and underground runners. You can trim it and it grows back. It holds down the dirt to keep it from eroding. When used magically, this plant will lend endurance, forgiveness, and protection. Another plant has large, bright green leaves, stretching tendrils, and round, juicy fruits (lots of them). The leaves have five points on them. The leaves represent money: the pentagram is earth (money), and the big green leaf is not unlike a certain form of currency. The tendrils reach through the air to grasp onto strongholds; is this not unlike the mind, how we reach out through the air (mind) to hold onto some solid thought? And then the fruits, well, they are fruitful! So the magical qualities of this plant are prosperity, fertility, and clear thinking or psychic powers. Can you guess what they are? The first plant is grass, the second is grape.

As I said at the beginning of this article, the most important thing in working with plants is your relationship with them. So while examining a plant’s qualities will help you get started, the next step is to learn to communicate directly with a plant. You will gain much more information this way than by either looking up a plant in a book or observing it with your rational mind. Many of the things you will learn may not even be information you could put into a book. The energetic realm must be felt to be understood. Writing about it is like writing about sex; you get the general idea, but it’s nothing like the real experience.

Here is a simple exercise to help you begin to communicate with plants. Find a spot where you will not be interrupted, preferably outside. Sit near the plant you want to get to know. Feel the energy inside your body; if you can’t feel your whole inner body, then focus on one part like your hands. Feel the tingling sensation or whatever you feel inside that part of your body, or the whole body if you can. Become aware of the earth beneath you. When you feel connected with your body and connected with the earth, you are centered and grounded.

Now continue to feel the energy inside you, but bring you awareness also to the energy around you. Just the space directly around you, your energy field. Sit with this for a while. Really take time to feel it, or see or hear it. Gradually expand the area you are feeling. Ask the plant if you might connect with it. You will get a yes or no feeling or even the word in your mind. Honor the plant’s answer. If it does not feel like connecting, choose another plant until you find one that does. But most likely the plant will be thrilled that you want to communicate with it. With respect and thankfulness, expand the area of your feeling to include the plant. What does this plant feel like? What do you notice? What does it have to share with you, to show you?

When you are finished, pull your awareness back into your immediate body. Take some deep breaths. Record what you discovered. This is the real way to learn what a plant’s qualities are; this is how shamans of long ago learned what was medicine and how to heal using plants. You will find that what you observed and what you learned from the plant will concur, and what you learn from the plant will be a deeper, more specific bit of information.

*     *     *

Clea Danaan gardens and writes from Denver, Colorado. She is the author of Sacred Land: Intuitive Gardening for Personal, Political and Environmental Change (Llewellyn, 2007). More of her work can be found at




pale leaves

Gaia's Garden Library
Non Fiction Section : Gaia's Garden Herblore | Susun S. Weed Articles | Articles and Musings
Fiction Section : Short Stories & Prose| As Told By Cat | Public Domain Texts| Poetry

Shop | Library | Gallery | Forum | Contact | Links