Our pathways to our Munanso lead through dense brush, and twist and turn so that it is not possible to see directly into the Munanso from the outside. The pathway is lined with various bushes, vines and trees, including thorn bushes and poison ivy vine. These both act as protectors of the pathway.
Poison ivy is a notorious plant, while some people do not get a rash from it, even when handling it barehanded, most do, and some people get a rash from walking by it without even touching it! It also changes its potency at different times of the year. In summer it is a shiny green three leafed vine, in fall it changes to beautiful reds and oranges. It is an oil that it releases that is the poison. The poison ivy grows eventually to a very thick hairy vine, which is very potent and we use it spiritually for various purposes, year round.
Poison ivy twines itself up trees and can reach high up into the branches. Looking at the tree it is easy to mistake the poison ivy for the tree leaves.
Poison ivy may at first appear as a one dimensional "poison" however it has various properties that allow us to understand that it is a very multi-dimensional plant. Historically it was used by Indigenous people of this country to develop immunity to it, they would do this in a "homeopathic" way by ingesting small amounts to trigger the body to develop immunity. This resulted in the vast majority of the population being immune to this vine that they would have undoubtedly encountered all around. This is significant to us as Paleros and Tainos because this poison ivy at our pathways "allows" the Indigenous Spirit through, but stops the spirit of colonialism, imperialism and all the other -isms in their tracks. Today there is a homeopathic remedy made from poison ivy called Rhus Tox, which is highly useful.
Another aspect of poison ivy is that human beings are the only ones allergic to the poison ivy. Goats in particular love to eat poison ivy, and certain species of birds feed on its berries in the winter when food is scarce. Again, poison ivy "allows" in all the animal Spirits and bird Spirits, only stopping those human Spirits who hold the thinking that those things that do not benefit them should be annihilated, (usually with round up).
Not only did the Indigenous People of this country utilize the poison ivy to develop immunity to it, they also utilized it to make baskets, and (we have heard) as a remedy for ring worm. So it did have beneficial properties for people who were NOT engaging genocidal approaches to Mother Earth's children (Plants, Animals and People!). It is fascinating to us to notice the various changes from year to year that our Spiritual Spaces undergo, and to gain wisdom and knowledge in the pursuit of understanding why these changes are occurring. At this time the Land here is leading us on a trail of transforming our thinking concerning care taking Land, especially with regard gardens and our Ceremonial Spaces. Many years ago we would have launched a painful process of trying to remove the poison ivy, however at this point we have come to the realization that things appear for a reason and that Mother Earth is always seeking Balance and Healing, and so we are much more open to her need for the poison ivy, and the Spirit of the Munanso's need for the poison ivy, so that we can also understand our need for the poison ivy, and learn to live in harmony with it, and learn to use it for protection and within the processes of healing for others. Knowing even a little bit of the "story" of a particular plant, guides us greatly in our own discovery of the uses of that plant!
Thursday, July 5, 2012
Monday, July 2, 2012
During this heat wave that is hitting us, we were out by the River taking photos for a book that we are writing on Palo Gardens and Plants, and our daughter was walking with her father who was taking the photos. Most of the River here is shallow but he entered a deeper part and told her to wait for him. I heard our daughter call out excitedly, she had found Wild Mint growing right on the river bank. Standing with her feet in the cold river she said "something told me to smell this plant and it is mint". Sure enough it was mint, and the same variety of mint that we had purchased at a herb festival for our garden the month before. It is mountain mint that is native to this area, so we had wanted to reintroduce it to our Land.
I was very proud of our little 6 year old, not only for accurately identifying the mint upon smelling it, but also because she was listening to her Spirit who is guiding her. It also is a wonderful example of what we are going to be including in our book concerning the Palero's Garden! The mint was growing only 30 feet away from where our daughter's father had first put her in the river at the age of 8 months old. She has been going to that river ever since, and there are many medicinal plants growing wild in that area that we enjoy identifying and appreciating, but we had never seen mint here before!!!
Many of us have to go to Botanicas or supermarkets to purchase mint. We do not know where or under what conditions that mint is grown or what variety of mint it is. There are hundreds of different varieties of mint- we grow 7 different varieties here. This particular River has a very profoundly strong Spirit, and we have spent a lot of time over the years up and down this river, because there is also large hills on both sides of the River with lots of beautiful rock formations and old forest, and even a waterfall off the beaten trail. This river was tremendously beautiful on this particular day and its Spirit resonates all around, so this mint is growing right in that resonance and utilizing the water from the river to grow because it grows right on the bank itself.
Right next to the river grow all the plants necessary to create a spiritual bath or travajo, or bilongo to pull the energy of this Spirit that can flow around obstacles, clear out old debris, renew life, and refreshen over heated situations. In fact we had come to the river to refreshen ourselves from the intense heat that we had been working in. You can see the mint in the photos among daylily leaves (sharp long spiky ones), I am pointing to the mint in the upper photo. There is no comparison between harvesting your plantas personally from this type of location and buying them in the store. There is also no substitute for teaching your children right from birth to be at home in the natural world, Mother Earth.
24 years ago the Tata was working with his Elder in Palo, and was instructed to go out into the city streets and harvest whatever plants called to him, whether they be plants growing through concrete cracks, by the railroad tracks, in parks, at the edges of back yards or what have you. Then he was to prepare spiritual baths for both himself and his whole family. He did this many times, even though at the time he generally was not identifying what plants he picked. Today this practice has evolved to a whole different level as we have gardens and forest right on our Land that we harvest from and we have a growing body of knowledge concerning the identity and spiritual and medicinal properties of the plants. Having walked this road, the Tata of our Munanso is very encouraging to others to step outside the rigid boundaries of reliance on commercial outlets and to begin to engage their own Ancestors to bring forth the plants that they need for their spiritual progress. There were many baths the Tata created at that time that were very itchy (although he knew how to identify poison ivy and avoided that plant!) however as Paleros we know that sometimes that is exactly (meaning itch) what is needed. I do recommend plant gatherers be able to recognize plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, sumac and other poisonous plants in order to avoid making a spiritual bath that can cause a painful rash.
Our 6 year old (and 4 month old) are the direct beneficiaries of this trail, as our journey to gain wisdom on the many plants that are used spiritually, nutritionally and medicinally is directly feeding their growing wisdom. I am happy and proud that our 6 year old knows far more about plants that either the Tata or myself did at 25 years old! She is also clearly exercising her Spirit, as we are always testing her. We do this because we do not want to raise a subordinated, disempowered Yayi! It is moments like this when we get a glimpse of how much more powerful a practitioner of both Palo and Taino our daughter will be than we will ever be!!!