Thursday, June 13, 2013

Tree Flower Spiritual Baths

Typically when we think of flower baths, we visualize bouquets of perennial or annual flowers made into spiritual baths.  Perhaps we have these flowers growing in the garden, perhaps we go to the market for them.  However trees also have flowers, although they tend to come and go much more quickly than some of the longer flowering annuals and perennials.  Tree flowers are often a primary honey bee nectar source, and they vary from very small easily missed flowers to large showy and fragrant flowers.  

We find the tree flowers make powerful spiritual baths for many reasons.  Significantly they require that we are alert and attentive to the cycle of the year because they only appear for maybe a week or two, and can be easily overlooked.  For this reason they are timely within the cycle of the year and give us the "medicine" that is appropriate for the precise time and place we are living.  They cannot be bought from the market as they are overlooked as a bouquet addition and do not have the long lasting blooms preferred by florists.  They grow on tall, strong trees that sometimes are hundreds of years old, embodying the strength of the tree.  If we use blossoms from species that are native to the region we live in, we are strengthening the resonance of our Ancestral Tree with the particular place we are living, which is especially important in these times of major displacement of people away from their Ancestral Roots.  

We begin here with the Tulip Poplar Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).  The Tulip Poplar flower is a major bee nectar source in our region.  The tree grows very big, and the flowers are gently fragrant.  The flowers, as can be seen in the photos, are green-yellow and orange and open wide like cups.  The Tulip Poplar tree grows well in the open field and in the forest.  The tree can grow up to 200 feet tall and live up to 300-400 years.  
Traditionally Indigenous People of this area used the Tulip Poplar to make Canoes (also known as "Canoe Wood").  Historically it was used for treating worms, jaundice, fever, bruises and swelling, as well as for inflammation and infection.  At the current time, it is not used medicinally (as far as we know).  
By using a ladder we harvested the leaves and blossoms of the tree.  In this case the tree leafs out and blossoms at the same time, unlike some of the earlier flowering trees, who flower first and then leaf out.  The flowers had many insects and bees on them, which we removed and then added water.
Many times it is appropriate to make complex spiritual baths with many ingredients.  This season with the tree flower baths, we wanted to keep the baths simple and have the flowers be the dominant ingredient to continue to study the spiritual properties of the trees.
The Black Locust Tree (Robinia pseudoacacia) is a member of the large Fabaceae family (Pea Family) and like other members of this family, this tree fixes nitrogen in the soil, increasing soil fertility.  For this reason it is a powerful "emergency medicine" for Mother Earth.  The Locust grows not only by seed but also by spreading under the ground, quickly stabilizing disturbed soils.  If the tree is cut down, its roots continue to thrive and it sends up many other new shoots all around.  The grove of Locust in the photo below appeared out of some small roots left from some locust we grew in a tree nursery.  Locust is an incredibly strong wood, lasting 50 years in the ground, long after most wood would rot away!  Locust is an excellent firewood and building wood with a beautiful yellow wood.  Significantly those locust trees who grow among the competition of the forest have stronger wood than those who grow in the field were little tree competition exists.

This particular locust grove has been a profound teacher for us, as it has revealed many secrets to us concerning the locust.  We have used these thorny trees for many things, including ceremonial purposes and also to feed our goats its highly nutritious leaves.  For those Tatas who like to talk about having the proper procedure to successfully enliven the spirit of the Palo they are harvesting, it will be of interest to understand something vital about this Black Locust.  The Black Locust can grow back from a rootlet, so even if the whole tree is dug out to use to make an Nkisi, if a root is left, then a whole new tree will arise.  This is a powerful regenerative quality held by the locust tree, but also by certain other trees.  It is important for those Paleros who are serious about working with the Plants and Palos to invest time and energy into seeing beyond the cut Palo to the Living Entity that it comes from!  
This particular grove is the one we are speaking about in a previous post:  (Espanta Muerto- Local Options).

The thorns on the Black Locust are sharp, short and prolific.  Historically Indigenous People used Locust to make bows due to its great strength.  Most parts of the tree are toxic, however the flowers are edible and we make a point to eat the flowers which have a sweet taste with a little bit of bitter pea flavor.
The flowers are extremely fragrant and heavily scent the air, especially if there are many Black Locust trees growing together.  We have many of these beautiful trees growing, and for the week they are blooming, they are one of the most attractive trees with their drooping clusters of white blossoms.  All to quickly the flowers fall off and the growth process of the seeds takes precedence.  
The Locust flowers in the Spiritual Bath are extremely intense, and while they are fragrant they are also strengthening.  Knowing that there is a difference between the field grown Locust and the forest grown Locust emphasizes that the Palero needs to know not just what Palo she or he is using, but what tree grew that Palo.  Was the tree in the forest, or in a field?  This question is vitally important when we are speaking about using a Palo from Black Locust as the very quality and durability of the Palo will be radically different depending on the answer to that question.  This is an example of the subtleties that we completely miss out on if we are forced to depend on others to harvest our Palos for us.
Black Locust flowers are some of our most anticipated tree flowers here, and again this tree (although it grows almost everywhere it is planted world wide) is native to our region, making it an extra special tree for us here!

Again we made a simple spiritual bath allowing the locust flowers to be dominant.  

For all these flower baths, we allow the bath to sit outside over night and through the day to absorb the energies of sun, moon and stars, the heat of the day, the coolness of night and any rain that happens to come.  We make our baths right in our garden on a little patio surrounded by the lush vegetation of our garden.

At the same time we took the spiritual bath, we also infused water with the locust flowers and drank the water, so we took this spiritual bath internally as well through the infused water.  We use the black locust flower infused water to unmask deceit within the dream time, and it often brings forth dreams which illuminate the hidden negativities of those who are posing as having genuine, friendly and benevolent intentions.  

Black locust flower infused water.

Finally here we have a privet hedge flower bath.  The privet (Ligustrum vulgare) hedge (photo above) is a popular garden shrub grown as a hedge between spaces.  We allow our privet to grow untrimmed and so it flowers naturally with its clusters of sweet smelling flowers.  This particular privet flower harvest had many many lightning bugs on it, some of which ended up in the bath, despite our efforts to remove them from the privet.  Privet itself is toxic, and is not native to our region, often considered an invasive weed. However it is a popular privacy hedge, and can be found all over from urban to suburban and rural areas due to its popularity as a hedge and also to its invasive tendencies.

The Ancestors indisputably had a much more profound relationship with Nature and the Mpungos that we do today for the simple reason that the Ancestors lived more intimately with the Natural World and without all the high tech distractions and conveniences we thrive on today.  The practices of Palo, and the practices of Taino tradition that we witness and engage today have become far more narrowed in scope than the Ancestral Roots they arose from through the damaging processes of slavery and colonialism.  For this reason we will continue to emphasize the importance of "returning" to these primary relationships (direct experience of the Natural forces, the Plants, the Mpungos, the forests, the River, and so on) as the way to bring more health, and profundity into our Traditions.

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