Occasionally during my life, I hear or read a word and my ‘intrigue radar’ lights up and I want to know everything about it. This happened 30 years ago with the word ‘alchemy’ and it also happened more recently, with the word ‘shamanism’.
As we launch our series of ‘ATTIC Tea Circles’, it seems appropriate to look at the journey I have taken and also what ‘ingredients’ have gone in to making these ceremonies.
Over a decade ago, I was introduced to a very interesting lady called Ann Freeman. She was a practicing herbalist in Bristol but had a very keen interest in what she called ‘plant spirit medicine’, the belief that plants have spirits and that humans are capable of communicating with them and being healed and guided by their wisdom.
An exciting prospect, if a little baffling, I was keen to find out more, especially as I had already begun working with the Tea Plant. She recommended a book of the same name by Eliot Cowan and I realised upon reading it, that ‘plant spirit medicine’ wasn’t something she had invented from her experiences as a herbalist, it sat within one of the greatest traditions on the planet. All over the world there are, and always have been, healers who can communicate with the spirit world, we call them Shamans.
Shamanism is the oldest spiritual practice known to humankind. Loosely speaking, it is the practical application of animism (another one of those intriguing words!) which is about experiencing every natural thing as having a living soul. Broadly speaking, shamanism is the spiritual practice of entering into a ‘trance state’ to communicate with the spirit world. Most commonly this involves what is known as ‘shamanic journeying’ and if you are interested in finding out more about this, my fabulous teacher, Paul Francis, has written a great book about it.
Plant spirit medicine is the shamanic way of communicating with plants. If this sounds a little scary, don’t worry, you don’t have be in a greatly altered state of consciousness to begin to experience the world as more alive and connected, you just need to become more aware, more mindful.
We dip in and out of light trance states all the time. Movement and breathing practices, meditation, contemplation, day-dreaming, fire gazing, they all drift us into a slightly altered state of consciousness. In ceremonies, rhythmic drumming is often used to gently induce this state. The thing they all have in common is they activate and engage the right hemisphere and, from the many blog posts I have written on this subject, I will summarise this as the more empathetic, open, interconnected, emotional way to experience the world around us- in essence, the more shamanic way.
To continue with my story, thanks to my friend Meg, I began ‘shamanic journeying’ around the same time as I met my ‘plant spirit medicine’ friend and found it a very helpful way to connect with the guidance of the Tea Plant. Then about 5 years ago we were very fortunate to meet the incredible Jane Alexander, whose work is to facilitate people’s awakening process, and whose unique gifts allow her to embody the spirit of all plants.
Her work has massively influenced the development of our tea ceremonies, as she has channelled verbal guidance from each tea and also created ‘TeaSpirits’ which are magical tinctures of each tea containing amplified vibrational energy for deepening your experience.
As Paul says “what makes something shamanic is the awareness and contact with the shamanic realms, not the depth of the trance state, nor the means of entering trance”. In our ATTIC tea ceremonies, the Tea Plant’s wisdom can guide your own without you having to go into a deeply altered state to connect with it. Thanks to Jane’s work, we can experience this communication as a beautiful guided journey or meditation.
We greatly look forward to sharing these intimate experiences with the tea plant spirit in a very gentle way, that helps open us up to possibility and the wonder and aliveness of life.
Plant spirit medicine Eliot Cowan
Interested in shamanic workshops
Interested in Jane’s spiritual work