Saturday, March 15, 2014

Plant Teacher Spotlight: Hawkweed

Over the last few weeks I've been inspired to write about plants. The largest push came from a conversation I had with my grandfather about our Lithuanian heritage. As my grandfather shared his stories about the farmers and herbalists in my family who grew their own food, made their own clothing, worshiped trees, engaged in ceremonies, and kept bees, it inspired me to share some of my stories and the plants that I know. I've decided to combine my love of the tarot and plants and pull a plant card from "The Flower Speaks" tarot deck each Thursday and write about the plant, its signatures, personality, teachings, and medicinal qualities.

Today I drew the card for Hawkweed, Hieracium pilosella, also known as mouse-ear. This tough and hairy plant prefers to grow in sunny, sandy, and less fertile areas. Just in looking at you can tell she has a story. Her leaves grow close to the earth, are covered in fine white hairs in a rosette shape, and her stalks are hard and dry. Above her tall spindly stalk is a bright explosion of yellow and below her yellow head are reddish ligules, which at one time acted like a shield for her developing flower bud. Many times I have mistaken her for a dandelion but she is no dandelion. She is hawk medicine, a warrior, ruled by Aries, and unlike dandelion, she sends out chemicals from her roots to limit her own growth.

One teaching from Hawkweed is about honesty. In "The Flower Speaks" tarot, Marlene writes about it's connection to the planet Mars, the sign of Aries, the Justice card, and the quest for truth. She likens the plant to the great horned owl, also called a night hawk and it's ability to "see through" brush and obscurities to peer into the truth of what is below.

Medicinally, her fuzzy lung-like leaves are used for lung conditions like asthma, bronchitis, and whooping cough. Nicholas Culpepper, an herbalist and medical astrologer from the 17th century used mouse-ear hawkweed juice to ease the pains of kidney stones and the gripping discomforts of the bowels. He also recommended a syrup made from this plant for coughs and a poultice to be made from its astringent leaves for wounds.

Last August when I was visiting Adam's family land, the large open fields were covered with the tall waving heads of hawkweed. I sat with the plant and could feel its strength. I kept thinking to myself, "how can you grow so tall on such a thin stalk?" As I spent time with the plant I realized it was the strength of its spirit and its desire to grow toward the light that was holding it up. If we believe that matter organizes itself around energy, then we can see how this works. It's like when we really desire clarity in some area of our lives and we keep focusing on it, reaching for it, and in that process we can feel more deeply who we are, what we honestly need, and before we know it, we are there!

When you stand above the plant it looks like a bright eye gazing into your soul. I wonder if Hawkweed was pulled from the deck today as a reminder of the warrior energy of spring headed our way. Perhaps she is circling us like a hawk, asking us to survey our lives, to look at ourselves with the piercing eyes of truth and honesty. Maybe it is time to get real, get honest, and to face the truths that we might have been avoiding.

As the energy of spring starts to build now is the time to get to work. It is time to survey our lives with grace and honesty. It is time to ask ourselves the tough questions and start making small decisions to clear away the brush and brambles.

Like hawkweed, let us put on our fuzzy coats and reach toward the warm light of truth and start the journey. The process may be long and arduous but if we know where our arrow is pointed, we can trust that the path will follow.

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