by Rita Lewis
We are so fortunate, for the Goddess is everywhere. She can be seen in the Peruvian jungle, in stone carvings of roses and grain decorating European churches, in Buckingham palace as Isis supporting the hearth, and as a gentle, haunting spirit in the traditional sacred groves of the British Isles.
I have been blessed to feel Her presence in all these varied places, but it was in my own back garden in Buckinghamshire where I first truly saw Her face, heard Her voice and enjoyed Her constant, wise companionship.
Last year, as Bridie awoke the earth, my garden gradually become more alive, humming with a subtly different vibrancy. Butterflies settled on me. The wind rustled in the trees with a new, soft and gentle voice. And, as I walked the winding garden path, stopping to touch the plants, they appeared to rise to my trailing fingers as if to prolong the caress.
One evening, at twilight when the veil is at its thinnest, I looked out through the window, past the apple tree to see that the conifers, the cupressus and the thuja had become green goddesses. I blinked, shook my head, looked away and back again, but, try as many times as I may to clear my vision, the shapely, green, headless ladies remained, an impressive but comforting presence.
Lady's Mantle Beckons
The next day Lady's Mantle began to call with a greater insistency. I had long been drawn to this modest, beautiful plant, in colour all green including its graceful, upright flowers. I especially loved the little jewels of rain and dew that nestled at the centre of the cloak-shaped leaves.
And it was the water - the aqua, that came to be the pivotal part of the creation of the Flower Essences. One by one the plants called after rainfall, requesting that the jewelled drops caught on the flowers or leaves be used in a flower essence to help and support us in matters of the heart and also in our spiritual endeavours. Their messages spoke of the special purpose of each plant and the particular advice and comfort they wanted to offer us.
Lady's Mantle Delivers Her Message
But I get ahead of myself. On a walk through the garden, after a shower of rain, Lady's Mantle became irresistible. As before, I was drawn to Her side. But now, kneeling in the dampness to gaze at the quivering, sparkling aqua jewels, I became aware that She was asking to speak. Her compassion, warmth and huge antiquity were immediately apparent. She spoke of the Divine Feminine that dwells in all, the Community of Sisters who were there for everyone, for anyone who had that tender receiving part of themselves hurt by an unthinking, egoistical force. Lady's Mantle wanted us to know that She could grow under the most spartan conditions, in the crooks and crannies of stones where food and water was scarce, to show us that we too could grow and flourish, obtain nourishment and develop in humanity, no matter how difficult our circumstances.
Lady's Mantle, Nurturing Mother
Heart pounding and head racing, once inside the house, I rushed to record everything that She said. When I eventually looked up Lady's Mantle in the herbals, I was delighted to see that, of course, others had been there long before me, speaking of Alchemy; for Lady's Mantle's botanical name is "Alchemilla" from the Arabic, called Alchemy on account of the wondrous working powers of the plant, the dewdrops having constituted many mystic potions. Lady's Mantle has also long been associated with Mother Mary's sheltering cloak. It seems perfectly fitting that Her edible leaves are succour for the grazing animals; the cattle and the sheep.
Lady's Mantle was indeed like a nurturing Mother to the whole unfolding process of a succession of generous plants who offered up their stories and help. It was Lady's Mantle who instructed how the flower essences should be gathered and how their messages could be told to a wider audience. It was She who decided on the ceremonial of the whole journey, from communicating with the beautiful Helper plants to creation of the Aqua Flower Essences.
Developing the Flower Essences
For all of Spring and Summer and some way into the Autumn, I kept a notebook and shamanic rattle in my pocket to better befriend the plants. Lady's Mantle also taught me courtesy; how to convey to the plants the strength of gratitude I felt for the grace of their teachings. It would appear that plants as well as humans thrive on caresses and being thanked.
I think too that, throughout this time, Lady's Mantle enveloped me in her cloak of invisibility. My back garden is secluded but when I had good reason to speak with Silver Birch at the outermost edge of the front garden, my neighbours were within earshot and seeing distance. But none of them gave me their usual greeting, or even a glance, as I rattled for Silver Birch and leant against His trunk.
Other Goddess Plants
Other Goddess plants with qualities of wisdom and compassion are Matrona (Sedum), and Rose. Matrona surprised me for although I was aware that the butterflies were entranced by Her I did not know Her soul at all until She spoke. She is the Great Mother Goddess, the Spiritual Midwife of transformation who watches over all our rites of passage and teaches us to let go in order to move on.
In Rose resides an exquisite Lady dressed in swirling, skirted robes. Her message is one of total compassion, an invitation to heal through the contemplation and solace of beauty.
Masculine Helper Plants
But the Helper Plants are not all Goddesses. Sometimes the feminine/ masculine polarity is needed for balanced emotional and spiritual guidance. And so, other plants emerged as male archetypes. Silver Birch is like an ethereal cleric who revels in healing by gratitude, praise, devotion and never ending hope.
Holly believes in tough love. He appeared as an Ancient Father of the Frozen North. During showers, when silver sun was interspersed with darkening clouds, He spoke of how forgiveness could be the most difficult task we face and how its accomplishment could bring the greatest joy.
Fern is a Deva, an old man dripping with roots and leaves, living deep underground but always ready to offer advice when, like Persephone, we have to put time aside to face our deepest fears and be born anew.
The Wise Child Spirit of Foxglove
The essence of Foxglove is the androgynous Wise Child, a joyful spirit who teaches that however old we are, we can lay down the burden and experience midsummer enchantment. Healing can be found in the happiness of play, the creation of fairy tales and the undertaking of adventures with happy endings. We can create anew a time of safety and innocence in our lives; be tucked up in bed and told a bedtime story by our inner loving mother or father.
Using the Aqua Flower Essences
The Aqua Flower Essences can be used on a very simple but nevertheless profound level. For example, Lady's Mantle is for those suffering from abuse at any time in their lives. Rose helps soothe heartache and disappointments. Matrona gives balance to those in the grip of addictive and control issues. Fern offers insight into long or chronic illness and points the way to journey of self discovery. Foxglove supports those who feel too undeserving to love themselves.
As if this is not enough, the wonderful plants offer their companionship in our meditations and healing work, chakra balancing, shamanic journeying, and ceremonial work as Priestesses of the Goddess.
Gratitude to the Plant Spirits
I shall always hold in my heart the images of their beautiful countenances, their wisdom that lasts over the ages, their steadfastness in offering their help, their unbounded patience - for they are always there for us, and their great compassion that has no limits or conditions.
And I give thanks to Lady's Mantle for Her introduction to Her pantheon of Companion and Helper plants. I have a delicious feeling that I will be guided to more.
Rita presently lives in the heart of England with her partner of over forty years, and a very dignified Birman cat who also loves the plants. The countryside where she lives is wonderful and her garden is brimmingly alive with the Goddess, though Rita yearns to return to Norfolk, the place where she was born. She will always inhabit a garden with herbs, flowers and Goddesses, but she longs for the sea and the big Eastern skies full of flocks of travelling birds.