Where I live, Portland, our bodies are transitioning towards the cold and rain, our immune systems are adjusting to changing weather and routines, and our circadian rhythms are adapting to the coming darkness of winter.
We just moved into Scorpio season, a time of deep shadow-work, of excavation, and of honest self-knowing. I call it the In-Between season not because it’s between autumn and fall, or fall and winter—no, fall has fully settled across the land. I call it the In-Between season because it feels a bit like we’re living between worlds.
This time of year is a time of spiritual palpability and ancestral remembrance. Individual ancestors, yes, but also a time when we can more readily understand the inherited power dynamics that influence both our personal lives and our society.
Maybe you’re like me and you’ve been feeling extra sensitive to our current political and cultural climate. And maybe you, too, have been finding it hard to isolate this moment in time from the long legacy from which it’s a part. In these in-between times, it feels a bit like we’re re-living our history, that time has collapsed in a way, or that we’re spiraling back towards some collective wound that still needs attention.
In my community of herbalists, activists, and witchy-folk, it’s not uncommon to discuss “ancestry work,” something that on its surface can feel nebulous and unclear to me. But lately, the more I deconstruct what is happening in our country, the more I feel the voices of the ancestors pressing in around me, reminding me of how we got here. They tell me, over and over again, that the personal is political. Because each one of our predecessors, in some way, large or small, knowingly or unknowingly, helped shape the world we live in today.
In knowing the ancestors, we know ourselves. In understanding our personal and collective wounds, our ghosts and demons, we find personal and collective healing.
This is Scorpio: unafraid of truth; courageous in the dark; keeper of forgotten secrets; the witch who sees straight through to the heart of the matter, deeply attuned to power—and the human ways we wield it, abuse it, or harness it for good.
Whether you believe in astrology (or in ancestors) or not, it’s no coincidence that Halloween is right around the corner. Tradition tells us that the dead are preparing to walk the Earth…and perhaps it’s true. Regardless, it is the only time of year when our modern American culture openly acknowledges death and other realms.
It’s also no coincidence that All Hallows Eve falls on the night before Samhain (pronounced sa-when), the final harvest in the Celtic Wheel of the Year, and what some call the Witch’s New Year. You may also be familiar with the Day of the Dead or the Catholic All Saint’s Day (followed by All Soul’s Day). No matter your tradition, it’s a time of honoring the dead, of celebrating the late harvest and preparing for winter, and of purification through fire. Samhain also traditionally marked the midpoint between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice.
Steady, the darkness grows…
Needless to say, the veil is thin. And not only are we more sensitive to the Other, our bodies are also more vulnerable to illness. Below I list several herbs you may find helpful during this shadowy time of year.
(Interested in better understanding the astrological archetypes and how they play out in your life? Book a reading.)
Yarrow has a long, rich history of use in folk medicine around the world. It’s one of those herbs that seems like it does everything:
It’s antimicrobial, diaphoretic, astringent, and anti-inflammatory.
It’s toning to the cardiovascular system, supportive to liver function, and gently relaxing to the nervous system.
Yarrow can either increase bleeding (like bring on late menses) or staunch it.
Externally it heals wounds, and internally it’s healing to the lining of our gut tract.
It’s warming and aromatic and smells like a dry, midsummer’s meadow.
This time of year, Yarrow is a staple in my winter teas for it’s antimicrobial and diaphoretic actions. Combined with Elderberry and flower, Peppermint, Ginger, and Echinacea Root, I find it helpful for fighting cold and flu, and for breaking a fever.
Energetically, Yarrow is considered protector of boundaries. If you’re feeling extra sensitive to other people or other energies this time of year, use Yarrow ritually (as tea, tincture, the flower essence, in your bath, as an amulet, on your altar, etc.) to stay strong in your boundaries and clear around your edges.
Rosemary, Thyme, Oregano, Sage, and others Mint Family Plants
Have you ever realized that every time you add an herb or spice to your food, you’re also making yourself medicine? Most of the mint family “culinary” herbs share an array of medicinal properties that support immune function:
They’re all antimicrobial and some are antiviral.
They’re warming and stimulate circulation into the extremities.
Aromatic herbs (and foods!) are considered carminative which means they support digestive function through their aromatic properties.
Many plants in the mint family are also supportive to liver function, and most are slightly relaxing to the nervous system.
The oils that make certain plants so aromatic often have a specific affinity for the lungs and can be helpful for fighting cold and flu.
I’m lucky to have a massive Rosemary bush in my backyard and Rosemary gets added to about everything in our house. In addition to the properties listed above, Rosemary is also supportive to cardiovascular function, and is used in clinical herbalism to support cognitive function. It’s no coincidence that in folklore, Rosemary is considered the keeper of memory.
I recently heard someone say that it’s important to do at least one thing a day that our ancestors would recognize. For me, this often means cooking. And like the way scent evokes memory, plants, especially the aromatic ones, can as well.
Think of the ways you use these plants today. They’re probably not so different from the ways they were used in the past. That’s the thing about herbs: as much as our human world has changed and would be virtually unrecognizable to someone from the past, there are certain anchor points that haven’t really changed at all.
Cooking with herbs is a simple way to honor and ground ourselves into the flow of time that extends beyond our individual lives, a flow much greater than our modern world would have us believe. A time machine all in a handful of plants!
As the leaves and stems of the forest and fields die back, plants are sending nutrients into their roots for winter storage. Drinking a root tea or eating root vegetables is a nourishing way to invoke in our own bodies this downward energy of the coming winter. We can ask: what hidden parts of ourselves seek nourishment? In what ways can we support our energy to descend into the protective Earth as the darkness of winter draws close?
Making a tea of medicinal roots (Dandelion, Burdock, Ashwagandha, Ginger or Elecampane are some of my favorites), or cooking with your favorite root vegetables (onions, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, carrots, rutabaga, celery root….) is a simple way to call this grounding energy into our own lives.
And if you’re loving the mystical, mysterious, and sometimes spooky energy of this time of year, Mugwort can help you integrate the unknown into your daily life and live more attuned to other realms. Mugwort, one of the old witch’s herbs, is said to invoke vivid, lucid and meaningful dreaming (which I can attest to). Along with a plethora of medicinal qualities, it heightens sensitivity and psychic awareness overall. I add a little to my nightly tea, or you can use it ritually by burning it before bed, putting some beneath your pillow, or working with the flower essence. If you’re already very sensitive to other energies, I recommend using it with Yarrow for its protective qualities.
(It’s best to avoid Mugwort if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant.)
Interested in working with plants energetically in addition to physically?Let me know and book a Wellness or Flower Essence Consultation.