Plant Spirit Ally Challenge: Day 1 – Choose an Ally


A fresh mugwort smudge wand I made in the summer of 2016. Photo by Grey Catsidhe.

When I was younger, my paternal grandmother taught me about plants. She had a lovely garden complete with perennial flowers, vegetables, and numerous herbs. Before her health declined, the garden was her pride and joy. It inspired her artistically and holistically. She was the first person to introduce me to plants as allies. While a staunch Catholic, she taught me that plants can do more than simply look attractive. Just as people, there is more below the surface. Plants have various properties that can restore or damage a person’s health. She was the first to introduce me to wild foraging. She did this with much caution. Before she had to move into an assisted living facility, she took the time to make notes in some herbal books that she then passed on to me.  All her care to point out the dangers taught me to slow down and really observe. It is in the spirit of caution that I learned to pay attention to my intuition when working with plants.

As a young adult, I kept a container garden on my apartment patio. They were very easy to maintain, in part because competitive plants (what others call weeds) are not as pervasive in containers. Yet they do appear from time to time, and are usually from airborne seeds or bird droppings. Somehow, Nature saw fit to introduce me to mugwort.

At the time, I didn’t know what was growing in my potato bin, but I’m naturally curious about new plants. I let the stems, leaves, and flowers grow so I could identify them. As an animist, I strongly believe that plants have spirits. When we slow down to contemplate a plant, we open ourselves to that spirit. I approach this relationship the same way I approach my gods – with a healthy balance of reading and contemplation. My intuition kept me looking. Referencing materials by experienced herbalists and botanists gave me peace of mind to further work with mugwort. Each of us has to find a method that works best for us, and this balanced approach felt most healthy and pragmatic to me. It continues to serve me well as I expand my herbal and gardening knowledge.

Lately, I’ve felt called to work closer with mugwort, but other plants also reach out for attention. Now that I’m a homeowner with gardening goals, I’ve felt pulled toward many potential green allies. Yet I kept “hearing whispers” from my old friend, the mugwort. There is more to learn. I wouldn’t say I was ignoring this inkling, but I put it on a backburner. Then I noticed the plant popping up in conversations. I’d see it all over social media. I would randomly open herbal books to pages about it.

When Hagstone Publishing posted about its 30 Day Plant Spirit Ally Challenge, I knew mugwort would be my focus. So here we are! I’m excited to grow and share with everyone this month. I will be posting tomorrow about meditating with mugwort to begin the journey. Later, on day 22, I will share the work I’ve done to create a mugwort spirit doll. I can’t wait to see what everyone else contributes!


Published by M. A. Phillips

An author and Druid living in Northern NY.

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