|Along the Yellowstone River: May 2014|
Since I have been talking a lot about local plants I find growing wild, I thought it was probably my responsibility to make a post about the ethical harvesting of such plants. Even though the plants I find along the river do not belong to any human, they are a living part of our world and come under the protection of the Others nature spirits, fairies, divas, elves... however you wish to address them. One cannot simply go in an snatch up a plant or part of a plant and expect it to simply be alright. Perhaps the Others won't find ways to fill your life with torment like the old stories say, but they will be offended and it will impact your future dealings with them negatively.
Before you even start thinking about harvesting a wild plant, you need to know a bit about where it grows. Is the area maintained? Will any human care if you harvest from the area? Have any chemicals been sprayed on the area in an attempt to control weeds or insects? Once you determine that the area is a good harvest location by human standards, then start thinking about how to harvest while maintaining a respectful relationship with nature. Of course, we like to say in witchcraft that there are no set rules, but in all aspects of life good manners should be the first and foremost. Following are my own personal guidelines.
- Before harvesting from a plant, use your energy to communicate with the plant and obtain permission. A plant that is struggling will tell you "no." Respect that.
- Harvest no more than 30% of the plant. The idea is to work with and borrow from the plant, not to destroy it.
- Leave an offering to show your gratitude. Many older books suggest a dime buried near the roots of the plant, but The Changeling (age 14) insists that a quarter is more appropriate if leaving money. A sip of milk or honey water at the plant base is also appropriate and appreciated.
- Overall, just listen to your intuition and respect your position. When out in nature, you are a guest.
Also, if you find an unexpected treasure and believe it to be a gift, it is appropriate to leave a gift in return. I carry small lengths of biodegradable ribbon in my pocket for this purpose. Although it would be very rare indeed if the Others physically took your gift, they will know it was left for them and will accept the spirit in which you gave it.