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Thorn is the medicine that entangles you and yet also that which leads you from entanglement: strong boundaries are the best way to know where you end and the world around you begins, something that can be quite difficult, especially at this time of year when the seasons and the light are changing and everything seems a little… off.
Getting entangled in situations, be they with actual thorns or metaphorical, happens all too quickly— one minute you know who you are and what you’re doing, and the next you’re caught up in something that, in looking back later, you wanted nothing to do with. Thorn medicine is the medicine of awareness: in order to gather something from the midst of a thorny thicket, you have to move slowly, carefully, and with awareness. Just like in any situation of entanglement, you must proceed carefully and with understanding of where you can get caught.
Thorny plants have long been seen as plants of protection, for obvious reasons: it’s impossible to get too close. In gathering ocotillo, you have to carefully place your hands while chopping down a branch. I’ve emerged from the desert with a harvest having shed blood to the land many a time over the years. Blackberries, wild roses, devil’s club, hawthorn, they’re all the same in this regard: you have to exercise the utmost of care in gathering and preparing them, and in exchange they take care of you, in a sense, offering that same protection in kind. Almost as though, in taking the time to treat them right you pass a boundary of sorts and they let you in. Which is, of course, what strong boundaries do in the first place.
This surprise box is a box of protection and boundary: it will be a box tailored to help you develop stronger boundaries, to build awareness of where you end and the world around you begins, and ultimately, to define the edges of yourself, so that you know who you are and where you stand in the world.
The main plants I’ll be using are:
Blackthorn: Mythical thorny bush that wrapped itself around Sleeping Beauty's castle. Used in myth and magic for protection from harm, it is the epitome of the 'protective boundary' that we need to feel safe enough to be ourselves.
Rose: The flower, hip, leaf, and of course, the thorn. A wild beauty that grows along mountain streams. Helps to release stagnant emotions, especially grief and anger. Helps to establish strong boundaries in the sense that when you release the old stuff underneath, you can see a situation with more clarity and know what’s what.
Devil’s club: A Pacific Northwest native, devil’s club grows in the deep, dank forests, with its massive spines, waiting to impale those wandering without paying attention. Devil’s club is a massively powerful plant that, among many other things, gets people in touch with the core of who they are. It’s an archetypal plant of self-hood and inner strength.
Hawthorn: Protector of the heart, protector of the faerie realm, which in our own psyches is the tender young part of ourselves that still sees the world with innocence and possibility. Hawthorn wraps itself around this like a protective shield allowing it to blossom again.
Blackberry: The common bramble, growing along roadsides and paths, forming thickets so dense you can’t step in any direction lest you get entangled, the blackberry teaches us about boundaries and entanglement— its action in the body is to astringe the tissues (especially in the intestines), creating a stronger barrier, so that you can hold in what you were leaking out. For those of us who tend to pour ourselves into the world around us and feel often like there’s nothing left or us, blackberry has a lot to teach us about how to spread without losing ourselves.
Ocotillo: Ocotillo stands like a sentinel in the desert, blending into the background for much of the year until the rains start and then its leaves sprout within hours, a magnificent show of greenery. Ocotillo teaches us about who we are in an interesting way: helping us to dredge up that which is stuck or buried, helping us to see who we are underneath all the crap we carry along with us for the ride. Ocotillo’s thorns act as a protective barrier and yet, the real secret of ocotillo is that its thorns are made from its soft, waxy, open leaves. Yes, it is possible to remain open and yet have boundaries, and that is something we can learn from ocotillo.
I’ll be using these plants in combination to make four products that combine under the umbrella of this overall theme: boundary, self-hood and protection.
These four products could be anything (hence the surprise) but they’ll most likely be things like:
A tea, something edible, a tincture or elixir, and something for the bath or body.
All of this will come wrapped in linen, with a little bifold and information about the plants used in the box.