Herbal medicine can be harnessed as a powerful means of empowering oneself, and clearing out negative energies in our minds and bodies. Lavender, motherwort, artemisia, and hawthorn are four potent herbs for fortifying ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed. They can help ease the rattled nerves of performance anxiety, aid us in reclaiming autonomy when we feel powerless, and give us the courage to assert our boundaries, particularly when combined with these elementally based rituals.
Returning to Love with Lavender
Lavender can soften harsh situations and empower by bringing love back into your heart and surroundings. It’s wonderful for creating feelings of sweetness in places that have long been stagnant and heavy. When burned like incense, the dried plant (both flowers and leaves) can both literally and metaphorically clear the air: aside from creating a beautiful scent, its smoke can shift the energies in a room where a fight or other stressful situation has taken place. Lavender makes a beautiful, violet-colored tea that soothes the nervous system and helps ease feelings of anxiety, sadness, bitterness, and heartache. It can also be used in a soothing salt bath. The salt will draw out older, heavier feelings and clear space for the lavender to fill with its soft, sweet strength.
Lavender: Air Ritual for love and peace
Materials: Dried lavender blossoms, candle, lighter, fire-proof dish
Sometimes the simplest rituals can be the most powerful and effective:
Light the candle. Fill the dish with dried lavender and light it. (Note: Dried lavender won’t burn as long as sage or incense, so this step will need to be repeated. Simply reaffirm each time that the flame is reigniting the power of the plant.) Let the smoke fill the air and breathe in the scent, dissolving all sadness, grief, and heartache within. Relax and allow it to do its work. To remove tense energy form a room, walk its perimeter and center with the dish, allowing the smoke into each corner and letting it fill the space from floor to ceiling. Open a window if possible – this allows anything stagnant to leave, creating space for the lavender to fill. Despite the softness of its energy, know that Lavender is powerfully effective in creating these shifts.
Calming your Stomach with Motherwort
Motherwort has a calming, mothering, fortifying energy. Her latin name, Leonurus cardiaca, means “lion-hearted,” which beautifully describes the support she provides: She will take care of you, so that you can take care of any business at hand. Known by some as a stage-fright aid, Motherwort calms the stomach “butterflies” and tight-throat feelings that can occur when preparing for an audition, interview, or performance. This herb can also soothe nerves when the prospect of an upcoming confrontation feels overwhelming. Because it is a bitter herb (making it a wonderful digestive aid), some might find the taste of the tea a bit too strong; using the tincture in a glass of water or other beverage is a fine alternative.
Motherwort: Fire ritual to soothe anxiety and build courage
Materials: candle, fire source, a drink containing a dropperful of motherwort tincture (sweetened with honey if needed)
Optional: Something to represent your intended action (resume, job listing, script, photo)
Sit comfortably at a table or desk with your materials. Breathe in and out deeply and slowly 3 times, allowing yourself to relax further each time. After your third breath cycle, you will be prepared and ready to begin.
Picture the action you are preparing to take – the conversation, audition, performance, whatever it may be. Feel the emotions this action generates and picture them as clouds of black smoke within you. Take note of where the clouds are and be aware of their presence. They can not harm you; you are safe in simply contemplating them.
Light your candle and look at the flame. Close your eyes and picture it as fully as you can. Do this as many times as you like, continuing to breathe comfortably, until you can easily picture the flame with your eyes closed.
Now, bring the image of the flame closer in so it completely fills the frame of your closed-eye vision. Let it gently expand, filling the space behind your eyes, into your face, head, and body down to your toes and fingertips, expanding fully and suffusing into every space, cell, and atom within. With each inhale the glow of the flame grows, consuming every bit of the dark cloud; with each exhale, every last remnant of the cloud leaves your body, dissipating harmlessly into the air. Sit in this glow, breathing deeply, for as long as you need.
When ready, allow the flame to contract and recede back from your feet and hands, upwards and inwards, until it is once again a small candle flame in your mind’s eye. Your body is now clean and empty of all anxiety, creating space for the next step of the ritual. Open your eyes, take the cup and drink, letting motherwort’s strong, supportive presence fill all spaces cleansed of the smoke, replacing it with energy that is brave, courageous, and relaxed. Know that this is so.
Thank the motherwort, and thank the candle flame before snuffing it out. It is done.
Stand Your Ground with Artemisia
Artemisia helps you stand your ground and cultivates courage, confidence, and fierceness when needed. Spiritually, Artemisia aids in deepening meditation and opening the third eye; strengthening one’s intuition and instincts; remembering dreams; and making wise decisions and setting priorities. She is unparalleled in helping reclaim your autonomy, especially after leaving a manipulative relationship, or in situations where others may try to assert control, power, or authority over you. She promotes a sense of wild freedom and has no interest in being tame.
Artemisia vulgaris, also known as mugwort or cronewort, is sacred to the goddess Artemis. Goddess of the hunt and of the moon (the plant’s silver-backed leaves attest to this), Artemis rules over the woods, wilderness, and wild places, the lunar opposite of her twin brother Apollo, the sun god of reason and civilization. She is a virgin goddess in the original sense of the word ‘virgin’ – whole unto herself and ruled by no one, her relation to or interaction with men having no bearing on how she defines herself.
Along with lavender, artemisia also makes a wonderful smoke blend that can magnify the effects outlined above.
Artemisia: Water ritual to reconnect with self
(The recipe for this bath infusion is from the book The Gift of Healing Herbs by Robin Rose Bennett)
Materials: 2 cups of dried artemisia (leaves and stalks), 1 half-gallon ball jar, water, notebook and pen
To prepare: Measure two cups of dried artemisia into the jar and fill to the top with boiling water. Seal and steep for at least two hours, then strain the liquid into a filled bathtub. Light candles if you wish.
Lie in the tub and breathe deeply. Let go – just being present and receptive is enough. An analytical approach is counterproductive here: Artemisia helps reconnect with who you are at an instinctive level, often during dreams and meditative states. If you do find yourself mentally focused on an issue, hold it in your thoughts for a moment, then let it soften and dissolve away, repeating as necessary. Let the bath do its work: water is the element of emotions, instincts, and the subconscious, and connecting to these parts of ourselves is where Artemisia excels.
When you are ready, drain the bath and let any concerns that may have surfaced drain away with the bathwater. Keep a pen and notebook by your bed and take note of any dreams you have tonight and over the next few nights.
Claiming Boundaries with Hawthorn
Hawthorn is a formidable ally in protecting one’s heart and claiming one’s body and space as sacred. A member of the rose family, hawthorn is a potent yet gentle heart medicine that is superb balancing both high and low blood pressure, bringing each back to normal. Its skill in creating this careful, physical balance is matched by its ability to create another, more emotional one: keeping your heart loving and open – even when experiencing grief and heartbreak – while also maintaining healthy and effective boundaries. These boundaries allow us to feel safe enough to be vulnerable, and to have the courage to say ‘no’ when we want to. (One need only look at a hawthorn tree and note the contrast between fragile blossoms, rich red berries, and thorns which can grow to several inches in length to see these balanced elements of delicacy and strength at work.) Hawthorn also beautifully blends our sense of spirituality with our sexuality, bringing both into play simultaneously.
Hawthorn: Earth ritual to strengthen boundaries
Materials: candle, fire source, hawthorn tea (dried flowers and leaves steeped in boiling water, or a dropperful of hawthorn tincture in a drink)
Optional: Dried hawthorn blossoms and/or berries
Light the candle and sit comfortably with the cup and herbs nearby. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly 3 times, relaxing further each time. After your third breathe cycle you will be prepared and ready to begin.
Holding some of the dried hawthorn in your left hand, close your eyes and picture yourself sitting with your back against the trunk of a hawthorn tree. Breathe deeply and steadily, picturing the tree behind and above you in as much detail as you can. Become aware of how strongly rooted the tree is into the earth and feel that same groundedness in your feet against the floor. Now, be aware of its leaves, twining branches, soft white flowers, red berries, and sharp and slender thorns. Feel your upper body surrounded by them, encircling you with a strong, graceful latticework of protection. Breathe with this image for as long as you need.
Let the image dissolve and bring your awareness back to your body. Drink the tea and image your heart glowing and expanding with hawthorn’s heart-healing medicine. Feel the balance of opening your heart and feeling safe within hawthorn’s protection.