Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Mardi: Herbal-Wise

When I was young, very young in fact, I remember my grandmother always had a small, potted fern in her bedroom.  This was not one of those big, masculine fiddle head ferns that lots of people kept in their bathrooms back in the '70s and '80s, but a dainty, lace-like plant that Gran called a maidenhair fern.  The plant was carefully tended, always in beautiful shape and, except when taken out to the porch to be watered, it sat in a place of prominence on her art deco dressing table.  I remember it distinctly and wish now, all these years later, that I had gotten that plant when Gran went on to her reward.

Of course I talked to Gran about it when I was older and she told me the secret of that very special plant, curiously not long before she died.  I've mentioned before that Gran, after being excommunicated from the Catholic Church, studied and practiced Druidism.  She never imposed her religion on anyone - both my aunt and my mother were raised strictly Catholic - but, as I got older she opened up to me about it.  A little bit anyway; and one of her secrets had to do with that maidenhair fern.

The plant, which was kept exclusively in a clay pot, had been dug out of the soil of Washington State with Gran's own hands.  Ever year, at the summer solstice, she soaked it in purified water.  The entire plant, pot and all, was dunked into a bucket and then left in the sunshine to dry.  Gran swore that this ritual brought peace to her home and grace and beauty to her being.  As long as the fern thrived, and the ritual was performed each year with intent, Gran would remain the elegant, graceful person, surrounded by calm and love, that I always remember her being.

Later in life, when I began to study alternative religions in college and on my own, I found that Scott Cunningham recommended the same ritual for the same result.  His Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs even advises that the fern should be kept in one's bedroom, just like Gran's.

Sometimes you have to go a long way to realize that the wisdom you were looking for was always right there in your own DNA.  Thanks, Gran; I know that even in Ginen you are still full of elegance, grace, and peace.  Bonne chance ~

Header: An elegant couple dancing in Havana, Cuba c 1954 via Mid-Century


Timmy! said...

"The elegant, graceful person, surrounded by calm and love"... Sounds like someone else I know too, Pauline.

Pauline said...

Wait... Are you talking about Thor?

Timmy! said...

No. You, silly.

While Thor is surrounded by calm and love, he is the opposite of elegant and graceful and he only thinks he is a person.

Undine said...

I knew that ferns--even more so than most plants--act as natural air purifiers. Interesting to discover they can do so spiritually, as well as literally.

One question (as someone who has inadvertently killed more than her share of houseplants): If the fern happens to die, is it a case of no harm done; just start again with another plant, or does the death of the plant backfire and bring destructive energy into your home? I ask because I've heard that peonies bring good luck, but if they come to a bad end, well, so do you.

I love peonies, but I've always been leery of trying to grow them for that reason.

Pauline said...

I also am cursed with a black thumb but it is my understanding that ferns, like lilies, will not "take your luck with them." All you need to do is start over with the same process and a new fern.

I failed to mention in the post that, when you acquire your fern, you can do its first soaking at any time of the year. After that, water as usual and then do the total immersion on the Summer Solstice.

Let me know how it goes if you decide to bring a maidenhair into your home :)

Undine said...

Will do. :) Maidenhairs are lovely plants in any case--I figure one will just have to bring some much needed grace and beauty to this joint no matter how ineptly I go about it.

It's an odd thing; your Gran reminds me of my grandfather, who was a historian specializing in European folklore. He died young, many years before I was born, but from all I've heard, he was a scarily brilliant man who had a lot of esoteric knowledge that is now lost. I often feel like I'm blindly stumbling around just trying to pick up a fraction of what he must have known.

Moral: Always listen to your elders, kids!

Pauline said...

Good advice from a wise woman.

Prince of Pinkness said...

Perhaps one of your loveliest posts yet, Pauline!

Whilst the secrets of a happy, healthy maidenhair have been elusive to me, I have found success with false Aralia (Schefflera elegantissima). It's ironic because these plants have a reputation for being 'difficult' for some, just like maidenhairs.

Interestingly enough, my grandmother kept an aralia for many years in a similar way to your grandmother keeping a maidenhair. Perhaps we inherit our relationships with certain plants?

Pauline said...

Oh, thank you so much dear friend.

I think you're on to something with that inherited relationship to plants point. My Mom was notorious for throwing out lilies she received as gifts and - despite my usually horrible track record with plants - I seem to be able to rescue even the most feeble lily. It's a little bit of reverse psychology, really, but what ever works, I guess.