Have you ever wondered about the difference between spirit and soul? They're both over-used and nebulous words, intangible, without a definitive, material thing to point to for definition. I question whether there even is a difference, or if either thing actually exists, ya know?
But I was immediately struck recently by how Michael Meade differentiated between the two on his incredibly wise and poignant Living Myth podcast, Episode 28, entitled "The Dance of Spirit and Soul."
It helped me to further understand the lore surrounding Angelica and my own recent mind blowing Otherworldly meeting with her, because when you sit in her presence, this beautiful plant does feel transcendent. Angelica showed me that the spirit realm exists alongside our own, and that we can communicate and connect with it. Michael Meade says:
"Spirit wishes to rise above it all, prefers high places like mountain tops. It forces transcendence and a higher unity that surpasses all distinctions."
This is in contrast with soul, which dwells in the depth and the dark, which strives not for unity or transcendence but for multiplicity and immanence. Spirit is clean and ethereal, soul is messy and embodied. Spirit is air and fire, soul is water and earth.
Listening to Michael's words, I realized that I am much more comfortable with soul. I like things messy, I like the depths. Ideas of purity and transcendence scare me, as I've seen Holier-Than-Thou types abuse these ideas to the detriment of others. I cringe when people say "Love & Light", and have been known to sign my emails "Love & Darkness."
But both are here, both are woven into the fabric of being. And so it's no surprise that Angelica visited me recently to remind me of this, as I struggle to feel connected to one who's passed from the embodied soul realm of earth to the ethereal spirit realm of death and to find the the motherlove that death took from me.
Angelica came to me deep in meditation, as I was following the soothing, entrancing voice of Asia Suler in her Intuitive Plant Medicine online course. The meditation was to help find a plant ally, and I was sure I'd encounter Hawthorne. It was early May and the Hawthorne's were blooming and I was falling in love all over again with this tree that I had first come to know a decade before.
As the meditation progressed I found myself in a blindingly white landscape. Pure white, and I somehow knew that I was very high up. I felt confused, thinking I was "supposed to" be in a real world landscape somewhere, a forest or a desert- how could I meet a plant ally here, where nothing can grow? Then again, it was white, like the Hawthorne blossoms I was expecting to show up as my ally, so maybe I was on track after all.
And then, suddenly and with great force, the image of Angelica burst into the field of my inner vision. I almost laughed out loud. Of course! I knew of Angelica's reputation as a plant strongly connected to the spirit world, and the place my consciousness had traveled to felt just like what I imagine the spirit realm would feel like.
I recalled the first time I had met Angelica here on earth, in the wild, on an herbal campout in the High Sierra ten years ago. Our teacher sent us up the mountain to find a plant to sit with for a while. When we all reconvened later she had us describe our plant and talk about what we experienced as we sat with it.
Turns out I had found Angelica, and what had come to me as I sat beneath her towering halo was that this was a fiercely protective plant with an incredibly gentle, loving, maternal energy about her.
Indeed, angelic. I had never felt such a transcendent quality from a plant before. She seemed to dwell simultaneously here on earth but also somewhere far, far away.
She was beatific, benevolent, and to sit with her was a blessing.
This memory flooded me as I lay in meditation, and I started bawling.
Mother's Day was a few days away, and I had been having enormous feelings about my beloved mama's death in a car accident only 18 months before.
Grief is a tricky thing, it ebbs and flows. Some days and weeks I'm okay. This was not one of those times. I had been a forlorn mess, drowning in sorrow and wondering yet again just who I am now that I've lost the person who loved and supported me the most.
Asia guided us to ask the plant what message it had for us, and I immediately understood that Angelica was softly whispering to me, "I can love and support and protect you like a mother."
Immediately I felt, at a visceral level, that Angelica embodies the highest form of Pure Love (like the Platonic Ideal of love) and radiates that energy outward from wherever she is fixed in the earth's soil.
The tears flowed and flowed. Slowly the blinding whiteness faded, and I found myself, still in my inner vision, very high up on a mountain top, pouring out my thanks to this plant and to this experience.
By the time Mother's Day rolled around, I was ready for it. I had found peace, and was full to the brim with a feeling of being loved and held by unseen forces beyond my reckoning. I remembered that the love between me and my mom was just the same as all the love everywhere else in the multiverse, concentrated into the form of a mother-daughter relationship, of our particular mother-daughter relationship, and that I could still call upon that love and lean on it for support as I go about my busy days and my own mothering journey.
I remembered that I had an Angelica flower essence, and ordered the root tincture as well. I wanted to taste the medicine. I wanted to bring this plant, which clearly had so much to teach me, into my body.
It's now been three months of working with Angelica both physically (by taking the plant medicine daily) and spiritually (by thinking about her all the time and carrying her in my heart). At some point along the way, though I didn't make the connection at first, I noticed that I had fully transitioned from Maiden to Mother.
Though I became a mom 11 years ago, the birth of my second daughter 11 months ago made me realize that I still identified more with the Maiden than the Mother, and that I longed for my Maiden self and mourned the slow fading away of that phase of my life.
This is very common in our culture, where youth is worshipped and we don't undergo Rites of Passage ceremonies for monumental life transitions or have the support of our community as we step into a new way of being.
Slowly, with the help of Angelica, I started to feel fully embodied as Mother. My old self is gone. My own mother is gone. It is me now. I am the Mother.
And with my mama not here to give me the enormous amount of support she did for 34 years, I have to rely on my own inner reserves. Feeling Angelica by my side gives me great courage and faith as I walk this unknown path.
After the experience I had in that meditation, I wanted very much to spend time with Angelica in the wild again. Last week my family and I drove up to South Lake Tahoe, my hometown, the mountain on which I was born and raised. As we ascended Echo Summit, I saw her. I saw her everywhere. Angelica was lining the highway on both sides, welcoming me home.
The next day the baby fell asleep in the car, and I dropped my husband and oldest daughter off at my sister's and drove to the neighborhood I grew up in. Two streets up from my childhood home (I say up because our neighborhood was on a sloping hillside) I saw Angelica covering the acres of empty lots across from an old abandoned house we used to play in as kids.
Much of the land around here is owned by the forest service. Though there are houses around, it's mostly woods. Much of Tahoe has been developed in the last couple decades, much to the dismay of us locals, but my neighborhood looks just like it did when I grew up in the 80's and 90's.
The next day I went back there by myself early in the morning to spend time with Angelica. The only spot I could find where I wouldn't be trampling her or some other plant put me in a position where I was lying on my back with one Angelica plant's tall stalk running along the top of my head (me looking upward at the bottom of the halo of flowers), and another Angelica plant between my legs, nestled into the warmth there. So the trunk of my body was right in between the two, with points of contact at the root and crown.