Dragons in Your Garden: Herbal, Celestial, and Imagined

I’m so enraptured by Purple Archangel this spring. Notice all the ‘wings’ on this plant, in lovely lavender-green hues. These plants  remind me of the description of Proginoskes, the cherubim in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door, with the many wings . I love the tiny dragon mouths — oh, I mean, flowers! I just can’t call this plant by their more common name (Dead-Nettle), can you?

An abundant spring “weed,” Lamium purpureum is entirely edible, though mostly folk just eat the young leaves. Because the leaves are a little hairy, you may want to chop them small and cook them. You can use them medicinally as a diuretic, diaphoretic, astringent, wound healer,  and to stop external bleeding. This plant is also an antihistamine – good for folks during allergy season, the very season in which they thrive. Add mint to Purple Archangel, and enjoy as an allergy-soothing tea. (Thank you to Nunutsi Otterson for this suggestion, and for teaching me about this plant for allergy relief).

Please note that while Purple Archangel is usually called “Dead-Nettle,” due to some extremely superficial resemblance to Stinging Nettle (spade-shaped leaves in pairs, square stems), this plant won’t hurt you! This plant does not have stinging hairs. Purple Archangel is so much smaller than Stinging Nettle, and has very different flowers (tubular and lipped lavender dragon mouths as opposed togrey-yellow feathery seeming teeny tiny flowers ),– you really can’t confuse the two.

For a detailed plant ID of Purple Archangel/Purple Dead-nettle and this plant’s habits, etc. read this article at Edible Wild Food.

As a plant spirit medicine, I feel this this plant connects us with our child imagination, peace, and strength of heart. I also feel that Purple Archangel connects with the sense I have of the Cherokee daysign known as Uktena – the Celestial Dragon. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere I have been studying medicine ways with Cherokee elder and teacher Nunutsi Otterson. My explanations and musings below arise from my engagement with these teachings and how they’ve woven and worked in my heart and mind.  They are meant to serve as a very humble and incomplete introduction to the concepts, but hopefully offering enough of the qualities for you that you can fly with the ideas.

Cherokee Daysigns and Uktena

The Cherokee ceremonial day cycle lasts 20 days (St. Brigid’s fire is tended in a 20 day cycle as well.  A cycle of 20 days is archetypal for transformation!). The ‘day’ actually begins the night before, at sundown, and completes at the following sundown. Uktena, the Celestial Dragon, is the fourth day in the cycle, and has many qualities that connect the stars with the earth, and our personal star nature (each human is considered to be expression of a unique star in the cosmos) with the above.

Uktena protects peace in one’s heart and peace in the world, connecting our dreams for our lives with the greatest healing, highest good,  and harmony for all the world and beyond. The fire of our spirit — our passions — is a dragon fire. And in rising with our dragon fire, we can lean into support — from the fairy realm, the elements, the resonance of song, and the rich soil of earth, and with many other helpers, seen and unseen.

Uktena supports our activities in a broad way with celestial and earth-rooted harmony, helping us to note the lay of the land of our engagements and projects, and  rest into their groundedness before soaring with  their growth and leaf into the garden of our life. Uktena helps you make sure that you and what you’re working on are well-nourished before you take wing.

Doesn’t that sound like Purple Archangel, who is nutritive? Who helps harmonize your immune responses so they don’t overreact? Who helps cleanse and purify your liver and kidneys and blood, releasing what you don’t need? Who helps increase circulation, bringing heat from the core to release through the surface?

Purple Archangel seems to me to be an earth expression of Uktena, or at least with Uktena nature, to shine and sparkle and reach upward with their pairs of leaf wings. Purple Archangel combines this uplifting celestial aspect with their nature as a children’s herb.

One year in a spring break herbal camp I taught, the children connected with abandon to Purple Archangel.  They munched on this herb, used the leaves as herbal first aid poultices, and included them in their teas, herbal vinegars and salves. As a group, the children chose this plant to make into a flower essence, a vibrational imprint of a flower infused in water.  Sitting with the plants, and then tasting the flower essence, they determined that the healing nature of Purple Archangel was that of good cheer, kindness, beauty, fun, and friendship. Where grown-ups might have seen “weeds,” these children found companions and enchantment.

A Drive of Dragons

With these qualities in mind, let’s shift more firmly into the imaginative realm — specifically to Purple Archangel as offering expressions mirroring aspects of A Wind in the Door, the second in Madeleine L’Engle’s Time Quintet (the first book being the famous A Wrinkle in Time):

Good Reads introduces A Wind in the Door in this way:

My favorite cover of this novel. Illustration by Richard Cuffari

Every time a star goes out, another Echthros has won a battle.

Just before Meg Murry’s little brother, Charles Wallace, falls deathly ill, he sees dragons in the vegetable garden. The dragons turn out to be Proginoskes, a cherubim composed out of wings and eyes, wind and flame. It is up to Meg and Proginoskes, along with Meg’s friend Calvin, to save Charles Wallace’s life. To do so, they must travel deep within Charles Wallace to attempt to defeat the Echthroi — those who hate — and restore brilliant harmony and joy to the rhythm of creation, the song of the universe.

Look again at the image of Proginoskes on the book cover and then at Lamium purpureum. Review the qualities of Uktena I’ve listed. Doesn’t it seem like A Wind in the Door is an imaginative expression that connects with both the plant and the daysign Uktena? Even before I’d fully recalled (it being a number of years since I last read the book) that Charles Wallace had seen “a drive of dragons” in the twins’ vegetable garden, I had introduced Purple Archangel as “dragons in the garden” to kids I teach.

Ready to fly with the dragons in the garden? Here  are some wonder questions we can take with us as we fly through the rest of this writing!

Might a synchronicity exist between A Wind in the Door  and Purple Archangel?  Might the novel actually illuminate our experience of Purple Archangel’s qualities on both a physical and spiritual sense? A question for me: Might the novel, sourced as it is from the wellspring of archetype and pattern, illuminate more of my understanding of Uktena? How might the qualities of all three “worlds” — that of the the plant, the daysign, and the novel — shine a light on happenings right now, something relevant in our own life? Heck, how might these dragons offer a healing magic in relation to our global situation of the Novel Covid-19 virus (ha, ha — my mind wants to play with the fact that the virus is now being designated as the “Novel” Covid-19.)

Speaking of Names and Naming

In A Wind in the Door it turns out that Meg and Progo are “Namers.” In this story the cause of Charles Wallace’s life-threatening illness (farandolae refusing to “root” in the mitochondria of his cells), mirrors a cosmic cataclysm in which stars are dying as the result of being Unnamed by an evil force. In classic as above, so below, and within cosmology, the death of the stars, wars,  destruction, and lack of connection on earth, and the root cause of Charles Wallace illness have everything to do with one another.

Author Shirley Showalther reflects on A Wind in the Door (Read the full blog post here):

“Progo is explaining why he is calling out the names of the stars. He knows they need to be named in order for peace to exist on earth.

The enemy of peace is a force called the Ecthroi, which Progo interprets to Meg this way:

“I think your mythology would call them fallen angels. War and hate are their business, and one of their chief weapons is un-Naming – making people not know who they are. If someone knows who he is, really knows, then he doesn’t need to hate. That’s why we still need Namers, because there are places throughout the universe like your planet Earth. When everyone is really and truly Named, then the Echthroi will be vanquished.’

Shirley then writes:

I have also tried to reach the depth of metaphor Madeleine L’Engle discovered. My deepest desire is to contribute to peace by helping others find their names — their callings and purpose in life. In so doing, I have found my own.

I find it fascinating to reflect on Progonoskes and to read Shirley’s reflections, while musing on Purple Archangel and their herbal actions. It seems to me that an aspect of Uktena’s “medicine field” has to do with Naming. Do Purple Archangel’s qualities extend to Naming as well?

As in A Wind in the Door, some folk in our world have the gift of Naming. They see into the gifts and qualities of a person, the form of their life journey, feel into resonances, and  as a result a name may arise in them for that person that encapsulates all  they witness  into a single word or a few words.  Think of the naming by an elder or medicine person that may happen after one has undergone a rite-of-passage.  Most often these days, this kind of witnessing doesn’t take place:  we have to Name ourselves.

Naming takes the form of discerning one’s gifts and wounds, one’s vision, and of honing that vision into lived expressions. Basically we must discern the form of our dragon nature, our abilities, strengths, weaknesses. Our superpowers and the feel of the dream woven in our hearts. We must Name the beauty and blessing and cautions of our Dragon — the irrefutable Truth of our nature. We must discover the treasure that is our Vision for a better world and our life in service and expression of that world. We need to hold up that treasure of ourselves, and then take wing.

Naming with Purple Archangel

Can Purple Archangel support our Naming, our expression of Truth, our Vision? I think this plant does so in a very special way: by reminding us of our inner child imagination  and passions, and the truth we knew about ourselves when we lived fully in the magic of the world, back when we understood ourselves to be nested in a caring and welcoming reality.

If you’ve never fully embodied that knowing, and even if you have, you might try the following when next you meet with Purple Archangel.

~ Get belly-to-the-earth beside Purple Archangel. Gaze into their dragon faces, stroke their dragon wings. Feel their square, juicy stems, and observe the green-lavender-red coloring that moves through their entire being, from roots to stem to leaves to flowers..

~ Introduce yourself to Purple Archangel and appreciate them.

~ Ask if you might taste or merely smell a leaf or flower. If yes, crush the leaf until you feel the juices of the plant, puff your breath onto the leaf, then inhale the scent.

~ Experience the scent in your body. Allow the scent and the feel of the plant in your fingers to talk with you.

~ If both of you and the plant are willing, put the crushed leaf in your mouth, hold it there for 1-2 minutes, noticing everything about your experience with the leaf: the taste, the feel of your mouth in response, other responses in your body, emotions, thoughts. *

~ You might ask a question: What is my Name?  What are qualities of my Name? Listen or feel into a response.

~ Notice where peace lives in your body, in your being, in your imaginative nature.

~ Swallow the plant or spit it out, your choice.

~ Take as long as you and Purple Archangel would like. Then thank Purple Archangel.  Part with them as one would do when sitting with a friend, teacher, extended family. Perhaps you can do something kind for the plant, or offer them a gift.

~ Thank Uktena for their company and insights, their resonance and wing.

~ If you discover aspects of your Name, the shape of your name so to speak, you might consider confiding your illuminations with a close friend or loved one.

~ If you discover your Name or that your given name is your Name, you might want to keep that Name or the full sense of it completely secret. This is a practice in fairy tales, and is quite sensible. Names are a heart song, and it’s easy for an unkind or inconsiderate word to wound your sense of the treasure of your Name holds for you, particularly  if you are new to the truth of it.

~ Live into the feel of your Name, how it is alive in you,  your story with the name. When your relationship with the Name is strong, you might share that Name in careful ways.

And maybe in time, pick up a copy of A Wind in the Door and read and wonder. Or just step outside one evening, determine the star that is bright in you, and take flight to it in some real or fanciful fashion. There in the sweet earth of night, and in the celestial ground of the garden,  see if you can discover where in both your lived and imaginative realms your Name flies freely.

Purple Archangel is a plant with many given names, scientific and common. I’ve shared with you the one that feels most true to me. Perhaps in time with Purple Archangel, you or I will open the door  and  perceive and feel the Wind of this plant whispering to you, sharing with scent, form, and being, the rich secrets of their Name and their meaning for your own.

* Thank you to Lisa Ganora for teaching about how to “Wolf Taste” herbs to experience them with the fullest of senses and sensation


Join Me at the Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference

Dear Friends,

The Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference is a magical gathering of women and girls of all ages. For a whole weekend (and longer, if you wish to attend the amazing pre-conference workshops) you can explore the wonderful, welcoming world of the plants and their medicine, and receive the medicine of one another with laughter, dancing, delicious food and nourishing infusions, heart-connecting song, and women’s wisdom —  all in a beautiful forest and shore location on Vashon Island. The Conference takes place on Sept. 20~22, 2019.

As a nature instructor, I happen to work at this location every week, and let me assure you, this 400 acre location (Camp Sealth) is a place where magic happens. Perhaps Eagle sings overhead, or Otter lets you glimpse him heading to the beach, or Deer bask in the moonlight. Perhaps the trees lean in to whisper a message especially for you. Perhaps you find a wishing stone, a listening stone, or feel the mist rising off the Salish Sea to welcome you into your ocean nature.  This enchantment and more opens to those who come together with intention, loving hearts, curiosity, playfulness, generosity, and gratitude. And that is what the Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference brings together from start to finish.

Here are the workshops I’m teaching:

Jane Valencia with the small dragon, Wings

Hildegard of Bingen’s Herbal Energetics for the Family Herbalist

The medicine of Hildegard of Bingen,12th century German physician, visionary, abbess, author, and saint, relied on an understanding of our bodies as gardens, and the work of healing as tending a garden In this introduction to a practical, compassionate, nature-based healing practice, we’ll adventure in the basics of herbal energetics to better support our family members and ourselves.

Tree Secrets: A Walk into a Pacific Northwest Ogham

In the early medieval Irish Ogham, or “tree alphabet,” each letter embodies a particular tree or plant  spirit. In this Celtic-infused workshop we’ll pass time in the company of trees, both those named in the Ogham and our native trees. We’ll explore firsthand their energy, teachings, folklore, and medicine uses by way of our senses and connection, and begin creating our own Pacific Northwest ogham. If the trees are willing, we’ll even craft ogham sticks. Expect sweet enchantment and deep wild wisdom!

As an herbalist and practitioner of what she calls “Deer Medicine Ways,” Jane Valencia loves welcoming women and girls into the magic of the green world that surrounds us. Through forest and garden learning adventures, writings, and illustration, she helps the herbal curious to get down and dirty getting to know the plants and their healing ways and to discover what the plants reveal about our truest nature. An instructor with the Vashon Wilderness Program, Jane is the creator/ mentor of VWP’s herbal girls camps. Sacred plant medicine and traditional Western herbalism are her well-spring. Jane is author-illustrator of Paloma and Wings: a Kids Herbal Comic.

Find out more about about Jane’s herbal and healing ways offerings, including writings on her blog, please visit: SingingDeerHealing.com

Go here to find out more about the Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference.


I hope to see you there!

cross-posted on SingingDeerHealing.com

Radio Show – Episode 5 – May 29, 2016 Play List and Program Notes – Foxglove Music and Magic

FHC-GoblinGloves-180dpiIn this episode we discovered the faery lore of the plant, Foxglove, through story and music, enjoyed some contemporary treatments of very old tunes and songs, and more.

Catch the latest Forest Halls Celtic episode on demand here.

01:39 Alan Stivell / Brian Boru
07:02 Owain Phyfe / Ja Nus Hons Pris
11:25 The Chieftains / I Know My Love (with The Corrs)
16:55 The Standing Stones and Debra Knodel / Oran Sniomh (Spinning Song)
20:39 Cynthia Cathcart / Mist Covered Mountains
23:06 Laura Risk, Fiddle / Lord Moira
31:04 Seamus Byrne / Track 2
31:55 Mara Freeman / The Faery Lore of Fox Gloves
34:08 / Story: Goblin Gloves by Allison Cox
37:00 Jeff Victor / The Widow of Loch Lemond
39:53 Jeff Victor / 7th Child of the 7th Child
47:14 Distant Oaks / Tobar gach Grais/An Drochaid Chliuiteach
51:49 Julie Fowlis / Danns’ a Luideagan Odhar
54:37 Altan / Jimmy Lyon’s/ The Teelin/ The Red Crow/ The Broken Bridge

Format: Track Title – artist (CD Title)

“Brian Boru” – Alan Stivell (Celtic Circle 2 – Various Artists) 

Brian Boru (full name Brian Bóruma mac Cennétig) was an Irish king who ended the domination of the High Kingship of Ireland by the Uí Néill dynasty, becoming the High King of Ireland himself. Alan Stivell is a Celtic musician from Britanny, best known in the folk harp world for his wire-strung harp playing on his classic album, Renaissance of the Celtic Harp. On this piece he plays electro-harp. He composed the words to the “Brian Boru” melody, and sings here in (I believe) Irish Gaelic and Breton.

“Ja Nus Hon Pris” – Owain Phyfe (Poets, Bards, and Singers of Songs)
A beautiful song written and sung in Langue d’oil – one of the two principal groups of dialects spoken in medieval France. It was composed by the English King, Richard Coeur de Lion, and with a lovely treatment here by the late Owain Phyfe.

Extreme trivia: Back in the early 90’s I played this song as a harp solo in the Portland, OR-based early music ensemble Musique Ancienne, and also recorded it on Deb’s & my privately-released first album, Spooky Tree.

“I Know My Love” – The Chieftains with The Corrs (Tears of Stone)
The Chieftains are a traditional Irish band formed in Dublin in November 1962. Some music experts have credited The Chieftains with bringing traditional Irish music to a worldwide audience, so much so that the Irish government awarded them the honorary title of ‘Ireland’s Musical Ambassadors’ in 1989. In 2012, they celebrated their 50th anniversary with the release of their most recent record Voice of Ages. If you’re tracking harps, yes – Derek Bell is playing harp here!

This was one of the Chieftains’ collaborative albums.

The Corrs are an Irish band that combine pop rock with traditional Irish themes within their music. The group consists of the Corr siblings, Andrea (lead vocals, tin whistle); Sharon (violin, vocals); Caroline (drums, percussion, piano, bodhrán,vocals) and Jim (guitar, piano, keyboards, vocals).

“Oran Sniomh (Spinning Song)” – The Standing Stones and Debra Knodel (Give Fleece a Chance)
The Standing Stones are Michael Robinson and Vicki Parrish. This San Francisco Bay Area based duo performs traditional music and song from Scotland and Ireland, and Canada and Australia where Scottish and Irish music took root during the Gaelic diaspora of the 19th century, as well as a certain amount of early music, and music from the other Celtic lands.

They write:

“While others may try to take traditional music into the future, our goal is to take it into the past. We try to join our research on historical performance styles to the living tradition, so that our music can be both exciting and true to its roots. But the most important thing is to enjoy ourselves and to share this beautiful musical heritage with others.”

Debra Knodel is a northern California harper who is doing some pretty cool things on harp. If you are listening in the Bay Area, contact me for information on a solo concert she’ll be performing in Fall. I wish I could travel down for that!

More trivia: Deb, Vicki, and I performed as a harp trio called Trillium way back in my first year or so of harp playing. We played at the Northern California Renaissance Faire.

“Mist Covered Mountains” – Cynthia Cathcart (Alchemy of a Rose)
Cynthia writes a regular column for the Folk Harp Journal, “Ringing Strings” which is devoted to the wire-strung harp. And is internationally known as a proponent of this instrument. I must have been thinking about my Portland, Oregon days when I put this play list together, because I really got to know this Scottish tune “Mist-Covered Mountains” back then, by way of harp lessons with wire-strung harper Janet Naylor in Eugene.

“Lord Moira – The Merry Making” – Laura Risk (The Merry Making)
“Laura Risk is an California-born violinist. She specializes in performing and teaching the diverse fiddle repertoire of Scotland and Quebec.
[Laura Risk] has that absolutely uncanny knack, not of knowing how much to put into a tune, but rather how little. She wrings every drop of passion, heartache or melancholy from most every note she plays… Just magic.”
Green Man Review

A protege of Alasdair Fraser, Laura Risk along with Athena Turgis played on Deb’s and my first (publically released) album, Masque. They played on “Waltz of the Little Girls” and “The Shetland Reels.” At the time Laura and Athena were teenagers, and musical forces to be reckoned with. Even then, I was impressed by Laura’s elegant playing, the crisp, beautiful ornamentation and her rich arrangements.


Celtic Twiddle art by Jane Valencia (c) 2010

I was inspired by all the beautiful Foxglove blooming these past weeks to put together this segment of lore and story regarding this mesmerizing plant.

Lore: The Faery Lore of Foxgloves by Mara Freeman/Background: 
Mara Freeman is an author and teacher of Western esoteric tradition, specifically the Celtic and British branches, and a storyteller.

By Mara:
Faery gloves
Faery caps and bells –
Foxgloves are the Folks’ Gloves,
the Good Folk, that is,
and you’d better not forget it if you think to cut them down. ….”

Read the full past about foxglove lore here.

“Goblin Gloves” by Allison Cox/Background music: “The Widow of Loch Lemond” – Jeff Victor (Lifescapes: Scottish Moors) /“7th Child of the 7th Child” – Jeff Victor (Lifescapes: Scottish Moors) 
Allison Cox is a storyteller on Vashon Island. She gave me permission to read her story, “Goblin Gloves” today. Allison is so fun to listen to, and so generous of spirit. She is very involved in the Seattle Storyteller’s Guild, and recently spear-headed an event in which an epic Irish myth retold by 17 tellers and with a musicians as well. It was fun to be part of that.

As accompaniment to “Goblin Gloves,” we have two pieces of Celtic Ambient music by Jeff Victors.

“Tobar Gach Gràis / An Drochaid Chliùiteach” – Distant Oaks (Gach Là Agus Oidhche : Music of Carmina Gadelica’)

“Distant Oaks  was a California ensemble specializing in dynamic, historically informed performances of traditional Gaelic and early European music. … In addition to their strong dedication to Gaelic music, language, and culture, as well as authentic traditional and Early Music performance practices, Distant Oaks was also actively engaged in composing new music in older styles. Much historical evidence suggests that the distinctions between indigenous music and courtly music were minimal in earlier times. In the spirit of fine music-making and respect for tradition, Distant Oaks continues to bring a brilliant panoply of music to their audiences.”

Distant Oaks is no longer together as a band, its founder, Deborah White, having passed away a number of years ago.

“Jimmy Lyon’s/The Teelin/The Red Crow/The Broken Bridge” – Altan (The Red Crow)
A set of tunes from the much-loved traditional Irish band, Altan.

Catch the latest Forest Halls Celtic episode on demand here.

Thank you for joining me in Forest Halls!