Early on in my herbal studies I heard about plants having planetary rulers. I found this concept quite intriguing. I left it as an ‘on the side curiosity’; a subject that seemed on the fringes of an already “on-the-fringe” subject: Herbalism.
Herbalism was more suppressed and uncommon than it is now; and astrology, (though gaining more acceptance) was still, and does still, get branded as a pseudoscience that has little to offer the modern world.
Eventually, I was introduced to the practice of spagyrics: the alchemical preparation of medicines, using astrological timing when preparing medicine at the most energetically potent and beneficial times. It is based on the understanding that the movements and energies of the planets and greater universe affect the movements and energies here on earth.
I found that there existed a whole system of medical astrology, one that united the theories of alchemy with the elemental and energetic world of people, plants and planets. I learned that this system was mirrored in other traditional healing methods, and had been openly practiced for many years in the western world before its more recent suppression and push into obscurity.
So how and why did this incredibly useful and ancient information become so obscure in the western world?
For as long as humans have observed and related to plants, they’ve also done so with the planets. It was observed that all the energies in the cosmos are also present here on Earth, with plants being direct manifestations of the celestial beings. Just as humans each have our own astrological chart showing how the different planetary energies influence and manifest in our being, so do the plants. These observations of energies and relationships became systems of understanding, which led to our practices of healing and medicine.
For most of history, almost every culture has had an inherent connection with nature and spirit along with an understanding of the universe as being alive and all within it imbued with consciousness. This concept unites all systems of astro-herbalism. The western model has roots in Babylon, Egypt and Greece. This model of energetics shares many similarities with Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Though there are minor differences, each of them share the fundamental root understanding of a spiritual undercurrent. So how come these eastern systems have persisted and the western counterpart became relegated to the realms of pseudoscience? And does the western system have a place in the modern world?
It was during the enlightenment period when a philosophical and societal shift to reason and materialism led to a split from spirit in the western world; intellect and logic were emphasized. The structured religious powers were suppressing and attempting to eradicate practitioners of the traditional healing arts. The scientific method was developed along with empiricism: the theory that knowledge only comes from what can be sensorily perceived and measured. The attempt to disassociate with all things religious, including spirit, led to the compartmentalization of the mind, body and spirit along.
This led to a disconnection from energetics, intuition and the subtle ways of knowing and communicating.
The practices of both astrology and herbal medicine have been experiencing a renaissance in the West over the last several decades. Though an interest in one often leads to the other, astrology in our culture often emphasizes mental and emotional experience, while (within the mainstream at least) research about herbs and our understanding of them is heavily weighted to their material structure and physical effects on our bodies. It’s not often we see the relationship between the two emphasized.
This perspective of, and experience of connection to nature, spirit, ourselves and each other, is precisely what we are missing in our modern world, and what so many of us are longing for.
In fact, most of us have come to (returned to—might be a better phrase) herbal medicine and holistic ways of healing as practitioners or as patients because we have found the modern medical model lacking in some way.
What medical astrology has shown me, and I would suggest offers all of us, is a way back to the knowing of interconnectedness between all of divine creation. This gives us—especially for those of us who have been unduly under the influence of colonialism, materialism and empiricism for generations—a chance to reconnect with the language of the universe.
It is already inside of us all.
When we develop our capacity to understand that language we not only gain a valuable tool in our practice with the plants, we open ourselves up for a deeper and more textured experience of life itself.