It’s that Time of the Year Again…

It’s that time of the year when I hit the books hard.  You’re probably thinking something like “eh? but it’s nice and sunny out there, what’s she doing reading books?”

It’s the time of the year when flowers start growing and trees are starting to put on leaves.  The ash trees haven’t come out yet, but the river birches are way ahead of them and the horse chestnuts are finishing putting on leaves.

This is the time of the year when I start cracking open my identification books.  Or if I can’t find the plant or tree or bird or animal or insect in my books, I look in the library’s books.

So many pagans are what I call “Commercial Pagans”.  If they can buy it, or go on courses about it, then they will do it.  What they will not do is do any actual work for it.  And then you get pagans who are unable to name more than two or three leaves of eighteen common trees in their area, plus one uncommon one.  I had this experience when I put up a drawing of nineteen different leaves on a British forum several years ago.  The only person who was able to name more than four was a druid, who got all of them except the poplar.

Knowing the land you live on and knowing the flora and fauna that grow on it and the animals, birds and insects that live off it is, in my opinion, one of the most important things a pagan can do.  And yet so many don’t want to bother with anything they can’t easily pick up and have now, which is why there are so many pagans and witches who don’t get beyond the basics because it’s too difficult for them, or they’re “too busy”, which means that they can’t be bothered.

Identification is only the first step.  Then there’s the lore of the land, what certain trees putting out leaves before other trees mean and knowing what plants and trees to use for what.  It’s a long process which I have only just started, and this is what I meant in the introduction to this blog that you cannot just read one book and become a pagan or a witch, it takes study and hard work.  But it’s really worth it.



  1. sarastar said,

    April 22, 2011 at 12:07 am

    My circle mates and I love to learn plant identification. I know a couple dozen plants, from a mixture of Girl Guides (scouts in the US), working at Cub Scout Camps (younger boy scouts), and our witchy outings to figure things out together. It is very different to look in the spring than the summer, and so on. But we figured out a ton of them and what we couldn’t we took pictures of and looked up later.

    Herb identification is something that has been “growing” on me. Each year we play a Airmid Herb Identification game we made up in the summer of mixing up a pile of fresh herbs on a cape and guessing which is which. The first year we did it, I knew like one or two, but I surprised myself the next year I knew half and each year I improve (and therefore we can make the game harder too).

    I think some folks aren’t ready to really dig in, and others never well and are just content to sit at home and play witch. I think it is pretty obvious who is who–all you have to ask is, what have you been up to lately with your practice. If all they can say is, I read a book–well–we know how far that flies.

  2. April 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I like the sound of your Airmid Herb Identification game

  3. Ancasta said,

    April 24, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    I also really like the sound of that game! And I definitely agree with you – which is why I love attending free mini-classes at parks and nature centers in my area, they have wildflower walks, tree walks and herb classes, which are a really nice way to get an idea of what certain plants and trees look like in your area. They’re also quite good for learning in a very hands on way what does and does not grow in your area, what’s local and what’s imported, etc. etc. Sometimes you’ll even stumble across great bits of lore and the people who run and attend them are always really nice, knowledgeable and helpful.

    I understand and recognize that there’s a time and a place for being a ‘commercial pagan’, sometimes it’s perfectly justified in my mind, and other times it comes out of sheer laziness. I think it’s tragic and downright ridiculous when a person who claims to be an earth-loving/worshiping pagan can’t pick out plants they might use all the time but in a dried up or powdered form.

    My working partner and I are learning too, and we haven’t been at it for long – but we’re much further along than some. We each bring a different set of plant knowledge and interests to our workings and it helps both of us learn about different things…. we spend an awful lot of time at the nature center and in parks when we’re in the same city.

    I’m happy to have found your blog, it’s quite lovely!

  4. sunny said,

    August 25, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    I love looking up things that I don’t know. I know how you feel, I was on a site a few weeks ago, just sort of browsing along I saw they were offering dandelion leaves for like $10. I had a WTF moment. Really people?? Go outside and pick your own, they’re there. You don’t even have to look very hard.
    Like there is a tree that grows all over the place here in NY. I didn’t know what it was so I looked it up – its called Tree of Heaven. Its an import that has gone wild. But it has medical uses. But it amazed me that here was a tree that I see all the time that comes originaly from Asia.
    Or the local tree that grows at a beach that has these huge nuts, turns out its a buckeye tree – the nuts for this tree go for like $2 – $3 a piece and here I have a whole tree.
    Greatst find ever – I found cinquifoil. Its sort of a all pupose plant in hoodoo. I couldn’t afford to buy any. But there was a whole large plot of it right at my job.
    So yeah a little research can go a looooong way. (the way I figure, I’vesaved hundreds of dollers by just taking a walk and looking at things)

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