Whenever I walk in the Norwegian forests, I love finding this humble community of little mauve flowers. I thank the winter fairies, who keep them protected under the snow sheets so that they keep coming back to sooth sore stomachs. Who are these little flowers? It's Røsslyng, also known as Heather in England, the discrete mountain herb of Scandinavia. These little shrubs love growing in clusters within a community of berries. The foraging method is to peel out only the flowers, letting the whole plant stay in its roots. By doing this, you take home no more than a jar filled with tiny petals to make a mild sedative tea, or something more advanced. As the spirit of Røsslyng teaches us how some plants grow best in the companionship of other herbs, we know that sometimes even we are unable to detach from our landscape. The winter snow buries it down, preserving it. And then it returns in spring.
What can we learn from foraging?
Foraging is not as simple as it looks, at least not for city dwellers. This is mainly because we're in the habit of conveniences, and therefore generally lack the patience that foraging requires. Early explorers and natural scientists would forage their specimens of wild medicinal herbs to bring back to a kitchen. This simple laboratory is not the only birthplace of magic, but its the time we began speculating our own ability to know the relationship between the elements of life. As such, we created alchemy, and later founded our modern field of chemistry.
The human animal is still haunted by its own existence, and has not evolved much since its caveman instincts cooped him up inside his den. Not so different from apartment dwellers. It was only when we made our early fires, was the real beginning of the magical hearth gathering, the birth of our relationship with the earth.
Our adventurous nature and a good degree of technological preparedness, is now calling us back into the wild. Intuitive herbalists bearing the spirit of the wild medicine are on a movement to revive the crafts of our forefathers who knew how to discern poisonous herbs from medicinal ones. It's no wonder that herbs like Røsslyng so clearly share our sense of attachment to the land. It's nature's way of letting us know, that it feels us, and is communicating with us.
There are countless herbs and mushrooms to learn about the creative nature of existence. Many herbs cure us and some even show us the exterior construct of our mind. On every walk and foraging trial, I am forced to wonder, are we not what we imagine? Foraging theories have been examined in birds to show that habits improve and develop. As such, it may be, that humans are also for the first time realizing the gap between their primal instincts and organizational (scientific) behaviors. In a way, we never loose touch with the magic of life.
Legend has it that the magical use of white rosslyng (heather), brings good luck and protection. You can wear it, or call the rain by dipping it in water with fern, then sprinkling it around you during your ritual. And just so you know, if you are ever going foraging and find fern, you are encountering a living fossil with a history older than our own.
Lincoff, Gary. The joy of foraging: Gary Lincoffs illustrated guide to finding, harvesting, and enjoying a world of wild food. Crestline, 2017.
Stephens, David W., et al. Foraging: behavior and ecology. University of Chicago Press, 2007.
Thompson, Janet. Magical hearth: home for the modern pagan. Samuel Weiser, 1995.