The warrior rose: second assay

Rosa_multiflora_buds by Sakurai Midori via Wikimedia Commons
Rosa multiflora (photo by Sakurai Midori)

“All plants are entheogens.”

-something a carrot told me

I started my work with the warrior rose (R. multiflora), an invasive species here in Appalachia (see my first assay here), by taking a flower essence I made from it last summer. I’ve been taking it every day just to see what, if anything, would happen. I haven’t noticed any physical effects from that but there have been experiential/consciousness effects since I accepted the rose as my teacher.

There have been a series of synchronicities revolving around “warrior” themes. This is weird for me because I’ve always been a peaceful sort and have had a definite aversion to violence and war. I know there are spiritual aspects to warriorship but even so I rejected the whole concept as not me. So maybe it’s no surprise that this is something I need to learn about, because I so very much did not want to.

I’ll spare you the details, since no one is as interested in our syncs as we ourselves are–rightly so for something so personal–but here’s the tl;dr version (i.e., some of the more dramatic syncs). I started this project in January, and it took a few incidents for me to start noticing a pattern, but the first thing that jumped out at me was that the January 31st eclipse happened conjunct my natal Mars. (Mars of course being the planet associated with warriors etc.)

Less than two weeks later another teacher, this time in the form of a human (who happens to be a former martial artist), suddenly and unexpectedly entered my life. He has been teaching me especially about courage (a warrior-y virtue) via its manifestation as love, honesty, humility, and vulnerability.

Then I learned that the only interesting saint whose feast day is my birthday* is St. FionnchĂș, also known as Fanahan (d. ca. AD 660). In the old days, the saint of your day was your patron/matron saint, and until last month I thought there were zero interesting saints associated with my birthday. My whole life this has bummed me out as I’ve always been a saintophile and would have liked a proper patron/matron saint. But in fact it turns out I have a really good one: St. FionnchĂș (“White Hound”) was an Irish warrior-priest so ferocious that his anger caused spontaneous combustion and sparks to fly from his gnashing teeth. His bishop/abbot’s crozier was actually named “Head-Battler.” I mean he is exactly the sort of guy I would have rejected not so long ago–in fact maybe I did reject him and that’s why I thought I had no interesting patron/matron saint. But besides being a warrior this guy has other associations like a healing well.

I’m not yet sure exactly how it relates–I’ll have to meditate and/or journey on it–but today I saw this video from Conjure Gnosis which resonated as fitting in with these teachings somehow.

So there have been a number of other synchronicities around this warrior theme and associated themes appropriate to a Rose as teacher. Just as I had to have several syncs before I could discern a pattern, on a more macro- scale I have had to have many teachers to discern that there is a pattern to the teaching (or maybe it’s my pattern as a student). In the past though I’ve been more the passive recipient, and this time I want to more actively try to engage with and apply it. I’m also hoping maybe I can start to discern an even more macro- level where I start to see how all these disparate “classes” I’ve had might link together. At this point I am well aware that nothing I can share about this experience is particularly enlightening or useful to anyone, and I ask myself all the time whether I should be sharing it at all. But it seemed to me that it might be useful to someone to see an account of the twisty kind of path such learning can take. And, in keeping with Jung’s practice (cf. his Red Book), it’s important to me to manifest this in some way in the world outside my own head.

*There being no universal saint’s calendar, there are two feast days for St. FionnchĂș depending whom you ask–25 and 28 November.

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The warrior rose: first assay

Rosa multiflora on the farm
Rosa multiflora on the farm. Adorably plump farm kitty for scale.

I am not sure how to begin.

My last post on invasive plants wasn’t just random musing; I’m about to start working with one of them, Rosa multiflora. I’ve been gardening and making herbal remedies and of course cooking and eating plants for many years now, but this is an altogether deeper level of work I’m about to begin, unlike anything I’ve ever done before.

It was initiated by the rose herself.

As a garden lover, I think roses are nice, but they probably aren’t my favorite flower (I think that title would go to Japanese irises). Of course rose flowers are beautiful and I do adore the scent. But have you ever looked at the rose bush itself? They’re really not all that attractive.

But those are your ornamental rose varieties. Wild roses are something else again. Wild roses are brimming over with magic and fierce beauty. And as an herbalist, I am in love with rose medicine (I use that term broadly, encompassing the physical, spiritual, and magical). I need rose medicine. (Here’s a good monograph on rose medicine. And another.)

At the farmhouse where I used to live, there were a couple of multiflora rose bushes that had been tolerated as ornamentals–it is a beautiful species–but it grows wild everywhere here. In fact it’s extraordinarily difficult to restrict or eradicate because the gracefully arching canes that make it so aesthetically pleasing even when not in flower (well, I think so) will root wherever they touch the ground, and it tolerates many types of soils and habitats. “In Ohio, it is especially troublesome in the southeastern part of the state” <– understatement (source).

Its thorns are prolific and unusually vicious: I’ve had minor pricks that barely drew blood continue to ache for days afterwards. They can be strongly recurved and seem to reach out and grab you, snagging absolutely every part of you and your clothes. It is universally loathed by people who live or work in the countryside.

But not me. Early on I formed a certain grudging respect for this rose. Yes, she hurt me a lot. Tore up some of my clothes. But she’s a fighter and a survivor–nay, a conqueror.

And yet she’s also every bit a Rose, that millennia-old symbol of love, beauty, and sensuality. In June she is covered in fragrant heaps of little roses–white, some tinged ever so softly pink, with golden centers–beloved of bees. In fall her branches are beaded with tiny glistening scarlet hips, beloved of birds.

My favorite of her common names is “rambler rose,” but in my mind and heart I have always known her as the Warrior Rose. She has an intense female-warrior vibe that I realize I have barely begun to understand. Now she says we have work to do, and I have no idea what that is going to entail, exactly, but it starts now.