Elder is a plant with a long history of being used for protection from “bad” energy. It is a plant much associated with the fairy realms.  Elder blossoms and berries have been used medicinally for centuries. (Especially Black Elderberry Sambucus nigra.)  Here on the coast we have Red Elderberry, which is blooming on the edge of forests all around us this time of year.

Red Elder flower
Red Elder flower

Last year  I went out with my friend Kestrel to a clear cut and we collected two baskets full of Red Elder blossoms. Kestrel took half and dried it for a tea that is helpful to drink when you are coming down with a virus.   I took the other half and made elderflower cordial.  We mixed it with sparkly water for a fragrant celebration drink that was enjoyed at my birthday party.   (Here is the recipe that we use.  We used half the sugar.) Martin was very motivated to make more cordial this year so yesterday on Easter afternoon we ventured out for a walk and gathered blossoms.  I love wildcrafting in spring- to be out in the fresh air with birdsong and the many plants coming awake after winter.

Martin picking some blossoms
Martin reaching for a blossom, at his feet there is yellow dock, and horsetail two more healing plants.

Historically Elder is related to otherworldly concerns. Ancient myths connect her with both death and healing.   It has been said that the guardian spirit of the Elder is tasked with leading the dead to the afterlife, and that sleeping under an Elder will give you visions of other realms. On the cusp of my travels into the twilight realm through surgery, it feels appropriate to call on the magic of Elder, and engage in the hopeful task of making a special drink to enjoy while I am healing up afterwards.

Elder Blossoms ready to turn into cordial
Elder Blossoms ready to turn into cordial

Bernie Siegel speaks in his books about the ability of our minds to perceive messages while under anesthesia. He likens it to hypnosis, and relates several stories of people under anesthesia responding to positive messages that enhance their recovery.  My friend David recommended a guided imagery recording by Belleruth Naparstek for use prior to and during surgery that he used himself when he had surgery. I also sought out a surgery meditation by Bernie Siegel. This week I have been listening to them both.  It seems apt that Elder, guide through the other worlds, should also be called upon to lead me through the process, so this week I will try to put together some sort of recorded visualization for myself with Elder and perhaps a few of my other favorite plants.

Tomorrow we go into Portland to have a Herseptin infusion.   I will continue to have Herseptin every three weeks through December, and because it is a targeted therapy, (not chemo!) my hair will begin to grow back, and the myriad of strange symptoms inspired by the chemo drugs will fade into the past. YEAH!  A rare possible side effect of Herseptin has to do with heart function- which necessitates periodic heart scans.  Perhaps that may explain why I dreamt a few nights ago of traveling through a path in the woods towards a clearing, the message? I’m not out of the woods yet…  I like the idea that Elder, a plant that grows happily in clearings, may help lead me forward.

The little Buddhist Jizu statue that my friend Sue got for me at the Japanese Garden in PDX.
The little Buddhist Jizu statue that my friend Sue got for me at the Japanese Garden in PDX. (He is next to the basket of elderflowers – Jizu is said to protect children, and particularly to lead children who have died  safely through the afterlife, not unlike the Elder spirit.)

While in PDX we will meet with Dr. De la Melena, the breast surgeon.  I have a variety of questions and requests to talk with her about- including the logistics of listening to my guided imagery meditations on headphones during surgery.  It makes sense to me that the power of story has the potential to sooth and enhance healing, and studies done on folks who have used visualizations prior to and during surgery have shown measurable positive effect. So hopefully I will have all the benefits possible from my play list, and that the addition of Elder stories will protect me from any potential “bad” energies.



3 Comments Add yours

  1. Anne Caple says:

    Dear Iris,
    Such a mix of feelings I have–I’m so grateful that Galen was able to see you last week and that once again the Mama’s Group was gathered around her. It is a miracle to me that she is able to still be with you all, to experience the richness of your little group and the wonderful women in it and to experience Kathy’s spirit in this way, which at some level she must when she’s with you. You are all part of who Kathy was. Kathy lives on through who you are, for me and for sure at some level for Galen too.
    Then there is this news of what you are going through. I am so very sorry that it has to be. And I am full of admiration for how you are receiving it, healing yourself, and preparing for the next step. I am grateful to Francie for so many things but in this context especially for connecting me to your blog. I will be following your blog and sending you love and support along your way.
    My love to you and to Joe and the boys,

  2. Eileen says:

    First, I find your knowledge of plants and flowers amazing. I think your dream means that you may not be out of the woods yet but that is where you are headed. Sending love, prayers, and positive thought your way. Hugs to you, Joe, Sam and Martin.

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