I have been working for some time in a way to incorporate local plant spirits in methods of divination that go beyond their instrumental as medicine or as an ally to be used before or after the divination task has been accomplished. Last year, thanks to inspiration brought by Maria Martínez, and her blog Por encima de todas las zarzas, which deals with the immense richness of Basque and Navarran folklore, I discovered the Zotalegun, or Erderazko, a divinatory practice which is still being carried out in the areas of Ataun or Bezkoitze. The practice of Zotalegun, a word which refers to the first twelve days of the year, consisted on observing the weather and natural signs that took place between January 1st to January 12th and use them as predictions for each month of the upcoming year. Thus, what happened on the first day would be taken as an omen for the month of January, what happened in the second day would be taken as an omen for February, and so forth. Of course, I encourage you to go visit her blog (in Spanish) and read her entries on the topic, so that you can see how it was traditionally made.
I just loved the idea when I learned about it and thought about how to incorporate it into my divinatory practice, as I am trying to introduce plants as divinatory keys. Then I decided to do a Zotalegun but, instead of observing the signs brought by weather and nature, I would focus on a plant that I would encounter each day to guide me during the corresponding month, both as an omen and as an advice.
How I did this?
I just got out of my house each day and walked until I found a plant that would catch my attention. Okay, this seems easy, but, of course, it is not. I needed to state my purpose before leaving the house, but I had to forget about it once I found the path I would walk that day, otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to find anything. I decided to make an offering to the place where I found the plant –and if I had nothing to offer, I would do so on the corresponding month. Also, the place where I found the plant was also regarded as important.
Plant Omens for 2019, a Herbal Zotalegun
On the 1st day of January, I found a plant called Clematis Vidalba, known as Old Man’s Beard or Traveller’s Joy in English. This plant is a climbing shrub that I found near the crossroads, between two small rivers. This plant was traditionally used for rope making, and medicinally employed as a potent analgesic. However, there are accounts of the poisonous effects of the plant, which claim that it can cause ulcers and dangerous blistering effects.
I read this plant as a time to stick to our beliefs, to remain true to our intentions, no matter what may come our way, even though we may feel uncertain.
On the 2nd day of January, I encountered a young Stinking Hellebore plant along the path, close to a series of farming fields, near to big hawthorn and blackthorn bushes. Hellebore was employed as a purging agent in my area and was also used to heal rheumatic afflictions and articulatory problems. Nevertheless, it is its potentially fatal toxicity what has given this plant such recognition.
I read this plant as a piece of advice: in a time when everything seems to be functioning, take a step back, go back to basics, and observe. Some details may go unnoticed, and these details will be essential in the near future. Allow yourself to change and to adapt.
On January 3rd I encountered a small Hazel tree and took a short branch. The tree was adjacent to a fairly used path, and it had been cut recently. Hazel is a strong talismanic tree, bringer of good fortune and protector against ill intentions.
I read this plant as the need to gather my strengths and to build up a new structure on which to base my work. We may be overrun by life but support must come from within. Also, a time for strong protective magic.
On January 4th I encountered two plants along a highway: a lush Cotoneaster bush, which belongs to the Rose and the Hawthorn family, traditionally used as hedge marking; and a Scabiosa (Pincushion) flower. This flower is traditionally attributed to the Devil in the Pyrenees, employed to heal rabies.
I read those plants as the need to be selfish at times, also a sign of an imminent ending. It seems all the things worth fighting for will eventually materialize. Also, be sure to stay vigilant at all times.
On January 5th I encountered an Ash tree along the path, quite close to a crossroads. The leaves rattled with the wind as I approached. The wood of the ash tree is strong but flexible, and it medicinally used to heal joint diseases, gout. It also helps getting rid of liquid excess, as it is a powerful diuretic.
I read this plant as an advice: you will have to make a decision, and you will have to be honest with your feelings, it will be a time to communicate and speak about what you need, but you will also be asked to make a sacrifice, and it will be necessary to adapt to the situation as long as it does not hurt you.
On January 6th I found two Pansies in a flower pot very close to my home. Pansy is traditionally connected with humbleness, but also with the keeping of secrets. It is medicinally used to heal skin afflictions, and traditionally employed as a skin tonic.
It seems a lot of stuff will be happening underneath the surface, and at those times when you doubt, you will need to take care of yourself and your loved ones and put them first, no important decisions should be taken during that time. Taking care of yourself and your loved ones will not be selfish but necessary.
On January 7th I encountered a Dandelion flower in a park, by the river. Dandelions, commonly regarded as one of the plants of the fairies, are used as a powerful diuretic, but they also give us energy.
It seems it is time to think big, to get ready for what will come. It is necessary to feel strong and get ready for the future because a lot will be asked from us. The situation will demand a lot of fortitude from us.
On January 8th I encountered a Field Eryngo, Eryngium Campestre, along the path, on my way to the cemetery. This plant has traditionally been used as a remedy against urinary tract infections, and also as an aphrodisiac in love philters.
I read this plant as a time of reward, a reward that has to be valued accordingly. A time to gather the fruits we planted, but also to acknowledge our feelings. A time to love the land –to love ourselves- and to understand its ways.
On January 9th I encountered a Rose Mallow Hybiscus Syriacus, lurking through a fence. This plant, as it belongs to the mallow family, is a flower that nurtures but also reminds us of the dead, it grows in putrefaction.
Time of growth has stopped, now it’s time to understand ourselves, to perhaps run a small risk that maybe will transform us unexpectedly, it is time to do something different but small. Time to reflect on our life choices. Things from the past may come again.
On January 10th I encountered a Wild Carrot and a Blackthorn bush while climbing a small hill. The wind was strong and yet the plants subsisted.
Time to observe and also to get in touch with the Otherworld, to go underneath the surface and see the other signs that cannot be seen in this dimension. In the Otherworld you will be nurtured and you will find an important message.
On January 11th I encountered a Silver Fir branch fallen on a town square. Fir medicine has been employed to ease digestion and to help with nervous conditions; it has also been used as an antiseptic.
It seems it is time to assimilate all the new ideas and to use this new knowledge as a new foundation for the future. Unexpected things may happen, but they will all be constructively used as a reliable structure. All life processes should now end.
On January 12th I encountered Navelwort on a stonewall. This plant has traditionally regarded as a cooling agent. Navelwort is also a very good vulnerary, to heal wounds in the skin.
Finally, a time for reflection and consolidation, a time for closure, a time for reflection. We can thrive in all environments, we must look for resources in those places where there seems to be nothing.
Here are the pictures of the plants I encountered: