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  • Writer's pictureErik

The Wisdom of Thorns

Updated: Mar 19, 2023


My wife thinks I’m crazy. And maybe I am. 25 years of working landscapes and farms and 99.9% of the time I never wear gloves. Even amongst the brambles, the thorns, the nettles, and the poison oak— I like to feel the material of our planet, it’s soils and plants between my fingers.


As the energy of earth rises to meet vernal equinox here in western North America, I find myself prepping the homestead for spring plantings. Last year, the blackberries surged across the land with greater vigor than I’ve seen in decades. All year we were wondering why? What was different about this year? What are these brambles trying to protect, colonize, or teach us?


Gloveless, armed with scythe and hand shears, I began the process of clearing away the brambles in places where they crept into garden beds.


I was mesmerized by their blackish, purple stems, their wicked thorns, and the layers upon layers of fairy like vines that rose up then arched back to the ground, rooting in every place they touched, connecting sky and earth.


Truly, a miracle plant filled with boundless energy and strength with a wide range of magical and mundane uses.


I was cut, scraped, pierced and bloodied; my relationship with these beings deepening with every slash of my blade or theirs. It was not a battle, it was a dance. The tension between wildness and cultivation. Between chaos and order.


It’s been a couple days since I started this great dance, and here are the lessons these thorny creatures shared with me...


Protection is the great function of thorns. Protection of the sacred earth, protection of forests, watersheds, and animal beings. Where I live, fox, coyote, skunk, opossum, quail, and many others live deep inside the bramble hedges.


In this way, blackberries are more than a force of protection, they are a place to call home. To dwell in safety and warmth. A place to raise a family and store food for the winter. A place to hibernate.


Not only do they provide these services to the community, but they gift the most delicious, nutritious, and beautiful fruits in their time of year. It starts with a grand display of blossoms, attracting honeybees, native pollinators, butterflies, and more. They are so generous. Following their offering of nectar, they gift the world with the sweetest fruits of the forest. Fruits that taste like honey but stain like blood. A stunning example of what reciprocity looks like.


But... they will hurt you.


The bloody scrapes across my body prove that. While cutting one of the patches back, I found a cut branch on the ground, dead and covered in human blood. Last year, friends came to clear this bed, and that must be part of them left behind. The blackberry took its blood offering, no questions asked. And my friend, once she patched herself up… kept going.


Working with blackberries and their thorns is like eating spicy food. It hurts, but there’s a satisfaction to clearing an area of blackberries that keeps you going back again, again, and again.


The way they grow and protect the earth forces us to let the land rest for long periods of time. All the while, they are dropping leaves as mulch, feeding microorganisms in the soil, and providing homes for all manner of life. When we clear them back to unveil a new area for cultivation, the berries have already prepped in this sacred way.


Thorns come in different shapes and sizes and their differences lead to even greater wisdom.


There are two kinds of blackberries that I am working with. The native, California blackberry and the Himalayan blackberry. The Himalayan variety has massive thorns that will easily draw blood. When a thorn sticks in you, it’s easy to pull out and see the wound. Days later, these are not the thorns that have caused me the most trouble.

The worst are the tiny thorns of the California blackberry, the ones that look almost like hairs, that have entered my skin and caused festering wounds across my fingers. These not only hurt more days later, but are more difficult to remove. A metal thorn in the form of a needle is required to open up the swollen, infected areas to remove the tiny stingers from my body.


I find this fascinating. It reminds me of the subtleness that Johannes teaches about casting spells.


The large blood drawing thorns hurt, yes, but they are easy to see and easy to remove. The healing comes much quicker.


It’s the subtle, smaller thorns, when they enter the body, you don’t even know it. And days later, the misery begins. This is a great lesson.

When casting spells this wisdom of subtlety can be used in all of our magical endeavors-- to allow the magic to work more slowly, subtly, building with energy overtime. Possibly, this is a much more effective approach than blasting a spell with full force and speed. The context and goals of course will dictate which method is best employed. Until now, I usually use the latter, but the lesson of thorns is inspiring a more subtle approach.


Thorns are great teachers of the double nature of materia magica. They anchor protection, nutrition, habitat, vigorous growth, and strength but also pain, infection, fear; this is the dual nature and the wisdom of the thorn.


Magically and mundanely, they can be used to protect all manner of life. A home, a magical item, a person, an ecosystem. Brambles especially can be used to house and provide for all living things. My guess is that a powerful spiritus could be housed in a bramble talisman. But they can also be used to hurt. To banish others from a place. To draw blood, to infect wounds, and infect the mind with fear.


The folklore around thorns: Hawthorne, blackthorn, roses, and brambles runs deep in the currents of our ancestors. Stories about cursing, about protection, about portals to other worlds are rich in their texture and flavor and can be found the world over.


Thorns and their powers have been widely utilized and respected for thousands of years, and if the bloodied, festering wounds of my gloveless hands are any indication, they demand that same reverence and respect today.

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5 comentários


Liv Noël
Liv Noël
09 de mai. de 2023

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Thank you for sharing!

Curtir

runeguidanceofthenorse
runeguidanceofthenorse
18 de mar. de 2023

That was great Erik.

Curtir
Erik
Erik
19 de mar. de 2023
Respondendo a

Thank you!

Curtir

Culpin
Culpin
18 de mar. de 2023

Really enjoyed this - the subtlety you tease out between slow festering and the immediate slicing brought much to mind. Thank you for sharing. Now I’m craving some blackberries while sitting in the ☀️

Curtir
Erik
Erik
19 de mar. de 2023
Respondendo a

Mmm, yeah, cant wait to taste some fresh berries. Glad you enjoyed the story.

Curtir
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