The Storytellers The Storytellers Experience the Rocklands wilderness

Ancient Intelligence

Connecting to our wild, wise spirit through the stories of plants

We are living in interesting times.

We teeter on the edge of a new reality; one where our economics and technology seem set to fail. Our planet is in a crisis of our making. The signs have been here for a while, but by now, it is truly clear that we will have to stop and think again.

Human intelligence has taken us down a certain path. That path has seen great technological innovation, but has also led to the forgetting of most ancient knowledge; of more grounded and practical ways of being. If we were now to start looking for different answers, where would we even begin? I believe that the answer is to consult the landscape itself. And where better than the raw, rugged and ancient landscape of the Cederberg - a place where time and space follow their own rules anyway?

In this rugged, western outcrop of South Africa, the land still whispers with the memory of our ancient ancestors;

...ancestors who lived here for thousands of years, in a state of intelligent co-operation with nature; a state that was disrupted as recently as 350 year ago. Here, the land is still alive. It talks, telling stories that enlighten and heal, if we listen correctly. It is a place at the edge of our modern world of material realism - and something else, something eternal, something that can’t quite be grasped with the thinking mind, the computer screen or the written page.

Nowhere is this narrow crack between what is measurable and that which can only be experienced more evident than in the plants that have adapted to survive in this world.  Here, at the confluence of no less than three floral biomes, life has evolved with the landscape for millions of years.  The result? A celebration of intelligent abundance: a place that is surprisingly verdant, given the hot dry conditions that exist for most of the year, and which boasts an incredible diversity of useful plants, many of which are endemic to the region.

I believe that every plant harbours its own, unique facet of the landscape’s evolving wisdom.

A sacred truth; a story that is even greater than the infinitesimally detailed intelligence of its component parts. For every plant, the growth habits, appearance, traditional uses and phytochemistry tell a story; a story that reaches back in time to bygone peoples and eras way before them. Here, where much cultural history has been lost or eradicated, the ongoing relationship between wild plants and people is one thing that has kept some sense of cultural identity and history alive.
Bloedblom - Dilatris ixiodes. The root is used to make paint.
Flower of the regal Waboom (Protea ntida)
The carnivorous Snotrosie (Drosera cistiflora)

Reconnecting to the collective intelligence

As modern humans, we like to think of ourselves as unique in our ability to think, analyse and create. Yet traditional knowledge would hold that we – having created language and the naming of things - are of the lowest intelligence in the overall collective consciousness, and that something far more refined exists in the world of communication without speech. Certainly, humans are but a tiny fragment of time and awareness. Technology, starting with the invention of agriculture, right up to social media and artificial intelligence – has, over thousands of years, closed off our awareness of the hyper-connected intelligence that has always been with us (whether we call this intelligence God or simply Mother Nature); and which exists in infinitely multitudinous manifestations and stories.

But we can chose to remember what we share with the rest of creation, and to reconnect. To cultivate a relationship with wild plants, the ones around us, is a yearning that is awakening in many people. Perhaps it is why fynbos-infused everything is becoming so fashionable. At a deeper, no doubt largely unsuspected level, it is a way to reconnect to what we all had, thousands of years ago.

There is power to stories. It has been said that the ancestors of this land could transcend time and space; reaching out through trance but also through the connecting of consciousness that is brought about through Story. So it is with the plants. Their stories are multidimensional, holding keys and clues to our history, but also to our healing, participation and future survival.

So let’s pause a moment, take it in….and remember.

Learning from the plants

Sample chapters from the upcoming book will be linking below. If you enjoy what I have to say, please be in touch to order a copy.

The plants are the secret keepers

  • Of phytochemical miracles we can break down and analyse, but never fully understand in their healing complexity - or indeed reasons for evolving as they have;
  • Of the remedies and recipes that have been passed down through generations and are still in use today; and
  • Of an almost unspoken world of magic and enchantment; of plants as teachers and facilitators.

For many contemporary observers, this latter aspect is dismissed as myth. But is it really? It has become fairly conventional to work with the subtle healing aspects of plants through homeopathy and plant essences: is magic not the very same thing? Is it not possible that the ancients held awareness of a level of connection between people and plants - and by extension the landscape as a whole - that we have forgotten, in our distracted, disconnected, reductionist and attention-deficit “reality”?