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September 27, 2007

Pressing Plants

When I began this blog, I really wanted to emphasize those things which were both applicable to today, and practical.  I've attempted to do this with all of my articles, whether they be about every-day spirituality or current controversies regarding the pagan and Wiccan paths.  Today, I am going to review a concept that everyone - regardless of spirituality should know, but especially those who wish to discover more about herbs, etc.

Herb magick is probably the oldest form of Witchcraft still being practiced today.  Countless stories through the ages are told of wise-women, shamans, etc, using local herbs to heal ills, and promote wellness.  But, to get any college level education, most find themselves in city or relatively urban communities to do so.  For those of us who do not have access to miles of pure forest, we may not be as connected to the earth as we should be.  Plant pressing is a great introduction.

One of my goals for this year was to find out more about plants.  I am currently taking Plant Biology, and among the other things we have to do for our class, we have to press plants.  There are many ways to press plants, but there are two ways that I am doing it now, which are essentially the same.  In class, there are two pieces of board a little bigger than books, with two adjustable strength straps that criss cross, like wrapping a present.  The set up involves placing one of the boards on a flat surface, placing a piece of cardboard on top of it, then laying your specimens between layers of newspaper, labeled with information about when and where you collected it.  After all plants have been laid, another piece of cardboard and then the board are laid on top.  The straps are tightened.

Pressing plants involves a very basic method.  The aim is to dry the plants, which is why newspaper is used, to absorb water as the leaves, berries, stems, etc, die.  The chlorophyll and coloring may fade, but some of it remains.

As I collect plants out of class, I have a makeshift press in my room.  It consists of a text book I am not using, some other heavy books (music books stacked on top of each other), and computer paper.  I just laid my plants between the surfaces and in between computer paper.  I'm letting gravity do the rest.

Basically, you just need weight for the pressing, and something to absorb the water that will leave the plants.  I've heard it takes between 6 and 8 weeks - basically, until they're dry.

I know there are other ways to manipulate plants.  This is mostly for display.  But, display may be what you need - like I do - when you're still trying to identify plants.  As I go on this journey, maybe you'll join me!  I'll be posting as I discover just how practical methods are that are outlined in books, etc.  You shouldn't have to spend hours and get a college education in herbology to enhance your spirituality and magical effectiveness.

My plant press here, in my 10' by 10' dorm room, is stashed on the bottom of my small plastic-cube made book shelf.  Any one can do it.

Til tomorrow!

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