- mayapple,. photo courtesy of Merel R. Black and the Wisconsin State Herbarium
In This Issue
Thinking Like The Mayapple
Given enough time, western science will, by its own methods, arrive at an understanding of life, "nature," and reality long since achieved by a variety of spiritual thinkers, cultures, and communities. Recent examples: (1) Conservative scientists are slowly beginning to agree with elements of the Gaia Theory, though they use other language to save face about their earlier doubts. (2) Scientists are now saying that "everyone can read minds" because they've proven it scientifically. (3) All of life is One; We are all Connected. (4) Thought and emotion affect "reality".
Spiritual seekers have known these things for quite awhile, but it's interesting when the scientists the ones our culture trusts to know what's what start validating our notions of reality. One bit of scientific confirmation that recently caught my eye was the announcement that scientists have proved that plants think that plants have intelligence. Whether they have consciousness is still debatable in scientific circles....
Hardly articulate, the tiny strangleweed, a pale parasitic plant, can sense the presence of friends, foes, and food, and make adroit decisions on how to approach them.
Mustard weed, a common plant with a six-week life cycle, can't find its way in the world if its root-tip statolith - a starchy "brain" that communicates with the rest of the plant - is cut off.
The ground-hugging mayapple plans its growth two years into the future, based on computations of weather patterns. (New research opens a window on the minds of plants)
When I first read the mayapple article I thought Yeah, one more thing that pagans and other earth-based thinkers have known for a long while. Whether we talk of nymphs or devas, nature spirits or totems, familiars or allies, we recognize the sentience of plants.
For the last 8 years I've enjoyed the rare treat of having a community of mayapples as neighbors, living in a thicket that exists as wild borderland between my house and that of several neighbors. A community of mayapples, I said. Yes, community. That's one of the remarkable things about the mayapple. From a human perspective, mayapples are many individual plants living in close proximity to each other. Underground, however, they all spring from one large root system; aboveground, they offer an illusion of individuality.
There can be as many as a thousand stems in these colonies, resembling miniature forests. Because all shoots from the common root system are genetically identical, an entire colony is actually a single plant. And a May apple colony has to be 12 years old before it flowers, producing its blossom that resembles a small satellite dish, followed by the fruit. The single stemmed new stalks that originate from the seed have to grow five years before developing a rhizome that can make a forked or flowering stem. These colonies grow very slowly, averaging around four inches a year. So a large colony may be over one hundred years old! (Plant information: American Mandrake)
So when the scientist says "The ground-hugging mayapple plans its growth two years into the future," he's not talking about a single stem of mayapple, but about the entire community or colony involved in community planning.
When I put all of this together, it occurred to me that plants are probably much smarter than humans. Thinking only of my Goddess sisters and various communities I've belonged to, I'd have to say that we don't have this level of sophistication. Some of us, to be sure, may be planning community growth two years into the future, but by and large we're not doing that as communities. In organized groups, it's the leaders doing the planning and the visioning, with or without some level of input from the entire community. In smaller groups, we often struggle to schedule time together for sabbats or esbats, much less make time for planning how we want to grow in the next two years. Too often, we let fear and scarcity-consciousness and our unexamined shadows determine who we consider to be "in" or "outside" our communities.
So how does a community plan? If by full concensus, the answer is: slowly. My most satisfying group experiences have been those that operated by full concensus, but this type of organization and decision-making is not for anyone who's in a hurry to get anywhere. I understand that we've all been in a hurry to dive into Goddess consciousness and immerse ourselves in it, but I hope once the newness of this incredible power and fulfillment wears off we'll be able to take things a bit more slowly. To plan together how we want to grow. To think like the mayapple.
And if we did think like the mayapple, what would we plan? How would we "read the weather"? What would we do to achieve our goals? I can't possibly provide answers by myself, but when I think about plants, and about the women who share their voices in MatriFocus, I find some pieces of food for thought: