The Familiar Smell of Roots

As my mom transitioned this past June, leaving her human body here in the Earth realm, I felt her energy leave my being. I experienced the sensation of all of the soil surrounding my roots falling away. My heart hurt, steeped in grief. For a time, I felt ungrounded. In the fall, without thinking much about it, I began to be very drawn to the smell of roots and the smell of the soil and humus, the smell of the Earth. One day as I walked through the woods near my home, I stopped to smell and place a comforting, familiar smell. Burdock root. My eyebrows raised. Then I looked to the side of the path where I was walking and spotted her – Burdock, her leaves wilting in the chill of the fall. As I was preparing food, I noticed more than usual the smell of the carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, beets ….. and especially the parsnip. After I had chopped parsnip, I smelled the sweet smell of her roots emanating from my fingers for a few hours. 

I am part of a women’s herbal forum and community called HerbWiseWomen, created by EagleSong and Sally. This past October, EagleSong and Sally chose Elecampane, Inula helenium as the plant of the month. The first video I came upon was the second of the series, “Elecampane: In the Kitchen & Apothecary”. I watched the video in fascination, learning more about Elecampane. I recalled in the past when I had dug Elecampane root at my shamanic herbal teacher’s home on Whidbey Island in WA. After receiving the root from Elecampane, I had cut it up to make an herbal preparation. As I recalled the experience, I could almost feel and smell the roots. The roots are rich in inulin and mucilage. And the smell of Elecampane root is divine, a sublime floral scent. As I recalled her smell, I felt “I love her”, and my recollection of the smell of her roots felt synonymous with my love for her and her love for me, and also my mom’s love for me. Even as I just recalled the smell of Elecampane root and watched the video, I felt the grief in my lungs moving and healing. After I finished the second video, I saw a note from EagleSong under the video that she ‘still had some Elecampane crowns for sale’, and to contact her if wanting to purchase Elecampane root crowns. I nearly jumped out of my seat thinking of the opportunity to purchase fresh Elecampane from EagleSong to work with and create a preparation! I send a message right away to ask EagleSong if she had crowns remaining. Then I returned to the plant of the month series to watch the first video, “Elecampane: In the Garden”. As I watched and learned from EagleSong’s instruction, I realized that the Elecampane root crowns were generally meant for planting, rather than making preparations, and that the roots are used for making preparations. “Oh”, I thought, considering what to do after I had been overly-spontaneous. I connected through the breath with Elecampane to ask her what she recommended I do. She told me that it was ok with her if I utilized a crown of hers to make herbal preparations, however that I had to tell EagleSong of my experience and ask her what to do as well. I communicated with EagleSong, and she indicated ‘that the crowns (which continue to grow) can be used to make medicine, however that she prefers to use roots that won’t grow for making Elecampane preparations’. She indicated that she had some roots for sale, and recommended that I order roots from her instead of a crown. Perfect! I placed an order for roots and also some Elecampane elixir made by EagleSong. Sometime around this time, a brand new, large, empty garden pot somehow appeared or blew up around our porch, near where I have some plants in planter boxes and pots. The pot laid there for several days, without being claimed. When EagleSong shipped the package, I received a message from her indicating “The Elecampane is coming with a crown. She said you’ll know what to do. Also some nice feeder roots”. I felt like a queen! And noticed how I feel full of love for Elecampane, such a beautiful mystery of the heart. After the package arrived, I made oxymel with the Elecampane root, so divine. I set it in the cupboard to steep for six weeks. That night, after making the oxymel earlier in the day, my fingers still smelled of her roots. I dreamt of Elecampane. In my dream, I was carrying her in a pot, as if I was moving/traveling with her. As I thought of the extra pot that had magically appeared near our porch, and the dream I had, I wondered about planting the Elecampane root crown in the pot, and still I felt hesitant, as I felt that it would be ideal to plant her in the ground. The evening after all of this was unfolding, I told my shamanic herbal teacher, Julie, of the experience I was having with Elecampane and of receiving the root crown from EagleSong. Julie shared with me that many years ago, she had planted Elecampane in a pot, and carried her around in that pot when moving from home to home, and that a friend’s daughter (also a student of Julie’s) had planted Elecampane in a pot and through moving, had brought the Elecampane to her mom’s some years ago, and her mom still had it in a pot at her home. Julie told me that it was fine to plant Elecampane in a pot! She also shared with me a beautiful blog posting she wrote about Elecampane –

The next day, I retrieved the pot near my porch and planted the Elecampane root crown in the pot. I am excited to see how she may grow. The squirrels seem to have ideas about the now-filled pot as well, as I’ve found them digging in the freshly potted soil around the root.

These last weeks, over the winter holidays, as I waited for the oxymel I made to be ready, I’ve been taking the Elecampane elixir that I ordered from EagleSong when I feel sadness arise related to my mom. As I take the elixir, I feel permeating effects of Elecampane, lifting and transforming grief, lightness and ease of breath returning to my lungs. I feel so blessed and grateful for all of the gifts given to me by my mom and how she nourished me with her own being, as our very own Earth mother nourishes us. I feel something else as well. I become aware of, release, and transform old karmic patterns no longer needed. I get to more deeply be myself. I feel more and more rooted in myself and my own knowing. I recognize how through loss, if we go into it, deepening within ourselves, comes the opportunity to grow in spiritual strength. Elecampane is an ally in this process.Today I opened the Elecampane oxymel I made, now ready to be consumed. I feel deeply nourished, deeply rooted, while I feel lightness in my being. As I feel the presence of Elecampane, into my awareness comes how human means of the Earth, of the soil, of the humus. Elecampane and the plants and trees are my generous teachers, helping me to know myself and my gifts, my soul deeply seated in my human body so that I may come in service to the web of life and love, cultivating reciprocity and generative relationship with the Earth, learning what it means to be human, of the Earth.

2 thoughts on “The Familiar Smell of Roots

  1. Heather thank you for sharing your Elecampane journey! That crown has really thrived in the pot. You also seem to be thriving as well!


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