Break it Good! Four Pattern Breaking Plants
We are creatures of habit, all living somewhere on the spectrum of control in a chaotic world. It is our habits, our practised way of completing the same tasks and our personal templates that frame and shape how we exist in our life. Generally they have been honed over years of repetitive behaviour. We learn that if we do this, that happens. A definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. So when we realise that something isn’t working for us, it is the patterns that need to be shaken up or broken in order to make space for the change we’re craving.
Plants are masters of change and evolution. They teach us – season after season and year after year – how to live harmoniously with our environment, how to let go, and how to make space. They illustrate the promise held in death and rebirth. Plants intrinsically adjust to their surroundings without being locked into an idea of what things should be like, look like, or feel like. Humans on the other hand, with our busy minds and self awareness, often trip ourselves up mentally and retard the very natural process of attrition before we make obvious and long overdue change.
To break a pattern, something’s gotta give… and then go.
When you head down to your local purveyor of plants and bring some new babies home to your garden, you very deliberately disturb the ingrown root patterns that have been caused by the shape of the plant’s temporary plastic home. This is done to prepare the plant for new growth and to encourage it to send its roots deep into the soil, maximising its chances of survival. When patterns are broken, new growth occurs – hence the best way we too can break patterns that bind us is to gently disturb the norm.
There are many wonderful plants we can use to help us break patterns, whose energies are directed specifically to this end. At a magical level they agitate for change by disrupting, disconnecting and distancing us from the habits we are looking to lose. Drinking in the energy of these plants connects you to them, other sentient beings (you cannot convince me that plants do not have their own intelligence and senses) who are already spectacularly pulling off a trait you would like to emulate. Therein lies the magic.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Grandfather sage is a wise old man for a reason. Sage is traditionally used in smudging and smoking ceremonies to clean the energy of a person or place. Sage sticks are readily available for purchase but you can easily make your own by binding leaves together. In Australian indigenous tradition, gum leaves are used for the same purpose. Small fires built from branches of gum leaves are lit and all present are invited to walk through the smoke. Most ceremony begins with a smoking, to purify and sanctify the space.
Lantana (Lantana camara)
One of the best pattern breaking plants we have at our disposal is lantana, an invasive weed in Australia that makes most plant people shudder. Stay with me – perhaps its pattern breaking attributes will give you a reason to use as many of the flowers and leaves as you can get your hands on! The clustered flower heads of lantana, comprised of so many teeny tiny individual flowers, mirror the myriad micro changes that need to occur for us to bust any longstanding rut. Adding them to an altar (a focused space to remind you of your intention daily if not more often) helps to disrupt bad habits and strengthens our willpower. Burning lantana leaves in a smudge stick also has a handy double effect of repelling mozzies too.
Hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla)
Another beauty for deconstructing behaviour patterns and drawing strong lines around a new way of existing is hydrangea. Perhaps this is why they were so often planted as boundary plants or around houses. Hydrangea flowers morph colour according to the composition of the soil, so they are remarkably change adept. Their gorgeous flower heads are again clustered with many little individual flowers to form a giant beautiful bloom. Hydrangeas break and re-direct the constant flow that keeps us repeating bad habits and offer a strong protective defence against slipping back to our old ways.
They encourage us to adjust, to go beyond just surviving the changes to thriving. Planting hydrangeas in your environment will call this energy to you, as these beauties whisper their secrets to you. Keeping a beautiful bloom on your altar or desk will also keep you connected to the changes you are looking to make in your life. Cherokee Indians used to scatter the petals in order to disrupt patterns while the bark of the plant was used magically in ancient lore to break hexes or curses. So often when we are in the grips of a bad habit we are under its spell, so adding hydrangea bark to a charm bag filled with symbols of the habit you would like to break is a powerful way to keep this medicine and magic with you.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow is the botanical big gun for change! Traditionally harvested on midsummer’s day for maximum potency (December 22nd this year), yarrow is an esteemed magical plant whose history underlines its power in both war and healing. Achilles was taught by Charon the centaur to use yarrow to treat the wounds of his soldiers. It was used in Christian exorcism to both summon the devil and then drive him away. It has been found in Neanderthal burial tombs and around the place where Confucius was laid to rest. At its core, pattern breaking is a kind of battle. We need to engage in combat with ourselves in order to make change – and then get over it and move on to something new.
Because yarrow also intensifies the work of other herbs in magic, adding it to a charm bag only increases the potency of intention. Both the flowers and the leaves are useful in this regard and some powerful detoxifying properties are associated with the leaves in particular. Tying bunches of yarrow to your bed or those places where you spend significant time (rear view mirror in the car? dried arrangement on your desk?) will reinforce your ardent desire to make change. And of course if an altar has been dedicated to the cause, make sure it has a healthy amount of yarrow – in whatever form you can find it.
Pattern breaking rituals are best performed on a waning moon, for the two weeks just after the peak of the full moon, when energies are beginning to dissipate. As above, so below. We choose the waning moon to minimise the habit, reflecting the way the moon begins to get smaller in the sky until finally we can’t see her at all. Write down or clearly state the pattern you would like to break and then create an altar with symbols (and plants) that reflect this back to you every time you see it. You may not be able (or feel comfortable) to build an altar at work but you can certainly keep a plant or a flower on your desk that reminds you of your intention.
When breaking any pattern we need to be tenacious and determined, but above all, kind. It is not usually easy to change the habits of a lifetime but employing all means at our disposal – botanical and magical particularly – can add weight to our cause. The plant kingdom is enmeshed with a secret wisdom that speaks to us in a language we can learn and understand and it is here that the magic lies.