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Ghost pipe


Ghost Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) 

Strange and ethereal, Ghost Pipe emerges from beneath the forest floor in summer. Easily mistaken for a mushroom, Ghost Pipe is in fact a vascular plant with no chlorophyll whose white stalk blooms forth in a white blossom whose center becomes tinged with yellow pollen that attracts Bumblebees. 

Ghost Pipe taps its roots into the place where the mycelium meets the rhizome, drawing off nutrients from mushroom and tree alike, and sends up a slender stalk that blossoms into a bell shape flower that first faces upward toward a sky whose sunlight it does not need and then nods down toward the ground that gives it life. Tapped into these nodes in the mycorrhizal network, Ghost Pipe is tapped into two very different systems for processing information – essentially two very different forms of consciousness. Mycelial consciousness is horizontal and diffuse – information is carried across vast networks of nerve-like filaments. Information moves rapidly 

Safety considerations: Be careful if you are allergic to other plants of the Asteraceae 

family, or if you are on medications for kidney disease or congestive heart failure. Otherwise, 

this is a very safe plant. Many people wrongly blame Goldenrod for their seasonal allergies 

because it is blooming during a time when there are a lot of common allergens in the air, but its 

pollen is actually too heavy to be windborne. Its gentle astringency does, however, make it an 

excellent medicine for dealing with allergies involving red eyes and a drippy nose. 

and multi-directionally. But the web has no center where information can be concentrated and processed. In contrast, trees concentrate information over time in one place. The rings of their trunks holding the memory of rain and drought and fire. Plants and fungi exchange nutrients across their shared mycorrhizal networks. And in the process, they also exchange information in the form of chemical and signals in siphoning off nutrients from these mycorrhizal networks, Ghost Pipe is also tapping into the information they carry. 

Ghost Pipe’s white flower that blooms from beneath the earth to me brings a message that we can draw nourishment not only from the world of the living and the bright sun above, but also from the Otherworld. The mycorrhizal networks that sustain the plant include fungi (and depend on symbiotic bacteria) that metabolize the bodies of the dead, and hence their embodied memories. So too, we are nourished by the human and other-than-human ancestors who preceded us. Like the Psilocybe mushrooms, Ghost Pipe also teaches us that when our own forms dissolve the memories our bodies hold will become part of the memory of the Earth – a reality science is just catching up with as we learn to extract ancient genetic traces of skin and bone and saliva and sweat from soil. The soil is the fascia of the Earth, and the mycorrhizal network is akin to the collagen bundles that carry information in the form of light throughout the fascia. 

Ghost Pipe’s form resembles that of the spine and the brainstem. This signature points to an essential part of what the plant has to teach us: how to be at the nexus of worlds, listening to the voices above and the voices below and the voices around us without becoming overwhelmed. It teaches us to be aware of sensory and emotional inputs without being overwhelmed by them, how to engage them without identifying with them fully. (This calls to mind the way in which the Irish language addresses emotion – we do not say “Is me brón” – “I am sad,” instead we say “Tá brón orm” – sadness is upon me.) 

This is an essential skill in magical work. We have to be in touch with, aware of, the embodied sense of the presence of the beings we are working with, the currents of power around us, and the flow of sensation within us while still being able to maintain focused intention and conjure in our bodies the sense of motion toward the goal we and our magical partners are trying to achieve together. Ghost Pipe has been one of my most profound teachers in achieving this state. 

Because Ghost Pipe is not a plant that can be planted or proliferated by humans, it is important to learn this from the plant without harvesting it. (I will not say that there is never a reason to work with this plant’s physical medicine, but this is something I will only teach to people who have demonstrated an ability to listen deeply to plants and will only do myself when no other medicine and no other means of engaging it will do.) The best way to do this is to get down on the ground and be deeply present with the plant. Feel awareness go down from your root into the shared mycorrhizal network and focus on the presence of the plant before you. “Be still and know.” 

Seán Pádraig O'Donoghue

White Magik Tincture Ghost Pipe

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