The picture above shows an essence bowl set upon a battered wooden TV tray. It's sitting within the midst of our evolving sanctuary garden and the bowl is full of Bottle Gentian flowers. Took the pic just before harvesting and processing the mother stock there in the later summer of '18.
To successfully make a flower essence you need the following atmospheric elements:
* A sunny day with no/virtually no clouds.
* Temps somewhere between 60 and 80 degrees. You can push it to 85 degrees if you have to but setting out bowls in downright HOT weather insures your flowers will fry rather than fuse. Remember the sun heated glass will in turn heat the water. It's always going to be significantly warmer for the flowers in the bowl than the air temperature feels against your skin.
* Time in which to keep track of time: 4 hours worth. You don't have to stay right there, obviously, but you do have to remain aware of the ongoing project (I set both my stove and phone timers) - keeping special track of any sudden/cloudy shifts in weather.
on the material plane you need:
*A pair of small sewing or herb-cutting scissors/snips that remains dedicated solely for harvesting essence preparation flowers.
*Unflavored brandy* to stabilize the harvested mother stock. I use E&J specifically because Matthew Wood favors it. Equally specific: he does as much due to the brandy being aged in oak barrels.
* you can also use brown rice vinegar or a red shiso decoction
*THREE size-proportionate glass containers (I use half pint canning jars) per essence preparation.
*SIX coffee filters - unbleached preferred but we're all pinch-hitting these days - per essence bowl. You can use paper towels in a pinch although many shed pulp that defeats the purpose of straining. I've had better luck layering two or three pieces of white tissue paper.
*ONE funnel (large enough to accommodate a coffee filter containing liquid and soaking wet flowers) per essence.
* simple CLEAR glass bowls dedicated to essence preparation and nothing else*. no pyrex. I have fairly shallow bowls that are 3, 4, and 6 inches in diameter. I also have the 12 inch diameter version of the same bowl. All were purchased at a dollar store 18 years ago after an essence making friend grasped how perfect they'd be for our purposes and tried out the smallest bowl size by preparing an amethyst elixir. We had the type of friendship that involved excited phone calls when great bargains of vast consequence were discovered. In short order she'd picked me up and we were on the way to the store so I could purchase a set of my own.
*if you don't immediately know that you have a bowl or bowls that might work - consider what you're currently unable to recycle due to the pandemic. Look for short glass jars with wide mouths such as small spice/herb jars or clear glass containers from non-toxic beauty products. Wash and clean these jars thoroughly. I like to leave them to dry in the sun.
[I removed the ant drawn to the meadowsweet in the bowl - and swiftly transported it to a shaded recuperation site - after noticing it through the camera lens]
Additionally - many no-pick flower alchemists work with taller wide mouthed jars that allow for submerging full-peak flowers still attached to the plant or bush. Have done it sporadically with larger plants bearing flexible flower stalks - mints, bergamots, comfrey, a white lilac flower branch, a spray of flowering quince, etc.
re-imagining tip - I have made an emergency-status essence with just two key lime flowers* and spring water placed in the hole of a plain glass candle holder.
*lime flowers have a special affinity for cleansing the auras and emotional/psychic bodies of healers/teachers/leaders/activists. At the time of my emergency improvisation I was working between 5 and 10 hours a week with a group of self-described 'disaffected yet enraged' teenagers. Although I could say tons more I don't think I really have to ...
3 inch verbascum essence. Two 4 inch blend bowls in the southern bed of my former garden '07. Note that rather than removing each motherwort and yarrow flower individually, I plunged the flower heads upside down into the bowl's water. Never did it that way before but I'd observed a friend embrace the method to great success and was glad to try.
and of course you also need
appropriate water. Avoid tap water that is highly -inated with much of anything. Some people boil such water if it's their only option then set it in the sun for an hour or so to regain vibrancy. I don't use our well water because it's very hard and overly endowed with mineral deposits. This messes with the fusion process and tends to produce mother stocks that spoil in relatively short order or simply feel heavy rather than sparkle-bright. I collect water especially for this work from a friend's wellspring and when that's gone I break out my yearly purchase of two 12 ounce water bottle six packs from a local source. Each bottle is enough to fill a few essence bowls at one time.
for Phase One of this process you'll need your bowl, an easy-pour container of appropriate water, your designated scissors/snips and a well-balanced softly focused mind.
Your intention and practical goals will be centered on preparing the bowl for its four hour sun and water fusion process. This involves filling the bowl with enough water to hold the flowers you'll collect and then gently adding enough water to allow turning some flowers upside down.
[note: if you select a large tree flower or something huge like a peony, artichoke, lotus, or dahlia you may need to raid your pantry for a relatively shallow clear glass prep bowl. If you don't have one - or something else that feels like a strong choice - you'll have to deconstruct the bloom a bit in order to get all of it submerged in the watery bowl.]
GROUND AND CENTER
breathe deeply a few times.
If everything within your experience falls into place super easily you may get very spaced out and not realize it until you move back into more normalized and familiar activities.
Approach your chosen plant. Ideally you'll already have some type of personal alliance with your first few choices for essence preparation. This intuitive self/flower guided selection method will make the experience more meaningful in ways that are both universally profound and intimately unique to any given individual. The experiential commonality is one of cosmic union and coalescence. It's a lofty plane to seek on any given sunny day in today's world but it starts very simply with cellular connection.
Notice where the sun is in relation to your chosen plant. How is the light falling, specifically, on the flowers you'll harvest for your essence bowl? Make sure that you approach the plant and position your body so that you're not blocking the sunlight's passage. Throughout the rest of the harvesting and setting in place process you want to keep from blocking the sunlight's path to the bowl and flowers within it.
Above I'm harvesting blueberry flowers so they fall into a six inch bowl. My left/receptive hand cradles the bottom of the bowl and I'm careful to keep my fingers free of casting shadows on the water's surface. what's not completely clear in this picture is that I've pivoted my entire right/dominant arm from the shoulder through to finger tips in order to avoid casting any shadows. But look directly below this sentence:
You'll most likely be standing up to harvest tree and bush blossoms. For lower plants or ground creepers you'll be crouched/squatting, on a gardening stool, or sitting on ground. You aren't 'supposed' to touch the flowers. Snip the blooms with just a bit of stem left attached to the throat/base of the petals.
Old schoolers such as myself will recommend making any necessary adjustments or retrieving flowers that miss the bowl by using a leaf pinched between thumb and forefinger to shield the petals from touching your fingers.
If the flowers are large enough to consciously manipulate in a timely way make sure some blooms are face down in the bowl while others face upwards. I push things around with the tips of the scissors - really saturating the flowers so they'll settle into the water for the 4 hour fusion process.
tip: It can be surprisingly hard not to reflexively 'arrange' the bowl as if it were a flower vase. In my teaching and mentoring experience there's nearly always relatively adamant in-person resistance to turning flowers upside down at first because the results aren't as visually pleasing. What the bowl looks like is immaterial to how it feels vibrationally once the entire process is complete. To that end it's worth the time and suspended judgement to patiently saturate each flower enough to make them heavier and harder to disturb.
note: sometimes flowers will not cooperate with being saturated to the point of heaviness. They sometimes won't seem to stay right side down, either - as was my experience with the cherry blossoms below. Do the best you can to inter-mix their orientation. speak to them if you sense it might help.
If the flowers are small, like blueberries, you either want a proportionally smaller bowl OR the time and patience to fill a larger bowl's surface. I went with the latter choice because my inner sense was that I might not have another opportunity to work with blueberry flowers in this way. So far that instinct has proven itself correct.
If you have a very large flower such as a Lily you can cut it apart right there at the bowl while it's submerged in water. This structural mangling is hard to do - at least for me. But I did put that aside last summer in order to work with a Mona Lisa Lily. The medicine spirit urged me forward and as I did what needed doing I reflected on several well-known flower alchemists who routinely shred all the flowers before placing them in sunlit water.
note: according to Richard Katz & Patricia Kaminsky's remarkably gifted updating of the Doctrine of Signatures applied to flower reading rules of thumb - bell shaped/nodding flowers speak to the mind and soul needs of those who tend to be introverted in life and work practice. People who are not selfish or socially unskilled but almost supernaturally wise in honoring their need for isolated space and distance in which to do their intentional/healing/creative work. Blueberry flower essence relates specifically to the needs of those who are undergoing a sense of internal transformation that demands Cathedrals of One's Own even if that sense of inviolate sanctuary is largely metaphorical given our collective experiences of the moment.
[eta: since publishing this post I've come to realize that I conflated the Twelve Windows of Plant Perception with snippets of several Blueberry flower essence profiles as well as my own Blueberry reading notes. I left it stand rather than editing in order to avoid confusion for anyone revisiting these posts over time. The paragraph as I wrote it 'from memory' also illustrates the way combined knowledge follows a memory river of sorts.]
This seems like a good place to push the pause button on an info dump point of view. If you've already co-created essences and would like to talk about it please comment or email if you're so inclined.
Consider your options for making a flower essence. What plants/trees/bushes do you live with that have flowers which evoke something soothing or cleansing for you? What is coming into flower (looking at jude...) that calls to your soul and heart in an overwhelming sort of way?
You might also consider what plants/trees/bushes you live with that consistently evoke a sense of balance, unique familiarity, comfort or insight. Read something about their flowers even/especially if you believe you're too familiar to need this step.
as you think about this endeavor and look around your landscape's options for working with specific plants - remember that sometimes it's the in-person flowers that are magnetizing and sometimes it's the energetic vibration of the overall plant that leads to exploration/examination of the flowers it makes.
~~alternatively you can research flower essences more generally here online and match your intentions to the healing and illumination properties of a particular flower~~
I'll write the concluding portion of this how-to post on Wednesday or Thursday and schedule post it for Friday. Part two of the flowers' transformation process covers the nuts & bolts of how to turn the alchemized bowl's contents into a mother stock.
If such an inspirational self-care endeavor is viable for the place where you live consider preparing a bowl of whatever's freshly bloomed and feels beckoning on your solar return day. I've been doing this off and on (it often rains that day) during the decade we've lived here. I find it a wonderful way of celebrating both my life force and the landscape's floral bounty just south of mid-summer. These gifts often serve as constitutional remedies that last all year and well beyond. The birthday bowl essences nourish and soothe me as time passes in a way that always prompts deeply layered gratitude and respect for the healing properties - and extraordinary sentient intelligence - of flowers and all they hold.