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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Littlebird

In the Shelter of Tea

Why Tea?

A good cup of tea nurtures our whole being. With today’s time-deprived fast paced lifestyles, taking time to sit down and drink a cuppa’ healthy tea could very well add years to your life.

When you’re not feeling well, other than Grandma’s chicken soup, a soothing tea is the most often consumed alternative. Hot tea beverages, black, green and herbal contain flavonoids and powerful antioxidants. With store aisles bombarded with confusing selections of nutritional supplements, medicinal teas offer a simple assured choice for strengthening your immune system, alleviating stress and nurturing preventative health care. Most teas are also calorie-free and can actually aid in weight loss.

The ritual of making tea gives you a way to slow down while you are brewing your tea. Immediately you feel yourself coming to ground again within your day. Maybe it’s sipping a bright Nettle tea tonic with morning devotions. Or savoring a cup of brain boosting Rosemary-Ginkgo tea during a mid-day break to breathe, exhale and reboot. Or a gentle Passionflower-Mugwort evening tea before bed to carry you into a peaceful sleep and deep dreamtime. These tea times connect us with our beautiful plant allies and nourish our body, mind and spirit. This is why a good cup of tea is more than just drinking a beverage. It is a sheltering of nourishment. A way to come home.

As an herbalist, the simplest and most beneficial way to administer medicinal herbs is through tea. Tea infusions provide us with nutrient dense, potent herbal dosages versus manufactured supplements. The fresh vibrancy of wildcrafted herbs is like none other as far as strong plant medicine. Properly dried herbs are best as drying breaks down the cellular wall of plants thus allowing their potent nutrients to be extracted when steeped in hot water. Steeping tea is done either in a tea infusion (tisane) with the plant’s leaves and flowers or a decoction of dried plant roots and seeds. Pure clean water and plants from the earth how simple and divine is that. A sacred alchemy all in one cup!

Beyond the tea bag

All fresh herbs begin to deteriorate once they’re harvested. The medicinal tea bags in boxes that we purchase in stores, although marketed as health formulas, due to being processed by the time they reach us the herbs are old, lack freshness and potency therefore giving us a poor-quality herbal remedy. By wildcrafting your own fresh herbs and drying them in small batches or purchasing herbs from a reliable herb company you end up with the most vibrant plant medicine.

The tea cup

For me the tea cup is metaphor as well as a functional vessel. Herbalists are attracted to all kinds of vessels: cups, teapots, baskets, pouches, exquisite vases, pretty colored glass jars, as these containers hold our herbs and our herbal medicine makings. They are part of the experience. For me the empty tea cup holds grace. You can’t see grace, you can’t touch grace, but by faith you know it is there. I like to start like that. The simple elegant invitation to fill a cup with warm tea goodness reminds me that I am cared for. Like being held in a grandmother’s arms or cradled in the embrace of our Mother – the earth.

Land Art Tea Sanctuary

I have always enjoyed making art using circles and spirals. In Celtic and Indigenous cultures, the spiral represents rebirth and is viewed as a journey to the light. Spirals in nature form from the center and flow outward. The Nautilus shell is a good example of a spiral in nature.

When I’m out on the land with the intention to create a tea sanctuary in a wild landscape, I bring along one of my favorite tea cups in my pack. Once I discover my special spot after walking around, I place the cup in what I sense is the center of the place. I then engage in a time of creative play, very childlike, gathering natural found objects to blend with what I have brought with me in my foraging bag. I create an on the spot in the moment land art tea installation. Sometimes I work in a spiral or circular motion moving outward from the tea cup center. When I am done sitting and savoring my tea in this contemplative land space, I stand up and look at everything around me in all four directions, above and below my feet. These installations are ephemeral and I leave them there to dissolve back into the land leaving an imprint on the ether of the place and within the heart.

Creating sanctuary

Whether your daily tea ritual is in your home, your garden or out in nature, it can give you a sanctuary time on the ground right beneath your feet. Sanctuary is a safe calm refuge – a time set aside for quiet contemplation. During these times of shifting landscapes, keeping our daily stresses at bay and nurturing our physical and spiritual health are paramount. Taking one hour a day to just simply be still in a beautiful setting and savor a cup of tea can bring renewed peace and restorative well-being to your daily life.

During my tea sanctuary, I like to journal words and lyric writing them down quickly without thinking too much. Later, I review these journaling’s to recall the essence of what I gathered during that sheltered tea. This process gives me inspiration to write poetry, create new tea formulas and nurture my creative spirit as I connect with beauty in nature. Here I discover an inner wild landscape - a new song, an old verse, a woven prayer. Sheltered in the presence of generosity, my cup overflows.

May you be blessed on your path of tea. And may you discover

your own secret tabernacle and gather beauty to you.

Deborah Littlebird


© Copyright. Deborah Littlebird
© Copyright. Deborah Littlebird
© Copyright. Deborah Littlebird
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