: Plants And Their Spirits


Coffea arabica

Once upon a time I was dependant on coffee to get me up in the morning and powered through the day. I drank it throughout the day if I could; it was as much an emotional crutch as a physical need. Everything about coffee was heaven to me the smell, the taste, the heat, the sound made by the coffee maker, the way I could drink it black or full of flavored syrups. I was truly captivated by the bean.

As my spirit-work progressed and my work with plant spirits took on greater weight I developed a marked sensitivity to coffee. I mourned a little then switched to drinking tea. My palette refined and I came to appreciate the bouquet and subtlety of tea as much as I had the strength of coffee. No more the hectic caffeine rush, jitters, or four-dollar drinks at the local coffee shop. I settled into a more peaceful routine, content with a perk of wakefulness instead of a jolt.

I accepted that this was just the way things were going to have to be from then on. After all, I have a taboo against using plant-derived drugs recreationally (drug here meaning any substance not food or medicine that could be a poison in high enough doses). And, believe it or not, caffeine is a drug. It's addictive and habit-forming, and potentially very dangerous in concentrated forms (people have even visited the hospital after drinking those damn energy drinks). I was certainly a habitual coffee drinker, so that had to change.

As I learned to get my kicks from tea (all while watching the line between enjoyment and habit) I considered the question of coffee. There are times when caffeine is helpful, just like any medicine I might need to take. Plus, I have always reacted to coffee on a more than physical level; it lifts my mood when nothing else can, it helps me feel cheerful, loving, and peaceful, and gives me spiritual boost. Drinking coffee is like drinking sunlight.

Once I learned to manage my coffee drinking in a reasonable way, the sensitivity backed off and I was able to enjoy it again. The question remained: was drinking coffee okay with the spirits? Worried over the answer, I put off contacting the coffee spirit. Eventually I couldn't put it off any longer. I love these spirits and don't want to end up on their bad side; whether or not I was habituated, I would always love coffee and wanted it in my life.

I made some coffee and breathed in the aroma, letting the cup warm my hands. I thought about coffee, about its heat, aroma, and flavor. I thought about coffee cherries and trees in the sun; I thought about Kona growing in Hawaii. I thought about why I love coffee, the way it makes me feel and how it is always associated with communication and action. I reached out.

The coffee spirit is somewhat diffuse, no doubt from the plant's wide-spread use; I have heard figures stating that coffee is the second most widely traded commodity on the planet, just after oil. I caught glimpses of a feminine face inside a coffee-brown presence. She was kind but firm, assuring me that no, my drinking coffee was not displeasing to her. However, she wanted to be remembered each time I drank some. She was also patient, something I didn't expect. I think she finds her use (and over-use) stressful; the cultivation of coffee is an agricultural and economical nightmare, and the spirit is aware of this abuse. The Coffee spirit asked me for one thing that I write about her to make sure her voice is heard and remembered. I told her I would do so.

Though Coffee was kind and patient towards me, I believe that she is a defensive being, used to being taken advantage of; I didn't see anything to make me think she was sullen or angry about the state of things, but I'm sure she is sad and a bit injured because of it. She doesn't create casualties the same way that the Poppy spirit does but she has helplessly addicted hordes more than any other spirit I'm aware of, including Tobacco and Marijuana. I hesitate to state outright that Coffee is one of the debt collectors of the Green World on the same magnitude that Poppy is, but it's reasonable to assume that Coffee takes something away from those people who use her plants. I believe Coffee collects small debts of hamingja by letting a person borrow against their own stamina; as a friend of mine put it, coffee doesn't give you more energy, it just gives you energy now that you would have had later.

As far as Coffee's spiritual benefits go, I haven't found enough people who work with her to discern any meaningful patterns. Personally, Coffee adds light and joy to my spirit, bolstering me through some very rough times; I feel very strongly that she is one of my primary allies, along with Red Man and the rest. I get an energetic kick-start and I feel more capable of doing high-energy spirit-work. Emotionally I feel revived and lifted, but it's more than that. My spirit responds to the spiritual potency of coffee's brew. I have experienced what I can only described as an altered state because of coffee. My creativity flows more freely and I feel more at peace with the world, and with myself. Negatively, coffee can make me emotionally jittery, as well as worrisome and slightly paranoid. A friend told me about some study that demonstrated coffee acting as an antidepressant in female-bodied people, so perhaps the spiritual and emotional affects I experience are not entirely due to my own head noise.

Coffee has been consistently found in the middle of communication. Europe was experiencing political revolutions at the time the drink became popular; perhaps it's no coincidence. Coffee is always found where people are gathering; it contributes to the sharing of ideas and information. In modern western society, coffee is the backbone of commercial life; I have only been in one office that didn't have a coffee station, and that single exception was a Mormon-run newspaper I once created classified ads for. Coffee shops are important features of a neighborhood's landscape and are never hard to find. In getting to know the coffee spirit better, I have found that she has helped me connect to the food I eat every day. I am more aware that everything I eat had to come from somewhere. Everything was once alive and firmly rooted in the ground before being taken down a long, complex trail to reach me. My coffee came from a tree that was rooted in some distant soil; it saw the sun and rain, the dusty wind, the bird shit, the insects, and the underpaid workers who tended the trees. One glorious plant is responsible for so much in my society and in my life. Being such a widely-traded commodity, perhaps it's only natural that Coffee helps me appreciate how dependant I am not just on the plants I eat, but the system that brings those plants to me. Everything was once alive, everything comes from somewhere, everything is connected - I am learning these principles again in new ways under Coffee's influence.

Silence Maestas; 2008


© Silence Maestas, 2006