“The archetype of the wounded healer symbolizes a type of consciousness that can hold the seemingly mutually exclusive and contradictory opposites of being consciously aware of both our woundedness and our wholeness at one and the same time.” Paul Levy
Yarrow is often referred to as the wounded healer plant for the obvious reason that Carl Linnaeus named it Achillea Millefolium, after Achilles, the Greek warrior. The story goes Chiron the wise centaur gave Achilles yarrow to help him heal the battle wounds of his soldiers by staunching the bleeding. There is also a story that as a child, Achilles mother made a bath of yarrow and dipped the child into it, holding him by the ankle, Achilles was protected by the yarrow but died from an arrow that hit his Achilles heel, the only part of his body that did not receive the yarrow bath.
There is no doubt about it, yarrow is an effective wound healer but, in my opinion, this isn’t the full story of yarrow as a wounded healer ally.
Yarrow’s wound healing capacity isn’t just effective for the skin, it runs throughout the psyche healing wounds and holes in our energetic body too. You can actually feel the scar tissue forming on an energetic level after using yarrow regularly to heal these wounds. To do that, put a drop of yarrow essential oil between your hands, rub them together and direct the aromatic molecules to the places in the aura where the wound or energy leak is felt.
The herbalist Matthew Wood describes yarrow as the ‘Master of Blood’ due to its varied actions on the blood depending on the organism’s need, i.e. clotting and unclotting, regulating the flow of blood to and from the surface of the skin, etc. Yarrow’s connection with blood goes deeper than the mere physical connection. Blood is a symbol for life, for being alive in a material body. Blood as a symbol for the most basic human concerns such as life, death, family and ancestral connection has been used throughout history and worldwide in rituals concerning the physical body and spirituality. Yarrow connects us to our humanness, wherein we must confront our woundedness in order to grow.
Yarrow contains the work of what it is to be human or a wounded healer by helping us to create a boundary between ourselves and the other, between the inside and the outside. I have felt this boundary protect me against dark forces by helping me push my energy outwards in a protective way, kind of like a puffer fish that fills up with air when it needs to protect itself.
“The wounded healer is THE archetype of the Self” Marie-Louise Von France
Yarrow gives us all we need in its teachings and its signature to realize and fulfil the human contract of working with our wounds, so we become whole and of service to others. This is the signature of yarrow medicine. This commitment to embodiment is the reason yarrow stalks were the original way of divining with the I Ching. Becoming whole doesn’t mean not having a wound, it means embracing the inner wounds that we do have.
Yarrow encourages us to face this wound, which we might resist confronting. This resistance may hide our sacred wound in the shadow – the underworld. Yarrow offers us willingness to go into darkness to see our trauma, guiding us to integrate it so that we may transform. Yarrow is a core herb, multidimensional, full of opposites
In Jungian terms, becoming whole is accepting the opposites within – the conscious and the unconscious, the healer and the wounded, the masculine and the feminine, etc.
We can see the opposites coming together in the morphology of yarrow. Its straight, woody stem that resembles more a tree than an herbaceous plant and gives structure and centeredness compared with its soft leaves that bring movement and fluidity to its energy and appearance. The near fractal appearance of its leaves compares to the wholeness and integrity of all its plant parts, especially its stem. Try harvesting yarrow tops without a knife–the whole plant, root included comes away in your hand.
Yarrows medicinal and energetic qualities bring opposites together in a myriad of different ways:
- It helps stop bleeding and moves stagnant blood
- stimulates and relaxes
- It is cooling and warming
- It is fluid generating and controlling
- It is grounding and uplifting
- It heightens sensorial experience while protecting energetically.
- It has masculine and feminine qualities
- It connects us on inner and outer on all levels
- Yarrow helps inspire an alignment with Heaven and Earth, just like the trees and clear out outdated material, beliefs, ways of being…
Yarrow reminds us that the psyche, the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual aspects of the Self is always looking for homeostasis between all the opposites we contain until we hold them in balance, just like the yarrow plant and call ourselves “whole”.
About the image of the green lion at the top of this post: “The green lion drinking the blood of the sun” is one in a series of alchemical woodcuts called the Rosarium Philosophorum. The green lion is symbolic of embodiment, of plants that turn sunlight into matter in photosynthesis with chlorophyll and thus of yarrow, the master of embodiment.