slime mold, or Witches butter

Witches Butter

The other day I found the most beautiful fungus on an aging white pine, set against deep green moss that was almost arcing over a stream. When I looked up Dacrymyces palmatis, I discovered that it’s common name was “Witches Butter”. That figures, I thought – this must mean that this plant has medicinal qualities, and of course it does, along with the fact that the fungus is edible.

Any time I see the word ‘witch’ associated with a plant, if I am not familiar with it, I start digging into research, inevitably coming up with the same kind of information – the plant/tree/fungus/slime mold is edible and has medicinal value.

The word witch, as many of us know has at its root to bend or shape. Shape – shifting by natural means.

Witches were and are healers that use herbs, talk intimately with animals, are counseled by plants and humming trees. Witches wait patiently for instructions.

It’s no surprise that in fairy tales witches almost always live in the woods and are solitary creatures by nature and design.


After having spent the most creative more than half of my life living alone by choice, my non-human neighbors have become my teachers. It is painfully obvious to me that listening to Nature is an art form lost to western culture.

Observing, listening, refusing to make judgments or draw premature conclusions, allows Nature’s truths to seep slowly into our bodies. I think of this process as a kind of percolating – insights and knowledge arise out of these complex relationships with the rest of Nature that only some Indigenous cultures seem to be able to understand and maintain today.

Although I am not a witch in the western tradition I do think I have been initiated by Nature into a different way of seeing/feeling/sensing/intuiting…

I’ll give the reader one recent example. A number of years ago while walking through a Bosque along the river in NM on a daily basis during the winter months, always before dawn, I began to sense light emanating from under my feet underground. I could feel that this light was beneficent but it also seemed that I was tapping into the unknown. Very odd. Having learned to trust my body’s truth, I took this experience seriously and searched for more information.

When I learned that the latest research in western science had discovered that mycelial networking operated much like the human brain does, by creating synapses accompanied by sparks of light that
wove the roots below my feet into one tapestry that stretched across unbroken ground, I still experienced a sense of awe and wonder.

I thanked my body for listening to the message: We are all connected! At least in some places. These networks stretch across parts of the desert in the wetlands if they are protected as this area was. (Many desert lands have been trashed by cattle grazing, destroying the delicate mycelia).


The same process occurs in more temperate areas. In untrammeled forests and lands left to re-wild themselves, these networks remain intact. However, when roads are paved, cities are built, or agribusiness pollutes the earth and air with chemicals, mycelial networks are destroyed.

Sadly, our logging practices dictate that not only are the trees removed, but trunks and roots must be uprooted too. Often I hear the same remark repeated like a mantra “oh the trees will grow back”. But will they? After the network has been destroyed, we have no idea how long it will take to regenerate the mycelia that are the underpinnings for new growth. Or what plants or trees might be able to colonize these desolate areas.

I am not saying that we don’t need trees. Plantations that grow trees for commercial purposes are a necessity. We all need and use wood. But why do we have to destroy our forests to get these trees? Around here our mountains are being ruthlessly stripped of trees that sequester more carbon as they age. This behavior continues to occur during an age of climate crisis.

If earth was allowed to be in her natural state, the underground networking would stretch across the
whole planet. It is amazing to think that the bones of such complex communication lines lie just under the surface of our feet.

One of the qualities I love most about being in unbroken stretches of forest is that it is very easy to slip into that light trance state while walking.

Softening my vision with intent, I feel and sense that communication occurring beneath my feet, experience being cared about by something so much greater than I can comprehend. Every time I enter this kind of forest, I can feel her/him casting a veil around me as I slip into “all there is”. My only thought afterwards is to be grateful for instructions from ‘Something’ greater than me as I give thanks for the people who saved this land from destruction…

The wiser woman is always repeating the same words: ‘Let the Powers of Nature lead you Home’.

If that makes me a witch so be it!

Postscript: I deliberately capitalize the word Nature to make a point; we need to begin to see her as a complex Living Being.

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