The Doctrine of Signatures is the name given to the process whereby the healing quality of a flower is determined and what facet of human consciousness that particular quality can be applied to.
The word signature, in relation to establishing identity, is well recognized considering these days so much hinges on establishing our identity for banking, travel, obtaining various types of licenses and so on. Our signature is a way that we create our own unique mark, determining beyond a doubt, our identity.
The Doctrine of Signatures is a process whereby one recognises and looks for the unique signs of a flower’s identity. These indications, such as the shape, the colour, it’s habitat, it’s growing habits and so on, characterise it and express its uniqueness as different to any other flower. For example, there is an easily recognizable difference between a rose and a sunflower, not only in colour shape texture and scent, but also in habitat, that is, where they best like to grow.
Example: The Sunflower
The sunflower is aptly named. It has a large centre with relatively small petals radiating out from the middle, like the rays of the sun. Not only does it look like the sun in shape, but in colour also. A habit of the sunflower is to follow the sun’s daily path through the sky by turning its face towards the light – a strong indication of its affinity with the mighty centre of our solar system and the giver of life on this planet.
If we translate these qualities of the sunflower into the human condition, we liken the sun’s central position in the solar system to the central energy system in our own body – the solar plexus chakra, located between the lower aspect of the rib-cage and the umbilicus, in the abdominal region. The solar plexus chakra is the digestive centre of the body’s energy system and the physical location where food is transformed, through the digestive process, into life-giving energy.
Like the sun’s daily path through the sky, our body’s energies also follow a daily cycle in response to the hours of sunlight. The body is active and energetic during the day, but goes into repair and maintenance mode at night. It is the primary energy derived from the digestive system that provides the capacity for the body to be active during the waking hours.
Symbolically, the sun represents the male principle, and the male principle in the human psyche corresponds to the father. So, this flower made into an essence, by virtue of the Doctrine of Signatures relates to both digestive function and to issues with the father, or one’s masculinity.
Where did the Doctine of Signatures Come From?
Early herbalists used the DOS to establish the healing properties of herb, hundreds of years ago.
The Doctrine of Signatures of each individual herb was applied to a distinct aspect of the human anatomy. Significantly, science has since validated the uses of medicinal herbs, determined in this manner, by analysis of the plants chemical composition, not available at the time, and confirmed the traditional uses in the human body.
Over four hundred years of safe and effective use of herbs, in the manner prescribed by the Doctrine of Signatures further validates its application.
Familiarity with the principle of the Doctrine of Signatures arose out of medieval cosmology, which recognised that everything in the world of matter, was governed by the planets and their movement through the heavens. The inherent qualities of the heavenly bodies were reflected in all animate and inanimate things on earth – stones, minerals, animals, plants and people.
Although seemingly non-scientific in the present-day sense of the word, where ‘data based evidence’ is the underlying principle, the Doctrine of Signatures has proven over time to be a very effective way of discovering the qualities the plant kingdom has to offer human beings for healing both body and psyche. It does this by observing and putting into practice the understanding of the patterns in the Universe.
To use the Doctrine of Signatures we need to be familiar with some of the more archetypal symbolism, which has universal meaning. This is then applied to the plant or flower being observed, in relation to colour, shape, habitat and growing-habits.
For example, the colour of the flower is often a powerful indicator of the flower’s use. Colours usually align with the charkas or energy centres in the body. The base chakra denotes physicality, bodily strength, physicality and general ”red-bloodedness”. A red flower therefore usually addresses physical well-being, endurance and the “circulation” of the life-force.
Yellow, on the other hand, is related to the third chakra, the Solar Plexus, and the corresponding energy body known as the Mental Body. Yellow flowers are often used to address a way of thinking or a fixed mental attitude.
Shape relates to what the plant actually looks like. For example, a plant shaped like a cup, a heart, a phallus, or a cross, needs no further explanation; although sometimes a petal on a flower can carry the determining shape rather than the whole flower itself.
Habitat can also be a powerful indicator of the plant’s healing qualities. For example, plants grown out in the hot, dry desert show a much stronger capacity to survive than a flower grown in moist, sheltered conditions.
The desert-growing flower, used to thriving in extreme conditions would be indicated for survival issues, whereas the sheltered flower would more likely address extreme sensitivity in a person.
In terms of growing habits, a vine, which grows up strangling all other plants around it could be likened to the person who dominates all those around them. On the other hand, a flower only growing in clumps of it’s own species, might be used for the person who is xenophobic or who follows the crowd and has no opinions of their own.
Most often, when determining the healing qualities that a plant has to offer human healing, three or more Doctrine of Signatures indicators are selected to best ensure the healing energy being expressed by the plant.
Back to the Sunflower…
The sunflower, mentioned above, has the colour yellow, the shape of the sun and the habit of following the sun during the day. Each single indication confirms the others. Together they point emphatically to the solar plexus in the human energy system which deals with personal empowerment, self-authority, the masculine principle and available energy for body functioning.
Thus, we can clearly isolate qualities expressed by the plants in various ways, which can be symbolically translated into human characteristics.
Please comment below if you would like to discuss the DOS or have any questions about it.