Most anything can be medicine or poison, depending on relationship and respect. I have known sweetness primarily as poison or as vessel to it. My mesa work has called me into new relationship with sweetness as medicine, slowly imbuing me with its gifts and wisdom.

Like many practitioners of the Pachakuti Mesa Tradition, my first clear call to the path came through Royal Hummingbird. I didn’t quite understand the little fellow at first, but I knew he slept in a nest of spider web and had been to death and back a few times, so if this fierce felicitous psychopomp had a message for me, I’d follow him just about anywhere to find out.

A curious thing brought quickly to light in my attunement to this creature teacher was that it called for close attention and due diligence in relation to sweetness, exemplified quite blatantly in my case as I shortly began to exhibit significant signs of blood sugar imbalance and insulin resistance. This couldn’t be called a shock, as my life had been the perfect storm to create such an affection. Yet Hummingbird’s presence at the onset indicated this was not a proscription but an opportunity to enter right relationship with sweetness and discover its medicine virtue.

Taking this chance to heart, I started in the obvious place. Having long ago renounced refined sugars, I now began to study and understand the glycemic influences of the fruits and honey I still eat. Using this new understanding to make important changes in what and how I feed myself, I discovered my balance and vitality rely on frequent and routine nourishment. Yet this shift kept slamming me against walls I couldn’t see, and the depth of emotion triggered in eating showed me there was different work to be done here, a deeper secret to unearth.

I began to ponder sweetness and paused just as soon as I’d started, drawing a blank. It was not something I really knew outside food. It was something I could see but not a feeling I could tap into. A quick check-in proved that Hummingbird’s signature joy and lightness were lost to me too. I knew that if the little bird was asking me to limit the sugar I was eating, there must be a deeper sweetness lying in wait as key to joy. My first lesson in sweetness was that, no matter how toothsome, not all medicine is meant to be consumed. In fact, not all life is meant to be consumed, and doing so is how many things become poison.

Recent months have seen me in full and heartfelt reflection upon what sweetness has meant in my life, in exploration of a new open knowing of its pertinence.

There was a time when I tried sweetness as remedy, draping lace over shoulders as they wasted away, dressing in rainbow sprinkle colors even when they fell flat on my fallow frame. I carved my face into a mask shaped like the heady taste of sugared pink champagne cake, and the effect of it was striking, but cloying, and it couldn’t save me. I disguised the poison in my life in pastel candy coating and sticky saccharine syrup, not a balm but a sedating flavor to make the acrimonious, indigestible chunks go down more easily, leaving me in a nauseating spin of venom stirred into a skull-shaped confection.

I could not, at that time, see through to the true medicine virtue in sweetness because I lacked the experience of light that brings it to life. So I started where I was, learning to work in the dark, discovering first what needed to die. I painted my eyes phantom-dark to stand and face my captor, and I set to work alchemizing antidotes, distilling medicine from venom. I found healing in metal edge and impregnable depths, in black stone barrier and dry bitter bite, in a dust of dirt over too-bright colors and a coat of luscious mud over vulnerable, crawling white skin. I became practiced in the sort of magic that is eye of newt and toe of frog, foul, pungent, purgative potions and extractive salves. Ghoul and gorgon, rust and grey, root and thorn, bat and snake, twig and toadstool and powdered bone…

The painting above is titled ‘Under’ and is the personal work of the author. This photo is the author’s self-protrait called ‘Cicatrix’.

Until this bold sweet bird showed up in my cave, overturning my dinner table to tell me I had overstayed. Underground my skin was getting dry and tight, eyes dull under old skin, insides bitter as the wormwood and blessed thistle mixed up in my medicine bowl.

Because Hummingbird has seen the things which sweetness cannot save, and believes in its value anyway, I followed his lead. Flowers were the gateway. For they too must begin in the dark, and where sugar and lace could never save me, the flowers by my sickbed had daily. They were my clearest view of true sweetness from the cave, so bathed in rosewater the bird had brought me and following the path of pink petals it laid, I wriggled and writhed out of my old dry skin, the new cells beginning to breathe and shine, eyes gleaming bright, and out among the flowers I began to know about light. I am learning how to be the prism, breathing light to bring colors into moving life, this Sacred Rainbow the secret key, revealing the ecstatic enchanted dance of sweet things in the mesa’s right field of power.

There is no neat conclusion, for I am still here, building relationship with star and angel, duck and butterfly, seeing them with bright new eyes. I immerse myself in pink and pastels, vanilla and crystals, down feathers and bells. There is sweet restitution as I sit in the light, burning myrrh over my mesa and stirring sweet grass in my medicine bowl, biding time coated in a luscious honeyed balm, restoring joy like growing flowers. I patiently hum a little something the bird taught me, resting in a nest of spiders’ webs scented softly like violets and roses and power.

About the Author

Carolyn Chlebowski

Carolyn Chlebowski

Featured Contributor

Carolyn is an artist, soul alchemist, dream walker, Earth lover, seer, shapeshifter, space holder, teacher and healer. She works creatively and eclectically to reveal wholeness through exemplifying beauty and connection in all things.

You can find her artwork and jewelry for honoring your animal totems and spirit guides at www.etsy.com/shop/TheWildPsyche and www.facebook.com/TheWildPsyche. Witness her journey at www.instagram.com/wi_psi/