Sep 242012
 

We’re fresh back from putting on our 3rd annual event for herbalists, now called The Herbal Resurgence Rendezvous: Medicine Of the People, By the People, For the People.  What a shindig!  There were more participants, and there was more diversity, energy and excitement than ever before!  One of our first tasks after getting home, was to start packaging the newly arrived Plant Healer Annuals, two volumes that are each the size of a phone book, and the color Art of Plant Healer book that goes with them.  Thank you for spreading the word! -Kiva

Now Shipping Volume II of the
PLANT HEALER ANNUAL

Now a 3 Book Set!
Featuring over 1,000 pages total, of Articles, Photography and Art – All 4 Issues From

2011/2012

including a Free 60 page full-color book:

The Art of Plant Healer – Vol. II


www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

The second edition of the Plant Healer Annual is now available, nearly thousand pages of information and inspiration, 2 thick 8×11” perfect-bound books filled with nearly every article gracing the 2011/2012 issues of the “Magazine Different.”

Hundreds of photographs and full-page fine art illustrate pieces by leading edge herbalist teachers and authors, each contributing their most in-depth, personal and inspiring work on absolutely every aspect of herbal practice, wildcrafting and plant culture… for herbal practitioners and students of every level.  Departments include plant profiles, field botany, tools and tips of the trade, energetics, therapeutics, cultivation, healthy food and delicious recipes, interviews with herbalists, humorous posters, plant artists, plant gathering and wildcrafting, herbal traditions and medicine in the Old West, herbalist fashion, articles for and by kids, and even herbalcentric fiction.

“Plant Healer is the first publication I’ve seen in my 38-year career that captures the wild diversity of herbalism in North America while still reflecting excellence and high-level practice… points of view from many regions, traditions, and schools of North American thought.. for the practicing herbalist from entry level to advanced, inclusively.” -Paul Bergner

Volume II Features Writings by:

Paul Bergner • Phyllis Light • Matthew Wood • Susun Weed • Robin Rose Bennett • Christa Sinadinos • Jim McDonald • Aviva Romm • Juliet Blankespoor • 7Song • Kiva Rose Hardin • Samual Thayer • Renee Davis • Charles “Doc” Garcia • Rosalee de la Foret • Henriette Kress • Kristine Brown • Katja Swift • Loba • Sean Donahue • Virginia Adi • Jane Valencia • Susan Meeker Lowry • Susan Leopold • Nicole Telkes • Ananda Wilson • Cat Lane • Darcey Blue French • Wendy Petty • Melanie Pulla • Traci Picard • Lisa Ferguson • Sabrina Lutes • Jesse Wolf Hardin and many more!

Art of Plant Healer book Free with Every Annual

Beginning with Volume II, every black and white Plant Healer Annual book will come with a companion Art of Plant Healer book containing over 50 of the most striking color illustrations to appear in the last year of issues.  Printing is high quality, and pages can be carefully removed for framing and hanging.  Copies of the Art of Plant Healer Volumes I and II can also be purchased separately by anyone on the Plant Healer website.

______________________

Art of Plant Healer Available To NonSubscribers

and Free to Subscribers – with every Annual

______________________

New Annual For Plant Healer Subscribers Only

The Plant Healer Annual – both Volumes I and II – are available for sale to existing subscribers only, to allow those who are enjoying the digital Plant Healer quarterly to also own a physical, hard-copy version.  As a subscriber, you can order either Annual now by going to the website and signing in to your personal Member Page.  You can also wait until the next time you renew your subscription, and then get the combined year’s subscription, Annual and Art of Plant Healer at a discounted rate.

New Subscription and Annual Combination

Those of you signing up for Plant Healer Magazine for the first time, can save money by purchasing the latest Annual and Art of Plant Healer along with your subscription.

For more information, to subscribe or to order the new Annual, please go to:

www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

_______________

(Thank you for RePosting and Forwarding this Announcement, friends!)

Sep 032012
 

Intro: The following is an article appearing in the Sept. issue of Northern Arizona’s much loved culture and entertainment paper “The Noise.”  Adroit author Sarah interviewed Wolf and myself for this lengthy article on folk herbalism, Wolf’s powerful new novel The Medicine Bear, and the 2012 Medicine of The People conference Sept. 13-16…. meant to inspire people of all ages and cultures, far beyond the hard core herbalist community.  Thank you Sarah!  And thank you friends… for reposting and sharing. –Kiva

MEDICINE OF THE PEOPLE – BY THE PEOPLE, AND FOR THE PEOPLE
The International Herbal Resurgence Learns and Celebrates In Arizona

by Sarah SuperNova

“To Omen, they were not just wondrous sunshine-eating entities, without whom humans and most of the life on Earth would die. Plants were proof of miracles, and reason for hope.  The inspiration for a good and balanced life, and examples of how to live it.  They were her ever growing, ever reaching truth.  They were the medicine she would need.” (Excerpt from The Medicine Bear by Jesse Wolf Hardin)

It’s nice to think it all began with a dream or a vision, but more likely than not, it began with providing a solution to a problem.  The world is full of so-called problems, and, thanks to healers of all sorts, the world is also full of solutions.  The particular solution in question here is this: medicine for the people.

In the mid-1990s, for a variety of reasons, a once-thriving community of herbalists began seeing a decline.  Herbal medicine – and the informed and practiced people who put the plants to use – were in trouble.  Plant medicine schools were losing students and many herbal conferences were closing down as large corporations began to enter the world of selling herbal supplements.  Jesse Wolf Hardin, author, plant lover, and co-founder of Medicine Of The People, formerly the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference (TraditionsInWesternHerbalism.org), recounts: “We’d witnessed political infightings and been saddened by what was often an air of conformity, resignation and even quiet desperation in what should by all rights have been a practice and community that brings great joy.”  So Jesse, and his partner, Kiva Rose, an herbalist of both traditional folk and modern clinical pedigrees, decided to launch the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference (TWHC) in order to, in Jesse’s own words: “assist in the reinvigoration of the ‘people’s medicine.’ Our major focus is on making herbal knowledge available to everyone in these times of increasing government regulation and corporate monopoly.”

2012 marks the 3rd year of the event, which runs from September 13-16, and takes place at Mormon Lake, near Flagstaff.  In previous years, the conference was held at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico, but what’s now called Medicine Of The People quickly outgrew that venue and Jesse and Kiva found just what they were looking for right here in Arizona.  Jesse explains: “We were won over by Mormon Lake’s old timey cabins and classrooms, its rustic yet comfy facilities, and more than anything else, its lush landscape and the awesome nature trails leading in every direction from the site.”  The conference site is nestled in a vast conifer forest, featuring incredible local plant diversity, much of which is quite similar to the plants of their home at the Anima Sanctuary (AnimaCenter.org/site), just over the New Mexico border, east of Springerville.  He and Kiva live in what he describes as a “restored riparian wilderness, and a botanical and wildlife sanctuary, seven river crossings and several bends of the canyon from the nearest pavement.”  It’s the perfect place to forage for native foods and medicines and deepen ones study of what is freely offered by the land.

This conference focuses on Western herbalism because, although Eastern systems such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine are highly regarded and quite beneficial, focus on those exotic traditions has led to a neglect of herbal systems native to our own continent and bioregion, causing people to ignore plant medicines that often grow right beneath our feet.

And what is “folk herbalism” anyway? Strictly speaking, it refers to non-professionals using handed-down knowledge to treat illness.  But, Kiva believes that, realistically, folk herbalism is “any practice not currently recognized as valid, acceptable, or popular by conventional medicine and mainstream culture.”  In the United States, that means just about every herbal practitioner, professional or not.  Therefore, this revival of interest in folk herbalism stems from a pure desire that healing with plants be by the people, and for the people.  Kiva thinks everyone has a right to “sustainable, inexpensive remedies that actually work, without worrying about academic theories or even government endorsement.”

Jesse has noticed, with much excitement, that the demographics of people interested in herbalism has been rapidly expanding.  “It’s no longer just turtle-necked ‘health nuts’ or New Agers that show up, but rather, moms and pops, college students, street kids and the elderly who are literally sick of the pharmaceuticals that regular doctors routinely prescribe.  There is a new and rising wave of herbalists of all ages, insistent on learning the old ways and the new twists.”  TWHC attracts esteemed clinical PhD’s as well as excited novice herbalists.  There is something for everyone, including classes especially for children and teens.  Most of the classes will be taught in a lecture format, but there will be plenty of hands-on medicine making, and plant identification walks along the trails surrounding Mormon Lake.  And the conference is not all about study; there will be time for fun too!  Evening concerts feature Arizona’s own Big Daddy D & the Dynamites, and from Los Angeles, the very danceable gypsy rockers AK & her Kalashnikovs.

Speakers include big names in herbalism like Matthew Wood and Paul Bergner, with class topics ranging from the clinical, like Musculoskeletal Health and Clinical Skills, to the esoteric, like The Heart as an Organ of Perception.  Sean Donahue will speak about entheogens in the treatment of trauma, and curandero Charles Garcia will speak on death and dying for caregivers.  Other topics include disaster preparedness, aphrodisiacs, discerning plant properties by taste, roots midwifery, and social and political activism among herbalists.  The list of classes is long and inspiring, and can be found on the TWHC website.  This is truly a special event!  Check the website for camping details for out-of-towners; for locals, day passes will be available at the gate.

There is much to learn from the constantly growing and changing world of nature.  Among wise herbalists and responsible wildcrafters, there is a general philosophy that requires inner and outer silence while gathering herbs and plant material.  One must quietly be with the plant for a time, and not simply rush in and start hacking away.  Part of this contemplative slowness is to feel the energetic quality of the plant, and express gratitude.  Jesse clarifies: “We recognize its [the plant’s] needs, as well as its gifts, honor, and integrity.  If and when we harvest or snip from its limbs, we do not ask permission to cause it pain or take its life, but rather, we acknowledge that it feels pain and has a desire to live and thrive…and then give thanks.”

And plant medicines affect us not only physiologically, but energetically as well.  Jesse explains: “Plants have been given credit for contributing to a spiritual sense of interconnectedness, or ‘oneness,’ the sense of accessing a transglobal body of collected terrestrial wisdom.”  And the spiritual and energetic medicine of plants can change our lives.  “Herbs are an affordable way to manage our own health,” Jesse states, “and they can also lead to realizations that are deeply personal, emotional, even spiritual, and inspire us to make lifestyle changes that result in us becoming more self-sufficient, as well as healthy.”

Together, Jesse and Kiva publish Plant Healer Magazine (PlantHealerMagazine.com), a quarterly journal of the folk herbalism resurgence, featuring articles and artwork by leading herbalists in the field.  This comes from their passion for the plants, and their usefulness on all levels: that they are nourishing, medicinal, oxygen producing, and beautiful.  “And we teach that it is personal familiarity and deep intimacy with the herbs that can make us more intuitive and effective herbal consumers and practitioners,” Jesse expounds.

Kiva has been interested in plants and their medicines since early childhood, learning about gardening and wild food foraging from her mother.  Her decision to follow herbalism as a life path was inspired by reading Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West.  “From there on out,” she says, “it’s been constant study and immersion in botany, botanical medicine, physiology, and the history of our healing traditions.”  Kiva reiterates that although not everyone may choose herbalism as an occupation, everybody “can benefit from the empowerment and usefulness of foundational plant-based self-care.”  Herbal medicine is democratic, freely given by the Earth, and truly a medicine for the people.  “The more that we learn and teach,” she continues, “the greater the reclamation of our natural human heritage, the vital threads tying us to place, plants, and the healing of ourselves and our world.”

One of Kiva’s herbal passions is what she calls “weedwifery.”  In disturbed lands all over the world, plants we call “weeds” prevail, and with good reason!  Weeds are the tough, resilient pioneer species that populate disturbed soil and prepare it for future, more long-term plants.  And in the meantime, these weeds provide us with a great deal of food and medicine.  For her, the common, generally ignored plants can be just as important as the exotic ones that are harder to come by.  Kiva speaks more about this on her own website (BearMedicineHerbals.com).

Jesse’s intimate relationship with plants began as a child, though he grew up in the suburbs.  He had always been drawn to the authenticity of the natural world, “it’s diversity and oddness, enchantedness and eloquence,” as he proclaims.  He was fascinated by the simple suburban weeds, many of them edible and medicinal, and even his mother’s houseplants, and his fascination with the plant kingdom only continued to grow throughout his life.  He now considers himself an herb interlocutor and agent of the plants.  “I am helping grow and deepen the herbalist community while promoting herbalism’s values, aims, and aesthetics.  My work in this field naturally follows my years as a naturalist and ecological activist.”

Besides co-producing the Medicine Of The People conference, Jesse is a writer, and a selection of his articles, mostly exploring spiritual life in the natural world, can be found at AnimaCenter.org.  He has recently published a richly-narrated historical novel called The Medicine Bear (TheMedicineBear.com), which follows the story of a wild-woman herbalist named Omen (in many ways inspired by his lovely Kiva!), and an adventurous writer, fascinated by the animal and mineral world, by the name of Eland.  The archetypal Medicine Bear follows them along the way, over the course of decades, from the end of the 19th Century, well into the 20th.  The story takes place in the historical Southwest and Jesse describes some of his process: “I, like the Medicine Bear, am a product of the fertile milieu of the Southwest’s inspirited places and Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures.  As a denizen of this place, the book’s accurate history of this area is my history, and its characters are amalgams of my neighbors and loved ones, from native traditionalists to cowboys to those folksy, big-hearted purveyors of herbs.”  Jesse is the author of 7 books, including Old Guns & Whispering Ghosts: Tales & Twists of the Old West (www.OldGunsBook.com), and entries in The Encyclopedia of Nature & Religion, with The Medicine Bear being his only novel.

Most of the premise and narrative arc of The Medicine Bear came to Jesse all at once, and the writing of it was more challenging emotionally than technically.  It is a tale of transformation, and the writing of a tale almost always takes the writer along the same journey.  Within the scope of the novel is Omen’s fascinating apprenticeship to a curandera, which would speak to anyone interested in folk healing arts, and into the Mexican Revolution, with Pancho Villa’s retaliatory raid on a town in New Mexico, of interest to those who wish to learn about suppressed Southwestern history.  The Medicine Bear is written from the eyes of a naturalist, each landscape – and the plants that inhabit it – described in great and loving detail.  The book is richly illustrated Jesse’s original drawings and relevant historical photographs, which create a sense of place and weave the reader deeper into the history of the era.

Ultimately, in all that they do, be it the conference, private clinical work, writing, foraging, and any other way of working with the plants, Kiva, Jesse and their family feel the need for self and community care skills to be a task of utmost importance.  Herbalism is one way to go about this.  “As the price of pharmaceuticals goes up and their dangers become ever more evident,” says Jesse, “herbal knowledge is becoming once again as essential as it was in the days before the advent of ‘modern’ medicine.”

——————

The next Medicine Of The People conferences will be held

Sept. 13-16, 2012 —- and then —- Sept. 20-23, 2013

www.TraditionsInWesternHerbalism.org

Aug 292012
 

Plant Healer Interview:

Sean Donahue

In dialogue with Jesse Wolf Hardin

Sean Donahue has been a devoted component of Plant Healer and the Medicine of The People/TWH conference since the very beginning, and will be bringing some compelling classes to the upcoming event in Arizona, Sept. 13th through 16th.

Plant Healer Magazine: Welcome, it’s good to be including you here.While we are happy to feature interviews with the most famous of contemporary herbalists, it is also a special commitment of ours to showcase, support and further the work of both younger generations of herbalists and those still less widely known.  We applaud all who are making their mark in their own personal style, putting their heart into this work with scant income and very little recognition., and especially those like Sean who prove steadily deepening, expanding and improving… and for  a larger, all connecting purpose.  You will surely find worth reading our conversation on the present and future of herbalism, Sean’s own healing metamorphosis and the incontrovertible magic of planet and plants.

Healing yourself has been core to your work helping with the healing of others.  Was asthma the first big health challenge?  How did your conditions advance your thinking about healing, what tangible changes came from it, and how has it informed and influenced your herbal practice and teaching?

Sean Donahue:  Asthma and depression were deeply intertwined in my life from the time I was a baby.   And connected with my asthma was the story told in both subtle and direct ways by doctors over and over again that my body was broken and there was little that could be done about it — a story I was parroting by the time I was 2.  Overlaid with Catholic theology, (which I took deeper and further than the rest of my family because it was the first spiritual outlet I knew), that since that my health problems were intractable led to a pretty profound alienation from my body.  And that in turn led me to neglect my health in ways that had me well on my way to heart disease and diabetes by the time I was in my thirties.

When I first encountered Elecampane in January of 2007, that all began to change for me.   When I tasted the first few drops of the tincture, I understood innately that instead of just changing a physical process in my respiratory tract, the plant was awakening my body’s knowledge of its own ability to heal.   As the Elecampane stimulated my lungs to clear the mucus that was filling them, I felt myself breathing in a new way, and felt myself letting the world in in a new way.  And from that experience, I began to relate to my body differently.  After years of trying unsuccessfully to punish and shame my body into health, I began to love and celebrate my body into health, taking new pleasure in eating and moving in ways that made me feel stronger and more vital.  My body, my sense of self, my life shifted shape.

And this is where I think where some of the most profound healing occurs — in the way plant medicines can shift our experience of our bodies and our sense of our selves in relation to the world around us.  In bringing people and plants in contact with each other, what I am doing is facilitating a conversation between two living beings, and what’s communicated in that conversation is information about ways of being embodied in this world.  Some of that information comes in the form of phytochemicals that signal changes in the body at a physical level.  Some of it is communicated in ways we can’t yet describe in mechanistic terms.  But either way its not a passive process, its a process of stirring and guiding and supporting the body’s own capacity to heal.

Plant Healer: What are your fears, how have they affected you and how have you dealt with them?

Sean:   My deepest and most abiding fear has been that there is some part of me that can’t be trusted with power, that if I allow myself to be strong, to be confident, to speak my truth, to bring forward all of who I am, that through accident or ignorance or temptation I’ll somehow bring hurt to the people I love.   That fear has made me hold back a lot in my life.  But I’ve dealt with it by learning to live more and more from my heart.    I trust my heart to temper and guide me.   And knowing that, I can trust myself to be in the world more fully than I have ever allowed myself to be before.

Plant Healer: How can someone use fears to motivate rather than immobilize themselves?

Sean:  We learn to be afraid because we are trying to avoid repeating situations where we can get hurt.   I think its important first of all to have compassion for ourselves in that.  To recognize that the parts of us that are afraid are trying to protect us, but that sometimes they do that in a misdirected way, responding to the visceral memory a situation evokes rather than to what’s actually happening.

So I think we can work to dismantle the stories around those fears and to bring up and release the emotions tied up with them.    Which is delicate work, because it makes the rawest parts of us vulnerable.   And it requires a part of ourselves that is ready to be the watcher and the guardian for those parts that were hurt.

And in that process, those parts of ourselves can become more fully integrated, can move into the here and now, and can stop locking away parts of our power from ourselves.

Plant Healer: What are your feelings about herbal education, schools, mentors and teaching ourselves?

Sean:  I think there is tremendous value in listening deeply and carefully to the experience of those who have gone before us and those who have been doing this work for a long time — whether its through reading, through formal classwork, through apprenticeship, through conversation, or just through watching the ways they work with plants and people.    But ultimately, we all have to make sense of the information out there on our own terms, and ground it in our own direct experience.   I believe in ways of teaching that help people develop their own frameworks for understanding and working with plants and people, rather than repeating received knowledge and replicating preset protocols.

Plant Healer: You’ve talked a lot elsewhere about the influence Stephen Buhner has been on your thinking and practice, so tell us who else (contemporary or historical) has been an inspiration, reality check or guiding light… and why.

Sean: Matthew Wood’s re-discovery and re-articulation of the energetics of traditional western herbalism is absolutely brilliant, and has deeply influenced my own understanding of the ways plants work in people’s bodies.   And he relates to plants in the same kind of intuitive, poetic way that I do, but brings an incredible precision to that approach that I admire tremendously.

Margi Flint has taught me a tremendous amount about sitting with clients, reading their bodies, hearing their stories, and asking the right questions.

Through them both, I feel the influence and presence of William LeSassier, whom I never had the chance to meet.

I love the ways jim mcdonald conveys complex ideas about energetics in really clear and simple ways.   And just knowing that there is an herbalist as original and amazing as he is who has carved out his own path has helped me overcome some of my insecurities about my own lack of formal training.

Kiva’s devotion to bioregional herbalism has greatly inspired me to look at the plants growing around me in new ways.

During the time I worked and taught with Darcey Blue French, I learned a tremendous amount from her about nutrition, food sensitivities, and energetics that changed the way I practice (and the way I eat!)

The herbalists I met in Boston when I was first beginning to see clients — Melanie Rose Flach, Tommy Priester, Madelon Hope, Katja Swift, Iris Weaver — were tremendously gracious in sharing their insights about working with people and plants.  Tommy taught me a tremendous amount about coming from the heart and working to help people realize their own innate goodness and perfection.   Katja is someone I know I can always turn to for help in seeing a situation from another angle.

Mischa Schuler introduced me to the plants and to my own ability to listen to them.

I look a lot to the great herbalists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries — Cook, Lyle, Ellingwood, Thurston, Scudder for the insights they gained working with people and plants every day for decades.   And I am grateful to people like Henriette Kress and Paul Begner and Jonathan Treaure for making their work easilly accessible online.

My magical training has been a tremendous influence on my work as an herbalist as well.  My teacher, Karina BlackHeart, has continually challenged me and supported me in releasing guilt and shame and fear and embracing love as I stand more and more in the fullness of who I am.  She is an inspiration and guide to me as I work with other people to stand in the fullness of who they are.   Reaching back through her lineage, I draw on inspiration from Victor Anderson, praying as he did to know myself in all my parts, and on Cora Anderson, who prayed for wild innocence.   And through their lineage to generations upon generations of witches and faery doctors and cunning folk stretching back before the beginning of recorded history.

Plant Healer:  You’ve also said that the plants themselves are the most important teachers we can have.  Please explain to folks what you mean.

Sean:   We share common ancestors with plants, and our biology, our chemistry, even our structure of consciousness are similar.   They are sentient beings that share the experience of being embodied on this planet.  When we make medicine with them, we are not working with some inert substance, we are connecting with something alive.   What that encounter will bring will be different for each person.   Other people`s experiences can serve as a guide for what to expect and as a reality check to help us differentiate intuition from wishful thinking, but each of us develop our own relationships with the plants we work with.   And those relationships are richest and deepest when we get to know each plant on its own terms.

Plant Healer:  What have been your most exciting discoveries, amalgamations or realizations since getting into herbs?

Sean:   Realizing that the idea that the world is alive and speaking to us is not a metaphor, but a literal reality, and that embracing that reality changes everything about the way you live.

Plant Healer: With the imposition of one official regulation or piece of legislation after another, it seems that the government is slowly making it harder for small businesses to produce and sell herbal preparations, effectively handing the production of plant based medicine over to the same kinds of giant corporations making a mint on pharmaceuticals.   And this has been just as true under a Democratic administration as under a Republican.    Is it burying our head in the sand, to downplay this threat or even inevitability?

Sean:   Its certainly frightening and sad watching small medicine makers shutting down their operations because of the costs and logistics of complying with regulations that don`t really have anything to do with the safety of the medicines they make.   The recent FDA threats against Meadowsweet Herbs in Montana were a real wake up call to the herbal community signalling that we may be entering into a period of time when the government does make it a lot harder to buy and sell herbs.

But I also think that its important for us to remember that while many commercial medicine makers provide a great service to our community, and making medicine is one way a lot of herbalists make ends meet financially, herbalism and the herbal products industry are not one and the same.   Herbal commerce can be regulated or even shut down by governments.   But governments have never succeeded in regulating the relationships between people and the plants around them.  Our community will respond and adapt to what`s happening.   And in part that will likely mean more herbalists working with the plants of their own bioregion and teaching people how to make their own medicines instead of selling products to them.    And that could be a very good thing for both people and plants.

Plant Healer: How would you suggest that we can oppose, affect or mitigate such regulations and policies?

Sean: Honestly I am not sure we can.  I am all in favor of people putting energy into grassroots lobbying and public education campaigns, and I think they do have a chance of working.   But I also think that much of what is most powerful and transformational about herbalism also makes it inherently subversive, and that we can`t realistically expect the state to legitimize what we do.

Plant Healer: I agree.  As in my days as an organizer of Earth First!, I see education as important though never the factor that results in tree saving choice, resistance to injustice and repression as an essential response for any aware and honorable person,  and value the effects on us personally even if we are not effective politically.

On the other hand, I agree that it is a lesson of nature and thus plants, that we need to be who we really are, do what we feel called to do, in spite of any repressive regulation or abolition.

So tell me, if we prove unable to prevent such laws, could it be a viable strategy for small producers just to hope they are under the radar and won’t be penalized?  Or will it become a matter of the herbalist on the block providing only for immediate family and neighbors, in the healing field’s version of a revolution’s “autonomous cells of resistance”?  Any insight or suggestions?

Sean: I think people will get creative, find new ways of sharing knowledge and sharing medicine — some will do business by word of mouth in their own communities, some will teach people to make their own medicine, some will try to stay under the radar, some will openly flout the law.    And I think every one of those approaches is legitimate.   It’s a highly personal decision.

Plant Healer: I couldn’t resist making a motto for the Medicine of The People/TWH conference “If herbs are outlawed, only outlaws will administer herbs.”  Shouldn’t we all be asking ourselves at what point we would surrender our practice or medicine making, and at what point we might prefer to be lawbreakers?  Where is your personal line?

Sean:  For me personally, the law doesn`t really come into the equation.   My commitments are to the plants and the people I work with.

Plant Healer: Good enough.

What do you think are the essential or deeper problems with the institutionalizing and “legitimizing” of herbalism?

Sean:  I think there is a great danger that in creating one set of standards that everyone tries to adhere to that we will increasingly favor the repetition of a body of received knowledge and the adherence to a fixed set of protocols  over personal engagement with plants and people, sacrificing creativity and diversity,

Plant Healer: Is the field of herbalism in danger of severely contracting if we aren’t legitimized?  Do you think that one is more acceptable or bearable than the other, and why?

Sean: I don`t see a need for us to be “legitimized.“  If we live and work with integrity, if we practice our craft with skill and precision, if we treat people with compassion and respect and help them to heal, our work will speak for itself.   That`s the only form of legitimacy I think we need.   And that has to be built and earned as we go, it can be conveyed by any institution.

Plant Healer: What is your personal definition of “folk herbalism” and what is important about this concept and term?

Sean:  To me, Folk Herbalism is the living tradition of working with plants to transform lives through medicine and magic.   We take in the knowledge and stories and practices of the people who came before us, combine them with our own experiences and perspectives, and create something that`s relevant to our own time and place.   Its an ecological model of creating and passing down knowledge.

Plant Healer: It has the potential to be potentially a powerful vehicle for social as well as environmental change.  Talk about this.

Sean:   Folk herbalism puts knowledge and medicine into the hands of the communities that use them, rather than making them the province of a limited class of officially recognized experts.   It allows people to be full and active participants in their own healthcare.   And once people reclaim that kind of authority in one are of their lives, they begin to see the possibilities for liberation and transformation in other realms.

Plant Healer: Most groups or communities of purpose have some kind of mutually agreed upon mission statement, as well as a mostly agreed upon code of ethics.  First, how might you describe the shared mission of the herbalist or folk herbalist of today?

Sean:  Our work is to support people, communities, and ecosystems in their own natural healing processes.

Plant Healer: Well said.

Plant Healer: What are some of your favorite plants to work with, and why?

Sean:  The plants I end up being called to work with tend to be unusual and often somewhat forbidding — Devil’s Club, Skunk Cabbage, Ghost Pipe.   They tend to inhabit spaces between worlds – swampy places where earth and water meet in the case of Devil’s Club and Skunk Cabbage, the understory of the forest and the world beneath the forest floor in the case of Ghost Pipe.   The process of getting to know each of these herbs well feels like a many layered initiation.   Its not that I seek out unusual plants, its just they are the ones that end up calling me.

Plant Healer: You have been writing for Plant Healer Magazine since its inception.  What drew you to it, what makes it different from all that preceded it?  And what do you believe to be Plant Healer’s distinctive role in or gift to the community?

Sean:  Plant Healer is one of the few places where I see science and tradition given equal weight and equal scutiny.   And it brings together an amazing community of voices — the best I have seen assembled in print anywhere.

Plant Healer:  At this year’s Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference, you’ll be teaching a class on psychedelic or entheogenic plants, as well as herbal first aid to help folks “come down” from an anxious or disconnected trip.  Since at least the 1920s, Westerners have been aware of and exploring the potential therapeutic benefits of Psilocybin mushrooms, Datura, Peyote and so on, including my friend Ralph Metzner who worked with Timothy Leary at Harvard.  What do you find entheogens can reveal for someone, and how can this aid the emotional and physical healing process?

Sean:  Enthogens can help people break free from fixed patterns of thought and emotion — which, in the right conditions, can play a significant role in helping people break free from addictions and heal from trauma.  Dr. Gabor Mate is doing amazing work along those lines in Vancouver . . .  Of course great care is required here, because putting a person into a disorienting situation can also trigger old traumas or create new ones.

Apart from a therapeutic context, entheogens can help people experience the multiplicity of realities and worlds.   And many an herbalist has first discovered the consciousness of plants and fungi when ingesting plants and fungi that alter human consciousness.

Plant Healer:  Speak about the mystery and true magic of medicinal plants… and why both mystery and mythos are vital to our experience and evocation of the craft.

Sean:   Plants are conscious beings with biologies remarkably similar to our own who live outside the framework of human culture, human judgements, and human assumptions — and so they can help us discover ways of being in this world that are otherwise beyond our imaginations. Poetry and ritual and magic help us connect with plants at a level beneath and beyond linear thinking, allowing them to work their magic at a deeper level.  Myths and folktales and folkways contain traces of the history of the ways people and plants have interacted and Waymarkers that show where the road veers off into the crooked path that leads into the wilderness of the heart.

Sean: I see an herbal community where phytochemists and Hoodoo root doctors and Latina curendaras and western herbalists and plant magicians share knowledge and discoveries, recognizing that we are working with the same medicine even if we are using different languages and metaphors and frames. I see people paying careful attention to the health of plant communities, and harvesting only what they need, whether or not a plant is on a list of endangered or threatened species  (though I greatly appreciate what United Plant Savers does to identify the most at risk plants.)   And I see people developing practices grounded in work with the medicine that grows around them.  Plant Healer and the Medicine Of The People (Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference) are already doing a tremendous amount to make this vision a reality.    And I think we can each contribute to it by teaching and practicing and living in ways that honor and respond to the living communities, human and ecological, that we are part of.

Plant Healer: You are not in herbalism just to study, teach or serve.  Tell us what you love most about herbalism and what you do in particular… what and why you love so much.

Sean: Connecting with plants reminds me that the world is alive and makes me fall in love with its beauty over and over again.

Plant Healer: And there may well be some readers who never attend a class of yours, and perhaps never see another word written by you.  If so, what final words would you like to leave them with?

Sean:   Plants and people reveal their secrets over time, when met with patience and sincerity.   Remember that, and the world will teach you all you need to know.

Plant Healer: We sure appreciate your devotion to this work, and to the conference and Plant Healer.  We hope you feel the support.

Sean: I am deeply grateful for your support and for the amazing community you have created.

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Sean will be teaching in a few weeks time in Arizona, and you can meet him there.  Go to: www.TraditionsInWesternHerbalism.org

For more of Sean’s work and vision, please go to: www.medicineandmagic.com

You can read the much longer interview with Sean in an upcoming issue of Plant Healer.  You can subscribe at: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Aug 262012
 


Plant Healer

CALL FOR U.S. & INTERNATIONAL WRITERS

(Herbalist, Wildcrafter, Grower, Activist…)

Plant Healer Magazine – the “magazine different” – is calling for new writers with new perspectives and a deeply personal and powerful style… on subjects related to herbalism and herbal related arts and culture.  We have a cadre of awesome authors contributing to create each over-250 page long issue, but we’re still always open to something new!  And you do not need to be well-known or previously published to be considered.  You only need to be speaking from your experience, on topics for which you have the most passion and interest.

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Articles From Outside the U.S. & American Culture Sought

We’re especially desirous of English language articles by writers from all over the world.  Please consider writing about the important herbalists, herbal history and traditions of your region or country.

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Length & Requirements:

The main requirement is that your article be original and previously UNpublished online or in print.  Diverse voices and styles are welcomed, from professional and academic to folksy and even cheeky!  We accept submissions from 2,000 to 4,000 words in length, and sometimes even longer when the subject matter requires it.

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Departments To Submit For:

  • Traditions in Focus: Exploring Western Folk Medicine
  • The Primordium: Field Botany
  • The Allies: Plant Profiles & Monographs
  • Constitutional Approaches & Herbal Energetics
  • Seeing Folks: Case Studies & Therapeutics
  • A Distillation: Herbal Medicine Making
  • Tools & Tips
  • Into the Forest: Wild Foods, Foraging, Wildcrafting & ReWilding
  • From the Ground Up: Conservation, Restoration and Propagation
  • From the Hearth: Traditional Foodways, Recipes & Food Facts
  • BirthRoot: Midwifery & Herbal Childcare
  • I’m An Herbalist, Too!: Articles For & Sometimes By Kids
  • A Weedy Revolution: Advocacy and Activism

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Next Deadlines for Articles: Oct. 1st

Quarterly Deadlines for Submissions: October 1st, January 1st, April 1st, July 1st

To submit or query, first go to the Submissions page on the website and download the detailed Submission Guidelines.

For Guidelines, or to Advertise or Subscribe, go to:

www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

——————

(Please RePost and send to any budding, plant-loving writers you know)

Aug 212012
 

The “cat’s out of the bag”… the much beloved
Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference
is now

Medicine Of The People
The Folk Herbal Resurgence

…a name we believe does a better job of evoking the wild spirit and populist mission, incorrigible attitude and inimitable character of this one-of-a-kind event, coinciding with our move from Ghost Ranch to Mormon lake in the lush green Coconino Forest of Northern Arizona.  The umbrella website and community will be HerbalResurgence.org, with Medicine Of The People becoming the permanent name of our annual conference and celebration.  The TWH website will still be active as we gradually make all the changes.

Another factor in the change, was how many people were having trouble either remembering or saying “Traditions In Western Herbalism,” calling it a number of other things instead.  To be clear, we were never the “Ghost Ranch Conference,” and all the more so now that we have outgrown their facilities and found our great new site.  While our location will always be the Southwest – and the truly magical southwest aesthetic, spirit and vibe will forever remain a big part of its character and feel – we do not want to be thought of as the “Southwest Herbal Conference,” since we are an international event and not a regional one.  And while “Kiva’s Conference” might have a nice ring to it, it is far more “Your Conference,” created and sustained to serve the deepening and growing of this community and movement that Paul Bergner was first to dub an “Herbal Resurgence.”  Susun Weed and others have long used the term “the people’s medicine” to refer this folk healing practice meant to be accessible to all… and it is to all, that we dedicate our event’s name “Medicine Of The People.”

We originally titled our event the Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference in order to make clear our commitments to the neglected folk herbal traditions of the so-called Western World, and to a core of solid, usable herbal information.  Unfortunately, our original moniker fails to express the ways in which this utterly unique happening differs from is normally thought of as a “conference” of any kind, being held far from a big city in a wild natural setting, and intensely focused as we are on:
•Helping make herbal information and care available to all – the Medicine Of The People!
•Fostering and supporting the broadest range of herbal students, schools, organizations, and uncertified family practitioners as well as professionals
•Empowering and enabling all practitioners, in a time of increasing regulation and potential prohibition
•Helping preserve and share historic herbal traditions, and to honor and teach the history of herbalism
•Honoring and celebrating indigenous and folk herbal traditions, from all cultures and races
•Making the connection between effective herbal healing and relationship to the natural world
•Involving the personal, the spiritual, shamanic, mystical and mythical
•Drawing from both accepted scientific research, and research and conjecture from the frontiers of new science
•Promoting health as a matter of emotional, social and ecological wholeness, not just bodily wellness
•Encouraging not only herbal practice, but the aesthetic and art of herbalism
•Providing a hub and rendezvous point for all those drawn to this diverse community and profound resurgence
•Encouraging the involvement of youth, and preparation of coming generations
•Inspiring and exciting, stirring and emboldening, informing and inciting
•Assisting a vital culture shift, providing support to all you culture-shifters… and the folk herbal resurgence
•And providing a means, a place, and a reason to yearly gather and celebrate!

The transition is underway, the seeds planted, the logo revised and new hoodies and tees are ordered.  We hope you’re as happy as we are with the name of this Gathering, Rendezvous, Confluence, Intensive, and 4-Day College… nah, make that UnSchool… and Festival.  Party.  Reunion.  Revival.  Revolution.

….

See you September 13th, or seeya next year.

The website will be HerbalResurgence.com – with traffic temporarily still being sent to:

www.TraditionsInWesternHerbalism.org

The Medicine Of The People

And you can leave out the word “conference.”

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(Please RePost and Forward… thank you!)

One of several new tee and hoodie designs, soon to be sold at the conference and online

Aug 172012
 

We’re pleased to help announce the 2012 American Herbalist Guild Symposium, Synergy in Herbalism, held October 19-21 at the lovely Seven Springs Resort in Pennsylvania, open to non-members and members alike.  Excellent classes with a clinical focus offer something for advanced as well as beginning students of this craft.

Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference has always been about the Medicine Of The People, offering a home for the edge dwellers of herbalism, independents and outliers, but no less so an intended home to the professional and the accredited.  We share with the AHG a dedication to the protection and furtherance of herbalism, and applaud the Guild’s emphasis on continuing to evolve and become ever more representational, attracting new people and preparing a new generation of herbalists.  Members we have talked to are all excited about the continuing changes, the AHG symposium being moved to a rural resort instead of in a city, and move to a focus on “cutting edge.”  If we help serve as inspiration or instigation for any of this shift and growth, we are most gratified.  And we’re happy to make the many new or younger folks that we attract aware of the Guild and its goals, as we extend the tent of this contemporary energized Herbal Resurgence over all impassioned allies of medicinal plants and the empowering practice of herbalism.

Go to the AHG Symposium website to register:

Aug 132012
 

Last Of The 2011 Plant Healer Annuals – And Upcoming!

Limited Number Remaining:
2011 Plant Healer Annual Book

We’re down to our last 70 copies, and with the upcoming release of the 2012 version, it’s uncertain if we will be printing any more of the 2011 Annual – 800 pages of articles, interviews, photos and art from the first year of Plant Healer Magazine.  If you want to be sure of having a copy of Volume 1, you might better order yours while they last… by going to the Plant Healer website:
www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Coming Soon: 2012 Plant Healer Annual Book

Indeed, we’re only a month away from the release of the new 2012 Plant Healer Annual book, Volume 2, a nearly 1,000 page, phonebook-thick hard copy in B&W that we will begin shipping out on September 20th.   Anyone ordering an Annual with their subscription or resubscription after Sept. 20 will receive the 2012 version.


Coming Sooner: The 300 Page Long (!) 2nd Anniversary Edition
of Plant Healer Magazine

Kiva and I have been working hard for months on the next (2nd Anniversary!) issue of Plant Healer Magazine, with her carefully editing every piece, and my spending until late every night deciding on the placement of each illustration according to subject, attitude, color, tone and size, taking pains with the colors of every border or frame regardless of how many readers concern themselves with such details.  Another 60 hours or so will be required before Kiva has finished any photo captions I left, and inserted the final internal links to make navigation from the Introduction and Table of Contents possible.

“Come Hell or high water,” you can count on this Fall issue being ready for you Monday, Sept. 3rd –  and yes, it’s over 300 pages in length this time, even though we told ourselves we weren’t gonna to do that… an excessive, extreme, outrageous, and arguably insane amount of material we know!

The problem every single issue, is that we get submissions of excellent and truly original material that feels impossible to reject or even postpone!  Then this time, moderation had to take a seat to the acceptance of a long piece on theosophic herbalism too fascinating not to add pages for, followed by a surprise (and surprisingly compelling!) submission from the herbalist Christophe Bernard from France that simply had to fit somehow.  Then, when it looked like we weren’t going to get a completed herbalist interview back in time for the coming issue’s Plant Healer Interviews department, I opted to rush into a necessarily lengthy, vulnerable, insightful and exciting dialogue with Kiva Rose herself for the magazine.  The only complication was that – right on the deadline – we received great interview responses from our friend and TWHC teacher Phyllis Hogan, and I couldn’t bear to leave either of these two conversations out.  The result is what (we promise!) will be the last and only over-300 page Plant Healer issue.  Make sure you’re subscribed, to download it soon.
www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

–Jesse Wolf

(Please RePost and Share)

Jul 302012
 

Plant Healer Interview

with Charles “Doc” Garcia

(curandero)

In Dialogue With Jesse Wolf Hardin – May, 2012

Doc teaching at the very first Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference

Doc Garcia is the founder of the California School of Traditional Hispanic Herbalism, street herbalist and well intentioned provocateur, as well as a regular Plant Healer writer and teacher at the Traditions In Western Herbalism Conferences.  His teachings and unique personal style impresses, excites, amazes and sometimes offends or dismays, but never fails to earn a reaction.  How to describe him?  The Doc is a street warrior known to go around packing love, savvy and herbs in his quest to tend the hearts and bodies of society’s diverse underprivileged, its unseen fringe dwellers and needy outliers.  He is Teresita seeing to the wounded in the most hands-on ways, Pancho Villa standing up to the powers that be, and the Chinese wise fool Lo Pi, vendor of improbable insight and vital laughter.  A novelist whose words function as Robbin’s “can-openers of the mind”.  He’s a pragmatist with the soul of an artist, finding beauty in barrio street sounds and medicines in twisted parking lot weeds.  And a lover, most of all, a lover of diversity, wildness, rebels and outcasts, old trees and young whipper-snappers, of well spoken words and well made tinctures, of those street people he ministers to with his herbal first-responders bag, an old-school lover of the very act of healing, of uncorrupted truths, and of life.  La vida.

Plant Healer Magazine: What was your first exposure to plant medicine?

Charles “Doc” Garcia: I honestly don’t know. The taste of yerba buena is the first thing I can remember. Literally. We didn’t have much money for doctors. So mom took care of us with yerbas (herbs) and remedios (remedies). It’s always been a part of my life.

Plant Healer: Define Curanderismo for us, and describe its roots and branches.

Doc: That would take a whole book and there other books about that. In a nutshell curanderismo is the healing arts of the combined Spanish and indigenous cultures. In California that was primarily herbal. In other states and countries it can have less to do with herbs and more to do with prayers, ritual, and magick. So I must  be very careful to call myself a curandero to someone who is from another country. They may think (as in Columbia) that I’m a seer or fortune teller. In Puerto Rico it is someone who delves into the occult. The term curanderismo is archaic medieval Spanish. It simply means, the curing arts.

Plant Healer: Curanderismo usually has a strong religious – Catholic – component, and yet we also hear it associated with witchcraft, the Brujo, even devil worship.  What’s up with that?

Doc: Blame the late Carlos Castenada. He was either the greatest anthropologist of his time, or a great novelist. I met Castaneda in my early twenties when a friend took me to the UC Berkeley campus. My friend unwisely said I was from a family of curanderos, so Carlos fixed me with his power-stare, or the hairy eyeball as I call it. So I stared him right back. Eventually we got tired and exchanged some untruthful pleasantries, shook hands and walked off. We did not impress each other. Eventually when I tried to read his tripe I found he used the terms curandero and brujo interchangeably. That did not earn him points to me. A curandero or curandera does one thing. Heals. They also live by a code. Never charge and never use magic (for lack of a better term) for self aggrandizement or to harm…even if your life or someone else is at risk. You can shield, you can confuse, and you can block. If you have rituals to help diagnose a problem, fine. Other than that, you don’t use magic.

Brujeria is dark magic. Now must indigenous peoples had no concept of an ultimate evil deity like the devil. That had to be learned from the padres or Protestant missionaries. (Who also taught the Missionary Position by the way.) Brujos or brujas might use the devil as a symbol, but the idea of devil worship or Satanism is seldom found in Hispanic mystical practices. Not to sound melodramatic but there is unending war between the practitioners of both arts. Now to make matters MORE confusing, brujos and brujas also know how to heal. Sometimes they even cause the illness just to heal it. Of course they expect recompense.

Plant Healer: How does your modern day, streetwise practice differ from traditional Curanderismo, where do your ideas or methods diverge?

Doc: It’s like night and day. I go looking for the sick. I bring my goodies in a canvas sack or cheapie backpack and walk the streets like a cheap crack whore looking for a trick. In the old days, the sick came to you or if they could get word to you, off you would ride on your hot blooded stallion…okay grandpa probably used a mule and later his Model T Ford. Now where they merge is speed. You might be able to make a diagnosis, you might not. Either way you will treat the symptoms first and watch what happens. Kinda like every episode of HOUSE. I carry a portable stove in my bag. I carry some herbs which can cover a large amount of ailments and if I’m luck, like HOUSE, I can give treatment. Sometimes I can go out on the street and find fennel, yarrow, wild chamomile, ginko, certain tree leaves, ornamental rosemary, etc. If you know where to look, you’re never more than a couple of hundred yards from herbs. Like my mom and grandfather did, I carry bullion for soup. With a buck or two I can run down to the nearest mercada and buy an onion, a garlic rose, maybe a squash, and make soup for the sick. In an hour or so I can treat the homeless with the same efficiency as if they came to my home. Work fast heal fast.

Plant Healer: How much emphasis do you put on determining constitution when making a diagnosis and prescribing herbs?

Doc: A lot. But not in the sense in how it is taught today. Relying solely on constitution issues (and I don’t mean the Second Amendment) can be limiting. Having all available information is wonderful. But, like in the first season of HOUSE, his main complaint about diagnosis from personal information was EVERYBODY LIES. Of course I want to know the obvious, allergies, medical history, etc. But I want to know about lifestyle, activities, how you fuck (no joke… one client got migraines doing it missionary style….damn those missionaries….but no other way. What does that tell you? It told me a lot.) In the old days, everyone in the neighborhood, or tribe, or cave, KNEW everyone’s lifestyle. The information was right there. Now I need to ask, observe, play SherlockfuckingHolmes, and then find the right herbs or foods. But sometimes, all your information comes up zilch, nothing, nada. What are you going do? If you’re HOUSE you wait to the last commercial and come up a beautiful and perfect diagnosis. If you’re me, you treat symptoms, see which ones subside and then figure out why. People have to be cared for before they are cured.

Plant Healer: What are some of the most underrated and under-utilized herbs?

Doc: I had a wonderful ongoing argument with the late Michael Moore about this. I believe chamomile is very underused by the majority of practicing herbalists. Also, the Rodney Dangerfield of herbs (“I don’t get no respect.”) is chickweed.

Plant Healer: A recent Plant Healer poster I made says “The earth provides the medicines we need… not to live forever, but to liver better.” Would you agree with mine (and Kiva’s and Anima’s) stress on the wholeness, enlivedness and richness of existence, over the simple elimination of disease or alleviating of discomfort, pain or other symptoms?

Doc: Absolutely! Curanderismo is a holistic form of healing. Stress, depressions, lifestyle all must be dealt with but not necessarily at the same time. First thing…get the patient out of pain. Once your client is functional then deal with the deeper issues. Diet and a change of lifestyle (within the lifestyle) can work wonders. While being happy doesn’t always cure an illness, it gives the client a fighting chance at improving at a rapid rate. We use music, colored flowers, baths, sunlight, changes in food, even a glass of wine or a culturally banned food to help people heal. (Once you get a Jew to eat a shrimp with garlic butter, they never go back!)

Plant Healer: What’s Doc Garcia’s personal succinct definition of healing?

Doc: As pithy as it may sound, my mother probably had the best description. “A person can’t grow back an arm or leg. But if they can be happy with their life afterwards, they’re cured.” I guess that covers it. I work with a lot of the terminally ill. Nothing I can do will change their fate. Same for my homeless. But if I can make that one day better, they’ve been healed.” I’m not out to save the world. The world is too big and too fucking complicated to save. I’m trying to save one person for one day.

Plant Healer: How does one best attend to that healing?

Doc: With the truth.

Plant Healer: What are the most important qualities of a healthy/healthful life?

Doc: Hmmmm? Great question. I could give the boiler plate answer, eat good, sleep good, all things in moderation, have goals etc etc etc. Bull shit. Not everyone can do that. To be healthy is to enjoy your virtues and vices equally. Laugh. Laugh til you shit your pants. Love powerfully. And if that love dies then believe you will love again. Help a friend. Hell! have a friend! You can get angry, but don’t think destructive thoughts.

Know the difference between fucking and making love and enjoy them both.

Maybe, just maybe this is what kept me alive after being beaten to pulp by bullies, beaten by the San Francisco PD Tactical Squad, stabbed by an ex-girl friend, shot twice, losing a daughter to a drunk driver, having a stroke, and being fired from two careers for not lying for the powers that be….maybe all that kept me alive.

Plant Healer: What are the most important qualities of character?

Doc: Empathy, honesty, courage (all kinds), and open mindedness.

Plant Healer: Describe your work in street medicine, administering the poor with herbs you gather or pay for out of pocket.  How did you get into it, and when?

Doc: It must be twelve years now. My memory is a little shaky from my last minor stroke, but I remember a winter evening driving near a small park not too far from my home. The people were just sitting there in the cold. While it does not snow in the San Francisco bay area you can still die from hypothermia. Having almost died in a snow storm I know how easy it is to sit down and just wait. So I drove home, got a load of blankets and gave them out. I may have given out some old sleeping bags. Then I saw what they were eating. Not much. Went back home and made some soup. I returned day after day, mostly with soup or hot food. They always hit me up for change, which at that time I didn’t have and wouldn’t have given it to them anyway. In a very short time I heard the coughing and wheezing of flu, bronchitis, and god knows what else. I started making phone calls to two cities where the park intersects and learned that nothing was being done. So I got my tinctures and off I went. Suddenly, at that point, everyone became suspicious of me. Do-gooder are not always welcome. Suckers are. So I decided that I would go undercover. Hey, I’d been a cop. How hard could it be? Fuuuucccccckkkkk! In various parts of town the homeless wondered who I was, what I was, and why I was doing whatever I was doing. And they got sicker and sicker. So I started observing. Watching the rhythms of the night so to speak. When did certain problems get worse? Check time. When was bronchial issues the worst? Surprisingly summer time. Who was psychotic? Who was functional? Who had HIV? What was the most common problems with men? What were the common problems with women? And it went on for months.

So…I bought used clothing that didn’t fit to well, let my hair grow, didn’t shower as often, carried a cheap backpack or bag, and just hung out with the wretches whenever I could. Then I would treat myself for a cough, or phelgm, or a skin problem I faked. If they asked what I was doing, I’d explain. Then I’d offer some. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes not. But I had my in.

They invited me to stay in a squat or a hidden camp and I did. I had my little cook pot and chemical stove, so I shared soup and made teas and decoctions. Sometimes I would disappear for a week or two. No one asked where I had gone. It was just part of the life. I knew I couldn’t carry all the herbs I needed so I tracked out an area where I could stash some, pick some, or steal some. The homeless gave me a post-masters education in dumpster diving and squat living. The rest is history.

Plant Healer: How important are free clinics?

Doc: Free clinics are now beginning to offer more herbal alternatives if and when they can get a knowledgeable practitioners. They are incredibly important. But they tend to offer herbal services when the allopathic cupboard goes dry. Since most clinics are allowed to run under the guidance of a doctor or nurse practitioner there is some contention as to when to use herbs, for what, how much, and how often. The majority of allopaths know nothing about herbal treatments and tend to be very conservative in their use.

Plant Healer: Talk to us about guerrilla gardening in urban and public environs.

Doc at the 2012 TWHC

Doc: Hehehehhe!  Guerilla gardening is the planting of herbs or veggies in accessible if illegal environs. Those of us who partake in this activities tend to be closemouthed as to where are gardens are. The trick is to find the right environment for said flora, plus the ability to access it. The gardens can vary through the seasons. I tend to grow medicinal herbs in areas where wild herbs might be growing. Where fennel grows, thyme can grow. Where sage grows, rosemary will grow. Onions can be planted almost anywhere you can find a steady drip of moisture… say, the side on an abandon building.  Healing flowers can be planted in urban parks. The city’s department of public works is often stretched fairly thin. Moving grass is a low priority. Plus, if it looks like it was professionally planted they will assume it was authorized by someone. A few years ago Prunella was sprouting all over the ghettos and barrios of Richmond.

Plant Healer: We love the diversity in herbalism overall and in the Plant Healer folk herbalism community in particular, from well educated clinical practitioners to spike haired dumpster diving plant lovers… with none being less typical than you, sir.  Everyone wants a place and way to fit in, but would you say that “normal” is a tad overrated, and fitting in a bit constrictive?

Doc: Normal is over rated and constricting. It is the moral equivalent of Orwell’s 1984. And it can be dangerous. Normal was informing on your Jewish neighbor in the early days of Nazi Germany. Normal was owning slaves in (pick your own favorite culture). Normal was building huge pyramids and then running away to a place with no fucking oil! Normal was throwing your kid out of the house because he was gay. No no, you can have normal.

Plant Healer: What are the greatest threats to the practice and community of herbalism today, both from within and without?

Doc: Regulation. With regulation comes enforcement. And you can’t take the word force out of enforcement. With regulations comes limits on herbs and cultural protocols. I fear the American Herbalist Guild like a virgin boy fears a priest, a redneck fears bad moonshine, an Irishman fears cold beer, Utah fears same sex marriage, and the Ku Klux Klan fears another minority president.

Plant Healer: If you could do anything you wanted with the remainder of your life, if your future were a blank canvas unencumbered by obligation or habit and you held every available color, what might that composition look like?

Doc: If I had good health I would walk a thousand miles. Note book, camera, backpack, walking stick. If I could not do that, I would like to find a cabin or homestead in New Mexico or Arizona. Try to live a comfortable if primitive off grid type life, and read the classics. Moby Dick, Don Quixote, Pilgrims Progress, the poetry of Keats and Shelley. Then biographies of great people. Curie, Pasteur, Lincoln, Elizabeth the First, Kipling, Burton. I’d make love to a gentle woman in the evening. Make jam in the morning. Tend my garden. Make goat cheese. Write letters by hand. I guess that covers it.

Plant Healer: Tell folks a bit about what you will be teaching at the TWHC this September.

Doc: I’m teaching two classes. One on Chronic Pain: An Hispanic Perspective. I’m excited about this as I’ve never lectured directly on this topic. I will be sharing how Hispanics have dealt with chronic pain in the past, both with herbs and patent medicines, but also the mindset of those who have dealt with this depressing condition. I think folks will be surprised. One thing you won’t hear is, “Pain has something to teach you.”

I’m also teaching a class on Death and Dying: Coping for the Herbalist/Caregiver. I first taught this last year with the aid of a dear friend who is a hospice nurse. This deals with recognizing the signs of care giver burn  out and finding coping mechanisms, herbal, social, maybe spiritual, and dangerous.

Plant Healer: How do feel about coming back to teach for us again?

Doc: I love coming back. I was frankly surprised to invited back the second year. I still remember the shocked faces of some of the students who survived my lectures the first year.

Plant Healer: If you had only a short amount of mortal breath with which to give to herbalists and others a bit of your distilled wisdom, what advice might you give?

Doc: That’s easy. And not very profound perhaps. I would say two words: “Give care.”

Jul 172012
 

Intro: The following is an excerpt from the Spring 2012 issue Plant Healer, herbalist Matthew Wood’s excellent explanation of the basics of Greek Herbal Medicine, a predecessor to subsequent Western herbal healing traditions.  This never before published work is an example of the contributions Matt has been making to Plant Healer Magazine through his regular column, and to our contemporary herbal community. Matthew is also teaching on related subject matter at this year’s Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference in the lakes region of northern Arizona!

–Kiva Rose and Jesse Wolf Hardin

Greek Herbal Medicine: The Four Qualities and the Four Degrees

by Matthew Wood

Excerpted From the Summer Issue of Plant Healer Magazine

To Read the entire piece, subscribe at: www.PlantHealerMagazine.com

Wild Black Cherry, Prunus serotina, ©Kiva Rose

The Galenic system of herbalism is based on the energetics of the four qualities (hot and cold, damp and dry) and their subdivision into four  degrees or grades. Over the centuries the original meanings of the qualities and degrees have been forgotten so that today it is almost impossible to understand the Greek system at first glance.

How could this be the case?  Remember that the Greeks didn’t have thermometers they couldn’t measure temperature or humidity in an objective way.  They had no idea what  heat  or  damp,  therefore they understood them by what they did.  Thus, example, heat is that which  purifies  a substance so that impurities are driven away (this is how we might think of fever), or which mixes substances so that they become one substance in nature (like cooking ingredients together in a soup).  This may not seem like a very important distinction at first, but it becomes much more important as the properties of heat are divided into  degrees.

We also don t understand degrees as the Greeks did.  We look upon degrees as a system of measurement of intensity or space or time, like numbers on a thermometer or around a circle.  For the Greeks, on the other hand, degrees were divisions and each division was completely different in nature.  Thus, for example, heat in the first degree opens pores, heat in the second degree thins fluids, in the third degree it warms and in the fourth it burns.  Furthermore, the second degree includes the first and fourth includes them all.  Thus, the degrees are really more like what we would call  grades.   Like grades in a school one is either in one grade or another and the fourth grade builds on and includes the properties or lessons of the third, second, and first grades.

We would tend to think of heat in the third degree as slightly warmer than heat in the second degree, but this is not what the Greeks meant. Warmth was only one of four major qualities or grades of heat.  How were they to discuss the smelting of iron ore versus the burning of wood if they didn’t have a system of measurement?  Melting ore to purify out the metal seemed to them to be a type of thinning.  The ancients could not measure the difference on a thermometer so instead they observed the actions of heat: opening, thinning, warming, and burning, and arranged them in ascending intensity.  The grades of the qualities therefore refer to actions, not measurements.

And yes, these  actions  are more or less the origins of what we call  actions  in herbalism today.  Thus, remedies cooling in the first degree are  refreshments  (this is now a food, not a medicine), coolants in the second degree are  refrigerants,  those of the third degree are  sedatives  (they not only reduce fever but sedate the mind).  Those of you who learned your medical lessons from Granny on The Beverly Hillbillies will know that  vapors  are caused by excessive heat agitating the nervous system and are treated by cooling medicines.  Herbs cold in the fourth degree so benumb consciousness that they are anodynes like opium.

If we multiple each of the four qualities by the four grades we will arrive at a total of sixteen actions, some of which are still used by herbalists today, some not.

We herbalists are the heirs of magnificent traditions.  We have the dozen or so great American Indian female remedies from the Natives of this continent (black and blue cohosh, wild yam, trillium, raspberry, true and false unicorn root, etc.)  We also preserve the ancient Greek system of energetics in our herbal actions, though we have lost the thread leading back to the energetic system that spawned them.

This change took place in the second half of the seventeenth century, at least in Anglo-American medicine.  In 1654, Nicholas Culpeper still understood the meaning of the four grades of the qualities, even though he used astrology instead of Galenic medicine.  Without doubt, he had been trained in them as an apothecary s apprentice.  Yet in 1689, in his terrific analysis of tastes, actions, properties, and pulses, John Floyer understood the degrees as we would today, as intensifications in taste, sensation, and degree on the thermometer, not as different actions.

The Four Qualities

The four qualities trace back to Aristotle and here is what he said about them:

Hot is that which associates things of the same kind. . .  while cold. . . associates homogeneous and heterogeneous things alike.  Fluid is that which, being readily adaptable in shape, is not determinable by any limit of its own, while dry is that which is readily determinable by its own limit, but readily adaptable in shape (Aristotle, quoted by Mure, 1964, 73).

In Aristotelian philosophy and Greek Medicine hot and cold are considered  active  because they have the power to act, while damp and dry are  passive  because they are acted upon.  This takes some thought to appreciate.  To get water to move takes an outside force.  The same is true for a stone.  Thus, damp and dry are  passive.   Heat, on the other hand, can move objects.  For this reason, treating the temperature was more important than the humidity.

Descriptions of the four qualities are based on William Salmon (1709, v), and include some quotations from him.  For a list of the symptoms of the four qualities refer to The Traditional Healer by Hakim Chishti (1980).

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Heat

The positive property of heat is to remove inessential and foreign material in order to purify and restore the essence or constitutional type.  Heat does this by opening up channels and pores to remove impurities, thinning stagnant humors and fluids to allow them to run off through the opened channels, burning up (metabolizing) impurities and toxins, and increasing the internal fire of digestion and metabolism to drive waste materials out of the body, at the same time providing life forces, nutriment, air, and water to feed the tissues.

Warming Medicine: The ancients considered the living body to be warm in the first degree when it was in health.  Thus, such remedies “are hot in the first degree, are of equal heath with our bodies, and they only add a natural heat thereto, if it be cooled by nature or by accident, thereby cherishing the natural heat when weak, and restoring it when it is wanting” (Culpeper, 1989, 207).

The layout of the first three degrees of heating medicines teaches us that there is an inner fire in the body, constantly driving out impurities towards the periphery (the channels of elimination), and that this fire keeps the fluids thin and moving and the pores and channels open.  Thus, there are three stages in which cold overwhelms the body: first blocking the external pores, second thickening the fluids to obstruct the internal pathways, and third lowering the inner flame of life.  Note that when a body is cold in the third degree, or needs remedies warm in the third degree, heat symptoms or putrefaction can appear due to accumulation of waste products.

Agents hot in the fourth degree combat foreign growth processes that have overwhelmed the self-governing mechanism of the body, or the basic essence or type.  This includes primarily cancer and growths.

First Grade. These remedies “abate inflammations and fevers by opening the pores of the skin” (Culpeper, 1981, 207), to let out chill and blockage that has invaded the body, returning it to its normal temperature.  These remedies are primarily relaxing diaphoretics such as chamomile, agrimony, peppermint, spearmint, catnip, calendula, peony, and lobelia.

Second Grade. These agents not only open the pores, but dissolve   rough humors  and  obstructions,  so that the fluids can be allowed to flow out through the open pores.  These remedies are primarily warming bitters: fennel, elecampane, frankincense, galangal, calendula, and nutmeg.

Third Degree. These medicines open the pores, liquify fluids, and raise the inner heat to drive obstructions and chills to the surface and out through the pores.  They “help concoction,” that is, cooking in the stomach, warm and comfort the viscera, and “keep the blood in its just temperature” (Culpeper, 1989, 207).  Thus, they fight putrefaction and plague, and can induce fever in order to cleanse the body.  These remedies are primarily  antiseptics  and  stimulants.   Asarum, cumin, ginger, hyssop, pennyroyal, black pepper, rue, cayenne, savin, southernwood, calendula, elecampane, wild marjoram.

Fourth Degree. Medicines that raise blisters, corrode, and burn the skin.  The more gentle ones (rubifacients) are used to stimulate blood flow to areas that are emaciated, paralyzed, understimulated, or undernourished, while the more severe ones (esxharotics) are used to burn away and remove foreign growth processes that have overwhelmed the self-protective agencies of the body ““ warts and cancers.  Nettle, black mustard, garlic, onion, savory, and chelidonium.

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Cold

As a positive force in the body, cold keeps different parts, tissues, organs, spirits, and mental faculties integrated into a functional whole.  Remember that cold, according to Aristotle, binds together things compatible or incompatible.  Thus, when cold is lost the different parts of the body start to go their separate ways.

Cooling Remedies: “Observe, that those medicines that are called cold, are not so called because that they are really cold in themselves, but because the degree of their heat falls below the heat of our bodies, and so only in respect of our temperature are said to be cold” (Culpeper, 1981, 207).

Cooling medicines were once very important since there was no refrigeration in ancient times.  At the very minimum, they were used simply to cool people off on hot summer days.  However, cooling medicines do much more than this.  They are not only refrigerant  (cold in the second degree), but sedative.  They settle the spirits and nerves, like when boiling water is settled by turning the heat down.  In fact, cold medicines were used to settle “vapors,” which were an old way of describing hysteria, nervousness, convulsions, and other conditions where the energy seemed to be rising up out of control.  Very much the same concept is found in Chinese medicine, were stones, shells, and heavy medicines are used to weigh down the spirit, so that it doesn t fly up and create problems.  Note that  hysteria  (from the Latin word for uterus) refers both to feelings out of control and uterine spasms.

First Grade. Agents cold in the first degree are suited to heat that has not yet settled.  The person only feels stuffy and bothered, as on a hot summer day.  Thus, medicines cold in the first degree “qualify the heat of the stomach, cause digestion” and “refresh the spirits” (Culpeper, 1981, 208).  This is the origin of salads, which are found in European and Middle Eastern cooking, but not traditional in India and China.  Fresh vegetables and fruits are considering cooling enough to refresh on a hot day.  This is also the origin of soda pops.  Even today one can still obtain rose water and orange petal drinks in the Middle East which are used to cool on a hot day.  The Anglo-American version of this drink was  switchel,  made from vinegar, sometimes with ginger and molasses.  Most fruits qualify here.  Rose hips and petals, peach fruit and leaf, lemon, lime, orange petals (not the fruit), strawberry, blueberry, elderberry rob, lemon balm, cherry juice, domestic lettuce, cucumber, parsley, tomato, etc.

Second Grade. In this degree the heat has become inflammatory, so that agents cold in the second grade “abate inflammation” (Salmon, 1709, v).  These are what we would today call  anti-inflammatory.   The old herbalists termed these agents  refrigerant.   Examples include lemon, commonly used in  fever drinks,  elder flower and berry, lemon balm, rose hips and petals, peach leaf, wild cherry bark, strawberry, yarrow, etc.

Third Degree. These agents bring down excessive sweating caused by heat out of coontrol, hold back matter from discharge, bring the blood back down from the head, and keep the vapors from rising, which reduces mental restlessness, vertigo, and fainting.  Thus, they are suited to conditions in which heat is driving the fluids actively out of the body and raising vapors upwards to agitate the mind and brain.   Examples include lemon balm, yarrow, lavender, poppy flowers, and rosehips.

Fourth Degree. These medicines cause unconsciousness or diminish consciousness; hence they are used in extreme pain, morbid vigilance, ravings, and violent delirium.  These are mild to powerful sedatives or poisons such as wild lettuce, opium, and hemlock.

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Dry

The dry quality, for Aristotle, does not just dry out and desiccate substances, but hardens them and gives them the structure necessary to have boundaries and separation from the rest of the world.  The ability to hold anything inside the body is due to the dry faculty.  Thus, in the first degree dryness protects the exterior from outside influences, while in the fourth it hardens.

Drying Remedies: “Drying medicaments are such as make dry the parts overflowing with moisture,” writes Salmon (1709, v).  “Drying medicines consume the humours, stop fluxes, stiffen the parts, and strengthen nature,” writes Culpeper (1989, 208).  These remedies are primarily astringents that contain fluids and restore prolapse, or alkaline remedies that remineralize the electrolytes in water.

First Grade. Medicines dry in the first degree are said to “comfort and strengthen nature” (Salmon, 1709, v).  This means they close the pores and keep the body from being attacked by cold during the winter.  I only know the American Indian remedies used in this way: sumach, witch hazel, comptonia, and ledum. Note that remedies warm in the first degree open pores while those dry in the first grade close them or keep them closed.

Second Grade. Agents in this degree not only strengthen nature but astringe tissues to increase the tone, so that they do not collapse.  These would be astringents such as sumach, witch hazel, oak, raspberry leaf, blackberry leaf, lady s mantle, and horse chestnut.

Third Grade. In this degree medicines not only strengthen nature and increase the tone of the tissue but stop the discharge of fluids.  These are astringents such as yarrow, water lily, blueberry leaf, and sumach. Care should be taken to use astringents that have an affinity to stopping blood flow rather than powerful astringents that merely pucker the tissues closed.

Fourth Grade. Agents dry in the fourth degree not only strengthen nature, bind the tissues, and stop discharges, but  harden  the tissue to resist consumptions “where great fluxes of the bowels have” occurred, or where the lungs are subject to unstoppable catarrhs and bleedings.  They “stop catarrhs, and all fluxes of blood and humors, are highly stiptick, and dry up a super-abundancy of moisture.”  Examples include rose petal and yarrow. The famous  rose petal conserve  of Avicenna was used for tubercular bleeding and expectoration.

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Damp

The damp quality is that which allows substances to move through one another without friction, it is the lubricating substance.  As a substance is thinned it becomes more “damp.”  Moistening agents not only increase fluid but are nourishing because food has to travel through fluids (water and oil) to get to the tissues and feed them.

Moistening remedies: These moisten the surfaces, add dampness to the internal organs, move water into dried out, hardened tissues, bring nourishment into the body, dilute or thin fluids to move out stuck deposits of water, and make  slippery.

First Grade. Agents damp in the first degree act on the mucosa of the respiratory tract to  smooth the roughness of the windpipe,  and reduce coughing.  These remedies are  demulcents  or  mucilages.   Here we would place violets, water lily, marshmallow root, slippery elm, comfrey, and fenugreek.

Second Grade. Medicines damp in the second degree act on the mucosa of the digestive tract to loosen the belly, lubricate the passages, and promote elimination.  They do not purge by catharsis but by moistening the stool.  They also make the womb  slippery  to promote fertility and passage of the baby.  I would extend this category from mucilages to fixed oils or nutritive oils and nutritive tonics and foods.  Slippery elm, fenugreek, burdock, American ginseng, and some of the Chinese sweet tonics.

Third Grade. Agents damp in the third degree moisten the body and “relax parts contracted or hardned.”  These are the  emollients.  Many of the mucilages are emollient.  Examples include marshmallow root, comfrey, and fenugreek, but we would also think of mullein.

Fourth Grade. These agents move the stool when it is stuck or remove water through the bowels when the kidneys are deficient.  They are purgatives, hydrogogues, and cathartics.  Examples include yellow dock root, rhubarb root, cascara sagrada, senna, and poke root.

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Temperate

“Temperate medicines are such which work no change at all, in respect to heat, coldness, dryness, or moisture.  And these may be temperate in some respect” and not in another.  For example: “1. As being neither hot nor cold, and yet may be moist or dry.  2. As being neither moist nor dry, and yet may be hot or cold.  Their use is, where there are no apparent excesses of the four other qualities; to preserve the body temperate, conserve Strength, and restore decayed Nature” (William Salmon, 1709, v).

Jul 042012
 

www.TheMedicineBear.com

….

It’s Here!  Fresh off the press, Wolf’s new novel
THE MEDICINE BEAR

www.TheMedicineBear.com

….

The first boxes of this exciting book have arrived, and Wolf is currently signing copies for mailing out to all who ordered one.  I highly recommend it!  As I wrote for its pages:

The Medicine Bear is a powerful novel of love, healing, devotion, coming of age, and sense of place, but more than any single element, it is a tapestry of the vital medicine that connects the people to the land, and all of us to each other. The skillful hands of the curandera heal even while the soldiers endure a bloody struggle. Through it all, the medicine of this tale is found in the power of personal transformation and bone-deep passion.  Readers of novels as diverse as Frazier’s Cold Mountain and Urrea’s The Hummingbird’s Daughter will be pulled into the mythic yet eerily relevant story of the Medicine Bear. The vibrant weaving of the many cultural elements that make of the American Southwest on the border are beautifully represented, transporting us to the lapiz skies, red clay, and lush canyons of New Mexico but the tale is applicable and relatable to the reader wherever they might be.

Jesse Wolf Hardin with Medicine Bear Novel

Never has a story of magic and healing, clarity and wildness been so needed as now.  Wolf’s masterful approach to magical realism and history grants us a seldom seen view into the events that have shaped the borderlands and its people… a master storyteller’s tale of a mestiza healer and her true love.

Part of the Announcement is pasted below, for you to please repost or forward, and an initial excerpt follows for those of you who may not have already gotten to read sections of it in the pages of Plant Healer Magazine.

Thank you for buying a copy, and for  helping getting the word out about this special book, recommending it to your students and friends.  It really means a lot to me personally.    –Kiva

Order your own personally signed copy now:
www.TheMedicineBear.com

For a Medicine Bear Announcement to share with your friends and readers, download the following pdf:

Medicine Bear Announcement

Wolf and I with his new book... I hope you love it!

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THE MEDICINE BEAR
“The story of a healer, a love, and a time of transition”

in the Enchanted Southwestern U.S. during the closing days of the Old West
by Jesse Wolf Hardin

“An incredibly powerful novel of love, healing, devotion, and sense of place…
a tapestry of the vital medicine that connects the people to the land, and to each other.”

–Kiva Rose (N.M. Medicine Woman)

“If you have ever loved, healed or been healed, bemoaned a changing society,
and felt the animal spirit within you, this tale is for you.”

–Charles Garcia (Curandero; Director, Calif. School of Traditional Hispanic Herbalism)

www.TheMedicineBear.com

Follow the wild-woman herbalist and Omen, the impassioned writer and adventurer Eland and archetypal Medicine Bear through a time of great cultural as well as personal transition, down plant-filled paths of discovery and healing and to the juncture of our own return to wholeness and health, rooted home and true love, meaningful mission and – ultimately – satisfaction and contentment.

Taking place primarily in the mountains and deserts of the American Southwest, we experience the confluence of Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures that was and is New Mexico.  Spanning from the birth of Eland in 1892 to 1964 in its closing scene, its central event is a little known retaliatory raid in 1916 by Pancho Villa’s poorly equipped Indian revolutionaries, in what was the sole invasion of the U.S. by a foreign army since the War Of 1812.

Eland 1961 www.TheMedicineBear.com

“The teachings of The Medicine Bear shine bright, like sunlight through a canopy of thickly branched trees. Here is found the deep wild wisdom of curanderas and curanderos of yesterday and today, disguised as story. One can almost smell the copal smoke and rain-dampened desert as we follow how Omen’s “don” unfolds, encouraged first by the spirits of plant and tree, stone and animal; the true teachers of those called by the guardians of the medicine ways. Later, honed by the old yerbera, Doña Rosa. Like we Mestizas, it walks between worlds: the world of matter, the world of spirit and the world of culture and language. Of brujas and curanderas. Of European healing and Indigenous medicine. It is also a love story… a tender unfolding of the Aztec spiritual principle of balance and harmony, of Ome Cihuatl and Ome Tekutli, Two Woman and Two Man, complementary opposites who embody soulful unity.”
–Grace Alvarez Sesma, Curandera

Omen 1911 www.TheMedicineBear.com

At the very heart of this story is always Omen, gifted, abused as a child, resilient as a pre-teen studying with the curandera Doña Rosa, determined as an adult to move past her wounds and further her craft, forever experiencing the beauty and complexity of the world through her awakened senses and caring heart.

“To Omen, they were not just wondrous sunshine-eating entities, without whom humans and most of the life on Earth would die.  Plants were proof of miracles, and reason for hope.  The inspiration for a good and balanced life, and examples of how to live it.  They were her ever growing, ever reaching truth, the medicine she would need.” (from the text)

www.TheMedicineBear.com

Over 70 full page, 6×9” illustrations compliment the text, a combination of original drawings by the author Hardin, and antique photographs from the period adapted for this role.  Character portraits and regional stills help tell a story Hardin first painted with his descriptive and evocative words, reflecting a vision that is Omen’s, Eland’s and ours to share.

www.TheMedicineBear.com

“The Medicine Bear is an unabashedly magical, sensual, and yes, romantic tale of love and loss, of longing and renewal. It is a paean to wildness within and the southwestern wilderness that Eland and Omen are married to, along with each other, and whose exquisite beauty we are drawn into through the soulful eyes and language of Eland.
Plants intertwine with the lives of the main characters in The Medicine Bear. Eland knows his plants well, and as he watches his beloved Omen, an herbalist, at work and play, we are shown that plants are healers and beings in their own right. This matches my own sense of plants as beings of deep spirit and great generosity. There is so much plant lore and wisdom shared in the book, along with hints at how to gather and work with herbs, that the Medicine Bear will be a pleasure for herbalists to read, and a great education for those who long to become more intimate with healing plants.
The plants, the mountains, and the medicine bear sing to us, calling us each to full aliveness. While the old west is fading and the grizzlies are dying, love inspires, even beyond death itself.”
–Robin Rose Bennett

For Information or to Order:
www.TheMedicineBear.com

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Moonheart 1897 www.TheMedicineBear.com

A Wild Seed:  Omen & Moonheart
(White Mountain Apache Reservation, S.E. Arizona, 1897)
Excerpted From
THE MEDICINE BEAR
by Jesse Wolf Hardin www.TheMedicineBear.com

The day the one called Omen was born, Moon had determined to spend the morning walking.  This, even though the hours spent among river Cattails or ridge-top Aspen were hours when no dough was being mixed to rise, no Melons watered, no cistern cleaned.  Her ruddy-faced husband lay sleeping off a hangover on the sitting room couch, and there would be no one to strip the leaves of the Quelites off their stalks or to set the trays out in the blazing July sun.  Any number of tasks were predicated on the season and the weather, and she knew she approached the end of the drying season.  In another week the annual monsoons could start, the long series of afternoon thunderstorms that would make all the White Mountains quake.  But Moon needed time outside as much as she needed air to breathe. It was only the child swelling her belly, she was sure, that kept her from smoking and drinking.  And only the woods that kept her lifelong sadness in check.

Every chance she could, she’d visit the snares she set for Rabbit, gather and spread the seeds of those plants preferred by the Deer, and poke around for Mushrooms in the forest litter.  She fed on them, but made sure they in turn were fed.  She tried to keep an eye on every creature and plant, and how well they were doing, taking on the responsibility for guarding their well-being and seeing to their needs.  These walks had become a bit of a test over the last couple months, carrying the weight of her first child in front of her in a way that made balance difficult, a protrusion that got her tangled more often in the stands of brush and Willow.  The pregnancy never seemed anything less than right to her, even if it meant raising a baby alone.  The stretching uterus felt as good and natural as taking a man inside her, regardless of the causes or consequences of either.  Over the years, she exercised little more resistance to her instincts than a wild animal might to the cycles of rut and procreation, mostly in a series of monogamous relationships with generally abusive men.  The best that would usually be said of her in these situations was that she was nearly as hard on her oppressors as they were on her.

Moon put on her olive wool poncho and headed out.  What better way to prepare her nineteen-year-old body and spirit for what lay ahead, she thought, than a hike to the head of the valley, over the creek in front of her cabin, past the log outbuildings, through the fields of purple-crested Beeweed to the grove of Grandmother Ponderosas.  Normally her head felt heavy as rock, a terrible burden to her neck, with a mind clouded by floodwaters of illusion and regret.  But the further she walked, the lighter it inevitably felt… and clearer, until only a lens to see through, a conduit through which to reach out and connect.  Barely out of sight of her abode, the incessant self-analysis had already slowed to a halt, with even the words in her thoughts beginning to break apart into snippets of wind and bird songs.  Halfway through the Beeweed, she was as a Bee herself, giddy with pollen, tipping unsteadily but willingly on the very edge of the blossom of life.  Entering the Pines, there was neither comment nor qualification left, only hushed reverence for something she felt akin to, something huge and palpably thrumming.  The woman who so depended on her boundaries and defenses, felt her walls quaver in its presence, and then dissolve around her.

It was in this opened and vulnerable state that she first heard the baying of dogs ahead, followed by unintelligible conversation.  A few yards further, the trail spilled out into a glen circumscribed by a ghost-white choir of Quaking Aspens.  She stood before what she took to be a pair of middle-aged Mormon settlers with clean-shaven faces, with lever-action rifles of some make or other leaning up against the nearest tree.  One held back a pair of hounds struggling against the taut leather leashes, while a second knelt down in front of a huge blonde Bear with its skin half peeled back.  She watched as he deftly cut strips of meat off the back, slapping them into a pile on a canvas tarp next to him.  Eerily, the dogs paid Moon no more mind than if she were a resident bush, and the settlers looked up only ever so briefly with looks of neither surprise nor interest, scarily devoid of feeling.  Turning back towards home, she realized that it was this apparent absence of malice or love, passion or compassion, empathy or anger that scared her most about her human kind, and she sensed in their shadows an aura of detachment more perversely evil, even, than heated acts of hatred or conscious ill intent.  She was a hunter herself, a taker of life and consumer of flesh.  And while Grizzlies were always rare as Hen’s teeth, they were hell on livestock and could expect to get back a little of what they put out.  But there was nonetheless something about this particular Bruin’s death that gnawed at her guts.  Something in it that followed her home.

Moon was barely out of the pine grove when the tears started to flow, and only halfway through the Beeweed before her water broke.  The same oceanic fluids that floated all life gushed down her legs as she walked, soaked her Spanish dress, filled her sandals and drained out onto the welcoming ground.  Before she got back to the creek the dress was already off, wadded together with her poncho.  She stepped naked into the crystalline current and sat down, first watching the patterns it made as it swirled around her distended belly, then the water striders that skimmed about on its surface.  The water felt only slightly cooler than her own body, thanks to its day in the sun.  She’d just started to relax when the painful contractions started, and Omen’s life began.

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www.TheMedicineBear.com

Eland 1937nwww.TheMedicineBear.com

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Jun 272012
 

This post is for the Wild Mint month of the Wild Things Roundup hosted by Wendy Petty’s Hunger & Thirst blog

Herbs of the Canyon: Poléo and the Grasshopper Mouse © Kiva Rose

Poléo: The Meandering Ways of Wild Mint

by Kiva Ringtail Rose

Botanical Name: Mentha arvensis (often considered synonymous with M. canadensis)

Common Names: Wild Mint, Corn Mint, Brook Mint, Horse Mint, Corn Mint

Energetic Tendencies: Variable temperature, dry

Taste/Impression: Aromatic, acrid

Actions: diaphoretic, stimulant nervine, aromatic digestive (including carminative), emmenagogue, spasmolytic, choleretic (via regulating liver qi.)

Tucked in among the opalescent hedges of Bluestem Willows and silver-skinned Canyon Alders that line the San Francisco River’s lush banks, a wreath of lavender spikes adorn the square stems of the River Mint. In the thick underbrush of our bosque, it can be easy to overlook this sprawling wildflower until you sit or step on it, and the sharp yet sweet minty aroma fills the air. The distinctive fragrance, square stems, and punk-rock spiked flower-do make it easy to recognize, and its wild abundance makes it a great plant for all herbalists and foragers to know about.

Here in the arid southwestern New Mexico, I only see Wild Mint growing where it can keep its feet wet, usually along rivers and creeks, or near seeps in moist meadows or riparian canyons. However, I’d imagine that in wetter environments, this would also be a common herb of fields, roadsides, and perhaps even the back yard or hedgerow. Like many of our most well-known herbs for food and healing, mints of various species are ubiquitous throughout much of the temperate world. Appreciated for food, beverage, medicine, chasing pesky insects away, fragrance, and more, there’s a wide range of traditions and sources to draw upon for inspiration and information.

Most folks just call this plant Wild Mint or Brook Mint, but in the Spanish-infused culture of my home, it’s just as likely to be referred to as Poléo, a name I’ll be using frequently in this exploration of Mentha arvensis.  Additionally, I’d like to note that in this article (as usual) I’m speaking only of my personal experience with the plant, and only of preparations I’ve made myself, and so this doesn’t include uses of the essential oil.

The overall pattern of Mint’s action has to do with initiating movement, usually through mixed stimulant and relaxant actions, which is to be expected from its both aromatic and acrid taste and impression. I find it fitting that many Mentha species tend to grow alongside moving water, as the Mints themselves are very much about allowing and redirecting flow. This can be seen in the way it relaxes tense, cramping muscles, how it can free the flow of belated menses, moves stagnant energy, increases peripheral circulation, and even helps regulate the movement of stuck liver function. This moving, meandering tendency of Mint can even be felt in the mouth, in its tongue-tingling impression that brings a feeling refreshment and awakeness.

The Tongue Tingling Goodness of River Mint: Food Uses

There’s no shortage of widely available recipes involving all manner of Mentha species, so I’ll just touch on a few ideas here. One of my favorite ways to eat our River Mint is in the form of various pestos. Some people find the flavor too strong on its own, but it blends very well with the sharp spice of Oregano de la Sierra (Monarda fistulosa var. menthifolia) or the green freshness of Sweet Clover (Melilotus spp.), or the mild but mineral-laden vibrance of Nettles (Urtica spp.)

Infused in vinegar, Poléo makes a great addition to many salad dressings, or diluted with cold water it can be a refreshing drink during the hottest days of a long Summer, especially with a bit of Mint-infused honey or molasses. There are many times for specific recipes of this type, from switchel to oxymel to many more exotic terms, they’re all yummy and come with their own fascinating bits of history and culture.

I very much enjoy Moroccan style tea made with high quality gunpowder green tea, Wild Mint, Lemon Verbena, and sometimes a pinch of Mugwort or Wormwood. Wild Mint is also very lovely in all manner of aperitif type drinks, and can be made into a syrup for adding a variety of mixed drinks for pleasure. It infuses into wine well, whether homemade or storebought.

Diaphoresis, the Immune System, and Gypsy Tea

One of the most useful overall actions in an herb is the ability to increase peripheral circulation, and thus trigger diaphoreses when required. Diaphoretics are most thought of in cold/flu, usually when there’s a fever present, and most especially when the fever has become unproductive. Diaphoretic teas have been used for as long as most can recall for “breaking a fever” by increasing the peripheral circulation, usually until a visible sweat appears on the person, which is often followed by a timely recovery. Because of this, people tend to think of diaphoretics as simply causing sweating, but this is a vast oversimplification of a much more vital function of the immune system.

The single most classic diaphoretic tea is mostly likely the herbal triplet of Elderflower, Mint, and Yarrow, often called Gypsy Tea (a name which may either flatter or piss off your local Roma population). Your standard Peppermint can work quite nicely there, or try an especially spicy species of Monarda if you need an extra stimulating and warming formula, but Mentha arvensis is the plant I use most often for the Mint part of the recipe. It’s strong tasting, but won’t burn the tongue like a Monarda can, and kicks up the peripheral circulation with little fuss. Plus, it grows right down by the river pretty much year round and I can even my 11 year old daughter down to fetch some up to the cabin, as it’s both easily recognized and locally abundant.

A strong mint like this is both stimulating and relaxing to some degree, but much more toward the stimulating end of the spectrum overall. It excels at moving stagnation throughout the body, including the circulation, which is exactly why it’s so incredibly useful in diaphoretic teas at the onset of a cold or flu, or when that same cold/flu has decided to try and stick around rather than moving along at a polite pace.

The idea of stimulating versus relaxing diaphoretics can seem confusing or intimidating at first glance, but really it’s quite common sense. Indications for relaxant diaphoretics include signs of excess tension such as restlessness, irritability, a rapid pulse, a flushed face and red tongue, insomnia, tight muscles, and jerky, rapid movements. Indications for stimulating diaphoretics include signs of excess laxity such as lethargy, weakness, pallor, slow pulse, pale tongue, apathy, subjective feelings of coldness, and an aversion to wind and cold.

If truly in doubt it usually works pretty well to give a formula that’s a mix of relaxant and stimulating diaphoretics such as the basic Elderflower/Mint/Yarrow one given above. Mints can work in almost any case, with Spearmint more appropriate for small children or those of delicate constitution, with Peppermint and River Mint being more called for in the average adult or an especially robust little one. Note that for diaphoretic teas to be effective they need to be taken very warm to hot in temperature, preferably while the person is bundled up.

Moving the Digestive Currents

Just as River Mint has a way with moving sluggish circulation, it is likewise quite adept at helping stagnant belly energy on its way. This is particularly useful where there’s bloating, epigastric pressure, constipation, and/or the desire to burp but the inability to do so, with the excess air staying firmly stuck somewhere in the vicinity of the chest cavity. As with most gut/digestive issues, tea is often preferable for this sort of thing, but tincture, elixir, syrup, infused vinegar, or similar can also work if that’s what you have on hand.

Keep in mind that Mentha species can aggravate some cases of acid reflux, and is generally most appropriate where energy needs to be moved up, whereas something like acid reflux is a clear sign of energy that needs to be rooted and pushed down. If Mint doesn’t work, there’s stuck belly energy, but you can’t figure out what direction it needs to go in, try an Artemisia instead.

Mint can also be one of our most effective herbs for nausea, especially lingering nausea after food poisoning or stomach flu. Again, it’s generally most helpful as a tea for this application, although I have seen the tincture/elixir have a notable effect when the tea is not available. Mint is doubly useful post flu or food poisoning because of how useful its anti-spasmodic action can be on residual gut cramping. I’ve certainly seen Mint’s  belly settling powers in clients, but got an extra personal bit of experience with this particular action when I caught the flu about a month before last year’s Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, and I couldn’t seem to shake the nausea, dizziness, and weakness long after the actual virus had moved on. Strong Mint tea set all that to rest for several hours though, and I could be seen wandering around firmly attached to my thermos of Peppermint and Wild Mint tea throughout the event.

Alongside Mint’s related digestive effects, it can be very useful in cases where there’s stagnant depression that is accompanied by bloating, and sometimes by lack of appetite overall. Traditional healers have long known that our emotions and state of mind are intimately tied to gut health, while conventional medicine is just beginning to catch up with this notion that was only recently considered radical by the mainstream.

As a side note, I have not seen Mentha species be as useful in motion sickness, where I’m more likely to suggest Peach leaf or Ginger. It does work sometimes, but not as consistently as the other aforementioned herbs.

Releasing the Flow: Poléo as Emmenagogue

A distinctive trait among the Mentha genus specific to Poléo is its high pulegone content, also found in Pennyroyal, that causes this species to be a very effective emmenagogue. It’s most indicated where the menses are late, there’s a feeling of heaviness and bloating, and a distinct feeling of stuckness in the pelvic area, sometimes (but not always) accompanied by dull, intermittent cramping. It teams up well with Ginger where there’s feelings of coldness along with the other symptoms, and Motherwort where there’s more likely to be overheatedness, a flushed face, and a quick temper.

This particular action makes the plant inadvisable during pregnancy, especially the early stages of a delicate pregnancy. However, the chances of successfully using this plant to purposely terminate even a very early stage of pregnancy are basically nil, so it’s probably not worthwhile making yourself ill feeling with massive doses trying (same applies to the whole plant of Pennyroyal).

Meanders & Other Thoughts

Something not generally discussed in contemporary Western Herbalism in regards to Mentha spp. is their specific effect on the hepatic system. Particularly with Peppermint and Poléo, this genus has particular affinity for clearing unresolving rashes that are triggered by liver wind and heat, as in many cases of acute hepatitis or flareups in chronic hepatitis. Tea or tincture can work in this situation.

Additionally, Wild Mint (and other allied species), can be great for helping to relieve pain and inflammation of sore throats from acute cold/flu onset, especially if accompanied by a fever. I like to make simple honey pastilles using finely ground herbs in approximately equal proportions of Rose petals, Wild Mint leaves, Marshmallow root, and Sage leaf.

Preparations:

Wild Mint is amenable to a great many preparations, but it’s important to keep in mind that the aromatics are a large portion of what you’re after, so you don’t want to lose them through too much heat processing or evaporation. A simple but strong tea is often the best way for most folks. Most find it tasty that way, and even more so if blended with other Mentha species, a bit of Lemon Balm, and/or some honey.

I do often make an elixir with brandy or rum and local desert wildflower honey to have something more easily transportable on hand… but really, a thermos or travel cup is pretty convenient as well, and many of Mint’s most important actions just work better when its taken hot, even if that means a couple squirts of tincture taken in a cup of hot water.

Also, I do make some of my standard bitters blends with various mints included for its carminative and overall digestive stimulating effects. Below you’ll find a simple recipe for just such a general bitters formula.

Wild River Bitters Blend

  • 1 part Dandelion leaf/root (preferably Spring harvested)
  • 1 part Mugwort (or whate ver local Artemisia spp. you have on hand, more used if its a less bitter species like A. vulgaris and less for super bitter species.)
  • 1 part Wild Mint flowering tops

These can be tinctured either fresh or dried in your preferred alcohol, and a portion of something like raw honey, molasses or maple syrup can be added for specific medicinal reasons, or simply to satisfy your taste buds. A dropperful (or a teaspoonful, if you prefer) 15 minutes before eating can help stimulate digestion after a heavy meal, or if you tend to experience bloating after eating. I do suggest fine tuning bitters blends for the individual, but this is a nice general formula to keep on hand.

Dosage:

Wild Mint is generally a safe, food-like herb, and the tea, pesto, and similar preparations can all be taken to taste and satisfaction, except for in pregnant women (in which case just substitute a milder mint like Spearmint in food-like preparations), without much cause for concern. In a medicinal sense, if Poléo is going to work for nausea, it’ll probably cause the symptoms to abate within the first half cup or so of tea. If it doesn’t help then, it’s worth trying something else. 

Considerations:

Not advisable during pregnancy due to emmenagogue action. Can aggravate some cases of acid reflux. Generally a safe, pleasant, and well tolerated herb by a wide variety of folks but not constitutionally appropriate in large doses or over long periods of time for those debilitated from chronic illness, especially if profuse sweating exists as a symptom.

References and Resources:

McDonald, Jim – Correspondence, handouts, classes, writings, and other bits of brilliance.

Moore, Michael - Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West, 2nd Edition

Ross, Jeremy – Combining Western Herbs and Chinese Medicine: A Clinical Materia Medica

Jun 252012
 

Excerpted from the Summer 2012 Issue of Plant Healer Magazine

Corazón a Corazón: Exploring Traditional Models of the Healer’s Practice

by Kiva Rose Hardin

Bulgarian folk healer

Even after so many years of devotion to the plants and experiential practice in herbalism, something just didn’t feel right… At a certain point in my healing studies, I narrowed my focus almost entirely to herbs, cutting out much of the attention I’d previously given to a wider array of medicine ways. During that time, this was a very efficient way for me to hone my skills and give sufficient time to what is surely one of the most demanding and complex fields of the healing arts. The problem came when I began to feel drained and exhausted by my studies and work, not just from the endless hours I put in, but the very nature of studying the plants separate from the larger medicine that serves as the very matrix of traditional healing. While strictly clinical work clearly serves some herbalists very well, I could feel in my aching heart and restless feet that I needed more in order to feel fully satisfied in my work again.

Returning to the work of my heart, I’ve begun to broaden my focus again, back to its original scope, the multifaceted mantle of the Medicine Woman.  In this model, counseling and many other aspects of healing get equal priority alongside herbalism. Skills such as counseling, nutrition, lifestyle, story medicine, and much more, are always necessary components of any herbal practice to some degree, but not usually given the same emphasis as the plants. Rooted in my personal experience, I’d like to explore some options that are prevalent in a wide variety of folk healing traditions but are often under-utilized in mainstream herbal practice and education.

To provide some context for what I discuss here, I should explain that I work and live within a primarily Latino culture, and thus am most familiar with its particular terminology and perspective. For this reason, I will use curanderismo for many of the examples and conceptual understandings here. However, it’s very easy to find vast world-wide similarities when one looks at folk medicine across the globe, from early Celtic healing ways to African medicine. And indeed, I have found incredible parallels between New Mexican curanderas to the healers known in the culture of my ancestors as znakharki, wise women or medicine women. Whether we were born in the same corner of the map or speak the same language matters little when it comes to the commonalities that working as a healer provides us.

Toda la Gente: The Dynamics of Diversity

“Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”

- Bell Hooks

One of the most amazing things about herbalism in the Americas is its vibrance and diversity. We’re a wild bunch, and that’s a good thing! By Americas, I don’t mean just the U.S., but also Canada, Mexico, Central and South America. The beautiful blends (and sometimes painful clashes) of cultures, ethnicities, languages, ecosystems, and flora has come together to create a unique and constantly shifting tapestry of healing traditions that many of us know little about. Alongside and woven with the powerful indigenous practices of the Americas, immigrants have brought their knowledge from all corners of the world. I recently spoke to a curandera from Sonora who integrates Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostics and Ayurvedic constitutional theory into her existing framework of Aztec/Huichol/Hispanic healing. I also know a number of herbalists in the Southeastern United States who draw from both Irish/Scottish traditions as well as African and Latino. Everywhere we look, there are plentiful examples of the magic made where people touch, change, and overlap.

Eclecticism can result in an unwieldy, ineffective mess, especially if cherry picked according to wishful thinking and romanticized notions about cultures with which we have no actual interaction with or foundation in. On the other hand, more organic blends that arise from actual experience and personal interaction can bloom into something new, dynamic, and incredibly beautiful. Diversity is the lifeblood of our work, and an important element of power that underlies our work as healers and allows us to keep growing and learning from each other.

Conversations about looking at or emulating models of practicing from traditional cultures inevitably leads to concerns about cultural appropriate and disrespectful uses of other peoples’ traditions. To me, this highlights the reasons to avoid mindless adoption or undiscerning amalgamation, and the distinct need for first-hand experience of and in the culture.

Most all of us are of mixed blood, and have inherited ways of being and doing alongside hereditary hardwiring, that together contribute to making us the unique individuals that we are. It’s no secret that all cultures have begged, borrowed, and stolen from each other for as long as they’ve had contact. In most cases, we call that assimilation and integration rather than appropriation. However, with mass colonization, this has become a more difficult and heated matter. Respectful dialogue and community building often go a long way toward creating an atmosphere conducive to sharing with and learning from each other, regardless of culture, race, gender, or other potentially divisive factors.

We’re all in danger of losing precious wisdom garnered by previous generations, with so many healing traditions dying out in the face of disinterest by recent generations, and the pressure from mainstream society to emulate modern biomedicine.  I have see this personally, and listened to Latino, Ukrainian, Apache, and many other elders mourn the disinterest of their own children and grandchildren in traditional healing ways. To avoid further loss of this valuable knowledge, it’s imperative that at least some of us take on the task of learning the healing ways of our ancestors and the land/people we belong to. For some of us this will result in a crazy mix, but this blend, once integrated through experience, can become another strand in the vibrant weave of healing traditions across the world.

La Visión Clara: In Consideration of Convention, Conformity, and Creativity

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself.”

-Rita Mae Brown

The other side of valuable traditions with their hard won wisdom, is the trap of convention that makes us feel as if we all need to hold to a certain pre-defined role, and holds us back from developing and impedes our growth as healers. There can be pressure for herbalists to conform to the mold of conventional medicine, to work behind a desk in an office, to treat whoever makes an appointment, and see as many clients as we can fit into the day. While I reckon that the current biomedical model needs work in any case to be fully effective and sensitive to the patient’s needs, it can still present a valid and fulfilling template for some of us, especially those who choose to work alongside medical doctors in a more widely accepted setting. However, it need not to be the measure by which we all evaluate our abilities.

There are abundant examples of other models of herbalism through history and currently, we need only look around us. If not on our own block, then very likely in the nearest barrio, or in many neighborhoods where cultural traditions are still alive and celebrated. Besides these excellent models, we also have the option of developing new ways of envisioning our practice and ways of interaction with plants and people. Wherever there is convention, there is also the opportunity to break free and come up with a totally new way of doing things.

El Corazón: The Heart of Healing

“No medicine cures what happiness cannot.”

- Gabriel García Márquez

A significant part of many traditional healing models is what is called a plática here in the American Southwest (as well as throughout much of Latin America), a heart to heart talk in which the healer listens carefully to the person she’s working with, and can often include some amount of counseling. I can’t emphasize the importance of listening skills enough, as so much of the healing for many is found in the chance to finally be heard and to tell their story. This heart to heart connection between person and person, between person and place, between person and plant, is the channel through which all healing is transmitted. At its core, health is about relationships. Our relationships to each other, to the herbs, to our food, to our bodies, and ourselves as a whole within the context of our communities.

I spend a great deal of time observing and considering the ways in which healers interact with the people they work with. With special consideration given to understanding the specific intimacy and relationship we enter into when we reach out our hands to try to help, to facilitate wholeness within our villages and neighborhoods. It’s not enough, however, to just look and understand. This particular aspect of traditional herbalism needs revival nowhere more than in a culture that often promotes politeness, superficiality, and efficiency at the price of real sharing and hearing. Not being heard creates its own kind of sickness, and certainly exacerbates existing issues in most folks, especially since most illness is accompanied by fear and uncertainty about outcomes. In the Ukraine, babky (grandmothers, or older women serving as healers) often spend part of their treatment time comforting and reassuring the patient in whatever ways they can, with hugs, smiles, and warmth being common to many folk healers across the planet.

Curar del Susto: Addressing Fear & Giving Support

“I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear. I release you. You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I don’t know you as myself”

- Joy Harjo

In many places, the healer not only provides counsel, but also a degree of emotional support through words, comfort, and usually a spiritual method.  In most cultures, there is some concept of the damage that can be done to a person on a physical, emotional, and spiritual level by fear and trauma. If not addressed immediately, this fear can work itself deep into the core of the person and begin to make them sick in various different ways. In Latin America, the fear sickness is known as susto, while in the Ukraine it’s called liak or prystrit. Under whatever name, the symptoms are very similar, including insomnia, restlessness, digestive upset, bad dreams, muscular spasms, a lack of interest in formerly engaging activities, among other signs.

Traditionally, these manifestations of fear sickness are considered at least as important as other, more popularly recognized, ailments. In biomedicine, the most severe forms of fear sickness would likely be called post traumatic stress disorder or even schizophrenia, but milder or less obvious forms are often ignored entirely or quickly medicated into suppression, which in traditional thought, only drives the sickness deeper.

I have found it incredibly useful in my practice to allow people to express and talk about their fears and the context/story they stem from before actively attempting to do anything about them. Additionally, recognizing the symptom pattern with an actual word like susto or some other appropriate term can in itself be incredibly helpful Sometimes these two elements alone are enough to purge the issue and allow for healing. Other times, a combination of herbs, counseling, ritual, and long term support is necessary to work through issues, especially if they are deep seated and long term.

La Cantadora: Healing in MythTime & the Storyteller’s Work

“By creating a new mythos – that is, a change in the way we perceive reality, the way we see ourselves, and the ways we behave – la mestiza creates a new consciousness. The work of mestiza consciousness is to break down the subject/object duality that keeps her prisoner and to show in the flesh and through the images in her work how duality is transcended. The answer to the problem between the white race and the colored, between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our languages, our thoughts.”

-Gloria Anzuldúa

Traditionally, healers not only providing herbs or massage or steam baths, but also comfort, counsel, ceremony, and common sense to the folks they help. Additionally, most healers acted as storytellers and lore-keepers to some degree. Speaking to experienced herbalists, curanderas and similar folks, I could often listen for hours to the stories they have to tell about the plants, people, traditions, ways of being, and ideas about health and healing. Beyond holding and retelling information and experiences, healers often help clarify, bring to light, and even change a patient’s personal stories.

Medicine people are also myth keepers and myth creators to some degree, assisting the people they work with by helping to shift perspective. As herbalists, we need to be listeners, but we can also help adjust, and sometimes transform, people’s stories. This is its own kind of healing, and one of the most lasting kinds.  Giving people new ways of viewing their life journeys, their illnesses and challenges, and their whole conception of health, can provide more wellness than all the herbs in the world.

Not all story telling and shifting is entirely comfortable or pleasant. In order to shift perception we must often challenge assumptions and ask people to look at things they’d likely rather avoid. In stories from across the world we’re presented with characters in the roles of medicine people and witches. Very often, these characters both heal and frighten, usually the challenging aspects  also serving as a deeper form of healing. It’s not unusual for these characters to initially reject, threaten, or even harm the hero or heroine of the story. Respect, acceptance, and even safety have to be earned by tenacity and services rendered.

While herbalists in the United States are unlikely to wear a full on Baba Yaga visage, we still present questions and challenges that often seem frightening or threatening, at least initially. This is part of the larger role of a medicine person, taking on more than just the temporary physical comfort of a client. In this way, we meet much deeper needs that could ever be addressed by a practitioner of conventional healthcare.

Espiritú de la Tierra

“It was hard for an Apache-raised girl to understand how some could see the planet as but a lifeless rock, upon whose surface a bounty was distributed for the good of man.  Who saw animals not as spirits but as steaks, fur and wool, pet or threat.  Who saw trees only as lumber to be turned into buildings or to shade the sun.  Who judged plants as being decorative or itchy, weeds or crops.

To Omen, they were not just wondrous sunshine-eating entities, without whom humans and most of the life on Earth would die.  They were proof of miracles, and reason for hope.  The inspiration for a good and balanced life, and examples of how to live it.”

- Jesse Wolf Hardin, The Medicine Bear

In every tribal culture I am aware of, there has been a word or understanding of the vital force that enlivens human and herb, raven and wildcat, bacteria and stone. It is this intelligent and powerful spirit of life itself that healers across the world have recognized. From the earliest indigenous medicine woman to the Eclectic physicians of the 19th century, we have given names to that which makes us alive. The labels vary from place to place, but the bone deep knowing remains the same.

Likewise, the plants represent more than just chemical compounds that cause certain physiological changes in the body, they are personalities and forces in their own rights, and add their own fibers to the overall weave of the story of healing. All traditional healers seem to know this innately, and I have yet to meet a single traditional herbalist of who doesn’t recognize the power and personality of the herbs. Again, how we give language to our understandings changes from culture to culture, but what matters most is that we acknowledge and respect the living spirit of the plants, of our own bodies, of the earth herself, Nuestra Madre Tierra.

Whatever model of healing we work from, what we share is both powerful and old. Rather than forcing ourselves to fit into a mold, or criticizing others for practicing in a different way, we all benefit by celebrating the incredible diversity we hold in our many joined hands and hearts, with a common cause and love for people and plants.  As the medicine people for a world in turmoil, we offer a guiding light for our communities, illuminating both our ancient traditions and the new paths we’re learning together.

Corazón a corazón, heart to heart, we walk the medicine trail.

El Sagrado Corazón de María by Arlene Cisneros Sena

Jun 202012
 

Vodu upav. Kupalo na Ivana!

Happy Summer Solstice/Midsummer to all of you on this side of the hemisphere!

And Blessed Ivan Kupailo/Kupala Day to all you Russians/Ukrainians/Poles/Belorussians who celebrate the old ways! Today is a lovely day for weaving flower wreaths, making food magic with berries, playing in the forest, and searching for that mythical Fernflower, Chervona Ruta. It’s a hot day here in the Canyon, and well suited to spending the whole day in the river underneath the Alders. This morning I made a Spiced Blackberry Kissel (a Russian berry custard), and we’ll soon be savoring it cold, and topped with local cream and a splash of dark red wine.

However you celebrate, enjoy this longest day of the year !

~~~~~~~~~~

Jun 142012
 

Excerpted from the current issue of Plant Healer Magazine!

What Herbalists Really Want:

Manifesting Calling & Purpose, Competency & Excellence, Acknowledgment & Income…

& Avoiding Being Average!

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

It seems that at some point in every generation, articles and posters pop up titled something like “What Women (or Men) Really Want,” checklists with which the so-called “opposite sex” can measure and then hopefully improve their desirability.  The language and priorities change some over time, with versions from the 19th and early 20th centuries often sounding ridiculous to modern ears.  That said, many of the same themes tend to appear again and again from one era to the next.  Women, it is claimed, want a man of strong physique and fine health, good moral character and an unsullied reputation, who is thoughtful, generous, and able to provide income security because of his devout industriousness.  While this oversimplification may hold true in our society more often than I would like, the lists are nearly always errant in their failure to include a woman’s desire for sensitivity and empathy, sensuality and sexuality, maturity and playfulness in a man, and a man’s hunger for a woman that is strong and determined, intelligent and clever… let alone for a shared vision of how to live or, better yet, a shared purpose.  And even if the herbalists in our community were typical of men and women in general in any ways, what we most want would still encompass so much more than a suitable partner or mate.

It amuses me to picture the various herbalists we know and imagine their possible additions to such a list, both substantial and peripheral:  Kids and teens, eager and even insistent on learning the craft and continuing the tradition.  Getting fairly paid for herbal work that is so often under-compensated or freely given.  The ultimate herbal library, preferably copies signed by the authors.  Positive results worthy of a case study, every time one makes an assessment and recommends herbs.  An ability to learn the scientific names of plants without so darn much pain, and an end to misidentifications when we’re trying so hard to key something out.  Not to mention steamy sex out-of-doors, in wild places or fecund gardens in the company of flowers and vines.

Much of what we want is entirely personal, depending on our individual characters and needs, propensities and dreams.  Other desires, we tend to share in common with others of our kind, with similar wants that are shaped by our motivations, experiences, and priorities as healers.  First and foremost, herbalists and other folk healers usually want to help.  To remedy and assist, comfort and nourish.  And many among us, by virtue of this practice, can’t help but want an end to hardship and suffering even when the strengthening value of difficulty and empowering lessons of trauma are fully acknowledged.  Many, by extension, also desire and hope or pray for the eradication of all violence on the planet, for everyone living upon it to be amicable with other life forms as well as with other people, wish for all of government to be reformed, representative and just… even if such hopes are at times unreasonable or impractical.

Often, too, we may feel uncomfortable about admitting publicly our needs and desires.  We may think it best to reassure our clients, family and friends with the appearance of having, and thus “having it together.”  We may worry that by admitting there are things we need to learn, those we are wont to help might think us less able to diagnose and treat, and that by speaking of what we want, people might see us as insufficiently equipped.  However, what we want in the deepest parts of our natural beings can be a crucial aide in our understanding of ourselves.  Our wants can help define and identify to others who we really are and what matters to us, as well as helping us to determine for ourselves the most meaningful, powerful, effective and satisfying direction to take.

What follows is what I observe to be at the heart of the healer’s needs, desires, and work… some apparently obvious but ultimately defining, some that are seldom either recognized or admitted.

Purpose, Mission & Calling

Herbalists want, have, and need, purpose.  We often work best when viewing our most meaningful purpose as a mission to be devoted to and carried through to fruition, or when we sense a specific and insistent call to heal that is specifically ours to hear and heed.

Purpose is one of the drastically missing components of a healthy human psychology, and of a healthy society.  Millions and millions of people work at jobs that they not only don’t enjoy, but that hold no meaning for them beyond their weekly or monthly paycheck.  In these cases, the only purpose for one’s existence and exertions may be to generate the money needed to feed and house one’s family.  When students get to the part in the Anima “Practitioner’s Journey” course where it asks what we feel could be our most meaningful purpose, many feel stuck, denigrate their selves for not knowing, or assert that their purpose is simply “being a mother” or “taking care of my spouse”… with a hint of resignation indicating the person senses or wishes that their could be something else, something additional that tending a family could be a part of rather than preventing or supplanting.

In contrast, when a practicing or budding herbalist answers the question, they almost always write that their purpose is “healing” or “helping to heal.”  To emphasize the point, you are likely to cite the events in your lives that first made you aware of this penchant, your extreme compassion for the ill or maybe an unhealthy condition that you have had to deal with much of your life, perhaps an inordinate affinity for things natural and for plants of all kinds, shapes and properties.  You might mention having already paid a price by dropping out of college or changing your major, by losing the support of pragmatic parents or struggling because of greatly reduced income.  If so, you likely see these costs not as reasons for switching to a new purpose, but as irrefutable evidence that your healing purpose is something more: A mission.  Maybe even a calling.

Everything in nature has a purpose – a service to the ecosystem outside its narrowly defined self – though they seldom have awareness of the processes of gifting and reciprocity they participate in.  Similarly, a person can serve a special individualized purpose, sometimes even a service of great import and consequence, without ever being conscious of the fact or means.  A mission, in contrast, is this sort of special service undertaken consciously, voluntarily, deliberately, intentionally, for a purpose or cause larger and more consequential than simply our own personal well-being and comfort.  You might reject the word because of its association with zealous proselytizing, but a mission is what herbalism is.  Unlike white blood cells and oil-gobbling bacteria, nature has not preassigned our species with the job of healing.  Not all people are born with the tendency or temperament for it.  Not all who have the temperament and interest choose to take the time to learn and apply.  Only a relatively small percentage of those who do study and use herbs will choose to make the role and work of being an herbalist central to their lives.

A calling differs from a mission not by feeling more important, necessary or even intense, but by feeling as if the compulsion, passion and drive to devote ourself to a particular purpose is our response to an imploring necessity, a beckoning destiny that nevertheless still requires our active participation and focused effort, a role and responsibility magically awaiting our active assumption, commitment and fulfillment.

To Fill A Role

Every species has a general role to play in the ecosystem, and every living thing has a special role to play within its species, community, herd, pack and family, and we cannot be truly psychologically healthy without recognizing and filling one ourselves.  Our role is not determined simply by what is needed from us, but by what we are most naturally drawn to, capable of, have the character for, and have the potential to do exceedingly well.  Herbalists want to find and fill a role as healers, the specialized practitioners on the edges of the accepted institutional medical system, allied with plants and the natural world of which they and we are an integral and dynamic component, treating not ailments and conditions so much as whole people and their overall wellness.  We want and feel determined to fill a role in bettering the world, and choose herbalism and teaching, writing or art, cultivation or conservation, as our natural and preferred means of doing just that.

Knowledge & Understanding

Even with a mission enjoined, or when answering a call, we know we cannot proceed effectively without a foundation of useful knowledge that is substantial and increasing, integrative and interconnective.  Even the most intuitive of healers benefit from a base of studied knowledge that can test, contradict, affirm or augment our impressions.  We seek knowledge that not only helps provide the how and why of things, but that also suggests the means for best applying and utilizing what we know.

Knowledge is information, facts, ideas and skills gained by any means, though not necessarily developed through or tested by our own experience.  While people in this society often seem ill informed, unaware of historical events as well as current context, there is actually a glut of information available in books, in documentaries, and at the click of a computer mouse or trackpad.  And even those who are in some ways the most informed often lack essential understanding.

Herbalists want to have greater understanding, by which we mean greater recognition of the components, nature and significance of a thing or action.  Such understanding is far more than mere comprehension, because it includes recognition of those forces and elements that cause it or make something possible, the complexities of context and relationship, and a thing or act’s potential effects, results and ramifications.

The herbalist – other than a few rare exceptions equipped with an excess of arrogance – never stops wanting to learn new things.  Even those of us with years of teaching experience tend to consider ourselves as lifelong students of not only the healing arts, but of life itself.

To Be Competent

Herbalists want to be, at the very least, increasingly competent at what they do… meaning sufficiently effective and efficient to inspire confidence in our work in those we strive to help.

In medical terms, competency means only that an organ adequately performs a normal function.  In the science of communication, it refers to an intuitive knowledge of how language is constructed and used, which is closer to what we mean when we talk about whether we or someone else is a competent herbalist.

They say a judge has to determine if a criminal defendant is “competent” or not to stand trial, meaning not too mentally impaired or emotionally unbalanced to comprehend the charges filed against them.  We don’t just want to be competent, we want to reach another level of performance, measurable in other ways.

To Make An Income

We want to produce an income that can support our existence and family, and that can help further our work.  Optimally, we accomplish this by getting paid a reasonable amount for our herbal advice or products, or alternatively, by doing whatever non-herbal related work we can find in order to sponsor and fund herbal studies and practice.

It is important that we remember an income is an important form of compensation for our knowledge, abilities and time, and that it can be harmful to think in terms of us “earning” an income with the healing arts.  To “earn” implies to “deserve,” and by the very act of trying to help others you are deserving of material or nonmaterial rewards, regardless of whether one is well paid, poorly paid, or working for free.

To Be Valued & Acknowledged

What herbalists want at an even deeper level than just money to subsist on is to be recognized, valued and acknowledged.  To be recognized, means to be seen for who we are, to have our intentions as well as methods and effects noticed.  To be valued, means that what you know and do is regarded as valuable by folks, even if not always by the people you actually help, and that what you are and give are not trivialized, discounted, or demanded and then taken for granted by the oblivious or entitled.  Acknowledgment goes beyond recognition, in being an active giving back.  A cash payment can be an expression of acknowledgment and gratitude, as well as a client speaking well of our work to third parties.  We are so honored when we see our words quoted and credited in articles or online, making even our most difficult of tasks feel so entirely worth doing.

To Avoid Being Average

While herbalists tend to be way too compassionate and egalitarian to say so in public, I’ve found that many – at least the majority who attend our Traditions In Western Herbalism Conference, or write for or subscribe to our Plant Healer Magazine – very strongly want to avoid feeling average, middling, only passably effective in efforts to treat and advise.  This we can accomplish, beginning by honestly assessing our gifts and challenges, weaknesses and strengths, intentions and goals, then focusing our energy, learning, testing, practicing and sharing accordingly, making sure we are doing what we love, passionately engaging our work, and always doing our utmost best even when in the most relaxed and paced ways.

To Become Distinguished & Fill a Niche

©2012 Kiva Rose

We almost all want to distinguish ourselves in some way or another, whether by exceptional accomplishment or making ourselves broadly accessible, through our personal eclectic recombining of methods and teachings or especially tight focus on a particular clientele or condition, by getting degrees and doing stellar research or by being self taught, by being one of the minority who are paid well for their work or the relatively few who go to extremes to fund and manage free clinics for grateful indigents.

This we accomplish by identifying and developing a personal angle, individual style, and/or a particular niche.  Let your personal set of knowledge and experiences set your unique angle of approach and delivery.  Allow your intentions and preferences, your style, to color and shape your interface with the world.  All herbalists, and all people, are unique, even in cases where they strive to be the same.  To the degree that you are really yourself, you can have a unique gift to offer.

We might want more than a way, but also a place, a place all your own within the larger community of practices.  A niche is a home within a role, a specific appointment or service within the larger generalized role of herbalist or healer.  We can distinguish ourselves by delving extra deeply into a specialty we’re obsessed with, such as a particular physiological system like the endocrine or digestive, or a certain family of treatments.  In the mercados of Mexico, one’s niche is the specific place – be it a booth, street stall or corner of a building – where they have staked out their space for selling their fruit, other goods or services, and it is thus where repeat customers or clients expect to be able to go to find their certain collection and style of offerings.  Each vendor or practitioner is expected to individualize, so that no two provide exactly the same things, in the same way.

In the science of ecology, a specially evolved species inhabits a particular place in an ecosystem, providing a specialized service to its healthy composition and interspecies, inter-elemental function.  It is where and how they give best to their world, as well as where and how they best flourish.  So it is with many herbalists who seek or have already found their niche, their nexus, the venue for optimal reciprocity, the place where gifts for us are received, and where and from which we can most effectively and most notably serve.

Excellence or Greatness

We may say that we want to excel at herbalism, but that may not be the most accurate expression of what we really mean.

The root of the word “excellent” is the Latin excellere, often defined as meaning “to surpass.”  This we do indeed want, although not to surpass the abilities or notoriety of other practitioners so much as to surpass our own previous levels and accomplishments, imagined limitations, disempowering fears and too conservative of hopes.  Unfortunately, excellere also denotes something “out of” and “beyond,” with one of the roots, celsus, meaning “lofty”… when what most of our ilk long for and aspire to is something more connective than separative, more grounded than elevated.  Our intention is not to be better than others, but to be at least a little better at all the things we do, each and every year of our finite lives.

A more accurate term would actually be greatness, as presumptuous and politically incorrect as that might sound.  There’s a lot of negative association with the word, at least for those of us uncomfortable with the historical hierarchy of “great men” and “commoners.” And of the thousands of plant healers that we connect with, I can actually only think of one now who has no qualms about identifying him-or-her-self as a great herbalist.  Be that as it may, we also come across darn few practitioners who do not deeply desire to be outstanding practitioners, a person about whom people might say “She does such great work,” or “I recommend him, he’s great at what he does,” or “She’s really great, I can trust her advice.”

“Greatness” is a good word, and a worthy state to desire.  It is an ability, quality, extremeness or eminence in being and doing: to do or be great as in exceptionally full, deep, developed, effective, intense or far reaching.  To be great is not to be ascendant but to be continuously further: ever further along in our studies and practices, further past our own less-inspired performances, further in our hopes and efforts.

Fulfillment, Satisfaction & Contentment

©2012 Kiva Rose

Herbalists want to eat scrumptious wild or home grown foods that give them strength and clarity, meet wonderful people and exchange stimulating or caring thoughts, to enjoy wild love affairs or loving lifetime-partners, dance under the stars and submerge in a cold river on a hot Summer day.  Like many non-herbalists, we may want to find and reinhabit a true and permanent home plus visit other areas to see the plant species that grow there.  Bear and raise empowered plant-loving children or stir the hearts and open the minds of the offspring of others.  Peculiar to our purpose and role, we want to contribute to the well being of at least other humans, and almost always all being on this planet with which we share a common body.

And along with all the rest of the human and healer desires and hopes, we want to experience the sated satisfaction that ought to naturally attend such purpose and efforts as ours – maximizing our abilities, absorbing knowledge, developing understanding, improving skills, tasting competence, feeling responsible for and good about our results. Through our caring work, through the act of doing best, through our great helping and giving we seek and can find fulfillment.  With a purpose fulfilled, and life wholly felt, we may find the satisfaction that we desire.  And through all our heartfelt, effort-filled missions and means, we obtain, realize, and savor the precious contentment we want and need.

So be it.

Jun 132012
 

“The hills call in a tongue

I cannot speak, a constant murmuring,

calling the rain from my dry bones,

and syllables from the marrow…

Twined together, root to root,

sap seeping from flesh,

the Wood Wife plants me in the soil

and give me language once again.”

-Terri Windling, The Wood Wife

Very often, we may unconsciously place fairy tales in the in the green rolling hills of Ireland or the dark forests of Germany, but in truth, stories of magic spring from every land. Nowhere is this more true than the deserts and mountains of the enchanted Southwest. The vibrant blend of cultures here can create tales of surprising power and beauty. When I first came to the Southwest over a decade ago, and met the Palo Verde, Ocotillo, and Saguaro of the Sonoran Desert where I was living at the time, I was immediately entranced by the intensity of the plants and land there. Living here in the Saliz mountains of sw New Mexico has only heightened and deepened this experience.

Back in my first days exploring the desert, Terri Windling’s novel, The Wood Wife, set in the Rincon Mountains outside of Tucson, acted as a kind of atlas to the mythic and botanical terrain around me. Many years later, this book still delights me, especially the character of the Spine Witch, whose kiss on human eyelids brings a deeper sight of the landscape and the spirits that inhabit it. While we sometimes think of deserts as barren, in reality, they’re some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, fostering an incredible variety of plants, animals, stories, and magic.

Artist Rebekah Klitzke of Mulberry Mudd is incredibly gifted at evoking the spirit of the Fae of any landscape, and especially the botanical elements inherent to each place. She created this gorgeous sculpture for me of a creature part plant spirit, part Ringtail Cat, and part storytelling woman. As you can see in the pictures below, she holds an acorn and wears the leaves of our native evergreen Emory Oak, the prickly spines of the Walking Stick Cholla, and the blossoms, thorns and leaves of the Wild Rose. Her skin is made from the colors of our volcanic cliffs, and the bones of tiny animals adorn her Ringtail ears. There’s something of Terri Windling’s Spine Witch in her, as well as a good deal of myself. I’m altogether in love with her, and presides over our den, looking down over my desk as I write and work. If you listen closely late at night, and somewhere near dawn, you might hear her telling the stories of the wild forests, deserts, and mountains she belongs to.

If you haven’t previously seen Rebekah’s work, I highly recommend perusing her beautiful Mulberry Mudd shop!

Here she is with the backdrop of the Canyon’s sacred cliffs, her skin and hair reflecting the colors of the volcanic rock all around her.

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If you look closely you can see the Cholla spines on her lower right side, the Emory Oak leaves on her left side, and the delicate bones dangling from her ears.

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This angle shows off the Wild Rose blooming from her body, and the leaves and thorns wrapped around her arm and hands, as well as her gorgeous Ringtail Cat tail.

~~~~All images ©2012 Jesse Wolf Hardin~~~