The Wild Herbalist: Class Notes by Jesse Wolf Hardin

The Wild Herbalist: Class Notes by Jesse Wolf Hardin

Steps Towards a More Empowered, Intensely Effective & Satisfying Life & Practice

Class Notes by Jesse Wolf Hardin
All Photos ©2011 Kiva Rose

From the notes for The Wild Herbalist class being taught by Jesse Wolf at the upcoming TWH Conference
Saturday, Sept 17th – 2:50-4:50
To Register:

Envision a nature-informed, liberatory herbalism as wild and powerful, intimate and diverse, intuitive and sensorial, fresh and effective as the wild plants themselves… and as life changing as those particular plant allies that personally inspired most of us of to get into this study and practice in the first place.

“She always knew herself as wild.  As a little girl she smiled at things not one else seemed to see, and hid beneath the dining room table watching the adult’s feet move about like rabbits on an acrylic-pile meadow.  “Sometimes I wonder where you come from,” her Mother would say, holding her up with a combination of awe, fear and envy— but of course she came from here:  the Earth she could feel spinning about, with her its ever-delighted passenger!  She sensed that home was somehow the giving ground beneath the movements of her little girl dance, in lawns and parks and the strips between the sidewalk and  the street, and somewhere beyond all that she could see with her eyes alone,  in a place more “out” than anywhere else:  the dreamscape of her fairy tales, where wild things like her ran free”

The world is truly a wild  place.  Even now, enshrouded in a crust of asphalt and concrete, more and more of the largest predators driven from its face, its forests leveled for development.  The world is a wild place still, true to the process and essence of its own intrinsic, inherent nature— rhythmic patterns of impermanence and change mounting waves of their own fertile heat.  The birth and death of her varied parts are the flex and pause of Earthen heart muscle pumping new life through the arterial causeway of time.  The Earth is a wild, out of control, whole!  The ancient Greek named this wholeness “Gaia,” the daughter that emerges from chaos.  To the indigenous pagans of northern Europe, the living Earth was known as Nerthus, and when the image of the Goddess Earth was drawn being a sacred chariot joy and peace would follow.  By any name, this world is wild: willed, directed and empowered by its own inner nature rather than some outside force or idea.  And we too are wild originally.  We are, truly, deeply willed.  And willful.  For safety, certainty and comfort we may try to deny our wildness, sacrificing our will as we seek shelter in the tame.  Yet in spite of all the artifice and constraint we remain instinctual, dreaming beings who suffer in direct proportion to the suppression of our instincts and dreams.  We’re mirrors made of dancing flesh, interterrestrial sensors, activated nerve endings extending from the Gaian ganglion into the ever shifting universe of experience.  At our best we’re wild reflections of this greater whole, acting out our being, our gesture, our souls fee of the regulation and desensitization of the modernist paradigm.  At best we are true, willful and driven agents of healing – helping with the aid of our plant allies to heal our selves, each other, our community and our earth.  It is the real work, the great work, the work of being and doing, striving and celebrating.  It is at once the mission, and the reward.  Herbalists awakened!  Herbalists empowered!  Herbalists unplugged.  Unbowed.  Untamed.  Unleashed, and unchained!

Redefining “Wild”:
• How does society predominantly define the term “wild,” and why?
• How do YOU define the quality or condition of “wild”?
• Wild is being true to our own natures and needs, bodies and passions, callings and dreams
• Wild means willed

Wild (adj.) 1.  Occurring, growing, or living in a natural state; not domesticated, cultivated or tamed.  2. A natural, unrestrained life or state; Nature.

Wildness can be well described as a condition of oneness with our bodies, desires, needs, sensations, instincts, and dreams.  Wildness is oneness with the wild Earth, free of abstraction — where even turbulence manifests itself in purposeful patterns more akin to art than artifice.  The fear of sexuality, of mortality, of our natures and the natural world —  even the fear of illness and death is a fear of life.  The cure is in the reclamation of our wildness, a high-dive into the potent flux of natural forces, and the response-ability to act.

Think about the following, and the ways that these qualities, ways of perceiving and acting can be applied to your life and to your herbal practice

Qualities of wild:
• Alert and aware, deeply discerning
• Intense
• Embodying, growing and drawing from the essence, characteristics and capacities our true wild natures
• Drawing insight and nourishment from nature
• Adaptive but unmoldable
• Disciplined, but uncontrolled
• Sensitive to the state of health of others, sensitive to their emotions
• Acting out of instinct, rather to suit convention
• Making choices based on intuition as much as information
• Naturally assuming responsibility, but rejecting obligation
• Self empowered, and proactive
• Acting on behalf of some larger “self”, whether family, community or the natural world
• Doing what feels right, in the face of possible, known or predictable consequences
• Neither without doubt nor fearless, but resolute and determined in the face of threat and uncertainty
• Able to hear when called by some purpose, dream or mission, and apt to give it one’s all

Wild Perception:
• Wholly or largely inhabiting the present moment
• Wholly inhabiting one’s body
• Exceptional and ever deepening self awareness
• Deepened awareness of other people and lifeforms, and of what they’re experiencing
• Perceiving all things as relational and interconnected
• Able to see thing in patterns, and sense sequence, leading to often accurate prediction
• Heightened physical senses, attending to smells, tastes, sensations… reveling in the senses
• Well exercised intuitive or “6th” senses
• Sensing who and what people really are, beneath their practiced guises and projections
• Sensing what and how people are feeling, even when it’s counter to what they tell you or how they act
• Recognizing imbalances, perceiving possible adjustments, supplements or treatments
• Sensing how every act is consequential, every moment decisive

Reclaiming Our Wildness

Defining Feral:
Feral and Fabulous – The process of coming back to our true natures

ReWilding Our Daily Lives
• ReWilding Our Beings
• Paying attention to our needs and feelings, and faithfully and consciously acting on them
• Increasingly eating locally grown, native, acclimatized, natural and wild foods
• Exercising our bodies in varied and impromptu ways
• Exercising our minds in ever new ways
• Exerting and exercising our 5 senses, in unpleasant as well as pleasant environs
• Healing, exploring and deepening or natural sexuality
• Listening to our bodies (intuition and discernible biofeedback) to understand our primary needs
• Paying attention to our bodily responses when assessing the people and things around us
• Savoring and celebrating!
• ReWilding Our Days
• Wild education
• Studying everything of interest, regardless of chances of contributing to income
• Study how all interests and information connect to and can feed each other
• Pay for intense education when you can, trade for it or beg for it when necessary
• Relentless question everything and everybody, while never assuming you know it all
• Treating all of life as a lesson to learn from
• Treating all lessons as something to apply and benefit from
• Meeting our responsibilities and demonstrating good timing, without being slaves to schedules
• Putting adventure ahead of comfort
• Consciously apprenticing to the natural world
• Close, physical, intimate contact with the natural world
• Bouts of extreme physical and mental exertion, with intent
• Periods of utter rest, observation and the receiving of gifts
• Acting from two essential places: passion, and compassion
• Seeking or heeding a calling, one’s personal most meaningful purpose
• Breaking even our most favored habits, doing the unexpected and unplanned
• Dressing and decorating to express our true character and sensibilities, singing our song
• Taking conscious risks such as moving to a new place, quitting a job to hang an herbalist’s shingle
• ReWilding Our Relationships
• ReWilding Relationship With The Land
• Noticing details and changes of the natural world at all times, even/especially in the city
• Accepting nature’s gifts of food, medicine, beauty, and feeling of being restored
• Understanding that all things in nature have intrinsic value apart from any use to humans
• Being open to new revelations from nature and plants, rather than only their traditional uses
• Giving back, through acknowledgment and celebration, protection and propagation
• Urban greening and guerilla gardening
• Identifying endangered or threatened species, protecting or spreading them
• Identify ecosystem imbalances (sometimes called “invasive” species) and remediate
• Land trusts and backyard preserves
• Defending habitat
• Organizing campaigns, obstructing construction, civil disobedience
• Regaining Sense of Place:
• Feeling at home – in a sense – wherever we are
• Searching for and finding that one place feeling more like home than anywhere else
• ReWilding and restoring the places where we live
• Adopting a grove, a park, a wilderness, or just a strip of rewilded road median
• Seeking the voice and message of inspirited places, without projecting on them
• Benefitting from and celebrating special places of power and healing
• Hot springs, artesian springs, mountain peaks, hallowed groves, sacred sites
• ReWilding Communication & Language
• Speaking when there is something relevant or meaningful to impart
• Speaking when there is inquiry to be made
• Bravely speaking our thoughts and convictions, feelings and needs
• Practicing silence, listening and contemplation between!
• Putting truth ahead of comfort, concurrence and acceptance
• Reclaiming the language, redefining the terms of the trade
• Authoring one’s own personal code of honor and practice
• Recognizing that people are stories with meaning and feeling, and honoring that
• Acknowledging the power of our own lived and felt story, and sharing it
• Fitting In and Shaking It Loose
• The natural desire to belong to something, can be lead to dangerous conformity
• Importance of natural diversity, and of diversity in our field of practice
• Daring to be different
• Facing familial and societal disapproval
• Stratifying and marginalizing: Bush hippies and kitchen herbalists
• A tight fit leaves little room for movement
• Being accepted by those doing harm is in part acceptance of the harm they do
• The price of “mainstream” acceptance can be mighty high
• Loss or sublimation of personal character, style, method and approach
• Imposed personal or product “standards”
• Our hiding or downplaying of effective but unapproved actions
• “The trouble with normal, is it only gets worse”
• Wild is naturally showing your true colors
• Shake loose from the restraints of convention
• Experiment, adapt, meld, and otherwise created the personalized forms for the gifts you share
• Break away from our own inner “controlling mothers”, controlling fears and restrictive conventions
• ReWilding Relationship With Power
• Power over people is unhealthy and ignoble
• Power itself is also a measurement of life force and effectiveness
• There’s no shame in being a powerful person, any more than in being weakened
• The body has the power to heal, but there are powerful ways to assist that
• Power is most effective when incisive rather than excessive
• If you are wholly in your power, people can overwhelm you but not overpower you
• We’re born with the power to help sculpt evolving reality
• If we do not focus, maximize and employ that given power, we cop-out and abdicate
• Self Authority & The Herbal Outlaw
• Self authorization, self certification, self approval, giving ourselves permission
• What we do is not because of external authorization, even if it happens to be legal
• If we subject ourselves to licensing, it is strategic and not submissive
• Redefining Responsibility
• Resonse-Ability, the ability and call to respond
• Our responsibility is the same whether we are certified/licensed or not
• To ourselves and our mission
• To our dependents, students and clients
• To the community we serve and community of providers we’re members of
• To the biosystem, the plants, the soil, the land, the earth in whole
• Our knowledge and abilities are the same, whether we’re certified/licensed or not
• There’s greater harm done by legitimate armies, legislators and developers than by  outlaws, more damage caused in the licensed medical system than all folk healing  combined
• We never know everything we can about any situation or illness, we can never be too careful, and yet we have a responsibility to try our best to help
• In a time of unjust laws and free-ranging predatory corporations,
• The Wild Herbalist Is…
• Awakened and aware, and increasingly so
• Sensitized
• Making effective use of the senses
• Always Compassionate
• Sometimes Empathic
• Sensory impressions from plants, tasting one’s own medicines
• Experience-Driven
• Driven by the evidence of experience, regardless of how many years of practice
• Tests all methods, uses and “facts” against personal experience
• Get plants when gathering,
• The earned wisdom of the wounded healer
• Open to Intuition
• Trusting experience and intuition above corporate funded scientific research
• Open to weighing in new information and scientific research
• Trusting research over assumption, convention and dogma
• Eclectic
• Tuned in to the energetics of the clients, plants and their actions
• Knows that’s one size doesn’t fit all… that plants can act differently on different people
• Likely asks for no help from authorities and agencies, and rejects all interference
• Often prefers wild herbs to cultivated, gathered to bought, personally collected over that which someone else picked, organically grown to chemically treated, and natural to genetically modified
• Practices Bioregional Herbalism
• Sees themselves as agent of the earth’s needs, expressions and changes, not as managers
• Sees illness as an ecosystem imbalance, not as invaders to be warred against
• Uses local, wild and prolific medicinal species whenever possible, over imported
• Acts assertively to protect species and habitat
• Underharvests impacted or threatened species of herbs, enthusiastically harvests domineering introduced species as an agent of balance
• Honors and taps traditions, without acting bound and limited by them
• Responds extemporaneously, according to who and what’s involved, when, and in what context
• Gives themselves permission to act to tend, heal and improve their own bodies, to assist the healing of others… regardless of legislation
• Following their calling no matter how much or little income is ever involved, regardless of general societal acceptance

We Are The Weeds
• The Cultivated and The Uncultivated

In every yard there are usually some denatured, pampered, not-nativized, often delicate plant species picked for the way the color of their flowers match the rest of the neighborhood, and then there are the uninvited, uncontrolled, undiscouraged and unrepentant weeds — in their true natures, their genetics unmanipulated except by evolution and chance, native and adapted to the environs, unpampered and most often hardy species that no amount of eradication or suppression can phase.
• The Tamed and Same
• The words tame and same do more than rhyme
• Uniformity and uniforms, planted in straight neat rows, contributing to controllability
• To tame is to denature, hybridize, sterilize, civilize, to render similar and predictable, to give somethings power away
• Plants and Plant People With Attitude
• Not necessarily what you’d call “bad attitude” but strength of opinion, style, gusto and verve
• The strongest plant medicines often come from plants that have had a difficult life
• People with the strongest values, feelings and fortitude often had hard experiences
• The power of weeds lies not in being immune to the poisons, but in avoiding, adapting and circumventing, never giving up!
• Exceeding assumed limitations, doing the seemingly impossible
• The Flying Penguin
• Satisfaction, Celebration and Exuberance
• Learning to encourage, attain or regain the sense of excitement, self-direction and satisfaction that is  the heart and core of the wild herbalist
• What we find most interesting, compelling and exciting is what we will learn most from, and use most effectively
• Satisfaction is quiet celebration, a feeling of fullness that comes with acting out of purpose
• Results matter… but crucial satisfaction requires not success so much as the certainty of giving our full out effort
• The lesson of Kokopelli: dance our dance, live our song
• The dandelion, the weed, the self-heal herb growing in our hearts, the urge to find the cracks, break through the concrete and whatever holds us down
• The author is invited to speak to kids about wolves, but is unlikely to ever be asked again

A complete Anima ReWilding Home Study Course for practitioners is under construction and should be ready this Winter sometime, watch the Home Study page of the Anima School Site:  For further reading on the topic of ReWilding, go to and search for ReWilding in the blog archives.  The Wild Herbalist class will be taught the afternoon of the 17th, and there is still time to register for the conference if you haven’t done so already:

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