Sep 232010

2010 Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference

a Resounding Success!

by Jesse Wolf Hardin

“The TWHC is the new nexus of a folk herbalism resurgence.”
-Paul Bergner, North American School of Herbalism

After 14 months of non-stop preparation, and 4 days of classes and celebration, the first annual TWH Conference can be considered a resounding success!  At a time when many conferences are contracting, an event staged 3.5 hours from the nearest airport managed to completely sell out.  Presenters and registrants joined in bringing not only energy and enthusiasm but also experience and knowledge as we learned, connected, networked and brainstormed together… establishing a root system for a growing TWH community, planting the necessary seeds for the re-propagation and reinvigoration of Western folk herbalism today.  We are currently enjoying the many written responses from those fortunate to attend, often describing the TWHC as a movement, revival, revolution or resurgence instead of simply a conference… and we are considering what if might mean to serve this larger process.

I am so glad to have been a part of this gathering. I appreciate being there for this new endeavor and watching old and new hands join forces… I hope that we can bring what we learn and share and teach to a wide range of people in need. Thank you Kiva, you are creating a legacy.
– 7Song, Northeast School of Botanical Medicine & Ithaca Free Clinic

We departed our beloved canyon on the 15th, and didn’t get home until the 19th, not easy when one is accustomed to a home with no vehicle noise, electrical appliance buzz, asphalt or freeway speeds.  It was all more challenging given the 16 hour work days leading up to the trip, our continuing responsibilities to the students and associates who need us, the course materials and new books in progress… and especially my broad range of intense and relentless liver-prodding emotions since what was a painful death in the family, how much I would miss Loba and Rhiannon, how terribly homesick I already felt in leaving the canyon’s forests and beings behind, and also the excitement and inspiration and calling that is surely the gift of such connection to people and place.  If I was to be able to communicate the depth of my hurt, caring, love and hope for the natural world, medicinal plants and herbalists at the impending conference, I knew even then that it would be due in part to the ways that the hurt and healing, needs and gifts of both our selves and the land are so wholly related and inseparably intertwined, their roots in common ground.

From the start there had been magic in the air, a crazy dream of stirring together the diverse traditions of Western folk herbalism and the most place-based, experience-based, insightful, stirring, innovative, groundbreaking, convention shaking teachers in the field… in the Western U.S. where most needed, in outlaw New Mexico the “Land of Enchantment”, and in striking natural environs where the power and beauty of the land would itself be a vital accomplice to the essential opening of both perception and heart.  We’d begun with no money and not even a credit card or rating, just Kiva with her herbal vision and wisdom, connections and charisma, along with myself and the amazingly tireless and organizational Resolute.  It was almost eerie, the way we had more requests from teachers than we had slots for, within 2 weeks from the time we first announced the 2010 event.  And it seemed nothing less than storybook perfect, to be joined early on by Rosalee de la Foret and enjoy the support of John Gallagher, resulting in our first financial contributions from Mountain Rose and just at the point that it was needed to progress.

The “mojo” that our herbalist friend Jim McDonald speaks of, could be felt every step of the way, not the kind of magic that hands us great miracles without work but an energy that makes it possible for great efforts to prove maximumly effective.  The TWHC poster didn’t appear with the mumbling of a mantra, it required my many late night hours designing and creating an overall visage evoking the power of an event we felt called to create… but a different kind of poster mojo was evident from the moment it was released.  Folks wrote to say that they were caught by a glance of it, and that even if they weren’t herbalists or never wanted to go to conferences they suddenly felt drawn to this one.  Same with the thousands of emails, the plethora of illustrations I did, Kiva’s tons of hours on the website.  It was more physical than metaphysical, for Resolute to juggle accounting, proofing, presenter transportation and then event management, but to have such a person come into our life borders on the paranormal.

It was inexplicable, that we were able to make it all work without any previous experience in running large events, the only tips coming from having witnessed some of the problems organizers dealt with at the hundreds of conferences and festivals that I was brought to speak at over the decades.  And the word “magical” comes up when I think about Kiva as well, a wounded and private, particular and focused, distrustful of machines and uncomfortable in crowds, bashful and barefoot bear-medicine woman… suddenly opening up to a great weaving of webs, engendering online community, fostering reciprocity, promoting the works of others, tending not only FaceBook flashes but complex and time consuming human relationships, committing hours to emails that she might have liked to spend drawing faeries with bad attitudes instead.  How to explain the steady sales of tickets in the midst of a continuing economic recession, or even the fact that Kiva and I would opt to do such a crazy, improbable, and nearly impossible thing?  FlamencoWorldCompany donating their show, to make the conference a go?  Finding performers as soulful as Tina Collins and Quetzal Jordan as close as Taos, and at the last minute?  Or Rising Appalachia spending more on transpo than we paid them, blowing people away in a night of sparkle and heart, then committing to being the official TWHC house band for the coming years?  Featured Presenters like Paul Bergner, Phyllis Hogan and Phyllis Light donating part of their fees or costs to the conference, and every one of the regular Presenters in the first year donating their time and knowledge, happy just to be a contributing part of this seeded event and reemerging folk herbalism movement?  And how to explain, the building sense of the event before it happened, the giddiness of participants, or even the drive up the valley from Española and Abiquiu and into the orange, buff and crimson landscape surrounding the fabled Ghost Ranch conference center?

Much could be attributed to the astounding colors of the cliffs and spires where the road winds up and through the cuts, but even those who arrived after dark spoke of a tingly sensation that got stronger the closer they got to the event site.  Teachers felt pulled to move their classes outside under trees and in range of the glowing mountains and skyclad spires, and participants ended their late night concert revelry to hike the hills in the moonlight.  And likewise, the earth’s stories came out extra clear through the voices of most teachers, regardless of the title of their class, the important evocations of the bioregions they herald from and champion, and also the nourishing and imploring, provocative and compelling message of the land around the Ghost Ranch, of New Mexico and the mythic Southwest.  Much, also, must be attributed to what each of these presenters brought, diverse healing traditions, healthy differences of approach and opinion as well as new amalgamations and advancements of ideas, and what can prove to be lasting alliances of educators and inspiriteurs, activism and art, purpose and action.

The combination of Presenters made for a magic potion, but we might just as accurately think of it as a pot of formidable and almost  New Mexico chili or somehow transportive wildcrafted stew, in which every ingredient is somehow essential to the overall balance of elements and overall taste experience.  So too, did every registrant make for a unique addition, not just peace loving hippie-hearted types but a decidedly politically incorrect urban guerilla and critical eyed free-clinic practitioner, law-stretching wildcrafters as well as regulation promoters and at least one ex-lawman, not just middle aged care givers but also herbalism obsessed young ravers and skateboard healers, politically active business-folk and a self proclaimed green anarchist, an inspired electrician and dozens of family practitioners with their wild children, conservationists and gardeners, suppliers of the best in cultivated organic herbs along with illustrators of a new way of being and various nature-drunk poets of plants.

(Sat. Band: Chloe, Leah and the Wolfette)

In the end, the gathering overall had taken on a clearly Western, folk identity, consciously rough edged and unapologetic, reeking with sincerity, insisting on hope, bucking the norm, combining self reliance with neighborly cooperation, rooted in experience as well as tradition.  In the end,  the conference was not so fae as feral, with a touch of norm-busting new science, the flair and attitude of cowpunk, true to and in keeping with the down home, dirt grounded, earth honoring, grassroots, self authorized, community building, alternative offering, chance taking, magic making and oft celebrating Folk Herbalism Revival.

“Sending tons of love, oodles of hugs and endless praise for hosting such an outstanding herbal conference. I feel we are creating a network across the country that unites us all in this grassroots movement… helping to heal the world in our small and great ways.”
–Rosemary Gladstar

We have only been home a few days as I write this, getting the first sleep in a week, and most importantly grounding and centering in our wild Gila, giving needed attention to family and home, to our own personal healing and recharging as well well as the bigger mission.  Every quiet wordless moment here that we are able to attend to, feeds our reservoir of energy and inspiration for what always – gladly – lies ahead.



Below you’ll find important news about the 2010 Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference that just happened, and also valuable updates regarding the upcoming TWHC 2011!

2010 TWHC Music and Class Recordings

Thanks to the recording efforts of Don, Henry, Patrick and Marissa, Dr. Blue and others, audio CDs of many of the classes will be available beginning this Fall, including 7Song’s well attended “Adventures in Wildcrafting”, Mimi Hernandez’ “Mountain Roots: Appalachian Root Remedies”, Matt Wood’s “Clinical Skills For The Herbalist”, and “The Ecology of Healing” by Kiva Rose and Jesse Wolf Hardin.  This will be your opportunity to hear any presentations you may have missed.

It will be awhile before we get to see and edit the volumes of video shot by Marissa and Patrick, John Gallagher and others, but we expect to have plenty of material for YouTube release as well as a future folk-roots herbalism documentary.

Audio recordings of the Friday and Saturday night concerts with FlamencoWorldCompany, Tina Collins and Her Pony, and Rising Appalachia are gratefully in the hands of composer and master engineer Issa, with the hopes of getting some quality mixes for release this year.

Subscribe to the blog or newsletter for announcements.

“I so loved getting to see Gioia of FlamencoWorld.  It’s great to see a woman so full of power, comfortable with her age, and at home in her body!”

(Jesse "James" Wolf and Chuck "Pancho Villa" Garcia plan their next raid)

Camera Missing – TWHC Photos Invited

We misplaced our Fuji digital camera, possibly at the conference site, if anyone has seen it.  We may need a replacement if anyone has an extra, quality camera, though the photos of the event cannot be replaced.

If you have photos of the conference that you would be willing to share, please send them on CD to us at: PO Box 688, Reserve, NM 87830

2010 TWHC Book

Somehow, all 300 of the 96 page long 2010 TWHC books with class notes found homes at the conference, so we are having to do a 2nd printing!  Copies are available for $9 plus $5 priority shipping, and free to any registrants who may not have gotten theirs.

“Wow! Ghost Ranch was magical, and the conference itself was packed full of great people, information and energy. I learned a lot, and left inspired to work harder and do more. This is a great conference for anyone interested in grassroots herbalism. Very empowering, with something for everyone.”

THWC 2011

We already look forward to the 2011 TWHC, Sept. 15th-18th, and also welcome your involvement and assistance with this enlivened movement between now and the conference.  To stay hooked up, subscribe to the free TWHC newsletter as described on the website.  And you are also invited to subscribe and submit articles to the TWH’s exciting upcoming quarterly, Plant Healer Magazine:

“Amazing and wonderful! I’ll be there supporting you, for as long as there is a TWH Conference…”
-Phyllis Hogan, Winter Sun Trading Co.

(Margi Flint and Jim McDonald)

(Margi Flint and Jim McDonald)

2011 TWHC Teachers, Classes and Proposals

We’re adding up to 5 more teachers/presenters in 2011, offering an even wider variety of topics and skills, and giving you even more for your money.  Just as in 2010, the 4.5 hour long intensives will be included in the registration, and you will not have to pay extra to attend them as you do at most other herbal conferences.

Even with the added class slots, teacher enthusiasm has been so tremendous that we’ve already received 4 times as many class proposals as there will be room for!  This makes for a large field of topics and personalities for us to choose from, though it’s also painful for us to have to turn anyone down.  As always, our criteria for choosing will be not only teacher ability and registrant preferences, but also the kinds of class topics being proposed, gender balance and ethnic involvement when possible – and most importantly – the crucial overall balance of conference topics and approaches, information and practical skills… with the advantage going to those grounded in Western folk traditions, the most inspiring and empowering, land based and bioregionally focused, practicable and immediately applicable.  We’re most moved by proposals that are unique, non-scripted, personal and edgy, feral and multidimensional, that present primal or traditional indigenous approaches to healing, stir new ways of thinking, challenge accepted assumptions, inspire action, rattle cages or otherwise stretch the proverbial envelope!  Those that aren’t selected this time around, will be happily considered again for 2012 and beyond.

Already promised to, are first time TWHC Featured Presenters Ryan Drum, Bevin Clare, David Hoffmann, Juliette Blankespoor and Robin Rose Bennett.  Enticing new classes will also be offered by 2011’s returning Featured Speakers 7Song, Paul Bergner, Phyllis Hogan, Charles Garcia and Jim McDonald, and we have a couple of other big surprise in the works!  Proposals for the other 15 or so regular Presenter slots have been especially tantalizing, and a list will be released by December at the latest, after most of the selections have been finalized.

“Make plans for next year! This conference felt like the beginning of a new herbal era. I honestly believe it will be looked upon as an historical moment.”
-Rosalee de la Foret

(Henry made sure Rosalee's class was recorded, showing some of the many uses of plants)

2011 TWHC For Kids

We were surprise by how many facilities the Ghost Ranch has for use, including an (unsupervised) playground for children, a family center, even a telescope for star watching!  And in 2011, we are excited to announce 2 special classes: one will be for Mothers about treating children with herbs, and turning kids onto the basics of herbalism; the other will be FOR kids, with herbal activities for them to learn from and enjoy.

2011 TWHC Music

“The conference was totally awesome!  We’ll be back every year… you can count on it, partners!”
-Chloe, Rising Appalachia

As you may have already heard, audience response to Leah and Chloe of Rising Appalachia was so great that they have been made the  TWHC “House Band”, and will be the musical core around which we build each year’s diverse entertainment.  And Tina Collins and Quetzal Jordan were so into it, that we simply have to bring them back to play for us again in 2011, and they may be enticed to do a longer set that involves them playing together with the gals from Rising again.  It will be hard to find an ethnic band to equal Gioia and Carlos of FlamencoWorldCompany for that slot, though we have 5 other groups wanting to play including Arborea who couldn’t make it this year.

“Thank you for putting together such a wonderful event. Good vibe, great people, intense classes, the flow was perfect and the setting is also perfect. I am so amazed at the vision you and Wolf had, and how for a first year, it was damn near flawless.”

– Kristena

2011 TWHC Lodging

The Ghost Ranch Conference Center is in charge of lodging as well as the prepared meals at the TWHC, but we have decided to take the risk of renting all the available rooms and camping sites for next year.  It should prove much less confusing if you can pay for your Ghost Ranch room or camping site at the same time as you pay for your event registration.  It is still likely that all the available lodging at Ghost Ranch will fill up, and later registrants may have to stay at nearby motels and campgrounds instead.

(7Song had the best seat for Paul Bergner's rabble-rousing song "I Am An Herbal Rebel!")

2011 Meet & Greet

In order to get everyone acquainted quicker next year, the conference will officially begin with a Confluence (Meet and Greet) on Thursday evening, Sept. 15th, complete with live acoustic music.

“All my blessings to this conference, may it last for many, many, many years!”
-Rosemary Gladstar

2011 Registration

Registration for 2011 opens October 15th, 2010.  Prices for 2011 are 3-tiered depending on when they are purchased, with Early Sprout discount rates:
Tickets purchased before January 1, 2011: $255
Tickets purchased between January 1, 2011 and June 1, 2011: $275
Tickets purchased after June 1, 2011: $295

Day Passes

This year there were a lot of folks who badly wanted to attend 1 or 2 days of classes, but whose jobs or whatever made coming for the whole 3 days impossible.  Day passes will be sold for 2011, though for the higher price of $150 per day.

“There were more of us young people here than any other conference, feels good!”

Work Trade

There is only 1 work trade role available at this time, which is Sponsor, Vendor and Media outreach, involving lots of research and phone calls, and a financial incentive is included.  Write for an application if interested.

Our most enthused assistants this year were those who hadn’t even asked for their registration in trade, but were instead acting solely out of a desire to help make the event work – extra thanks going out to Resolute, Don, Henry, Marissa, Patrick, Mary, Kristen and Avonda.  With that in mind, shortly before the 2011 conference, volunteers will be selected from among the paid registrants to assist with various tasks at the site.  Each on-site volunteer will then be given a special discount code good towards the following year’s 2012 registration costs.


If possible, we will include a place right on the registration form, for you to be able to contribute an additional amount towards scholarships for select applicants who could not afford to attend the classes otherwise.   We would make those selections based on their degree of passion and commitment as well as their need.  Another option will be for your organization or business to sponsor a number of scholarships for applicants from specific ethnic, economic or other target groups according to your agenda.

“You and Wolf created one of the most amazing and transformative events I’ve been part of.”


(A barefoot Kiva and Cowboy-hatted Wolf introduce "The Ecology of Healing")

Staying Involved

If this conference and movement is to continue to grow, flourish, and serve us all, it will need your personal, active and committed support – including:
• Telling everyone about next year’s event, posting the new 2011 posters, and forwarding any emailed announcements sent out between now and next September
• Linking your website or blog, if you have one, to the TWHC site:   
• Posting your conference experience and stories on your blogs, forums and FaceBook pages
• Posting your photos of the conference and Ghost Ranch landscape
• Submitting your 2010 conference stories to us for publishing in the TWHC Newsletter, Plant Healer Magazine, Anima and The Medicine Woman’s Roots blogs:

For more suggestions, go to the Spread the Word Page

“Amazing conference, resurrecting the spirit of Western Herbalism.”

-Paul Bergner, North American Institute of Medical Herbalism


All photos (c) 2010 their respective photographs (see Facebook for lots more).

  5 Responses to “Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference a Resounding Success!”

  1. Some gentle folk commented to me this could be the start of new renaissance in American herbalism. I’m less poetic. This could be the start of a well needed revolution.It is time to remember the wisdom of our grandparents and our elders and bring it back to the forefront of herbal practice. It is time to bring back the heart and passion of American herbalism. This is what the TWHC moved in me.

  2. i so needed this respite from my little corner of the world! thank you kiva and jesse for creating such an oasis for like minded folk to gather, share, teach, learn and commune. i am looking forward to next year’s pilgrimage to nm for more!

  3. And MOST of all… it was FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUN! (pronounced “fun,” not “foon”)

  4. Gorgeous to be with such wise, warm, wonderful plant people ~ and inspiring to learn about the different way people have manifested their particular branch of herbalism.. from herb schools to free clinics, etc..
    Western herbalism is alive and well, with some wonderful elders and teachers and ever growing students too. I loved Rosemary’s message of humility and how plants work WITH us and indeed through us, and how our generations will shape the future of plants as well as our own approach to health.
    Kiva and Wolf especially, and all those involved… feckin’ awesome!! what a green light you glow, thank you for bringing it all together so sweetly.. I look forward to next year!

  5. sounds amazing! I will try my best to make it next year! Im enjoying all the stories being posted on facebook and more!! yay!! vive la revolution!!!

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