From 'The Wise Woman's Garden' column in The Beltane
Papers, Journal of Women's Mysteries,
Issue 33 ~ Summer ~ 10,004,
Year of the Goddess
This past weekend I taught a class at Bastyr University's
Herb and Food Faire, Herbal Healing with Garden Weed with about twenty
participants. We passed the talking stick, and each person, in turn,
spoke briefly about their desire to change their perspective on weeds
and to learn wise ways of being with the plants. I was so excited
to share the earthly wisdom of stinging nettle, dandelion, chickweed,
red clover, plantain, shepherd's purse, little mallow, lamb's quarters.
. . and this inspired me to share it with all of you. My writing
you this time is a little course in Shamanic Herbalism. It is for
all who seek to explore the wise ways of the earth and reweave our
with the shamanic energies. These energies call us quietly on the
wind to listen and re-member, whether seasoned herbalist or green
The best way to explore this process is to begin on the land, to go
outside and touch the earth. Spend at least one hour a day out in your
yard, exploring the garden and the plants and listening to the wind,
the call of the birds, the buzzing of the bees and the rustle of the
land as you walk on her.
As you connect with the earth, invoke an awareness of your thoughts
and listen to them. Gather your thoughts together and welcome them
to you. Within them you will find deep wisdom; somewhere in between
your thoughts the truth whispers to you. Listen and give thanks for
this part of you.
Take your shoes off and walk barefoot on the land. It doesn't matter
what time of year. Feel the sensual earth beneath you.
Touch, smell and taste the weeds in your garden. Visit
your local library or purchase a book on wild edible plants. Nurture
about those common plants that are not familiar to you yet. Pick
a wild salad for yourself. As you gather, ask each leaf, stem and
you snip for permission . . . wait for a response. Eat this salad
on the earth near the plants you harvested.
Write down the names of all the plants in your garden and yard. Next
to these names write the botanical names of these plants.
Notice which plants appear to grow in such abundance that you feel
afraid they may take over your garden. Begin to observe the growth
of these plants, research them and discover their edibility and medicinal
properties. Thank these plants for holding ground in your garden and
Visit a local park or venture out of town into the
woods and connect with the trees. Get to know the names of the different
trees that grow
near you. When you stand near each tree look at bark, branches, leaves
or needles, and where it connects to the earth. Put your hand on
the trunk of each tree and listen . . .
Seek out others who desire to connect to the earth wisdom and walk
with them on the land. Spend some time together walking in silence
and listening together to the sounds and energies of the earth.
Begin preparing and eating whole food, daily. This is food that is
whole in and of itself, no ingredients, no parts put together to make
a whole. Whole grains; raw, organic milk; yogurt and kefir; organic
meat; healthy fats like butter and olive oil; leafy green vegetables
cooked for a long time; potatoes and root vegetables; fermented foods
like miso and tamari; organic lentils and beans; homemade wine and
beer; and cooked fruit like applesauce and homemade jams and jellies.
Give thanks for each of these foods before you eat.
Choose one of the plants that grows near you as an ally, a companion.
Connect daily with this plant. Notice all parts of it. How does it
come up out of the ground, what kind of leaves does it have, what
are its flowers and seeds like? Discover its botanical name, its
edibility and medicinal properties. And offer yourself this simple
to help you connect to the energy of this plant.
Breathing with your plant ally
outside in your yard.
Sit or stand very near this plant.
Begin to notice your breath, breathing in
and out 3 times.
Now breathe in, opening to awareness that
this plant is offering you
Breathe out, offering carbon
dioxide to this plant.
Breathe in and out with
this plant for
Listen . . . and
ask the plant,
you for me?"
. . . Listen.
this is complete,
thanks to the plant.
Invoke an awareness of your relationship with yourself. Ask
yourself these three questions.
What grows old in me and must wither?
Where do I feel
most grounded and rooted?
Where, in me, lives my wildness?
May it be in Beauty. ~ Julie Charette Nunn, Crow’s
A list of books and websites to further your studies:
Burgess, Isla. Weeds Heal: A Working Herbal, Viriditas Publishing,
New Zealand, www.HerbCollege.com
de Bairacli Levi, Juliette. Common Herbs for
Natural Health, Ash Tree
Elpel, Thomas. Botany in a Day: Herbal Field
Guide to Plant Families,
Pojar and MacKinnon. Plants of the Pacific
Northwest Coast, Lone Pine
Publishing, #180 16149 Redmond Way, Redmond, WA, 98052
Weed, Susun S. Healing Wise: The Wise Woman
Herbal, Ash Tree Publishing,
other great books)
Shamanic Herbalism ~ Part II
From 'The Wise Woman's Garden' column in The Beltane Papers,
Journal of Women's Mysteries
Issue 34 ~Fall ~ Winter ~ 10,004 Year of the Goddess
“The Earth and Plants as Teacher”
The fall and winter months offer gifts for us as we deepen our relationship with the plants and the earth. While the vibrant summer months offer the incredible beauty of nature’s abundance, the late fall and winter months offer a delving into our inner landscape, the nourishment and healing of roots, and the healing medicine of trees.
As the days become cooler and darker, we naturally pull into ourselves. This is often the time when humans become depressed, feeling sad and lacking energy. We can look to nature to nourish us during this time and learn lessons for how to cultivate our wholeness from her. This is the time for the great journey inward. Where will this take you?
Take time to spend at least one hour outside each day. Dress for the weather and go out even if it is wet and cold. Notice what is happening outside in your yard, your garden and the surrounding landscape. Watch the leaves leave the trees. Notice their vibrant colors. Place your hand on the trunk of one of these trees and feel the energy of this being now, in this season. Take some breaths with this tree. As you explore the landscape, walk slowly taking time to notice body sensations created by the weather: rain on your face, cold, biting air, the sun’s warmth. And take time to notice feelings, what are you feeling as you venture outside?
Gather roots for nourishment. Discover the plants that grow around you that offer nourishment and healing in their roots. It is easy to access healing roots in most places. Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, a common garden weed is a good start. There are others that you may not have even noticed yet that grow near where you live. Look for little Mallow, Malva neglecta, Burdock, Arctium lappa and Yellow Dock, Rumex crispus. Creating nourishing herbal vinegar with one of these is very easy. Choose a plant that you wish to harvest. Take time to ask this plant’s permission to gather. When you harvest the roots of a plant you are giving death. By doing so you are initiating a powerful connection with nature. Offer thanks. Using a shovel, loosen the soil all around the plant. Once this is done you can pull the root free of the earth. Wash the roots with the spray on your garden hose or in your sink, thoroughly. Chop the roots into small pieces and fill a small jar with them. Again fill the jar with apple cider vinegar. Place a cap on the jar and label it with name of plant, harvesting date and phase of the moon. Wait six weeks and stain this through a cotton cloth. Pour this mineral-rich brew over your salad or cooked greens. For a daily tonic put one tablespoon of this concoction in water and drink up. If you don’t wish to wait for such nourishment, add these roots to soup along with other roots vegetables you harvest from your garden or purchase from local sources.
The medicine of trees. Tree medicine is most potent in the dead of winter. Within each tree is the wisdom of the entire energetic year encoded within it. When you connect to the tall ones and craft medicines during the winter months you connect your nature with the deep wisdom these trees hold and offer. Trees also offer healing and health for the nervous system. The nervous system is the only system within us that is not regenerated every month or so. Other organs like the kidneys and liver replace themselves cell by cell over and over again. The nervous system, however, is within us now as it was when we were born. It contains information from our ancient heritage and spirals off into the future connecting us with our infinite source. It is like a tall tree sending its roots down into the dark mystery of the earth and reaching at the same time far into the cosmos. Our nervous system like trees connect us with everything that is, was and will be.
Talking to trees is easier than it may seem. Here is a way to begin: Venture outside in the dead of winter (this shamanic exercise can really be done anytime of year, but is potent in winter). Find a tree that you are drawn to. Put your hand on the trunk of the tree and breathe. Breathe in the oxygen from this tree. Breathe out, offering carbon dioxide to this tree. Do this for at least seven breaths. Now stand with your back against the tree, eyes open. Feel your feet grow roots deep into the earth. Feel your spine connect with the trunk of the tree. Feel your brain expanding and opening and reaching up into the cosmos, your future. Ask one question, “What is true?” Sense body sensations, notice what is around you, notice what you feel. Let these experiences answer the question for you. When this feels complete, thank the tree.
Crafting an herbal medicine from the trees in the dead of winter will initiate a whole body response in you that is subtle and unfathomable: Venture outside in the dead of winter. Find a place near your home where the tall trees grow in abundance. Look on the ground for branches given up in winter wind storms. Gather these branches in a cloth or paper bag. When you return home, lay these out near the hearth or in a warm room until the moisture dries off them. Find yourself a jar and a tight fitting lid. With scissors, snip the branches into the jar until it is almost filled and packed moderately. Pour organic olive oil over this to the top. Stir with a knife or chop stick to release air bubbles. Add more oil as needed. Put the lid on this and label with plant name, botanical name, date and phase of the moon. Let this sit for six weeks in a cool, dark place, turning and shaking it often. Strain this aromatic healing oil through a cotton cloth. Pour into a beautiful glass bottle. Use this exquisite and energizing oil for relieving pain, moving energy and connecting with the mystery.
The wisdom of the winter is vast. The exploration of our inner nature during these dark and cold months can lead us to profound self-knowing, inner peace and stillness. It is a practice that takes time and discipline to form within us. It takes intention, attention, and willingness to be authentic. Here is a way to begin: For three days and three nights, go to bed and rise with the sun. Keep a journal of your dreams, your thoughts and your feelings. Spend the next day after the third night in silence pondering this experience. When this is complete, give thanks for every part of you.
May it be in Beauty!
A list of books and websites to further your studies:
· Healing Wise, The Wise Woman Herbal, Susun S. Weed, Ash Tree Publishing, www.susunweed.com, (also other great books)
· The Way of the Shaman, Michael Harner, HarperSanFrancisco, www.shamanism.org
· Women Who Run with the Wolves, Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ballantine Book, New York
· The Women’s Encyclopedia of Myths of Secrets, Barbara Walker Castle Books, New Jersey
· Circle of Stones: Women’s Journey to Herself, Volume I and I Sit Listening to the Wind, Volume II, Judith Duerk, Innisfree Press, Inc.
Shamanic Herbalism ~ Part III
From 'The Wise Woman's Garden' column in The Beltane Papers,
Journal of Women's Mysteries
Issue 35 ~ Spring ~ 10,005, Year of the Goddess
A wise teacher of mine once said that the Earth does not understand the concept of hope. This intrigues me, as I know that hope has helped me through some tough times. It is my humanness that hopes for renewal, hopes for things to change for the better, hopes for peace and justice in the world. How does Earth do it? How do I transform hope into promise, trust, and inclusion...? If I were to shape shift my consciousness into being Earth; that which renews again and again without fail...What would life be like?
Well, come join me as we take the next step in the study of Shamanic Herbalism. It is called Nourishing Wholeness.
To follow this path, you need not give up anything; you need not change anything because this is the path of change itself. Come walk with me.
The sun warms the Earth now and spring appears wearing her new green cloak. There is a promise she brings, out of the darkness and deepness of winter will come life, newness and wholeness once again. Trust is a way of life on this path.
We are walking the spiral; each step is new and different. Each time we encounter our familiar surrounding they express themselves ever so differently.
Within us new cells are being created every moment. The natural world mirrors this miraculous creation. Always new; always unique;
ever-changing. Possibilities are endless for us here and we choose to enhance this journey with nourishment. We choose food and herbs that nourish our wholeness. We choose activities that nourish our wholeness. We acknowledge thoughts and feelings as the incredible rainbow palette of self-expression. We feel power and passion burning within us. We breathe in the breath of the trees, the plants and breathe out our gift of life to all around us. We are women, womb ones, holy ones.
There is a plant that nourishes our wholeness, our holiness and this ever-changing path. She is Stinging Nettle Urtica dioica. She is growing right outside my door and most likely very near you as well. Her lifeblood helps us women to nourish those new cells within us being created every moment. Take sometime this spring and summer to find Nettle growing near you. If you wish to harvest her green bounty pick her before she flowers in spring. But do go visit her when she is in bloom. And visit her again in late summer to harvest her seeds, full of vibrancy and minerals to nourish healthy change.
Here is a shamanic exercise to explore the nourishment of Nettle and ways we nourish ourselves (You can do this shamanic exercise with any plant brew.)
Prepare some Stinging Nettle Nourishing Herbal Infusion ~ one ounce of dry herb per one quart of boiling water, pour the boiling water over the dry herb, cover this and let it set overnight. You can then strain it. (Refrigerate any of it you are not going to drink right away.)
· Heat the Nettle infusion to just below boiling
· Pour this into your favorite teacup.
· With cup in hand, sit wherever you love to sit when drinking tea.
· Sip the infusion
· Savor the flavors, the temperature of the infusion and notice her many qualities.
· Begin to listen to your body’s response to the brew.
· Take note.
· Now, ask the question, “What nourishes me?”
· Listen for a response, notice thoughts and feelings that come into your consciousness.
· Ask this question at least three times.
· When you have finished your cup of infusion, rinse the cup and place it on the counter in your kitchen.
· Give thanks for Stinging Nettle
· Give thanks for the things that nourish you.
· Give thanks for the ways you nourish yourself.
May it be in Beauty.
This Spring and Summer as you venture on the spiral path of nourishing wholeness, explore ways of offering gratitude. There are many. Some speak their gratitude before meals and at night before sleep. Some offer gifts to those that bless them. Some sing and dance their gratitude. What is your way? How will you offer thanks for your blessings?
Shamanic Herbalism ~ Part IV
"Healing with Nourishment"
For most of my adult life I moved around exploring this place and that. It was a wonderful journey. Through the life of an adventurer I learned to live with the earth, to find sacred in the place I planted myself for the time being. Well, just over a year ago I moved to a little farm in the Maxwelton Valley on Whidbey Island. We are just about done building a beautiful, fenced in garden. I plan to grow old with this garden. I am now becoming a permanent planting. This was a dream, so long ago, to find a place from which to grow and change and see peace. I am here now.
I actually arrived here long before buying this farm. About 13 years ago I decided to take a yoga class.
What I discovered about yoga was that it brought me right into my body. Breath, movement and simple poses.
I discovered I liked being in my body. Though challenging at times, I felt peace and comfort in just being. Around this same time, I met Susun Weed. I was just about a vegan, drinking soy beverage and thinking I had to give up cheese. I loved cheese but actually thought it was harming me. Susun Weed spoke at the Women of Wisdom conference about menopause. She leaped around on the stage and grabbed her breasts and the sang the song of the wise woman. She said, “How could it be harmful for women to eat milk and eggs, we are milk and eggs!” That changed my life. I went to an amazing Green Witch intensive at Hollyhock in Canada soon after that to study for a week with Susun. She talked more about the benefits of milk and calcium from milk and also about the harmful effects of soy among other wise notions of healing with nourishment. I learned that what my mother and grandmother taught me about food was right. I moved back into my body and began to grow a permanent garden there.
Nourishment is at the center of the Wise Woman Shamanic Tradition. It is the love of the mother and grandmother and it is invisible. What I saw back in those days of trying to annihilate parts of myself I didn’t like was a tradition of self-hating, punishing and forcing change. I didn’t really know much about what I didn’t like, I just had symptoms that bothered me and was told by therapists and alternative practitioners that if I lived a certain lifestyle and ‘behaved’ I wouldn’t have these symptoms anymore. When I suggested to one therapist that I could just feel the sadness or anger that was within me, he said, “No, don’t do that, that is harming yourself” He was a mirror, a relationship I needed, to see that part of myself that needed nourishment.
Now is a good time to begin to nourish. The world needs our nourishing hands, hearts and wombs. How shall we begin? Come along with me as we embark on this journey to our wholeness.
Five Tasks ~ Learning to Nourish
Inclusion. The first task in learning to nourish is to include all of ourselves in our life. This involves re-membering who we are. Close your eyes and feel into your body. Notice a place where you feel sensations, a pain or a pleasure, either one will do. Breathe into that place and notice sensations and what thoughts and feelings arise. Just notice. Breathe at least seven breaths into this place and when this is complete, give thanks for this part of you. You may wish to write or draw about this experience.
Wellness is invisible. This task is a shamanic exercise. Venture into the woods or around on the land, somewhere you can be for a period of time without interruption. You will be exploring the nature of being invisible, not separate from nature but part of it, just like a tree or leaf. How will you move, breathe, will you make sounds, how will you listen, what will you see?………do this for about 20 minutes
Eating whole food. Ask yourself... How much whole food am I eating? Whole food is food without ingredients: Organic and wild meats, raw milk, healthy fat, whole grains, locally grown vegetables and wild plants and weeds. How much time do I spend in my kitchen cooking for myself and my family? Where does my food come from? How do I prepare my food? How do I offer gratitude for the animals, plants and minerals in my food?
Nourishing Herbs. As you proceed with this study of shamanic herbalism, bringing the nourishing herbs into your daily life is very important. These plants are food-like herbs. They contain lots of minerals and their offerings are subtle and effective. It is through drinking nourishing herbal infusion that I found the path to the wise woman. Stinging Nettle was my gatekeeper. I was a stressed out school teacher. I began to bring Stinging Nettle infusion to school with me. I look back now and see that she helped make the voice of the plants audible. There are three nourishing herbs that I drink often: Stinging Nettle, Oatstraw and Rose Hips. Another few that I drink occassionally: Hawthorne Flower, Comfrey, Dandelion Root, and Red Clover. Make yourself a nourishing herbal infusion of one of these. One ounce of plant per quart of boiling water. Let this sit over night. Strain this and drink hot or cold. Use only one plant at a time. This encourages intimacy with the plant. Perhaps just choose one or two of these plants to really get to know. Take note of the subtle differences in your health as you experiment with these herbs.
Make a nourishing herbal vinegar from plants in your garden.We did this earlier in the second installment with roots. We can now do it again when the plants are fully potent above the ground. Let’s ask one of the plants in our garden to help us nourish ourselves. Making nourishing herbal vinegar is a great way to initiate this relationship. Venture outside to your garden or yard. Find a plant with which you have really connected. Dandelion or chickweed are common around the area where I live. If you are doing this in the height of the growing season, your choices are endless...lavender, sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon balm, lamb quarter’s...what do you feel drawn to craft into vinegar? Your tools will be scissors, a basket, a small jar and lid (half pint jar is best for a first undertaking), labels and pen and your intention. Ask permission of the plant you wish to harvest. Wait for an answer. Sing a little song as you go, if you like, and tell the plant what you intend to do with this vinegar. Gather the plant in your basket and then cut the plant up as small as possible. Fill the jar, lightly packed, about 3/4 of the way full. Put the lid on and label it with name, botanical name, date and anything else, perhaps your intention or an inspiration you had when you were gathering her. Let this preparation sit for six weeks on a little plate in your kitchen, away from bright sunlight. Shake it up and down every day. And notice when the vinegar soaks into the plant and more vinegar is needed to fill the jar. When six weeks comes around, strain this nourishing brew through a cloth and a seive and fill a beautiful bottle with it. Take the time to cook some green, cook them almost an hour and serve them in a beautiful bowl. Pour your healing vinegar brew over them and give thanks again for the healing ways of the plant you gathered. Speak again your intention for creating this vinegar and eat of the earth, nourishing yourself with food created with your own hands.
This life, this earth that gives us nourishment mirrors for us the incredible gifts we have within us. And we are so thankful. May it be in beauty.