An Introduction to Shamanic Herbalism
I began over twenty years ago, studying herbs in the wise woman tradition. I learned that I am whole and I am holy. I began to drink nettle infusion while I was still a school teacher. Nettle began to change me, the subtle change of something that is invisible but potent.
Nettle activated the cellular memory in me that I am an herbalist. I started to see change. I felt called outside. The crows called me, the dandelion called me, and the tall trees called me.
Soon after this I quit my teaching job and decided to study with Susun Weed. I went to Laughing Rock Farm in Woodstock NY and lived with her for six weeks. I shared my deepest joys and my deepest fear in talking stick. I walked in the woods, I milked the goats, and I drank a lot of nourishing herbal infusion.
When I returned, I moved to a remote place in Southwest Washington with my husband and I spend the days walking in the woods. In the spring of the next year, right outside our door a carpet of yellow violet grew, Viola glabella. I harvested the violet one Sunday afternoon. My husband, Tadd, asked me, “What are you singing?” I didn’t realize I was singing, I was so deep into the harvesting. Here is what I was singing, “Sweet violet, precious violet, come to my garden. Sweet violet, precious violet, come and be near. Sweet violet, precious violet, the fairies are awaiting you here.” The violet had given me a song.
We soon moved up north and lived near a salmon creek and a very large forest. I continued to walk in the woods, day after day. I discovered that I needed healing, to be able to access more of myself and what I am supposed to do in this lifetime. I met a shamanic practitioner who offered me shamanic healing. And I learned the practice of shamanic journeying.
Very soon after learning this practice, I knew that this was a home base for me. I could look back on my life and and see that where I once thought I was so different and even at times a bit crazy, I was experiencing a connection to the invisible realm, the shamanic realm.
I began to teach and offered an apprenticeship program. I journeyed to my spirit teacher to see what she thought I could offer my apprentices. ***(See more about this below) One day, not long after I had begun to work with my two apprentices, my spirit teacher introduced me to another teacher, a very, very old shamanic herbalist from the British Isles. She took me under her wing and told me what to teach. I shared the practices with my apprentices and it was received powerfully.
That was over twenty years ago. Since then I have had an almost daily practice of communicating with the shamanic realm and my shamanic herbalist spirit teacher. What I discovered from practicing the exercises she gave me was that the plants are not really medicinal. That way of looking at them came later with the onslaught of science. What I discovered was that the plants are wisdom teachers. With breath, attention and intention, we may listen to the voices of the plants. We receive wisdom from them about who we are.
Before we ever harvest plants to make medicine, we discover what they have for us. And we ask permission of the plants to harvest. We harvest and we offer gratitude. We prepare the plants for nourishment and healing. As we take time for this practice, we develop intimacy with the plants.
There is a richness in these practices. We develop a closeness with the natural landscape that surrounds us where we live. We are at home in nature. The plants become close allies for us and friends. We develop a beautiful life within ourselves as we get to know ourselves more intimately.
One of the cornerstones of the shamanic herbal tradition of the wise woman is nourishment. All healing comes from nourishment. The plants that we utilize are nourishing and tonifying. Gentleness of healing is practiced for the most part. Sometimes we need something stronger. But most often our inquiries, our connections in nature and with the nourishing plants gives us what we require.
Here is a simple exercise to begin a practice of shamanic herbalism:
- Step outside where you live, it doesn’t matter if you live in the woods or in the city.
- Find a plant that you are drawn to, a tall tree perhaps, but maybe a blade of grass.
- Notice your breath and breathe a few breaths.
- Now imagine that as you breathe in, you are breathing the breath of this plant before you. And as you breathe out, you are offering your breath to the plant. Do this for seven breaths.
- When this is complete, ask the plant,”What have you for me?”
- Listen. Listen with more than your ears…what do you hear? what do you see? what do you feel
- When this is complete, offer gratitude to the plants.
May it be in Beauty.
***This is a core shamanism practice of journeying with a drum to connect with a spirit teacher in the upper world–for more information about this please contact me and I can share more details with you.