I admit it. I go on Facebook. There are many herbalists and plant enthusiasts there. I like to hear what people are doing with plants and sometimes I feel competitive, not good enough, left out or even scorned for the kind of herbalist I am. I know that this is my own transformational journey to become the kind of herbalist that I am fully.
In some ways Facebook is a good tool for discerning my identity. Without it I may not know what kind of herbalist many other people are. The scrutiny has actually helped me to be clearer about what I am offering with the plants.
Before this social media thing, there were herbals and conferences to let me know what people were doing.
Now that I have said that, I want tomake it clear that other people’s definition of “herbalist” doesn’t have to be mine. That scrutiny and criticism, scorning and competition are not part of being an herbalist. These are the mindset of someone who is over thinking who they are instead of seeking and knowing who they are. I have been on that road, and have veered off it. I am on my own path into the woods.
I am a shamanic herbalist. I communicate with the plants around me as companions and wisdom teachers. I have developed intimate relationships with the plants with which I live. I seek them as teachers. They have told me that they want me to constantly be talking to them.
I also eat these plants and I make herbal preparations with them. I know which ones offer themselves for this because I ask them if I can harvest and they tell me yes or no.
In the past, I have thought that I should study clinical herbalism, study more deeply the science of plant medicine. Whenever I sought to move forward with this, there was a deep resistance in me. What I finally discovered is that the studies being offered were in rooms with power points and white boards and fancy words and I did not want to be with plants like that.
And yet, the scientific information about the plants fascinates me. I want to know more and more of it. I want to discover new ways of utilizing the plants for healing and to know how others have done that.
I read and I read about it.
It is a paradox.
Here is how I can explain it. As I have spent hours and hours with certain plants in my yard, listening to them, allowing them to teach me, listening to my apprentices and students learn from the plants and what they have for them, I have developed familiarity with who the plants are. As I have prepared the plants for tincture, vinegar, infusion, honey, oxymel, infused oil, I have developed communion with the plants. As I have utilized the plants for healing and seen others heal by utilizing the plants, I have developed intercommunication and fellowship with the plants.
When I read a plant study, or an herbal monograph or a description of the medicinal qualities of the plants….well, if it is one of my plants then I listen for the connection I have and see how that information serves me or doesn’t serve me. If is is a plant I don’t know about, I develop my curiosity about this plant and whether it is one I desire to get to know better.
The scientific information about a plant is linear. It is fixed information. Knowing nettle has a lot of calcium in it is beneficial to me because I know that this will support the health of my bones. Knowing nettle as a friend and teacher, drinking nettle infusion and eating nettle is much more beneficial to me. I understand nettle intimately and I can feel its benefit. Nettle communicates with me in a language of the senses. I discern nettle’s teaching and benefit for me in her breath that she offers me, in the taste of her infusion, in her sting. I hear nettle messages on the wind, wisdom messages that change me.
This is the kind of herbalist I am.
May it be in beauty.