My husband and I have been planning a series of classes based on the book When Technology Fails. We understand that we are sitting on the precipice of collapse. It may not come in our lifetime but we want to be as prepared as we can be and we want to prepare our farm for those times for those who come after us. As a long time herbalist, I’ve been leading classes for the past year after an absence. I wrote this as an introduction to the herb classes I lead at the Silverton Grange. You’ll notice I didn’t say “teach” because I really feel that all I am doing is holding space for re-membering, bring us back to the body of knowledge we all hold inside.
Awhile ago, I was reading the newsletter produced by a church my family formerly attended. In it, there was an advertisement for a meditation class. The ad said that if you’d taken a certain other class, then you were “qualified” to learn to meditate. At first when I read that, I was really offended. The very idea that someone would presume to tell another they were “qualified” to learn to sit down, be still and go within is ludicrous, isn’t it? That isn’t to say that we wouldn’t want to learn different techniques and that we wouldn’t seek out someone to show us those or we wouldn’t read an article or in some other way expand our repretoire of ways we explore our consciousness.
Oddly enough, at the same church, we’d sing this song:
“It’s in everyone of us to be wise, find your heart, open up both your eyes. We can all know everything without ever knowing why. It’s in everyone of us, you and I.”
I believe that is true not only for our spirituality, but for other aspects of learning, as well. Not to say that we don’t sometimes need “experts” of all stripes. Trust me, when something goes wrong with my car, I’m not gonna pretend that I can go within and find out what’s causing that noise. Unless, its something very simple. And I’m sure not going to take a go at filling my own teeth. Because I don’t have any training! However, I do know lots of friends who aren’t “experts” who do know how do get into their car’s guts and cure what’s ailing it.
What’s all this got to do with herb classes, you may wonder.
The answer is we need more community herbalists. By this, I’m not talking about the model where we choose one person in the community to “be the expert” and every time you have a headache or a sniffle or something worse, you go to that person and describe what’s going on for you and they “tell” you what you should take. I’m talking about where many of us know what’s going on internally for ourselves and our families and we are able to offer healing in a deeply personal way. It’s nuanced and the abilility to offer that is based on learning (or relearning as some think) what the plants have to offer. A friend told me once that she believes the art of spinning wool into fibre is part of a woman’s cellular memory. I believe the same is true of using the plants around us. Children usually have a really easy time remembering what the plants are and what they are for. I think this is because they haven’t been as fogged in with our culture’s amnesia as we adults have been so they haven’t yet forgotten.
Aaron and I attended a workshop on the idea of community herbalism where the idea of gathering herbs in community was discussed as well as the idea that if one person in a community shows signs of developing disease, the rest of the community might start drinking a tea with an herb that addresses that disease, as well, as a means of prevention. Then, the paradigm shifts from “you take this because you are sick to one of we take this because we want to stay healthy.” I think this makes sense in light of the lifestyle dis-eases we are seeing all around us. Of course, you’d only want to do that with safe herbs that are used as food and not those that are stronger and used more like “little drugs.” There are so many of those…nettles, berries, hawthorn, dandelion, seaweeds that are delicious and health-giving.
If I understand what I am seeing, there is going to be more and more regulation and threat to those who offer alternative therapies. The corporations don’t want us telling folks to get off their 30-year plan of taking all of the crap they want us to start taking when we are 50 or 60 and keeping on it until we are 80 or 90. (Or God forbid, giving our babies some little blue pill because they spit up.) That, coupled with drug shortages that keep popping up (search the New York Times for drug shortages and you may get just a little freaked out if you aren’t already) and the changes that lie ahead are all good reasons to learn a little or a lot about herbal medicine.
One of my favorite herb teachers and authors, Susun Weed said this: “Herbal medicine is the medicine of the people. It is simple, safe, effective, and free. Our ancestors knew how to use an enormous variety of plants for health and well being. Our neighbors around the world continue to use local plants for healing and health maintenance. You can too.”
I’ve been fortunate enough in life to have the time and resources to dedicate to studying our plant allies, and I am fortunate enough to have a Grange community that supports learning the skills we need for the times ahead. Please join us in the study of the local herbs and weeds that can contribute so much to our health. We meet at the Silverton Grange from 6:30 to 8:30 on Thursdays and several times a year at my farm. Go to www.silvermoonapothecary.com for more information.