Sunday, March 30, 2008

Plant Devas, myths and spirits: April Blog Party

This months Blog Party is all about unveiling the Oz behind our plant allies. What is the archetype, deva, or spirit of your favorite plant like? What are their healing lessons and gifts? How do they reveal themselves to you?

Post on your own blog and send me the link at the herbwifery forum, and I'll post all links here between Thursday April 3rd and Saturday April 5th, 2008.

Happy Plant Journeys.......

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Back to Basics: Botany for herbalists

My passion for nature began as an outdoor explorer: a child adoring the wonders of nature that tickled all my senses and my fertile imagination. I was not, however, very interested in organizing or categorizing anything. My adolescence gave way to spending much less time outside, creating a gap between my childhood romps by the lake and cornfields, and the later discovery of curative brews. When my Mom started studying herbs more seriously, she began bringing lots of new and interesting bags home, filled with quirky looking and wild smelling stuff. We delighted in combining them and simmering them up in a pot - often times her since, well, I was a teenager. But I loved coming into the kitchen to discover the witchy brews that promised a myriad of powers. But all these interesting herbs were dried, and packed in bags. I had no idea where they grew, how they liked their soil and sun, or what they looked like. While I remember picking garden veggies at an early age, and have many random fond memories of healing herbs and fragrances in my home, it wasn't until my Mom started growing basil, that I made the real connection between human and plant.

Jumping ahead to the now .... Walking in a beautiful sanctuary, next to peers. These peers are actually here to learn from me - but of course I am acutely aware of the mutuality of the situation. As we walk, so early in the spring here, there are few greens about. But enough to cause me worry, since it looks like there are about ten that I know, and 50 that I don't. Some I may know, but because they are so tiny, I struggle to find the matching adult plant in my mind.
If my botany were sharper, I think my guessed could have been a lot more accurate.

There seems to be a great gap between some herbalists and their botany. Some have been blessed with a solid background, but many start herbalism from an inspiration having nothing to do with flower classification. Sometimes it starts with Grandma's tea, or a honey face mask, or a friends amazing cure (a squirty bottle that got rid of your flu) - and the seed is planted. So then we go and buy great herb books about how to make teas and what the properties of spices are. The books don't tell you how to grow the plant, where it comes from, what part to harvest or when, and often do not even include pictures. This isn't effective for creating relationship with plants.

Nor does it make for a good herbal teacher.

Some basic botanical know how is indispensable in the field. It helps you recognize a bigger picture and come to wonderful conclusions that could mean big differences: life or death in it's extreme case, or more simply, whether you can eat it or not, or a medicinal plant without knowing the specific variety in case you have a run in with stingers or thorns.

As with anything in the plant world: start small. Pick one category to focus on: Flower types, leaf types, or patterns of plant families. Make a little book of each if you like. Take your time on the details.

Here are a couple nice references online for leaf classifications:

Any good field guide should have the leaf and flower anatomy and classifications illustrated on their inner covers. Aside from field guides, four of my favorite books for this purpose are:

Botany in a Day
Shanleya's Quest
Botany Illustrated
Botany Coloring Book

By the way, the photo is of my little Motherwort babies, peeking out of the garden. What do you think? Maple shaped? Sharply toothed?

Monday, March 17, 2008


The threshold of spring is upon us. The fervor of the season emerges in me like a wild cat hungry for catnip..... I scrounge at the little bits of green at the forest edge. The pungency of the mustard greens awakens me on the deepest level, bringing clarity and renewal to my whole being. The long wait during winter is nearly too much. I can't bear the separation of wild, flourishing nature at my fingertips. She howls from underneath the snow, sucking up wise soil but yearning for sunshine.

The first green buds peek out from the safety of the mother bark. And indeed the catnip roots itself well before forming any leaves, for it must protect it's species from wild cats like me who might tear up the whole plant out of sheer exuberance.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Anima Center Events

For those of you who travel and for those of you searching for just the right sacred journey to save for:


Anima Center's Sacred Canyon is the place to go.


We invite and welcome your participation in any of the following workshops and gatherings, held in a magnificent river canyon and ancient place of power, deep in the mountains of the enchanted Southwest… 5 hrs. from the Tucson airport, or 4.5 hrs. south of Albuquerque.

Anima Wilderness Learning Center & Medicine Woman Tradition

SUMMER EVENTS(by donation)
May 22-27: The Wild Women’s GatheringA six day event for women only, with a focus on primitive camping, interaction with the natural world and personal rewilding: learning to trust our senses, instincts and needs – and to heed our callings and live our dreams regardless of constraints, norms, fears and habits.

June 12-17: The Woman Spirit GatheringAnother six day women’s event, a memory-making celebration of the spirit of womanhood, dedicated to self nourishment, sisterly sharing and sweet savoring – with inspiring teaching circles, wonderful outdoor feasts, swimming, singing and riverside dancing!

July 3-6: The Shaman’s Path IntensiveFor men as well as women, a four day long workshop imparting insights and techniques for heightening awareness, connecting with inspirited nature, exploring alternate realities, instigating ecstatic states, developing our powers to affect events, and defining and fulfilling our individual most-meaningful purpose.

Aug 1-6: The Medicine Woman GatheringSix days of presentations and discussions, plant walks and medicine making – for women who feel called to a healer’s life of intense awareness and personal responsibility. The Medicine Woman Tradition defines healing as contributing to wholeness and balance… of our selves, of others, and of the living world we are a part of.

Aug 29 -Sep 1: The Wild Foods WeekendFour days of learning to identify, gather, preserve and deliciously prepare a wide number of the wild native foods of the mountainous West and Southwest – increasing observation skills, self confidence and our ability to survive, while helping us connect deeper to the natural world and cycles of life that we are each a natural part of.

If you can forward this announcement to your email lists, it would be greatly appreciated. For more information, or for Registration forms you can download, please go to the Anima Events page

Anima Center also offers Retreats with meals in riverside cabins, Vision Quests, personal Counsel, resident Internships and Apprenticeships, and empowering Correspondence Courses including the Way Of Heart, Shaman and Medicine Woman paths. There is no set charge for any of the various opportunities, services, courses and events… only a suggested, sliding scale donation.

Herb Mentor - Fantastic Herbal Resource

Passing along the word about one of my favorite online herbal places ... ....

Although I am affectionately considered a 'casual user' you can basically tailor the intensity of your herbal learning through the site for seriously cheap. (how DO they do it?) It's awesome.

Herbalist Angie Goodlow posted a great entry about it that covers the details (not worth trying to duplicate!) so here ya go:

The Herbalists Path

Thanks Angie and thanks John!!!!