of the wild things: bear the herbalist, teacher and friend

Ecotrain, naturalmedicine, permaculture
“When the chesty, fierce-furred bear becomes sick he travels the mountainsides and the fields, searching for certain grasses, flowers, leaves and herbs, that hold within themselves the power of healing. He eats, he grows stronger. Could you, oh clever one, do this? Do you know anything about where you live, what it offers? Have you ever said, “Sir Bear, teach me. I am a customer of death coming, and would give you a pot of honey and my house on the western hills to know what you know?”
Mary Oliver in Upstream
In many North American Native traditions the bear is renown for leading humans to the medicinal roots. In early spring, once leaving his hibernation, he shrugs off the stagnancy of winter in search of that which will cleanse, invigorate and purify. These plants have been held as sacred “bear medicine” to the peoples and we have learned many things from the animals who instinctively use these special plants for themselves.
Osha or bear root is the first such plant that I have used within this context. Hailing from the high altitude Rocky Mountains in Southern Colorado & Northern New Mexico, Ligusticum porterii is a sacred and supremely useful plant. Often overharvested for commercial sale, we must tend the wild populations that we consciously harvest these roots from. The bears are known for digging these roots in spring.
(pic of osha)

Do you know anything about where you live, what it offers?

I know many of you do, dear readers, and still I think this is one of the most important conjuring questions of our time.

In a world replete with the splendors and side effects of globalization we will again be called back into place, to know a place well and develop relationship with it. This doesn’t mean only one place (for many of us are transitory) and it also lends itself to the cross hairs of similarity found all over the world (in this I am speaking of what Susun Weed calls “camp plants” or those plants that follow humans around wherever they go, ie yarrow, wild roses, plantain, chickweed, dandelion, etc).

If you do know about the plants near you, do you know how to use them and in what season and especially do you know which plants not to use? 

Excitement

For myself, I feel no small excitement when forging these relationships and I do believe it springs forth from a deep well the desire to share this information. It’s in our cells, our DNA this urge to share. That’s why people do “wild plant walks” (check for local ones near you) and we really haven’t totally lost this information over time. With that said, it is time to bring it to a larger scale, to reinvigorate this age old connection of which the bear reminds us.

The old people knew and they observed the bear, had relationship with him, and learned from him. He is both teacher and friend. What a joy and gift to resurrect these bonds and glorify the knowledge contained therein.

Baby in the Garden & Cats on Woodland Walks

Ecotrain, Homestead

Return from Holiday

Just got in at 2 am from visiting my sis and her family near some mountains in Colorado and @birdsinparadise and my dad were there too! Conked out after we got in and woke up to a balmy 45 degree temp so I decided to take a walk in the garden.

Being the garden nerd that I am, I go around and greet my plants, even though some of them are simply roots underground. I can still feel them. My sis and bro in law made Ini and I this cute little cement foot of their new child, my nephew Brooks! What a better place to put it than on the old stump next to the crystals near some raspberries, goumi & asparagus! I am already hatching plans to have my nephew spend weeks in the summer here where we can indoctrinate him with plant lore and alternative lifestyle visions… And what a sweet little foot he has…

 

Good to be Back

As you know, we spent most of December away! A dear old friend visited upon our return and then we flew the coop again, spirited away to visit family. We’ve hardly spent any time here! Since the temps were so balmy, it was great weather to take a walk into the woods. Even though our place is 18 acres, which really isn’t too big, we don’t make it to certain parts of the land.

Today we took a jaunt over to a North East slope where there are some awesome overhanging rocks.

 

Woodland Walks with Cats

I always take it with a little smile inside that our cats follow us on walks. Sometimes just one or today 3 of them… It’s cool they want to be near us and fun to see them scamper and play. They’re clearly happy to have us back and our dog is happy to be home (we had her at a kennel) and she was doing loops around us as we walked through the woods.

 

Into the Future

Winter is such a great time for rest and we’re reading, cozying up by the fire, eating nourishing food, meditating, spending time with friends, planning for the year ahead, moving plants around (today moved and split up an elecampane plant), and finishing up odds and ends around the homestead. I feel like there is so much space and that’s such a welcome feeling after the rush of necessity inherent in the last 3 years.

 

We talked about this a bit with the friend who just visited. She’s built log cabins in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and in the interior of Alaska… and then left… after 2 years each time. At that point, she said, things had just begun settling down from the necessity of getting food, shelter, water, etc worked out.

 

I feel like we’re finally getting there, to that spot of equilibrium where we aren’t rushing around taking care of our core needs. And that feels really fucking good.

 

Yet the house plans are also on the horizon and talk of inviting interns into our space. 2019 will be a good and full year and I feel that we’re filling our reserves and holistically preparing for what comes ahead! I’m excited!

In Other News

A happy holiday season to all of you! Wishing you the best from our mountain homestead! I’ve enjoyed sharing our SP and will be taking back the delegations shortly after posting this. I hope you all have had a good time with them and been able to grow your accounts a bit and share the love!

 

Looking forward to coming into 2019 strong, healthy and clear! Steem On & Much love!

The Witch: Is She Still Among Us?

naturalmedicine, writing

What being a witch means to me.

I remember when I read Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English’s Witches, Midwives, and Nurses (which you can find here). I was coming out of the dark age of my own upbringing. A Christian anti-pagan haze was lifting, and as I explored different histories and realized how the picture had come to be over millennia, I was both innervated and afraid.

I was afraid because out of my upbringing I had been told to fear the witch, the one who practices magic, who manipulates casting mysterious spells and conjuring the powers of the dark. Oddly enough, I had just met a woman who was to become a mentor of mine — and she was most definitely a type of witch. Whether “good” or “bad” I was going to find out.

Witches are known by many names. Also sorceress, healer, “old wife”, medicine woman, bruja, to name a few. Men can also be witches, wizards or magicians, but today I am focusing upon my journey and, specifically, some herstory.

As Ehrenreich and English write,

 The witch-hunts left a lasting effect: An aspect of the female has ever since been associated with the witch, and an aura of contamination has remained—especially around the midwife and other women healers.

Witch Hunts

I am coming late to the witch post party. In fact, the @naturalmedicine challenge has already ended and I haven’t had a chance to read most of the other posts. You can find them here. So I’m not sure who, if anyone, covered the witch hunts and the lasting scar that this has had over the psyche of women and also clouded future generation’s ideation of the witch & her role in society. Viscerally, however, at my gut, I have a feeling that to many when the word witch is spoken we think of a “bad woman” – she who is out to get us, do us harm or put a spell on us that goes way out of our, and perhaps her, control.

The extent of the witch-craze is startling: In the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries there were thousands upon thousands of executions—usually live burnings at the stake—in Germany, Italy and other countries. In the mid-sixteenth century the terror spread to France, and finally to England. One writer has estimated the number of executions at an average of 600 a year for certain German cities—or two a day, “leaving out Sundays”. Nine-hundred witches were destroyed in a single year in the Wertzberg area, and 1000 in and around Como. At Toulouse, four-hundred were put to death in a day. In the Bishopric of Trier, in 1585, two villages were left with only one female inhabitant each. Many writers have estimated the total number killed to have been in the 7 millions. Women made up some 85 percent of those executed—old women, young women and children. (Source)

The violent history against those women (and men) who were dubbed witches is the cause of this bad connotation with the witch. The political, religious, medical and other reasons for the witch hunts are a post unto itself, but again I will direct you to the aforementioned book for further exploration.

Suffice it to say that the witch hunts have left a deep & lasting impression in our collective consciousness that we are only now starting to challenge, reclaim and bring the power of the word/meaning to the light of day. Women, especially, are stepping out of the shadows, resurrecting and knowing the powers within which led to their persecution generations ago.

 

Reclaim

As I researched all of this, paralleling with magical people I was meeting in my life (and my mentor turned out to be a very good witch,) I realized that we had all been sold a false bill. The witch, traditionally feared for her dark powers, is a shadow persona cast by the Christian church. Seeking to demonize the Other in their bid for ultimate control of the mind of the populace, the witch became the enemy. This combined with her “otherwordly” skills gained through connecting at a deep level with nature, herself, the spirit world, etc led to a mass killing and demonization of the witch.

People usually fear what they cannot explain, after all.

Yet, what I have seen since this period in my life is a resurgence of many who are disclosing this history and reclaiming for themselves what is a very potent path.

We carry the history in our DNA and yet we walk through the fire into the light of day.

For the witch was traditionally a healer, one connected to the herbs and healing ways, cycles of the moon, local place and its people, herself and powers within & beyond her.

It makes sense in a culture of control, domination and fear, when the ruling powers wanted to monopolize religion, medicine, even the process of birth, that this character, the witch, would stand in their way.

Magic

The etymology of the word Magic is *magh-.

 Proto-Indo-European root meaning “to be able, have power.” It forms all or part of: dismay; deus ex machina; may (v.1) “am able;” might (n.) “bodily strength, power;” main; machine; mechanic; mechanism; mechano-; mage; magi; magic.

Those who wanted to control the magic, or power, of the laypeople had to shut down the witch. A disempowered populace is easier to control.

Yet, as I mentioned earlier, many of us are breaking out of these age old shackles, tapping into our personal power that we innately hold and that connects us with the same power that puts leaves on trees in spring, causes the ocean’s tides, and propels the entire cycle of life. No one can ultimately control this only put blocks in the way towards the realization of us as one and the same.

We are connecting with nature and each other, learning the healing power of plants and of the power that moves through us. The witch is still among us and as the old characterization wears off, we clearly see that her potential lies in each of us.

To me, I consider many parts of myself a witch. Many activities that I take part in are perhaps similar to witch activities of old. Herbal craft, self exploration, gardening, honoring of cycles, celebration of womanhood and fostering a relationship with the natural world through connecting to and inhabiting a place.

Within each of us is a latent power that yearns to be wielded, a current that moves through and animates all of life that seeks on outlet to the sea of the source. We are not the source, rather a conduit for expression of limitless power. Let us all remember our blessed potential as humans inhabiting the Earthly sphere and celebrate the witch once more. 

 

Come Hell or High Water

Homestead

One thing you should know about our area is that we live in a place that is prone to flooding.

Last night we were awakened around 2 AM to the sound of rain pounding on our cupola. We have 100 yr+ White Oaks surrounding the house and when I woke up in the middle of the night hearing rain and the whoosh of the trees around me, my heart gave a little panic and I prayed that they wouldn’t fall on our roof.

Marty Raney of Homestead Rescue (and the whole Discovey Channel Team) begged us to remove the trees. In fact, it was the drama they were looking for the last day — except their plans were thwarted because they couldn’t make it to our homestead. We had a historic “100 year flood” and had to turn around. We were stranded that night and the next day.

We set out early to assess the damage and found a sycamore tree over the “high water bridge” near our house. With the help of our neighbors, we removed it. Yet many times we find our low and high water bridges under water after heavy rains. Now, after a deluge, we always go and check out the damage done, so to say.

This morning I went outside and heard the creeks roaring. We are experiencing unseasonably warm temps and Ini and I were itching to go on a walk.