making room at the table


Herbalists need to push our asses over and make some room at the table for each other. We sure as heck don’t have to like each other-but forming alliances is not about “like”. It is about acknowledging our shared power source-plants- and giving love and respect to everyone. It is providing support to each other, mutual aid, sharing, in ways more tangible than internet  ((((hugs)))).  It is also about encouraging accountability, “first cause no harm”.

Oh indeed there is room for disagreement. There is even room for argument-respectful argument. And spanking; herbalists love a good spanking. However, we are at war. We the people are all on the same side, in the same plant army, and need to acknowledge that. Hey, I’m no conspiracy theorist-I am not watching for aliens in my cornfield-but the water is not polluting itself, you know.  Garbage isn’t leaping into the ocean, forests aren’t clearcutting themselves. A little unity goes a long way towards the well-being of our people, our earth.

So pointless snarking and infighting amongst herbalists is lame, and let us not forget what happened around the turn of the last century, with opposing herbal schools shit-talking each other, leading to  rampant competition and eventual fizzling.  Ah, Scudder and Bach wrestling in a mudpit…..

In the spirit of a loving supportive future that nourishes all of us I present a list of rights and responsibilities to move us forward with joy, humor and alliance:

-Disavow yourself of the notion of a perfect herbalist. Herbalists are fat and skinny, obnoxious and sweet, malodorous, dorky, loud, shy, slutty, messy, queer, boring, colorful, drunk, ill, genius, odd, short, tall, angry, poor, tone deaf. Herbalists have dry elbows and 80s hairdos. Herbalists are metalheads and motorcycle mamas. There is NO “right” way to be an herbalist!

-Inspiration. We need to be inspired by our surroundings and we need to inspire others. Cultivate inspiration! Encourage it in others!

-We need to know the difference between a pancreas and a clitoris. Though the medical knowledge of herbalists varies, having a grip of the basics of the body serves us well. For example, front and back, top and bottom.

-Those who make medicines need to know their plants, where it’s from, how it’s made.  Surfaces and containers should be kept reasonably free from  fuzzballs, boogers  and tapeworms.

-No herbalist has it all figured out. Nor should we. We can be elders, but not experts-herbalists are lifelong students, driven to discover, to make connections, to see patterns. The moment we stop learning we are dead.

-If you wait until you are perfect to begin healing you deprive humanity of your gift.

-Don’t F people over, avoid manipulation at all costs, and first do no harm. Transparency is vital to informed consent. Be honest about your skill level, and let others decide if you know what you are talking about.

-Medicine makers are craftspeople. We are matchmakers, artists, poets  and creators.  Honor the artist in the healer.

-Mutual aid means passing clients on to other herbalists in their area, recommending each other, buying or bartering from each other, providing  tangible support and information to each other, providing feedback with love, sharing knowledge and inspiration.

So…With love and respect to all my fellow herbal allies, I thank you for the amazing things I have learned from my community, I thank those who’ve shared my writing, herbal store, information or recommendation. I thank those who have allowed me to provide you with herbs.  I thank those who’ve done the work to write books and articles, who share their case studies and milky oat seeds, and I thank those who disagree with me, who make me think, who make me hone my craft and my argument. And I thank those in my community who are growing older with me, watching each other kick ass, fall down, get up, mature into elders and build upon our ancestors’ work for ourselves, our earth and our beloved plants.


17 thoughts on “making room at the table

  1. i am pretty grateful to you for speaking your mind in this post — it’s a subject that’s been on my own mind a lot lately. i am grateful for the many mentors and plant teachers in my life– those that have encouraged my questions and personal growth in my practice. that said, i have also encountered moments of feeling inadequate in the presence of others with a more learned/formal path because of my chosen path of informal (read: not inferior) training. and while that probably says more about my own insecurities, because of these feelings, i know that in my teachings, herbal practice and everyday relationships i will do my best to focus on encouraging real and deep plant learnings in others so they may feel confident in working with the plants. because in the end, it’s about the plants and the people who need them.

  2. That was an awesome post ! Thank you so much, I Love this ❤ I am a motorcycle Momma who is just in the begging stage here 🙂

  3. Love it! I’ve been the resident herbalist in our family for the past 25 years. I also share with my local community and especially love teaching about native foods and medicines. As our children, grown and flown as well as the two teenagers still at home, become more independent I have more time and energy for sharing/teaching. I’m so blessed to know other herbalists, massage therapists, meditation instructors and healers from various traditions I am proud to call friends and neighbors. This article came as a surprise because it never occurred to me not to encourage everyone who comes my way to check out the full spectrum of options available. What I do is very specific and limited even. I’m a real do-it-yourself-er (living in our hand-built home, home-birther, home-schooler) who is enchanted by all things wild and green. I very much so dislike making products and, even more so, promoting or selling them. But I love teaching people to grow, gather and make their own. When someone prefers ready-made or more structured approaches I am ready with a list of wonderful local, and not so local, folks. I go to some of them myself both as a friend when I need support and encouragement and as a client when I need their healing wisdom, guidance and specially made remedies. I’d be very lonely without my sister and brother herbalists!

  4. This makes me so happy. I’ve been thinking of a lot of things related to this lately and lamenting that no one ever seems to articulate anything like this and then poof, you said it much, much better than anything that was swirling around in my head. ❤

  5. Rise up earth warriors, spirit healers, teachers of the medicine ways… like an ecosystem intact we are a beautiful web of diversity… If it works for you do it! if it don’t don’t!

  6. You are so right! One of the best parts about working with plants is how individuality of the person comes through bring their own unique contribution to the world!

  7. Absolutely. Now it is just a matter of seeing if we can actually do it. I see and hear herbalists trashing each other all the time. It seems to be a projection of shadow, deep insecurities, scarcity mentality, and an unwillingness to think outside of the box that is between our ears. Thank you for writing this.

  8. Thank you for that thoughtful and frank post. I Have seen this in-fighting over and over in different herbal communities, both on line and in the real world. It saddens me. I can’t even recall how many times people have told me that they didn’t share/post/reach out because of intimidation and, well, downright meaness amongst the herbalists who are communicating (often some really brilliant herbalists who really know their shit). It is so interesting to me how few people, or sometimes even one person, can set a tone for many. What a waste of time and talent. Living in Missoula, Mt, there is a rich and diverse group of herbalists. I am so proud of how we all get along. It feels like community. There is room for each of us, and respect, and differences. It feels good. I have lived in other cities where I have been so disgusted by the interactions and back stabbing amongst some really amazing and talented herbalists. Sad. Unnecessary. Worthless in so many ways. Let’s leave the egos out, please.

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