...in which I answer the most commonly asked question I get in relation to my blog:
"How do I go about getting started in herbalism?"
For the last few years countless folks from all over the world, have dropped some form of this question in one of my inboxes, in comments, in paper letters, even. I've answered more or less the same: pick a plant and get to know it, make some preparations, get this book, or that, figure out what you need and what herbs work for it, get to know you backyard and your bio-region, wander, find a teacher, buy seed, learn, eat and love plants. And most important: whatever it is for you, take that first step. Do it now. Start today, not tomorrow.
I always say this, because what I think people are really asking, is for permission. Permission to pursue being their own healthcare provider, permission to communicate with the natural world as a human animal, permission to engage in the oldest form of medicine, The People's Medicine, and their own ancestral right to it. I don't know who I am to grant this permission, but that's what I think is the most important thing we can do in those instances. Which is exactly why Amber and I are building a whole class around that very topic.
Beyond screaming from the rooftops "YOU CAN DO IT!", in a lot of ways, I have found my own responses to these questions to be complex. I have, after all come to this place, this craft, this lifestyle trough an unnecessarily long and circuitous route. My own herbalism, has for the longest time truly been hedgewitching: standing alone in the margins, wondering what the heck I'm doing exactly, seeking allies without even knowing it, exploring territory with only the plants as my guides. (And I would add that I would not be where I am, if not for many wonderful women on my path encouraging and cheering me on with that same "You can do it!"-chant. You know who you are.)
From the first stirrings of my childhood as identifying with plants being healers, and fellow beings, to the realization that plant healing is not only a legitimate field of interest, but a also a big part of my calling, I've taught mostly myself, from books, from my intuition, from trial and error (with sometimes hilarious consequences). I've created a patchwork of teachers, influences and lessons, a quilt that's beautiful, but took a long time to create. This process has taken me literal decades.
If there had been a way, when I was in my twenties, to pursue herbal studies regardless of your geographical location, your skill-level, at your own pace, with kind teachers and other students by your side, even if you were separated form them by miles and time-zones, I would have thought that in itself magic.
In many ways, the internet is just that: a magic portal into other worlds, your entryway into your very own Island of Roke, or Hogwarts, a land as mysterious and ethereal as Narnia, or Fantasia. The electronic device in front of you serving as a book with twin Ouroboros Snakes entwined on its cover, or an ornate wardrobe with a whole world of new knowledge inside them.
I envy you a little, traveler. But I'm also ever so excited for you.
Speaking of which:
About six months ago, I discovered that Juliet of the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine was in the process of creating a series of herbal classes with her one-time student and fellow herbalist Asia, and I was genuinely sad for a minute that the first class was for budding herbalists, starting out, though the lessons certainly work for anyone who needs to solidify their base in all the varieties of medicine making. Luckily, the next one they're doing is all about growing your own herbs, something I'm looking to expand this coming season, expanding one's knowledge even further, as well as building on that solid foundation they've laid in Herbal Medicine Making Course.
One of the greatest stumbling blocks in my early path in seeking formal education in herbalism, rather than self-study, besides the cost of programs, was always time and space. Herbal apprenticeships are great if you have the means to travel, to take time to study with teachers, if your obligations are flexible enough.
The beauty of having access to this magic realm of learning, is that even as we fulfill our obligations and stay put in our own bio-regions and backyards, we can follow a cohesive curriculum, and have access to actual teachers in realtime via electronic means, as well as the opportunity to connect with others studying by our side, trough social media.
This format also makes the teacher's time more affordable for us, because they can teach more people at a time. And, as a dyslexic person, I love the opportunity of going back an reviewing materials over and over without pressure, as well as the video tutorials. (Potentially replacing Longmire for my evening knitting entertainment ;)
So, dear reader, in answer to your question: this is one way to get started in the realm of herbalism. If you have the time and the means, I highly recommend pursuing it. Actually, I think until the 20th you can get a discount on the class, so if you're gonna pursue it with haste, there might be a reward.
I will continue sharing resources, ideas, and recipes, in this realm, and you can find them all under the tag "herb magic" on this blog.
This is not a paid ad, all I get out of it, is the pleasure of knowing that if you take this class, you'll be in great hands, and having somewhere to point folks wanting to start out on this path. I'm excited to see where it will take you!