An herbalist by any other name…

One day while perusing facebook, I noticed a friend’s status. She had decided she would no longer call herself a herbalist. I love it. It’s out of the box and I agree with it. Besides, the more I study herbalism the more annoyed I become with it.

Why get annoyed?  For starters, I don’t believe in “using” plants to heal “ailments”. I find it disrespectful and arrogant. I believe in healing connection. Plants have their own consciousness. They are their own beings with free will. Just because you want a plant to heal you or someone else does not mean they will or are obligated to.

I also get annoyed when asked to ignore my intuitive connection with Nature. Materia Medica is nice. I mean, reading about plants and what they “do” and how to identify them is cute. But that’s no substitute for building a relationship with a plant–which is something that many teachers of herbalism suggest. However, it is never suggested that you trust your own connection with a plant over what they teach or what you read in millions of herbalist books. Your intuition must be validated by the authorities to be useful 😉

I am also bothered by the idea of wandering out into the forest, or roaming through rural locales to harvest plants. I’m a black southerner. I’m not doing this shit. I live in Maryland where the klan is still active. It’s not safe for me to wander everywhere all the time. And not all of us have the money, space or energy to grow our own herbs. Oddly enough, growing and making your own medicine is supposed to be a big part of what makes you an herbalist.

I also take issue with co-opting Native American traditions when many main stream herbalists aren’t Native American. It feels wrong, to me, to profit from continued genocide. If you are in America, you live on stolen land. Benefitting from those who lost what was most precious to them, feels wrong.

I’ve also been frustrated that there aren’t more resources on slave medicine. We healed ourselves as we were tortured and worked to death. Our minds, bodies and spirits were routinely broken with only the plants to put us back together. Yet, we are still here. Our ancestors obviously knew something good about Mother Nature. Why aren’t our herbal traditions (outside of Hoodoo) discussed more?

I won’t even get into herbalist guilds, or using indigenous medicines from Africa, Asia or South America. All that irks me too.

I don’t like what I have been given as a framework for herbalism. It smacks way too much of colonialism and capitalism run amok. It feels too much like giving power to structures that aren’t supportive and don’t reflect who I am.

I still love working, playing and being with the plants, but I can’t really call myself an herbalist either.

At the end of the day I am left with what I am usually left with: an intuitive connection with Mother Earth and the plants. We’ll see where this leads. Something is shifting.


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