Wild Medicine, Rewilding & other Sacred Matters…

So I have been a bit quiet recently, but I have been productive! The result is that a new full colour edition of my 2009 title The Medicine Garden is now available! I am really pleased with it. There are some really wonderful photos of the plants featured taken by Stephen Studd. The cover art and internal illustrations created by Wendy Milner are also very beautiful.

Buy your copy now! A full description of the book can be found by following this link.

The Medicine Garden book

copies of The Medicine Garden full colour edition now in stock!

So that has all been rather exciting and somewhat time consuming, but well worth it, and it is good to see the book already selling well on Amazon.

What else have I been doing? Well, last week saw the final instalment of the Sacred Plant Teachers series that I had been running throughout April. It was also the third time within 6 months that I ran the series. It was fun to do and I know the people who came along both enjoyed it and got many teachings from it, so I will definitely be running that again in the future.

Two weekends ago saw the start of this years Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship. I have a really special group of women whom I am honoured to share this work with. I look forward to the wild depths that will unfold before us in the coming months.

dandelion page - The Medicine Garden

The wild medicine of dandelion pages in the new full colour edition of The Medicine Garden

This summer I will be presenting six wild medicine walks at Wilderness Festival. I have been leading walks at the festival for several years now and each year have had more and more people join me for my daily walks. It seems interest in foraging for wild medicines and taking responsibility for at least some minor aspects of ones health care with natural organic solutions in on the rise – yay!! What this means is that instead of just one walk a day, I will now be presenting two. Last year it was crazy, I think on each walk we began with over 100 people, and although I can speak pretty loudly I think the people at the back were missing detail when I held up a tiny delicate leaf or flower!! The festival is held at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, a lovely private estate with some absolutely incredible ancient oaks overlooking the scene. It runs from 3rd until 6th August, read more about it here.

Throughout this summer I will be working with this years new batch of rewilding apprentices. I am also continuing work with last years apprentices, who encouraged me to guide them for a second year while they weave their wildness with more confidence into everything that they do. So, it is not until September that I have another workshop with spaces available. It will be a 5-6 day retreat ~ Sacred Plant Medicine Immersion. This will be a residential retreat, camping in a beautiful orchard that is part of a permaculture smallholding. Each day we will work with just one plant. Really taking time to get a feel for what that plant is all about, communicating directly with it. We will use direct perception and our hearts as our primary organ of perception. We will journey shamanically to the spirit of each plant. We will build our relationship with each plant, and finally when we truly know deep in our souls the medicine each plant has to offer, we will make sacred medicinal elixirs to take home. Places are available.

I am available for 1-2-1 sessions if you can’t wait until September! As a taster it is still timely to sign up to my month long Spring Renewal Journey.

stinging nettle harvest

stinging nettle harvest

As we are still in the depths of spring it is prime wild medicine making and wild food foraging time. Gather well and responsibly 🙂 ❤

Stay in touch…

Twitter & Instagram: @mugwortdreamer

Facebook: Gateways To Eden

 

This Years Learnings, Mulching & Feeding Me Like Fallen Leaves…

So the temperature outside is crispy cold and the sky is bright blue, the leaves are in the midst of changing from green through yellow, red and russet. I love this time of year. As the leaves begin to drop and create their crispy brown litter all around I too find myself shedding much of what the year so far has been to me. Just as the fallen leaves mulch down around the base of the trees providing nutrition as a slow release to be reabsorbed through the winter roots I will use the lessons I have learned this year, the joys and the sorrows, to help inform my path and feed me with insights for what is to come.

fallen autumn leaves

fallen autumn leaves

I have only 2 evening sessions of teaching remaining before this year ends, my energy is turning inwards, so that the darker months can be spent brewing, gestating new ideas to birth when the days begin to lengthen once more and the fresh new growth begins once again. Already I have quite a lot in place for next year with regards to teaching but I do feel a change coming and a need to deepen, to take it further.

imag0239

My first offering of 2017 begins at the time of Imbolc midway between the lunar and calendar dates for this seasonal acknowledgement of the cycle of life; the return of fresh growing leaves from the dark underground depths. Amazingly this series of evenings is already full ~ mass consciousness of plant consciousness is growing ~ what a wonderful thing! How wonderful to witness this growing hunger for listening to the call of the wild, to our green relations.

In response I have added a new set of dates for the evening series “Sacred Plant Teachers ~ the art of the invisible” that will run through April. In May I will be running an “Introduction to Communicating with Plant Spirits” day, and later in the year a week long “Sacred Plant Medicine Immersion”. If you are interested in any of the workshops I have mentioned please go to my workshops page for more details.

Also beginning in April will be “Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship“, this will be the second year that I am running the apprenticeship. This years apprenticeship was an amazing journey into rewilding and I was truly delighted that even during the first weekend my apprentices were suggesting that they would like a year two, to continue deepening and exploring their own wildness and wild connections. So I am also working on “Weaving Wildness” which will be the follow up for previous apprentices. To read feedback from some of this years apprentices click here…

Hawthorn

Hawthorn

As I sit in my office it is cold, and I am thinking a lovely hawthorn decoction would warm up my chilly little fingers. The hedgerows are still full with many gifts, so if you have not yet stored up for winter it would be good to do so soon. I am going to drain off my last tinctures of the year and pot up some little cuttings salvaged from a dying house plant -not really the right season for this, but hoping the newly emerged roots will take the slow winter months to grow strong – time will tell. While I wait to find out I think I’ll go and put a pan on and simmer up some of those beautiful deep red haws…

 

Rewilding; Why An Apprenticeship Not A Course…

Eight years ago, back in February 2008 I headed stateside to apprentice in Sacred Plant Medicine with  Stephen Harrod Buhner. If you have not heard of him he is a great thinker and prolific nature writer. Julie McIntyre and Trishuwa, Stephens two partners, also took part in teaching us, leading us and holding space for us. Ever since that time I knew that I eventually wanted to evolve my workshops, courses and retreats into a full blown apprenticeship.

100_0423

Why, what is the difference? You may well ask. The thing is with a course, even a long one of two weeks or more, is that it works like a retreat in that you retreat from your daily life, go learn something new, then do your best to bring those teachings back into your day to day. That kind of thing works very well when learning a certified set of skills, massage maybe. You have a series of intensive classes for several days in a row until you have covered all the material, then you go home and put those learnings into practice through your work.

An apprenticeship works better for more ethereal subjects, for work that is more about making big changes in your life rather than just learning a new set of skills. By returning again and again over a number of months or seasons, in some circumstances even years, and working between times with the next level, slotting it into your way of being through repetitive practice over a period of time, the subject of the apprenticeship becomes you. You do not learn it, you learn to live it.

The apprenticeship I undertook in 2008 was hugely important to my life and work, it shaped me. Those three, Stephen, Trishuwa and Julie became threaded into me, they, with their teachings, became an inseparable part of the weave of my being. Of course this happens to a degree with all that you meet, all that is, but especially so with those that leave the taste of themselves, of their beauty, within your being and in turn become part of your beauty.

trees in winter

The rewilding apprenticeship I will be leading this summer is something that will trickle through, imbuing every cell of your being with magic, sacredness, with wild. I cannot recreate what I experienced with Stephen, I am not trying to. My teachings are uniquely mine, a product of all my teachers; which includes my upbringing and adult life in this country, the UK. I have a different seed to sow, albeit deeply infused with what I learned on apprenticeship myself. What I am presenting Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship is Earth magic and immersion, UK style 🙂

 

The search for Wild

We are a reflection of our environment, if we are sick it is a fair indication that the environment we live within is also sick – there is no separation. Even if you feel fine, if you have been reading recent reports on the health of “developed” or “Western” nations you will appreciate that as a whole the population is pretty sick in varying degrees. Whether it is stress, depression or anxiety; arthritis, heart disease or auto-immune conditions, most people have some health issues to deal with, even our children. Our cut off from nature is key to this. Spending time in a natural environment has almost immediate physiological effects including a drop in blood pressure and blood cortisol levels, a boost to the immune system, but also a drop in stress levels and anxiety, feelings of increased vigour, and having a more positive outlook – feeling less depressed.

As we are a mainly urban based world now, with over 50% of the world population living in urban situations, how do we remedy this, where do we find the healing solace of natural environments? Well, perhaps if you live close to a great wilderness, a mountain range or a desert you could head out for a hike every weekend and charge yourself for the week to come with fresh air and wilderness energy. But what about the rest of us?

urban alley way edged with wild hedge garlic

urban alley way edged with wild hedge garlic

The trick is to find the wildness wherever you are. Wildness is hiding around every corner (and in our hearts) you just have to open yourself to noticing it. Small back gardens, urban parks, little woods bordering farmland, urban alley-ways. They are all stuffed with wild plants surging upwards and outwards. Any nook or cranny available will eventually receive a wild plant seed that despite the lack of ideal growing conditions will somehow manage to find a way to grow.

Don’t overlook those little fellas – the buddleia growing along the rail tracks and on niches high up on building walls. The plantain and dandelion growing through cracks in the pavement at our feet. The “weeds” growing in our flower pots and at our allotments. They are the wild, and if you listen to their call, they are inviting you to join them.

 

Find your local park or stand of trees and look up, look out, reach out to them with your heart and embrace them. Recognise them as living, as alive and wild, as part of yourself. For we are all born of stardust and go back to dust once our time in this incarnation has passed. Without knowing it, this is what so many people lack, this connection with life other than humankind, this connection and sparking of our wild inner core. We need it so that we feel not so alone, so that we know we are part of something greater than ourselves.

So seek out the wild wherever you are. When you stumble across it – no matter how small

wild dandelion finding an urban niche

wild dandelion finding an urban niche

– notice it and acknowledge it. Feel love for it and recognise yourself in it. If we all did so we would, no doubt, encourage the wild to grow, we would let in the wild ragged edges, and all feel that much better for doing so.

On February 27th I am running a four hour workshop just outside Stroud, Gloucestershire called Entering the Spirit Forest, where you will learn the skills to connect more deeply with nature while we walk through woods on the urban edge. If you would like to go deeper still I am running an apprenticeship this summer called Sacred Ecology: A Rewilding Apprenticeship, join me…

I have made a facebook page for my business Gateways to Eden if you are interested in my work I invite you to have a look and like my page ❤

Befriending The Plant People

This is truly shocking I know, my second post in a day! Usually two in two months is good going for me, but this is the continuation of my streamlining process. The following has been a page on my website since my first book The Medicine Garden was published in December 2009. Due to space limitations in the paper version of the book the original Appendix I was shortened to fit the space. I however feel passionately about what it contained which, as you will read below, is a selection of exercises written to assist one on the mission of befriending the plant people, of gaining access to plant consciousness, in other words. What I have written is a simple and basic guide, just scratching at the surface of plant spirit communication, however I believe it to be a useful starting point.

The Medicine Garden, Appendix I:

psychedelic leavesThe plants you notice most strongly, those you cannot pass without taking in a deep lungful of their aroma, without a smile bursting onto your lips, they are the ones that hold the strongest and most significant medicine for you. I encourage you to sit with those plants. Spend time again and again with those plants that call you.

Take some colouring pencils and a blank page and sit with that plant, draw it. In doing this I notice so many details and find a great joy in the exercise. You begin to notice the minutiae, the slight difference in colour between the old and new growth, the hairs on the stem, the little red dots and the ants that love the plant so.

Take it deeper still. Talk to that plant. Introduce yourself. Ask if you can take a nibble and do so. Let the plant linger on your tongue, write everything that you feel, every thought that pops into your mind (no matter how random it seems). Smell deeply. Touch every part of it with your fingers, your eyes, your heart. Write everything, everything, the strange urge to belch, the pain above your left eye, how relaxed you feel or how alert. Notice everything. Then thank your new friend, you can go back again and again to deepen your relationship.

If it truly becomes a friend to you, treat it as such, say hello as you pass, plants have ally plant -plant consciousnessfeelings too… Later as you look up the “uses” of that plant in books you will be surprised how your feelings mirror what science or millenia of folk tales have found out about that plant. Perhaps you will then know that it was calling to you and offering itself as medicine on any number of levels. You see it is this way, through communicating with and respecting plants as brothers, as equals, that they will tell you the most, that you will learn the most. This is where the magic of wild medicine truly begins…

Following are a few simple steps that you may want to try which may enhance and deepen the relationship you have with an individual plant, allowing with practice and time for it to become a true ally and even a friend;

1) Go and sit by it, introduce yourself and ask that it shares it’s secrets or it’s medicine with you. It is a good at this point to make a small offering, in North America it would be traditional to give a pinch of tobacco. Not being a native plant to the UK I find it more appropriate to pull a hair from my head. You are asking the plant to give you something, so it is respectful to reciprocate and give something of yourself in exchange. However, in this fast paced world giving a plant your time alone is a great and rarely given gift, so do not worry if you have no tobacco or hair to give.

2) Plants, especially trees, live at a much slower pace than we humans, who probably appear as hectic to them as flies do to us. So it is important as the next step to slow yourself down. This is a work of patience, it would be rare, for the unpracticed, to receive information instantaneously. This is where the drawing comes in. Give yourself maybe 30 minutes to simply draw what you see. You will find the momentum and urgency of your day peeling off as you slip into plant time.

3) As you draw you will notice a feeling descend upon you, you may even start to descend into a kind of dream state. Be aware of how you are feeling both physically and emotionally, note it down so that you can refer back to it later.

4) Use all your senses, touch the plant, smell it, ask it’s permission and if you feel that the answer is yes, taste a small piece. I like to take a leaf into my mouth which is still attached to the plant, like a browsing goat, it seems to have more energy, life force and a stronger message this way.

5) Use your heart to extend love to the plant, much as you would on seeing a beautiful sleeping baby freshly birthed by a loved one.

6) Throughout the whole process be aware of any and all sensations you are experiencing, write them down. Keep checking back with yourself, how do you feel? The messages can be very subtle especially the first few times you do this as your mind will keep telling you that it has made them up, that these things cannot possibly be coming from the plant.

7) Everything that comes up can and may be part of the plants medicine for you. An old ABBA song starts spinning around in your head, listen to the words. You find yourself drifting off and thinking about a tricky scenario you are experiencing with a lover or friend. You feel a little nauseous or you get a pain in your little finger. It is all relevant.

8) You feel the time is up, either you need to go or you find yourself thinking about tonights dinner. Thank the plant before you leave.

9) Later that day review everything you wrote down. I find again and again the most important thing is the feeling that was imparted, that will most often stay with you throughout the day. It may not be immediately obvious what it all means but you can look back over your notes again and again, you can revisit the plant in your heart too.

10) When you get a chance look up in a book or online what the medicinal uses of the plant are, maybe it has been used in a Bach Flower Remedy or something similar for it’s emotional effects. So often you will find parallels between what you felt and the accepted knowledge about that plant, other times it wont even be listed, that doesn’t make it any less valid. Once you start to see a correlation between what you discovered directly from the plant and what the books say you will begin to trust your instincts and be able to learn directly from the plants themselves as our ancestors did. It is original knowledge, once you trust nature to be your friend and guide, it cannot be argued with.

I prefer to sit with plants when they are flowering as that is when they are putting energy out into the world, attempting to attract pollinators to ensure fertilisation and the continuation of the species. You can do a plant study or communicate with a plant at any time but the response definitely feels stronger in the spring and summer. Many plants take their energy inwards during autumn and winter, losing their leaves and concentrating their energy on their root systems, for this reason I find the response less strong at this time of year.

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

To buy your copy of The Medicine Garden, where an abridged version of this entry originally appeared, click here…

Reviews for The Medicine Garden

I have decided to move the reviews I received back in 2010 shortly after the publication of my first book The Medicine Garden from my website and keep them here instead. The reason is that I am attempting to streamline my website in readiness for the publication of my latest book Rewild Yourself: Becooming Nature (still a week or so off).

So if you have not read them before and are still trying to decide whether to purchase a copy of The Medicine Garden then hopefully reading this post will give you an insight into that first book and nudge you along to getting hold of a copy 😉

Brigit Strawbridge, January 2010

The Medicine Garden e-book

The Medicine Garden cover

“I love the natural world and have always been especially interested in the healing power of plants, so whenever I’m in a library or a bookshop I always head straight for the ‘Natural Remedies’ section. There are so many books to choose from, but many of those that have been recently published are just re-formatted versions of something I’ve read before – and often quite disappointing.

The book I have on my bedside table at the moment doesn’t fall into this category though; the book I have on my bedside table is truly magical! It came through the post last week and I sensed as soon as I opened the package and saw the cover that it was going to captivate and delight me. So, I resisted the temptation to dip in until I had first made myself comfortable with a nice cup of (herbal) tea – and then I began….

It’s difficult to know how to write this review because I feel that, somehow, Rachel Corby’s ‘The Medicine Garden’ is more than just a book. It is a message; a call back to nature; a plea to remind us that we are in danger of growing so far apart from that with which we are inextricably linked, that if we’re not careful we may never find our way home.

Rachel’s introduction is written from the heart and I can see immediately that she is absolutely immersed in the natural world; I know that what I am about to read is going to be so much more than a list of ‘which plants have what properties’. On a practical note, the information I need to be able to identify which plant to pick for a sore throat, sinusitis or sunburn, is easy to find – and there are detailed instructions on how to make basic preparations such as tinctures, salves, infusions and syrups; but what is most inspiring is Rachel’s deep and intimate connection with the plants she writes about.

Apart from the delightful way Rachel writes, the wealth of information contained within ‘The Medicine Garden’ is arranged in a unique way that would appeal to anyone who has ever been interested in medicinal plants; whether they be novices or practitioners. Rachel’s approach is to begin with the plants on your back doorstep – before moving on to the lawn; the flower border and the vegetable garden – and then further afield to the hedgerow, woodland and riverside. I can actually visualise myself taking a familiar walk as I read through the chapters of this book. I see the herbs just outside my own back door; the honeysuckle and aquilegia at the end of the path; the calendula and borage in amongst the summer squashes; dandelion and stinging nettles on the grassy verges; hedgerows brimming with blackberries, rosehips and hazel nuts…..and I haven’t even reached the woodland or river yet!

I could continue writing, but I am anxious to get back and read the last few chapters of this delicious book – about the healing plants that grow in our meadows, moorlands and coastal areas. Before I settle back into the book, however, I think I might just pop outside an pick a couple of sprigs of rosemary, sage and thyme to make myself an infusion and see if I can ward off this winter cold….”

* * *

Christine Haughton MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH Medical Herbalist, January 2010

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

The Medicine Garden paperback cover

The Medicine Garden, by Rachel Corby, is a breath of delicately scented air that fills the senses with joy. It is infused throughout with Rachel’s passion for her subject and is liberally seasoned with her own delightful anecdotes. One almost feels like her companion on a relaxing stroll through a beautiful garden on a balmy summer day. Her approach is friendly, her humour gentle and infectious, and she is open and generous with her knowledge. This is a book that can be dipped into time and again in a spare moment or as a reference manual, but it can also be read from cover to cover without ever becoming wearisome or repetitive.

Rachel begins by introducing herself, her love of nature in general and of healing plants in particular. She reminds us of our own place within Creation and of our responsibility towards the other ‘beings’ we share our planet with. She then goes on to briefly discuss diet and lifestyle and their role in health and ill-health. There follows a short chapter on the myriad ways of preparing medicinal plants – infusions, decoctions, tinctures and salves, as well as syrups, vinegars and sleep pillows – along with advice on how to administer each of them.

The main part of the book is divided into two sections. The first features herbs that can be easily cultivated or might even already be resident in our gardens; the second takes a look at plants that might be found slightly further afield in a variety of habitats including coastal, woodland and moorland environments.

Almost 150 medicinal plants are described in detail – these include herbs both familiar and more exotic, fruit and vegetables, shrubs and trees. Each entry gives clear instructions on collection and preparation of the plant, lists its main actions and applications, and flags up any cautions or contraindications. Many are accompanied by black and white photographs, and there is a section of colour plates in the middle of the book featuring the prettiest flowers and fruits. However, readers inexperienced in the accurate identification of plants would be advised to have a botanical field guide to hand in addition to this book.


Finally, the reader is provided with a series of appendices which list common ailments together with suggested remedies, a directory of resources and suppliers, a glossary and bibliography, and some exercises for communicating with plants.


Although she is not a professional medical herbalist, Rachel Corby draws upon a lifetime of experience in getting up close and personal with plants, listening to and learning from healers in Africa, Central America and beyond. She has travelled extensively, both literally and spiritually, in her quest for knowledge about the healing power of plants, and has recently completed an apprenticeship with Stephen Harrod Buhner. Her love of and respect for Nature shines through on every page of this wonderful book. It deserves a place on the bookshelf of amateur and professional herbalist alike.”

Buy your copy of The Medicine Garden here…

Sacred Plant Medicine Retreat

Over a month has gone since I last posted here, where has the time gone? The summer so far has been pretty wonderful in Gloucestershire and I have been kept very busy watering and harvesting at my allotment. On the heels of a very sucessful and enjoyable workshop on medicine from weeds, which ran this Saturday passed, I wanted to mention my next offering. It will not run until September so there is still plenty of time to schedule it into your early autumn diary.

Meadow at Brook End

Meadow at Brook End

The name is Sacred Plant Medicine Retreat. It is a camping weekend, and is being held at a beautiful family run permaculture small holding in Somerset, just a few miles from both Glastonbury and Street.

We will explore plants as teachers and healers for our body, mind and spirit.

The joy of all camping together on the land is that we can enter the dream of the plants more deeply, sitting up late around the fire talking of roots and leaves, medicine and dreams. We can also rise early and walk barefoot on the dewy grass breathing in the new day and greeting all the plants we share the land with.

There will be time to make remedies, to harvest plants in a sacred manner and process their leaves, roots and berries into a tincture and a syrup or an infused oil. We will taste and smell, touch and see, and most importantly of all feel.

Willows & Stream at Brook End

Willows & Stream at Brook End

This weekend will be about remembering how to feel your way around the world, just like we did as infants before our overgrown brains got in the way! We will feel with our hearts. We will use our atrophied senses. We will use our intuition.

New Dates For 2015: We will meet over the weekend of 9-10 May, if you would like to settle in before we begin come and stay Friday night too, you are welcome 🙂 For more information or to book your place please click here…

 

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: