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

 

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…

Words, The Intensity Of Writing & The Break Provided By Plants

This time of year is crazy busy for me, partly because spring and early summer are prime times for wild food and wild medicine foraging. As everything springs into top gear food and medicine are beckoning me from every crack in the pavement and shady corner I pass. Many of these wild plants I collect to eat straight away, such as beech and hawthorn leaf, some I dry for later use, such as sweet woodruff and stinging nettle, others I process into remedies that will be good to use for the coming year or two, such as wild garlic vinegar and primrose tincture.

Wild Garlic

Wild Garlic

If that is not enough to keep me outside breathing in the sweet, fresh, fragrant air then tending to my food crops at the allotment does. All the wild foods and medicines are so generous they will grow everywhere, even in the areas I am trying to grow beans, corn, garlic and squash; my cultivated edibles. I am still nurturing seed and seedlings, whilst clearing space for them to be planted in. At the same time the harvest has already begun with broad beans ready by the hundreds. Loganberries, red currants and strawberries will not be far behind.

immature loganberries

immature loganberries

On top of all that my third book is picking up pace as the first draft nears completion. Writing is all consuming, the world continues on around me and I am oblivious of all but the word and whether I have spelled it correctly. Luckily foraging, medicine making, and food growing are the perfect antidote to intense thought immersion, and provide a clear and clean space to escape from the keyboard and the tangle of words that is clawing and fighting its way out of me. While I am outside enjoying one of those moments of pause the tangle usually loosens up and I have to rush home with a clear path of words leading me back to my desk.

With that in mind, four and a half chapters left to write, and a whole load of sunflowers that need to get their roots in the ground, I am off outside for fresh air, inspiration and some soil under my finger nails…

Workshops 2014

psychedelic leavesMy first workshop series of 2014 is due to start next Wednesday evening and incredibly all the places are taken, it seems that plant teachers are a popular subject. Not surprising really as they are so powerful, although never forget that all plants can be regarded as teacher plants, they all have something unique to tell us.

With that in mind I have also designed another weekly series to run through April and May on Friday mornings. It will be taught from the incredible Hawkwood College near Stroud, located on a fabulous piece of land with great Cotswiold views and some ancient and inspiring trees. Of course bearing in mind how I mentioned above that all plants can be regarded as teacher plants I have named this series The Wisdom of Trees. There are still places available so if you fancy a journey from bud into leaf with some fine mature trees then please join us. Together we will discover how each tree has it’s own wisdom and unique medicine.

horse chestnut flower budsIn May I will be repeating my ever popular Introduction to Communicating with Plant Spirits day in the fabulous Ruskin Mill valley just outside Nailsworth.

During the summer I will be giving wild medicine walks at several festivals. I have not updated my website with the details as they are yet to go live on the festivals own websites, but you can use that as an excuse to check back with my events and workshops page again soon, as I also intend to add a couple of weekend wild medicine and remedy making workshops for summer and autumn.

Another exciting development this year is the Sacred Plant Medicine Retreat planned for September just outside Glastonbury, though thankfully not on the levels. This will be full immersion into the world of plant spirits with camping overnight in an incredible herb garden.

For more details of any of these workshops please visit my events and workshops page, and don’t forget to check back regularly as with all things it continues to change, grow and evolve 🙂

dandelion growing out of wall

The Medicine Garden

In winter 2008 I completed a year long apprenticeship in Sacred Plant Medicine with Stephen Harrod The Medicine Garden paperback coverBuhner; this coincided with getting my first ever piece of writing published as an article in Permaculture Magazine (No. 58). As a direct result of that first article a book publisher approached me and asked if I would like to write a book on the subject. Imagine that! I was blown away and of course said yes. That offer became my first book, The Medicine Garden. The book is about looking around you at what is growing and learning how to use those plants for basic and simple remedies, you know the kind of thing – coughs, colds, flu, scratches, grazes. The following is an extract from the book, the prologue…

Walking in the forest the dry brush crunching, snapping and yet comfortingly cushioning underfoot with every small advance.  The smells, dry, warm and somehow smoky dance across my olfactory like a brush with the softest velvet.  Despite the coldness in the air the sunlight filtering through the upper canopy feels warm upon my skin.  I smile inwardly, recognising a deep sense of belonging, a connection to those that have walked this way before.  A little apprehensive of the task ahead I stalk my quarry, I know I am near, I can sense it.  A little shiver of excitement runs down my spine as there it is before me, a strong presence in the wooded glade.  As I approach there is an automatic pause and deep inhalation as the respect for my older brother fills and flows through me.  I sink to my knees to pray.  I sit for some moments awed by the wisdom of the beauty before me.   A dapple of sunlight kisses my face and awakens me from my deep reverie, permission has been granted, it is time.  I rise to my feet and gracefully, gratefully, proceed from tree to tree slowly collecting offered pieces of older brothers body.  My basket now full I turn to face the glade one last time and with a final deep inhalation say my farewells.  The journey back through the woods to the yurt seems to melt before me. 

Now home, in my kitchen I begin converting my forest friend into a tincture.  Carefully weighing, crushing, mixing, stirring and then the waiting.  Every day for three long weeks I lovingly hold the jar and gently shake it, the alchemy magically occurring inside the brown glass walls.  Eventually the long awaited day has dawned, I unscrew the cap and, like a genie, the presence of my wise green friend once again envelopes me.  The aroma like sparkling flecks of dust in the sunlight twist and curl upwards filling my nostrils with strong vapours of the forest.  I taste, just one drop, and feel the ambrosia cell by cell, like dominoes, flow through my body, to the furthest extremities.  It tastes deep, dark and earthy, now I have medicine. I squeeze the plant debris through muslin and pour the precious liquid into my eagerly awaiting dropper bottles.  My woodland friend with me in the extract made from his flesh and spirit, dormant now, waiting for me to call upon his medicine in the swiftly approaching short, dark days of winter…

The Medicine Garden e-bookIf you enjoyed that extract and would like to read more it is now available as both a paperback and an e-book, here 🙂

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