The first leaves of autumn bring beauty in unexpected places. It is time to harvest seeds. Let’s go on a walk and see which seeds are ripe and ready.
The seeds that are closest to my heart are not the seeds of plants, however. They are seeds in the form of women who have apprenticed with me. Each unique woman is a precious seed, a thread in the healing cloak of the Ancients, a spark of the fire of the return of herbal medicine to the home. This year I celebrate 30 years of shamanic apprentices.
Like most of what I do, I didn’t plan to have an apprenticeship program. (Any more than I planned to teach herbal medicine, or than I planned to offer correspondence courses, or than I planned to write books!) Yet I not only have an apprenticeship program, I have had one for 30 years, and I have graduated 300 apprentices.
In 1983, a lovely young woman approached me at Omega Institute, where I was teaching a five-day course: Talking with Plants. She announced, in her sweet, shy, and sparkling way, that she would be coming to live with me for a month the following year in order to complete an herbal program she was enrolled in. And which month would be best for me? Daphne opened the door and made a path for other women to follow, into my home and into my heart. We are still in touch, thirty years later. Still loving each other and still amazed at the way the wheel turns us up and turns us down.
Before Daphne, the first official apprentice, were several unofficial apprentices: women who learned herbal medicine from me without formal instruction, but by being in my presence, by living with me. The foremost of whom remains my ideal apprentice, Clove Tsindle. At least that is the last name I remember her by; I believe she has changed it once again. And moved from the last address I had for her, too. Do get in touch and set us all straight on what you are doing, oh beloved apprentice of my dreams. You are important to me in ways you could never imagine.
In ways that I could never imagine, the apprentices have shaped me, have crafted me, have pushed and pulled on me, helping me to fashion myself and to create a program that is not just about herbal medicine, no just about wild food, not just about goats and cheese and yogurt, not just about talking with the plants and understanding psychoactive plants, but about being a deep, passionate, useful human being.
My live-in apprenticeship program is intense. It is not for the faint of heart or those who need to be tended to. Apprentices are challenged mentally, emotionally, physically, and psychically. Challenged to be true to themselves. Challenged to give up the useless search for perfection. Challenged to live passionately. Challenged to stretch their bodies and their minds.
For every apprentice who graduates, two fail the program. The three hundred women who have graduated are women who have both feet on the ground and their head firmly planted in the present. Some are working as herbalists: teaching, training apprentices of their own, writing books, counseling, touching. Others are “merely” using what they learned to maintain optimum health and help their families to health. Every one of them is a precious spark from the fire of my fervent belief that herbal medicine is people’s medicine: of the people, for the people, by the people.
I have devoted my life to helping you reclaim the medicine that grows outside your door. You don’t have to be an apprentice. You can learn at a distance, without interacting with me personally at all: via my extensive YouTube library on wild plants and herbal medicines, via my teaching videos, a host of CDs and MP3s recorded at conferences, via my radio shows, by reading the periodicals I regularly contribute to, and by way of my wonderful books and my amazing website (created and run by my amazing daughter, Justine Smythe).
You can come a little nearer to me as you learn: via my online courses and online chats, by calling my Tuesday evening blogtalk show, by taking any of the four correspondence courses I offer, or by enrolling in one of my mentorship programs. You can draw nearer still: spend time with me at a conference, (upcoming ones: Green Nations Gathering and The International Goddess Festival), attend class with me in your town, come to the Wise Woman Center for a moon lodge or stay for the day and study with me and the goats. Or you can walk into the dragon’s den, take your courage in both hands, and beg Baba Yaga for fire by applying to be an apprentice, like these three hundred women.
~ Seedy Weedy Walk ~