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The Shamanic Herbalist

Tuesday, July 10, 2018 4:27 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

The Shamanic Herbalist

Susun S. Weed


You Are Invited to Be Part of the Shamanic Herbalists/Healers Association (SHA).


SHA is an invisible association. There are no board meetings, no dues, no membership drive, no fund raising. This association is a figment of our imaginations. As such, it is always changing. 


The purpose of this association is to define the characteristics of the shamanic (aka, wise woman) herbalist/healer and, by doing so, to claim a space which cannot be defined and limited by law or licensing bodies.


I'm Against Licensing Herbalists

Ever since I went to my first herbalist's gathering two decades ago, there has been one topic guaranteed to elicit raised voices: Shall herbalists be licensed? My position has always been an unequivocal "NO!" I believe that shamanic healer/herbalists especially have everything to lose and nothing to gain from being licensed, accredited, tested, or certified in any manner whatsoever.


Before we go on to the things we can do we keep our "profession" vital and on the beauty way, I would like to share a little of my life with you, a few of the experiences that have shaped the way I think about healing, healers, herbs, and shamans..


What Midwives Can Tell Us About Licensing

My sister and many of my friends are, or were, midwives. Some are certified nurse midwives, some lay midwives, all are well-trained, experienced, skilled, and wise. Barely ten percent of them are working as midwives. Most are disgruntled, discouraged, and depressed about their ability to offer real individualized care to their clients. They sought to license and police themselves, for fear that outside forces would do it if they didn't. And they licensed themselves into oblivion. Rather than insuring the freedom to help women give birth, midwives find themselves now bound with laws, rules, regulations, protocols, fear of losing one's license, and insurance demands.


I Trust the Chaos of the Universe

In order to issue a license, one must quantify, score a test, determine the measure of a human's knowledge and wisdom, define, lay out the rules, say how it should be. But birth doesn't follow rules. Neither does life. Nor healing. Nor do herbs.


Herbs can change their constituents dramatically in response to being grazed, overgrazed, attacked by insects or molds, experiencing drought or flood, suffering from lack of nutrients, poisoned by too much, or a host of other variables. The scientific drive to quantify active ingredients in herbs creates herbal products that are as dangerous as drugs. I am an herbalist because I believe nature's infinite variety, expressed in the herbs, offers more health/wholeness/holiness than the standardized, sanitized remedies of orthodox medicine.


What Can We Do?

How can we continue to practice as shamanic herbalists/healers, as wise women, in the face of pressures to mainstream, certify, and license alternative medicine and its practitioners.


I propose that we define ourselves. That we make ourselves visible in words and thereby declare clearly the impossibility, illegality (according to cosmic law), and absurdity of trying to license shamanic herbalists/healers. Let us present ourselves to ourselves, each other, and our communities--as we have always done, through story, song, dance, and drama, and now through defining words--so that the weave of everyone's reality is touched by a shamanic thread, and our work is kept safe from restriction by the language of law.


Though it is a daunting task, it is necessary to undertake it and possible to do it. What are the characteristics of the shamanic healer? What ought a shamanic healer not do? I envision a discussion that takes place in person, in print, on the Web, by letters, and in the dreamtime.


Here's my list of the characteristics of shamanic herbalists/healers. It isn't meant to be definitive, but to spark discussion. I hope it will be copied, circulated, changed. 


Characteristics of shamanic herbalists/healers:

1 * Shamanic healers and herbalists answer solely to the universal "way" as their as their authority and as such cannot be restricted by the language of men's law, for such language constitutes an unfair restriction upon the practices, livelihood and life of the shamanic healer.


2 * Shamanic healers and herbalists work without regard for payment, but absolutely insist on being honored for the work they do. Any healer who withholds treatment until payment is made is guilty of blackmail and is not to be considered a shamanic healer.


3 * Shamanic healers and herbalists use the plant and animal resources of their locality as their healing allies. These resources are harvested in a way that sustains or builds their abundance and diversity. The plants and animals are accorded power, dignity, and sentience. They are addressed directly, prayed to, and usually thanked ritually as well as actually.


4 * Shamanic healers and herbalists frequently use power plants in their work. Power plants include indigenous natural (not synthetic) psychoactives such as psilocybin, tobacco, datura, peyote, marijuana, coco leaves, and the like. Trafficking in such plants is not typical of the shamanic healer, who may, nonetheless, supply apprentices with these plants for the purposes of their studies, and keep a personal supply of up to two year's worth of such power plants. These practices are not to be infringed upon by the language or intent of man's law, as such restrictions unfairly prevent the shamanic healer from accessing certain kinds of information.


5 * Shamanic healers and herbalists may be very limited in their ability to read, write, figure sums, or otherwise function in the modern world. To try to conceive of a written test which could give any information which would be of use in determining the worth of a shamanic herbalist/healer is to enter the realm of the absurd.


6 * Shamanic healers may also be quite limited in their understanding of anatomy, physiology, chemistry, and other modern medical necessities. Nonetheless, each shamanic healer has a "story" about the nature of the world(s) s/he inhabits, and a vision of the health/wholeness toward which the individual patient is moving.


7 * Shamanic healers frequently use drama to potentize healing. Community enactments, melodic messages, rhythmic movements, colorful visions, memorable aromas, and more are interwoven in the work of shamanic healers and herbalists. Expect the unexpected here, the unique, the gift of the moment.


8 * Shamanic healers respect the power of kundalini/life force and therefore do not engage in sexual release with their patients/clients. This is not to say that shamanic healers and herbalists do not flirt! On the contrary, their are often very raunchy, suggestive, and lewd. But they never cross the line from loving, healing touch to frank sexual need/exchange. Anyone who implies or suggests that their healing power can be best accessed through sexual connection is not a shamanic healer.


9 * Shamanic healers support and direct the processes which are common to all of us--birth, initiation, and death--in ways that are unique to the culture and the individual, but which are always characterized, in true shamanic healing, by the intention to honor the person involved and to increase the person's self-confidence and self-acceptance.


10 * Shamanic healers are passionate and compassionate. They move easily into joy, anger, and grief, knowing that all feelings can be healers and liberators. Shamanic healers know few fears. They approach life and healing as a cosmic joke, always ready to laugh first at themselves.


11 * Shamanic healers don't claim to have the answer or know the answer or be the answer; they remind us that the answer lies within ourselves.


To Be Continued...


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