Herbwifery: Herbalism from the grass roots.

Is herbwifery a service or an identity?

 
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crabapple
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 23, 2007 1:36 pm    Post subject: Is herbwifery a service or an identity? Reply with quote

I've noticed something funny in the herbal community, and an email conversation with another herbalist this morning helped make my thoughts more clear.

I think there are a lot of plant people out there who view the title "herbalist" as an identity more than a functional role -- they think "I am an herbalist" before they think "I use herbs to help people." An herbalist is something mysterious and special, and they want to be that. Serving the community ends up being secondary.

So "herbwife" as a title sounds kind of cool and romantic. But I don't want people to take it up as a mantle of coolness and romance. I want herbwifery to be about serving people, not about self-invention.

This also speaks to the issue of access. If herbalists are more concerned with their cultural identity than with offering care, they'll likely only serve people who belong to their segment of the culture. That kind of exclusivity is antithetical to the definition of herbwifery as "simple and accessible."

Have other people noticed this phenomenon? What do you think?
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verbenagirl



Joined: 08 Feb 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

but i think being a plant person is an identity. what's wrong with that?
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Bear_Medicine



Joined: 21 Nov 2006
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would venture to say that it's both, or at least that's how I experience it.

As much as I love helping other people and providing a valuable healing service to those who need it, healing is also in my blood and bones. It's something I do for my own sense of well-being as well as for others. And I think that's how it's supposed to work. When we're CALLED to way of life, a mission or quest if you will, in order to be the best and most we can be, we have to have our whole hearts and being involved in the process. We have to BE that calling.

Besides, being an herbwife is more than just using herbs to help people, it's about being a mediator between the plant world and the people world, it's about being a caretaker of an enormous amount of lore and knowledge passed down through our ancestors, teachers and the land itself. It's about cultivating the wholeness of the world with the help of the plants.

but it's also not just a pretty title to wear to make you feel good about yourself or make other people impressed with your knowledge of plant constituents or botany either. It carries with it a responsibility that I don't fully understand just yet... something like the responsibility of the shaman or the priestess... and perhaps we are both those things... i think the examples of the Curanderas and Vegetalistas and other indigenous Medicine people are excellent ones to show us what it might mean to be an herbwife or herbalist or greenwitch to our community, to the plants and to ourselves. and it's those roles that will help us avoid exclusivity or inaccessibility....

but self invention is good, as long as it goes down to the bone and isn't just a costume.
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crabapple
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 01, 2007 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think what I'm getting at is that and I don't want us to lose sight of the fact that an herbalist's job is to provide people access to herbs. Whatever our own processes/cultures/identities, it's important for us to remember this. Like I said in my earlier post, if our identities (and the projection of those identities) come before our service to the community, herbalism becomes vanity and everybody loses.

Here's an interesting quote from the website of the Pacific School of Herbal Medicine: "The Pacific School of Herbal Medicine is dedicated to meeting the healthcare needs of our student's future clients." Adam Seller, School Director

Those aren't necessarily the words I'd choose, but that's the priority that makes sense to me.

I guess part of it might be that I have a deep suspicion of narcissism in all forms. Our identities are indeed important, as our personal relationships with the plants are important. But they are important on a personal level more than a public level. We don't need to trumpet them at the expense of serving people.

(Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I'm a child of the baby-boom generation, for whom identity is the most important thing of all?)
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linden



Joined: 08 Feb 2007
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Location: Apple-atcha

PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 8:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

crabapple wrote:
I guess part of it might be that I have a deep suspicion of narcissism in all forms. Our identities are indeed important, as our personal relationships with the plants are important. But they are important on a personal level more than a public level. We don't need to trumpet them at the expense of serving people.

(Maybe this has something to do with the fact that I'm a child of the baby-boom generation, for whom identity is the most important thing of all?)


Oh, I hear that, honey. After all the things my parents tried to be, I'm suspicious of anyone who tries to be anything at all!
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Kyoki



Joined: 28 May 2010
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PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2010 2:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

But I'm a part of the generation where nobody is anything, and identity is vague and confusing.

I like Ms. Kiva's book- "I'm a Medicine Woman too!"

I like being an herbalist, being an herbwife. It's something to hold onto. It's not just an identity wrapped in an enigma shrouded in mystery- it gives me a solid set of beliefs and actions to hold onto.

By identifying myself as an herbwife, or an herbalist, I remember that it's not just my job to provide advice to folks and to spread the knowledge of plants and healing and to offer support... it's who I am.

If it's just my job, if it's just an action I'm supposed to do, then it can be put aside for a day, which leads to a week, or a month, or selective choices. "I don't feel like it today". If it's who I -am-, then it's not just work, it's with my every breath. Every time I see a weed on the sidewalk, I remember who I am. Every dandelion in bloom reminds me of my own inner sunshine, every nibble of chickweed reminds me of it's saponins and it's cooling, gentle effects.

If it's not just what I do, but who I am, then it gives me something to hold onto when my world's falling apart. "My baby is screaming, my husband is miserable at work, my sweetheart is ranting at his computer again, the dogs are barking at the neighbors and I think I might explode with stress.... " is no longer a dead-end statement. It continues on with "But I can do something to help. I'm an herbalist- what can my beloved garden offer to help me now?"

My generation is one who's been told we're helpless and broken. They said we could be anything, and then proceeded to tell us 'but only if you follow our orders'.

When I say I am an herbalist, it's not for my ego. It's not me saying "Hey, look at me, I'm special and you should find me better than you". It's saying "I'm capable because knowing these things empowers me. Let me pass on some of that knowledge to you?"

For some people, maybe it's just a job. Maybe it's just that thing you do, like a hobby or a profession or even a lifestyle.

To me, it is what makes me whole, what fills my heart and my mind and my instincts and what makes me who I am.
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Ygraine



Joined: 09 Oct 2007
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Location: Birmingham, England

PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2010 4:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In odd moments of calm, I have been thinking about this from a purely personal viewpoint over the past few weeks. I'm in the UK, so my framework and experiences may be very different from those of you elsewhere in the world.

The job which pays me involves offering training in bereavement and loss and other related topics. I stick mainly to theory and experiences but herbs sometimes creep in if I feel in a safe environment to do so.

I am "qualified" as a solution focused therapist, but I don't have time to see clients on a voluntary basis on top of my full-time job which involves a great deal of travelling. I dreamed about volunteering for a bereavement counselling organisation post-retirement but now realise I couldn't do that because they only allow conversations about human bereavement and not about loss and grief in its totality.

I am "qualifed" as an energy healer, but my insurance only allows me to undertake healing in a proscribed form and forbids conversations about any other therapies unless you have other qualifications in those therapies, which I don't.

Growing, using, teaching and sharing my herbs is one of my deepest loves. It is unconditional and enables me to have conversations about negotiating with hospice staff and patient families about access to a dying patient and how to give them permission to pass on. I can offer tonics to help people cope with stressful situations or suggest someone makes their own hawthorn tincture to support the broken heart caused by their loved one's suicide.

I can also talk about bone broth and nettle soup and using diet for uncontrollable thrush or eczema. Pain might be resolved by offering dandelion salve or a healing session or the opportunity to laugh and frolic in a field of sunshine.

I am a herbwife, but I am foremost a healer/wise woman - and that wisdom comes from realising how little I know, but also the confidence to approach topics and situations others may be fearful of. It is a life of service and it cannot be confined within narrow boundaries proscribed by others. My qualifications come from life itself and the lessons and support networks it offers.
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Yarrowmoon



Joined: 07 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Sat May 29, 2010 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think for me, it is really important to be both. I've lost so much else in my life so far that my identity as a herbalist and healer is the only solid thing that I have managed to take with me from situation to situation, simply because it is so deeply ingrained a part of me. That has nothing to do with narcissism, and everything to do with me not being remotely sure who I am and the herbalist part of me being one of the few parts that goes everywhere with me. I don't find it makes it harder to treat people - rather, it makes it easier for me to channel the part of me that WANTS to help people, that really hates seeing people in pain or struggling. For me, the dilemma lies the other way, in figuring out when to offer help and when people need to learn their own way from whatever illness they are suffering from. And again, returning to the subject of using the label of herbalist as a way to make myself feel good, that has nothing to do with me feeling like I can give myself a pat on the head when I help someone, and everything to do with the fact that I just don't like to see people in pain. Weird I know, but then, I never claimed to not be weird! ;)

Hope everyone is well!

Ali
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nestforawren



Joined: 17 Jan 2011
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 17, 2011 11:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm arriving into this conversation waaay late, but I wanted to say what a relief it was for me to learn the term "herbwyfe". To me it is a gentle way to describe working with people, but in a way which invites the help of the herbs. For such a long time I was unable to step into the reality of what I did, and I believe that has a lot to do with my thoughts of "hey, but I am not an herbalist, this all really has nothing to do with *me*. Who am *I* to be claiming that I am healing anyone?" This wasn't a low self-esteem thing either. It just felt weird...and somehow *off*. The herbs do the work, they whisper to me. They bless me with the opportunity to communicate their wisdom, and introduce them to people. They bless us all with their beauty.
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wildcarrotdances



Joined: 16 Jul 2009
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Location: A sweet muddy river in a great forest in Alaska.

PostPosted: Tue Jan 18, 2011 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting. My take on it is different ending up in the same place -

Healer as identity = part of all my interactions and very widely available.
Healer as service = those people who are always trying to sell you something. Only available to rich people who are attracted to that kind of relationship.
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IAHerbwife



Joined: 09 Nov 2009
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Location: Iowa City, IA

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 3:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a silly way for me to enter this forum. I've been lurking for quite some time now but not quite brave enough to post. But this topic speaks to me.

Service, to me, does not carry with it the connotation of trying to sell people something. I do see how that occurs within the modern context of "goods and services". However service means to me that I am asking myself "what can I do to serve my fellow beings" and that in and of itself is a part of the identity of being a healer.

I understand what was meant by "herbalism becomes vanity". I had actually soured on the term "herbalist" over the years, due to interactions with a couple of local herbalists. The very few I've run into in my area use the term to elevate themselves in the same way many doctors of my acquaintance do.

I also think that how you price yourself speaks to the issue of access. Herbalists who are hung up on using the name to establish themselves as an "expert" price their "services" out of reach of a significant part of the population. How is herbalism a service or a calling if one only caters to those who can afford a two or three hundred dollar "consultation fee". Years ago, I asked the herbalist who lives an hour or so from me if she would work on a sliding fee scale and she literally laughed at me. I had to learn herbalism because I couldn't afford an "herbalist". In fact, doctors were less expensive at the time. An office call was perhaps $40 15 years ago.



Stephany
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