Herbalists can often be compared to the Dandelion – or any other insistent and persistent plant – in finding ways to sprout in even the most sterile environs, furthering diversity, penetrating the assumed impenetrable, loosening the restraints, seeking and discovering the openings and opportunities that can allow both our true natures and nature’s healing ways to blossom again.
noun: a sudden powerful forward or upward movement, esp. by a crowd or by a natural force such as the waves or tide; a plant’s surge of growth.
• increase suddenly and powerfully, typically during an otherwise stable or quiescent period
Picture for a moment, if you will, a small crack in the carefully laid sidewalk of any city, wrested open by the heaving breathing, freeze and thaw of a living earth intolerant of stasis and control. Picture, too, the vibrant green expression of the vital life force as it sinuously wriggles and forces its way upwards towards the sun, resplendent with its disorderly leaves, it’s shameless yellow flower-head unbowed and un-saddened: the proverbial outlaw Dandelion!
Dissed as a “weed” by a majority of citizens, poisoned with herbicides or ignominiously yanked from the ground by even some lovers of gardens, it nonetheless continues to not only persist but flourish, breaching the restraints of any pernicious pavement or callous concrete that ever tries stop it. The Dandelion serves us as both a symbol and agent of insistent self determination in the face of oppression, conformity and control, of a natural resurgent vitality in resistance to the unhealthy ways and stultifying sameness of the dominant paradigm. It is medicine for the liver, for the ecosystem, and for our ways of perceiving ourselves and our role in this world and work. Dandelion resistance. Dandelion healing. Dandelion delight.
Like the Dandelion, the herbalist is by nature an agent of healing and enlivening, as well as a symbol of strong if gentle persistence in the the face of periodic eras of increased oppression, exclusion, distraction or neglect. Herbalists, have at times joined Dandelions in being demeaned, with folk herbalists in particular denigrated like weeds. Most importantly, the encroaching concrete that the Dandelion suffers, bedevils herbalists as well – in the form of not only oppressive regulation and restrictions, but also our own traditions and beliefs whenever they limit our evolution and innovation. It can be seen in the institutionalizing of our craft and sometimes rigidifying of its practitioners. It is manifest in those systems and standards that make folks at any level of knowledge feel unworthy, excluded or trivialized... and that crusting slurry of self doubt that can cement us the the floor.
Like the dandelion, herbalism prospers, gestates and spreads surreptitiously whenever suppressed, feeling right at home in the “underground.” Neither walls nor borders can restrain it. If there be a but single fissure anywhere in that which holds it down, it is through it that herbalism will surge forth into the light of day once more.
“...the nexus of a folk herbal resurgence – resurrecting the spirit of Western Herbalism.“
noun: An increase or revival after a period of less activity, popularity, or occurrence.
• to surge again
Don’t be fooled by claims of a need to “professionalize” this craft, to make it acceptable to the dominant corporatized paradigm through certification, rigidification, and self imposed hierarchy. Herbalism is intrinsically unacceptable to those who put money ahead of the health of people and ecosystems, and this makes it a rebel, Dandelion tough.
Like the Dandelion, the practice of herbalism is itself a living thing, as caring as the most sentient being, while plant-like in its powers of resilience, resumption and regeneration. Again and again it has quieted of its own accord or been systematically repressed, been alternately embraced and dissed. In its Autumns and Winters, it draws into itself. Its roots continue to grow, but its vines rest from their earlier wrangling, its leaves fall or hang snow-bent in contemplation. In its Springs and Summers, new growth is awakened, and new sprouts burst from hungering seed.
In its most recent manifestation, the herbal resurgence is a response to the placation, reduced enthusiasm, timidity and complacency that can effect any comfortably successful field... and an eruption of community, an alliance of folk herbalists who for too long had felt peripheral, excluded by the systems of membership and degrees, offended by hierarchy, and alienated by the increasing stress and pressure around professional status and mainstream acceptance. It includes home and small business makers of herbal preparations who felt threatened, sidelined or alienated by the slick commercialism and impersonal corporatism they saw as becoming herbalism’s public face. And those who have felt there is a further responsibility, that the conditions of our society and this planet required one work to heal the stressful lifestyles and relationships that beget much illness, the communities we live in and governments we allow to supervise us, the fundamental character of our society, the ways we grow our food and medicines, and the threatened wildlands from which both we and our herbs emerged.
Evolution is a call for renewal, every bit as important for us and our craft as is a return to our roots – a reclaiming of herbalism’s intrinsic spirit and essential organic nature, its informality and egalitarianism, social consciousness and courageous response. Ours is a remembering of the original feelings and motivations that have always inspired this work with medicinal plants. And ours is a surging forward to self empowerment and grass roots action, mated with the reawakening of the curiosity, excitement, and giddy pleasures of this healing work.
A Confluence of Purpose
A “Confluence” is an act or process of merging, the coming together of wildly diverse courses and tributaries into a single shared purpose as powerful and as needed as any river.
In what by all appearances is a particularly bizarre, dangerous, intolerant, xenophobic, and oppressive era, it is time – for a confluence of purpose, of like hearted, plant loving healers of self, society, and planet. And a time for herbal resurgence after resurgence, continuous eruptions of powerful passions and caring insistence, wild-heartedness and nonconformity, awareness and action, love and devotion that – like the health-full outlaw Dandelion – nothing can keep down, and none can hold back.
Jesse Wolf Hardin is cofounder and co-director of Plant Healer Magazine, along with his partner Kiva Rose, and he invites your participation this June in Plant Healer’s Good Medicine Confluence in Durango, Colorado. Wolf is an acclaimed ecosopher, eco and social activist, artist, and champion of nature’s medicine, living seven river crossings from the nearest road in a rewilded river canyon of S.W. New Mexico. He has been a leading voice of and for the natural world for over four decades, his work earning praise from a wide range of contemporaries from Gary Snyder to Starhawk and Rosemary Gladstar. Wolf has been a featured presenter at hundreds of conferences and universities, including cross cultural collaborations appropriately called Earth First! “Medicine Shows” that melded his spoken word with live music. He’s the author of over 600 published magazine articles and 20 books such as Gaia Eros, The Plant Healer’s Path, and The Healing Terrain, as well as co-editing the compilation book Radical Herbalism, all available from the Plant Healer bookstore. At this Summer’s Good Medicine Confluence, he will be teaching classes on both ReWilding (a term he coined) and ReEnchantment. Check out: www.PlantHealer.org