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Women’s Herbal Symposium

Jun 10, 2010

I’ve just returned from a luxurious week-long break of camping out  & teaching natural medicine at the California Women’s Herbal Symposium.

I’ve never been to the symposium before, and wow, what a treat! It was completely different from what I expected. I met amazing colleagues & teachers, made new friends, and in short was blown away by the powerful presence of 500 women and girls.  I feel blessed and inspired and ready to share all of what I’ve learned with my herb students.

Budding herbalists brewing up new ideas

What impacted me the most were not the great classes and impressive teachers (of which there were many, and yes they were awesome), it was the potency of joy, power, and creativity of a 500 woman village that was co-created. I’m now convinced that if a woman hasn’t already had a women-only experience of this volume, it’s a MUST in one’s life-time.

Babes in arms everywhere

The way women took care of each other was effortless and joyful. Babies and children (boys under age 7 permitted) were cared for by every woman as if they were her own. Women who were strangers to one another gracefully held, fed, looked out for, nurtured and soothed the children in need without much explanation. I was moved by how safe every baby and child felt in the presence of so many “strangers”. The sense of nurturance was palpable.

Gathering for the love of herbs-- Everyone slept in the tipi's shown here or their own tents
Gathering for the love of herbs– Everyone slept in the tipi’s shown here or their own tents

Beautiful food was prepared for us by a vibrant kitchen staff. The teens and younger girls voluntarily brought meals to the elders.  Every woman made sure  pregnant women and mother’s with young children ate first.
And on Sunday, towards the end of the symposium weekend, there was a beautiful Coming of Age Ceremony.

First, the young women who had begun menstruating this year were invited to step into the circle to be honoured, and acknowledged for their rite of passage into womanhood.

Young women stepping to the centre

Then the mother of each of the above girl was invited into the circle to be honoured for the incredible work it is to raise a child. All the sleepless nights, the thankless work, the turmoil, the ups and downs of parenting that’s unromantic and not always spoken about; really parenting is the most important work in the world.

The mother’s being honoured for the hard-work of raising children.

Next, all the self-identified elders of the gathering stepped forward to honour these women and girls offering words of wisdom and guidance. Then we all collectively celebrated these wise elders for guiding us forward and paving the path for us to shine.

A wise elder honouring the young girls in the coming of age ceremony

Tears were shed as participants who have been coming to the Symposium ever since they were little girls shared their stories (this weekend was the 46th symposium). And here today, they stand with their children in arms and with their own mothers by their side. I was blown away at how many daughter-mother-grandmother sets were at the gathering. So moving.

And finally, this was all tied together with the love of herbs and the natural world. These themes so thoughtfully woven made an incredible event just that much more extraordinary. The power that women share so naturally with herbs and healing rendered me just speechless. It never needed to be explained. It’s just so natural that women live their lives intrinsically woven with the rhythms of nature, healing their bodies and families with herbal wisdom. The wild, untamed flowers, seeds and berries serving as food, medicine, and the threads that weave community. Literally.

Women, herbs, and nature ---an effortless connection
Women, herbs, and nature —an effortless connection

So I am altered, well rested, deeply moved, and back in the bustling city of San Francisco writing this to you on the last day of May.
Soon I’ll be heading into yet another powerful teaching intensive at California Wtichcamp where I teach magic and priestessing skills. I will write more on that as it happens.

Sending you all well wishes from sunny California.


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