(be sure to click on some of these lovely photos to enlarge & see some of the detail and magic of the symposium)
Well, my daughter Heron and I are home from our adventure to the Northern California Women’s Herbal Symposium. It was our third time attending the symposium, and, as usual, we did not come away disappointed. Instead, we came home with our hearts, minds, and spirits filled with seeds of inspiration, wisdom, and delight. We also came home with handmade herbal medicines and tinctures, actual seeds from the seed library set up by Media Aranda, information on natural healing through diet, ideas for great new recipes to try out at home, visions of gorgeous goddesses with breasts bared and beauty shining amidst the towering black oaks covered in green moss and dripping with silver grey old man’s beard… oh my we were feeling full and rich. My insides felt like my garden looked when we arrived home, bursting to fullness with beauty, color, magic, and medicine.
(a few of the treasures we returned home with…rose hand cream made by Anna Linden at earthsong herbals, Breast Massage oil by Fern, with a beautiful original block print. Also by Fern the mugwort block print which immediately made it’s way onto my altar. Iron Plus Tonic by Anna Linden, adapted from a recipe from the Healing Herbal by R. Gladstar, handmade soap, and analgesic cottonwood oil from Raindrop Remedies. YUM!)
The NCWHS is a tri-annual event in Laytonville, California at the beautiful and majestic Black Oak Ranch.. This year they are celebrating the success of 50 symposiums, bringing together witchy women, wisdom, plant spirit medicine, earth poets, and delicious nourishment on multiple levels.
This symposium I took some formal class offerings, including a class on one of my favorite herbalists and dangerous wisdom givers, baba yaga with Rabbit, a teacher and practitioner from the bay area. I attended a gluten intolerance spectrum and herbal support workshop with Katolen Yardley of Vancouver, and sex and vitality through Taoist longevity practices with Odissi dance goddess Revital Carroll. Also as usual, I found myself being inspired and sewn full of seeds of inspiration from the other women and the connection with the beautiful land, trees, plants, and waterways of Black Oak Ranch.
One of the things that I love about the experience at the NCWHS is that with such a huge gathering, there is very little impact on the land. All attendees are asked to bring their own dishes and are served three gourmet vegetarian meals per day, then proceed to a simple outdoor washing station to wash their dishes for the next meal. There are over 300 guests, and no trash cans! There is also encouragement to use the restrooms when needed, but to feel free to give our nitrogen back to the earth whenever possible, aka, to pee and poo outside! Instead of stressing the older septic system on the ranch and using so much water, we can simply do as nature intended. There is such a beautiful consciousness throughout the symposium in the way it is crafted and in those who are drawn to the gathering and the teachings.
There was a wonderful little ‘insta-garden’ set up by Tina Glaessner from Crimson Sage Nursery with medicinal plants to learn about, or buy and take home to nurture in your own garden, and a marketplace that appears on Sunday afternoon with items all handmade by the talented women who attend the symposium. Most of what I came home with was traded for the tinctures and salves that I had made myself at home and it felt so good to share our love and energy medicine with one another, like ancient gatherings of its kind that have gone on for thousands of years, long before the myth of money arose.
After the market on Sunday, the closing ceremony began. Everyone dressed up and the drums began to sound. We all danced around the young maidens being honored and ritualized as they begin their first moon times and move from maiden to potential mother. We created a huge circle of women in the meadow and called the maidens in with this song; ‘holy maiden huntress, artemis artemis, maidens come to us’, over and over with the beat of the drums. The young maidens were ushered into the center of the circle by the crones, the elder women, through a tunnel made by one woman facing another and joining hands overhead, all the while now singing ‘we are here to tell you that you’re wonderful and beautiful. we are here to tell you, that you’re always whole. we are here to notice that your loving is a miracle…how deeply you’re connected to our soul.’ Then the maiden/mothers had a simple ceremony led by Terri Jensen, one of the founders of the symposium. I was and always have been so grateful to be a part of and to have my daughter witness the deep honoring of women, the power of their cycles and their blood, and the essential power of ritual in our lives.
(Our home away from home during the symposium, including altar. Have Kali, will travel…)
As one woman said during a skit she performed at the talent show around the campfire in the circle of the teepees on Saturday night, ‘This is where I come for my healthcare!’ I couldn’t agree more. Viva la green world and our conscious connection to our greater body of Mother Earth, pacha mama, Gaia, and her deep healing qualities and constant generous offerings of vitality and light!
There were so many seeds shared and sewn this year at the herbal symposium…calendula, sunflower, mexican marigold, and yellow dock seeds, seeds of diversity, seeds of language; a language of connection and reverence for the earth… seeds of inspiration and creativity, seeds of story; like the stories of baba yaga, the ancient iron toothed protectress of the forest… seeds of nourishment and vital health through diet and prevention, seeds of friendship, and seeds of wisdom. Just as with the physical plant seeds of the seed library at the symposium, I vow to plant and grow what I have taken with me, and to bring back seeds harvested from the bounty of my gardens, both those in the soil on the lands I tend and those from the garden of inner being. May both flourish and may I be a conduit for the bounty of the universe to flow to and through for the highest good of all. Jai ma.
(Here’s Heron at the end, tired after packing out our camping gear and ready for the long drive home)