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Becoming a Herbalist

by Susun S. Weed

~ Part Ten ~


Grief and loss, outrage and despair continued to accompany me on my journey of becoming an herbalist, but they no longer threatened to overwhelm me. When I encountered mean words, lies, vicious looks, and nasty rumors, especially from women, I was still wounded, but I had learned to smile. Many was the day, or the night, when I lay on the earth, or against the neck of my goat Penelope, feeling the pain and crying. But many more were the days and nights that I smiled. Strange though it seems, smiling made me feel better. The more I smiled, the more I felt like smiling. The more I smiled, the more energy I had.

Gradually, gradually, I began to be able to do more than smile and get through the day. I had freed myself of the ka connecting me to others, and now I began to learn how to use those energies to fuel my creativity

Now, when I felt hurt, I not only smiled, I worked. I wrote. I drew. I created ceremonies and rituals. I played in my gardens. I walked in the woods. I listened to the plants. I used my grief as fuel to create myself anew, like a phoenix from the flames.

When I felt closed, I learn to open. When my heart constricted in pain remembering that the tarot deck I had helped create had been taken from me, I picked up my pen and worked on a new deck. When I felt my spirit crumple because my class notes from ten years of teaching disappeared, only to reappear as a book without acknowledgement of any kind, I borrowed a computer and wrote a better book. When my trust felt squeezed to death, and I despaired that I would never feel safe with women again, after having been betrayed by those I loved the most, I opened my land to monthly moonlodge gatherings.

My work on my tarot deck (The Transparent Tarot) helped me heal the emotional wounds I had sustained. My work on my herbal (Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year) helped me find my voice. But it was my work with the moonlodge that most truly wove me back into wholeness and mended the shattered pieces of my Self.

Brooke Medicine Eagle was my first, and most influential, teacher in moonlodge traditions. It was she who suggested, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that us "white girrrls" could save the earth by bleeding on her. That was a new idea for me; but it was one that appealed to me with tremendous force. It reinforced my own belief that menstrual blood was useful in both spiritual and practical ways.

Of course, like many women, I had been exposed to the idea that menstruation was dirty. I had read (in heroic books) that "clean women don't menstruate." And a feminist friend told me (with pride): "Women live longer than men because we get rid of our toxic waste every month." But these ideas never seemed right to me.

Menstruation did not seem like a curse to me. I couldn't believe that my babies would or could be made of toxic blood! Surely we create our children out of the most nourishing blood we can build. (And science backs me up on this point. Menstrual blood is richer in many nutrients, especially calcium and iron, that circulating blood is, and has fewer waste products or toxins.)

I had come to believe on my own that my moontime was not a pain to be endured, but a time of power. And now a woman I admired was saying the same thing. Oh joy! And furthermore, she was saying that menstrual blood was nourishment for the Earth. She was supporting my belief that the days of menses are special days with special powers. And she taught me that women have a special place where they learn about these blood mysteries: the moonlodge.

In my second book (Healing Wise), I discuss the "natural powers of menstruating, menopausal, and postmenopausal women."
* Oneness with the Earth as a responsive nurturing presence
* Communication with plants, animals, rocks
* Weather making
* Shape shifting
* Invisibility
* Communication with fairies, devas, elves, dragons, unicorns
* Foreknowledge
* Acutely sensitive senses of smell, taste, hearing, sight, touch
* Healing abilities

In the moonlodge women share their wisdom. In the moonlodge blood mysteries (including fertility control, pregnancy, herbal medicine, and spirit healing) are revealed. In the moonlodge, women dream and sing and eat together.

A moonlodge is a sacred space or time devoted to, and used exclusively by, women. It isn't a sweat lodge. (But that's another story; remind me to tell it to you someday.) It may be a special cave, a sacred structure, a set-aside time, even an entire village used only for moontime.

What is moontime? It refers specifically to the menses, and generally to the time when women menstruate. In the absence of electric lights, women ovulate at the full moon and menstruate at the new moon. Thus the four days of the new moon become "moontime."

During moontime, women gather at the moonlodge. The young women (She Who Waits and Does Not Bleed) care for the menstruating women (She Who Bleeds and Does Not Die). They help tend the babies. They gather firewood, food plants, medicines, flowers. They cook and brew and learn from the grandmothers (She Who Holds Her Wise Blood Inside).

In the safety of the moonlodge we dare to allow ourselves to become one with the Earth and one with our grandmothers, mothers, sisters, cousins, neighbors. In the quiet of the moonlodge we hear the speech of those who have no tongues, and speak with those who have no forms. In the container of the moonlodge we dare to open and expand our senses, slip into invisibility, influence the weather, heal.

And so it has been. From the ancient past to the recent past and into the foreseeable future. Moon after moon, month after month, I gather with women (from 4 years old to 84 years old) to celebrate our blood, sanctify our menstruation, and add another round to the moonlodge. We sing moontime songs and dance moontime dances. We pass the talking stick: sharing our problems and our visions, our distresses and our wisdom.

And it weaves me like a thread from the past to the future, like a blood-red thread tying me to Earth and to Woman, tying me to my Self. And it makes me smile deep inside to be so tied.

Smiling was the motive force that kept me going when I felt shattered by pain. I smiled as I drew and wrote and gathered women together. Smiling lifted me up and drew me out. But smiling alone would not be enough to sustain me for what lay ahead, in the years to come. I knew with gut-deep certainty, I needed to make a commitment. And it needed to be big enough to carry me, to sustain me, for decades. That's how I came to be standing in the snow on a cold winter night surrounded by candles.


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copyright: susun weed

September 27, 2012




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