Learning Herbs Interview 1.2
with Susun Weed & John Gallagher
The following is a written transcript from John Gallagher's
interview with Susun Weed on November 30, 2006. The interview
was part of The Herbal Teleconference Series, which was an
event celebrating the release of Wildcraft!
An Herbal Adventure Game
John: Since we're a little past the hour
here everyone's probably on the call right now, and I'd like
to say Good Evening everyone, this is John Gallager, from
this is the fourth teleconference in our series, and once
again, if anyone accidentally gets kicked off, just call back,
you can't disturb anything.
The purpose of these calls is to talk about how we approach
learning about herbs and, so far in the series, we have just
learned we've been keeping it simple, learning that it's about
relationships with the plant, learning one at a time, having
experiences it's all about having experiences, not about,
as we were just saying, the dry knowledge in the book, what
So, tonight, we have our owned renowned herbalist,Susun Weed,
who has written loads of books and published and re published
some great herbal...And I can tell you from my own experience
and I know that healing wines have touched my soul and brought
me to who I am now as an herbalist and a health care provider.
I'm an acupuncturist and I approach it from...I'm a five element
acupuncturist and I approach it from a 'wise woman' perspective.
I always keep that in mind. When we were pregnant with both
of our kids, "Childbearing
Year" was the only book we used. You know, everyone
wants to give you advice when you're pregnant. Everyone. Everyone
has the book; everyone has the piece of information. We just
found everything we needed in that little pink book [Wise
Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year]. Thanks for helping
us keep it simple there, Susun.
Susun Weed: Oh, thank you so much, John.
That really makes me smile from heart right out.
John: Oh, good...
Susun: It's so lovely. I have young women
coming up to me, clutching the book and saying," My mother
used this book when she gave birth to me and now she gave
me a copy."
Susun: So it's very nice to see that wheel
turning and going on.
John: Gosh, you must have published that
a while ago then, huh?
Susun: Indeed! About twenty years ago.
John: Twenty years ago. You just had 200
people clap when we announced, when we introduced you, but
you couldn't hear any of them.
Susun: Oh, well...
Susun: I can just be here on this warm Catskills
night, unseasonably warm. It's in the 60's today. In the 60's,
yes, 60's Fahrenheit at the end of November. In the Catskills
Mountains, sometimes we've had feet of snow by this time.
John: I think we've traded weather because
we've got it now.
Susun: Oh, I see. [laughs]
John: We've got.. gosh, now, another story...[laughs]
You know we were just talking about, you mentioned things
when we were talking about women... You said you had your
premises ' Pick an Ally.' Now this whole thing, and what I'm
doing here, is how to learn about and connect with plants,
and I tell you, Susun, with the first time I ever got into
plants was with my Peterson's Medicinal Guide. [laughs]
And I'm going around and it's "This plant is good for
this, this, this, this, and this. And the native Americans
would use it for this, this..." Not thinking that anyone
would actually use them now...
Susun: Right, right, right.
John: I think there are some great references.
There are some great herbal books out there, but as great
as the references are, I think they're a little intimidating
for people. If I'm wanting to know how to learn about herbs,
I think if you could tell everyone about how to pick an herbal
ally, that would be great.
Susun: Oh, well, I'm not sure that anyone
could tell you that picking an herbal ally; as a matter of
fact, many of the apprentices feel that their herbal ally
Susun: But I can tell you what to do once
you're either picked or been picked by a green ally and, of
course, if you want to be picked by then you simply set that
as your intention that you would like some plant to be in
touch with you to trip you up outside or to come into your
dreams and say," Hey! I want to be your ally."
But once you have made that decision, and you can choose
a different ally every year, so you don't to panic about "Oh,
my goodness, there's so many plants." Just one will be
a lot for a year. We want to breathe with that in a way that
sounds almost too simple; but when we think deeply and experience
deeply, the fact that what we breathe in, the plant has breathed
out. And what we breathe out, the plant is going to breathe
in. I'm not talking 'theoretical stuff' here, am I? We're
talking actual molecules of carbon and oxygen are being traded
between you and the plant. We know that it takes seven years
to replace every cell in our body, but most of us don't know
that every atom in our body is replaced every four days.
Susun: So I asked my apprentices to spend
ten minutes a day sitting right next to their green ally and
breathing with it. [pause] Imagining, envisioning, pretending,
visualizing... however you can do it to understand that the
connection between people and plants is a giveaway dance.
That we're dancing together with that breath.[pause]
John: Well, that is... And so then so when
you have an ally chosen and you connect with the plant that
you want to work with for however amount of time you're working
together, you can explore, right? Different ways of learning
about that plant and bringing it into your life. I think a
great example of healing wines is where you just take all
these different herbs, very common and great herbs, and you
just have this multifaceted way of relating, whether it be
food or medicine, healthcare, I mean, health and beauty, use
Susun: Yes. There's
a wonderful book called "Planting the Future" which
was done to separate the United Plant Savers, and I was one
of the thirty herbalists who was asked to write a monograph
on a particular plant for that book. And we were assigned
our plants, and the plant I was assigned was Mechelen repens.
I said, "First of all, this is such a common plants.
It's all over." And they said, "Well, actually through
much of its range, it's not anymore; and that's why we assigned
it you, because its common where you live, in the Catskills."
I found it's a very low growing plant, repens means creeping,
right? and I found that sitting low in a meditative posture
and breathing with that plant wasn't close enough. I had to
really lay down on the earth, either on my belly or on my
back, in order to get close enough for that plant, to be able
to write the monograph for that book.
One of my apprentices a couple of years ago, chose that as
her green ally and after the first week she said to me,"
I don't know. You know, I'm breathing with the plant, but
I don't seem to be getting anywhere." And I looked at
her and I said, "Are you breathing in the plant's airspace?"
She looked at me and I said, "It's a very low growing
plant. You've got to get your head Down there." And she
came back the next day and said, "Oh, my gosh, I never
would have imagined! It just makes all the difference in the
world!" I said, "Yea it sounds like a theoretical
thing. It sounds like a thing out of some new age book "You
Are One With Plants., : breathe with the plant, you will be
one." But no, No! We're talking "Susun with Taurus
moon and Taurus rising here," who's into what's real!
And what's real is that the atoms of you are being made by
the exhalation of the plant.
John: I've taught classes where I've said
nothing about the plant we're going to learn about, and I
have them go and sit with the plant for an hour. When I get
everyone back together again and we go around in a circle
and they tell me everything they got from that experience.
Usually, they've told me everything that's in the book, so...[laughs]
Susun: [laughing] That's beautiful.
John: So they speak before me. I have people
come to classes and have the plant teach for me. [laughs]