foxglove pic

I am writing this blog today because it has shouted all day to be written and I have ignored it diligently in order to do studying. However, my studying achieved very little and deadlines are hammering on the door, but I cannot ignore the need to write my blog any longer!

I am studying for a degree at the moment and am in my first year and it is the hardest thing I have ever done and I don’t mean the work. Yes the work is demanding and most days that I am not at uni, I am studying and I have to fight to keep some semblance of a life outside of my degree. I actually resent it at times. I feel that if I had demands on me, that meant that I could not spend so many hours in study, I probably would do just as well. I might even be more organised; well, as organised as an artist can be! I am not suggesting all artists are disorganised, many of us are not, we simply do not fit other people’s idea of organised! I digress.

It is odd, to find myself in this position. I have always tended to buck the system in one way or another and hate to be pinned down. I have to fight to stop the studying from entirely absorbing my life into it. Instead, I often have to wrench myself free from it and go to the woods for that much needed respite and reconnection, or to do that ritual or meditation or paint a picture.



In many ways, this degree is the hardest thing I have ever committed to, not just because of the wealth of work involved but because sometimes I feel so removed from the real reason I am doing this degree, that it almost feels like a distant dream. It is not dissimilar to when you go on a journey, (as in shamanic), and you come back and write down the magnificent inspirations or wisdom or beings you spoke with or the instructions for something you have requested, but the next day or maybe even later in the same day, your head kicks in. Rational thought wants to have its say and rubbish all of what you just experienced and make it out to be a dream. “After all, its not the real world is it?” That phrase is a little like university is for me. Often, what I am taught runs counter to my belief system and is so far from spiritual that I find it painful. Whilst I pour over endless articles and research papers, most of which take the herbs that are precious to me and split them into endless constituents and submit them to test after to test to satisfy the hungry wheel of patriarchy and its keen and seamless scientific order. Of course there is nothing wrong with science, we have gained much from it but in other ways we have lost a huge amount. Malidoma Some, in his book, Of Water and the Spirit, talks about the white man’s world and the fact that the rational mind blocks the ability to see beyond what is immediately visible. This is particularly true of science. In western herbal medicine, the fact that herbs work in complex ways and the sum of their constituents is what helps maintain a sort of balance, can only be attested to by case study research. However, this is not sufficient, instead the eternal male in science, regardless of whether she or he is a scientist, does not want to know this; refuses to hear this and seeks instead to find that one constituent that can be further potentiated and changed beyond recognition and then deemed either totally unsafe for humanity or safe within certain boundaries. (Best to have someone professional monitoring this, not some wise woman from the village!) The public are then informed that their very lives could be endangered by this or that herb. What they don’t say, is the whole truth. Only a tiny morsel, under the guise of protecting the public, which in fact, is about the pharmaceuticals and the power play of big business and little boys who want to part of the big boys club.

Most adverse effects from herbs are from over the counter herbal products, many of which contain “extracts” of certain herbs, very often, further potentiated with a dose of whatever constituent is deemed by scientists, to be the one responsible for helping treat a specific symptom. Sound like conventional medicine to you? However, the public don’t know this and like sheep, follow the word of the big boys.

On another note, this model of herbal medicine is treated like mainstream medicine and does not even consider the thousands of years of experience in traditional usuage of certain herbs. This kind of experience is unscientific and is unwanted, because it doesn’t line the pockets of the wealthy.

These are the ethics that I struggle with. I am pulled into this science based research by the demands of those, who, with vested interests in power and control, wish to ensure that herbalists are “safe practitioners.” There are a whole host of issues of safety in mainstream medicine that we will just sweep under the carpet for the moment.

Some lectures I come out of feeling utterly drained by the content, the pushing for scientific recognition, the pushing for regulation, for respectability, for professionalism. We want to run as far as we can from traditional, to divorce from any whisper of traditional, afterall, it is argued, we don’t have a tradition do we? What is the fear? The witch in the corner? Women make things messy don’t they? Herbs doing unexpected things and not being predictable are like female messy things aren’t they? The witch in the corner offers up a little cackle, just a little one and goes back to her weaving. Or is it weaving? What are those herbs she is mixing, better stop her before she harms someone! Ah, you can kill me, I will come back; you can harm me, I will come back, you can drown me, slaughter me, abuse me and burn me at the stake, I will rise again and again. We are many and we are free, in a way that you will never understand.

It struck me the other day, after a particularly disappointing lecture, that we need more real women. Not women being men, women being women. Women using their creativity to come up with new frameworks and models that care and strengthen and nurture life. We are sadly taught that our feminity is weak and somehow secondary to males. I am not talking silly, barbieness. That is not feminine. I am talking about strong and capable women, women who can truly multitask and are solution focused, women who are capable of being mechanics and scientists and intellects and mothers and nurses and doctors and barristers and judges, artists and singers and still be female. Another words, not trying to cut themselves off from their feminity and carrying on in heartless and harmful ways. I often wonder at how spectacular the world would be if every woman took up her rightful place in it, (I do not mean a place of submission), without fear and without the need for acting, but freely and truly being herself.

As a druid, some days are very hard and I long to spend time with the trees, herbs, flowers and all the wonders of Mother Earth. So I go to the woods and breath in the air. I listen to the birds and find joy in the new buds on the trees, confirming that life is happening and will go on beyond me and beyond science. The great Mother will bring about her will regardless and like all true women, will look at the greater picture and greater good for all concerned.