Wolf: One of the classes you are teaching at Herbal Resurgence in 2013 is on field botany, something Kiva and I consider very important. Please tell our readers why and how botany and plant identification are important in the practice of herbalism… and how truly fun and marvelous both can be.
Juliet: The more we can recognize patterns in plants, the more intimate and connected we are to the green world. If we learn the terms connected to these patterns, we can communicate with others. Some of the terms are obtuse, but let’s forgive our ancestors and get on with it. Think of it as learning a secret code that only plant geeks can communicate with. If we want to forage for wild herbs or food, then correct identification is necessary. Plus, looking at flowers through a hand lens is so juicy, who wouldn’t want to do it until their eyes got too sore?
Describe your feelings about the certification or registration of herbalists, intended to qualify and legitimize plant practitioners? What are the problems around exclusion and elitism, and what might the solutions be?
Juliet: I understand the needs of the public in determining the qualifications and competency of a practitioner, however I am not in favor of licensing or certifying herbalists. I think licensing has the potential to benefit a few practitioners and exclude many more due to politics, differing practices, or an inability to conform to standards or protocols. Licensing can create the possibility of setting up limitations, as seen in our midwifery communities. Nurse midwives have many protocols they must follow or they will lose their license. There is little flexibility to tailor their practices to each unique birth. Losing one’s ability to practice is a strong incentive to toe the line— in our community it means the nurse midwives have much higher rates of interventions and cesarean births as compared to the non-licensed midwives.
I am however open to the dialogue, and really just want herbalists to have the freedom to practice in their own way. Herbalists can seek professional membership in the American Herbalist Guild, and perhaps that is enough of a “certifying” system. I am grateful to be able to practice though, even without seeking such a status myself.
Wolf: The clinical model (public and private clinics) has been an effective service model, but there are others… and there will need to be alternatives if herbal regulation or prohibition become intolerable, or if there’s the predicted economic or other system collapse. What are the alternatives now, and what possibilities do you envision?
Juliet: Many herbalists have worked outside the monetary system, instead choosing to barter their services and medicines for other goods and services needed. I believe reciprocity is important in most healing work, but it certainly doesn’t need to involve money. In exchange for my teaching, herbal services, plants and medicine I have received fresh vegetables, meat, eggs, milk, massage, carpentry, cleaning, gardening, cooking, medicine making, clothes repair, office work, pottery, canned goods, mead, childcare, clothes, crystals and plants and medicine I did not already have. Bartering is so incredibly fun and basic, and can meet a lot of our needs! Traditionally, most healing has taken place at home – at either the patient’s or the practitioner’s house. Many herbalists, such as myself, still see people in this model. If the world ever changes to the point where most people do not have access to mass produced pharmaceutical or herbal medicines, the need for people who know the local herbs and wild foods will be great.
Wolf: Given the troubling and challenging times we are entering, do you believe there’s an imperative to expand the role of herbalism beyond a simple healing practice – to a counterculture that could serve as a counterbalance and tribal/grassroots alternative to the status quo, help enliven a new earth-based mythos, empower resistance to injustice, contribute to at least localized ecological health, and impart some boogie and joy?
Juliet: Bring it on!
Wolf: It’s been a pleasure to talk with you like this, an honor to host you as a teacher, and a blessing to have your support and alliance. Thank you so much, Julietta!
Juliet: What an honor for me, I am deeply appreciative of all you and Kiva Rose create for the herbal community, and the spirit, art, and wisdom you bring to the table.———– (Please RePost & Share)