In it we discuss a range of topics from foraging and what got me into foraging, the practice and theory of herbalism, awakening to being a global culture, engaging the sacred in nature, creating local infrastructure for coming earth changes, and then Kira asked about all my upcoming projects including the plant mandala project and dream group, plus my yurt van Kickstarter plan! Looking forward to visit her wonderous family next time I head south.
We completed last Sunday’s plant walk with a pine powered plant mandala ritual in which we all worked the energy of the land, bringing in many of the sacred medicinal plants discussed during the plant walk, and harmonizing and balancing the energies with the directions.
All who were at the class were invited to begin the ritual with taking a handful of needles from the pine branches that had recently fallen, and to step deeply into their instincts and intuition as we all took 3 deep inhales. As the medicine set in, we also discussed doing limpiya with the pine bows, which is world wide healing technique to clean the energetic field with plants by rubbing them along the energetic field to wipe off psychic debris. And the pine also helped students remember the power of wreaths, of then we were able to connect that origins of wreath making were as a sacred and protective amulet for the house.
As they imbibed the medicine of pine and awakened their olfactory senses the feeling of transformation of our individual as well as group consciousness expanded as the energy shifted into a palpable sacred space. Inspired, some began to offer pine cleanings to each other quite naturally, as we joked about the real secret of “pinesol” and many naturally tickled each other’s faces with the soft pine and nurturing and intimacy was spontaneous. It was Incredible to see the space open up naturally as the medicine of pine entered them and worked through everyone in the ways it needed.
From there we first created a circle with the pine boughs and began to forage and find whatever called to each of us to add it within the circle. Once the larger group had added what they felt called, it was insightful to see the asymmetrical nature of what was made, and that it felt somewhat fragmented; this was a sign that the work had just begun, and was not yet complete. By taking the time to observe and sense it, this was a way of “reading” the unfamiliar territory of the group like an oracle; a map of our ability to work together as one.
In this way, we were able to watch the capacity for the medicine circle and ritual develop in a completely new vision.
Once all had contributed what they felt into the sacred circle we sat there observing and feeling it, I began to continue to work with sensing the mandala and adjusted the 4 sticks to align with the directions so that we could feel the shift, and asked how it may have shifted anyone. This enabled the subtle perceptual shifts of creating balance to be felt tangibly by all, and it invited everyone to continue to read, perceive, and work the circle into harmony, to sense, and to deepen coming into harmony as a community.
From there, others felt inspired to continue to play. Emily and Alicia helped to continue to work the symmetry, Emily kneeling and putting such deep care into it felt like she was nurturing the mandala like a mother bird making a bird’s nest for her earth children to come and gather. Then Nick offered a bundle of feathers, poke berries, and goldenrod, all tied in a bouquet, of which we put in the center as the offering, and placed 2 sacred shells that he collected from the shore which are sacred wampum shells to the native people of this land. In these 2 offering shells, I saw the balance of masculine and feminine; the alchemical wedding; the balance of yin and yang, shiva and shakti. I then proceeded to enliven the mandala with offering waters inside the shells as a feeding of the land and ancestors spirits, to nourish and invite them to come alive by these waters.
Christine added a drop of rose water into the shells, and we also ingested some as prasad of the sweetness of our offering. We did the magic works including all who were there and sealed and completed it as we circled around with a group OM chant.
At this time I envisioned and internally invoked the pillar up into the heavens to make the portal to once again invite our ancestors to the land to work and heal it, and so that we may again receive their guidance as all held space.
Thankful to all who came and shared, and contributed your love and magic to the circle.
This is sacred, this is medicine, this is community. The land is awakened by our acts.
Return to Nature – Foraging and Herbalism Retreat @ Ananda Ashram – October 16-18 – This is the workshop introduction where we explore a mugwort opening ritual and plant sense meditation aspects.
Throughout the weekend we explored many levels of engagement with the ecosystem, including topics such as Ayurveda principles (constitutional healing and taste), and Paleolithic sense meditations, foraging and herbal philosophy, Inner child work, Foraging and plant identification, Dreamtime with plants under our pillows with a breakfast mugwort dream share, Medicine making and magic practice, theory, and ritual, astrology, sadhana, Plant sits, and closed with a plant medicine mandala.
I’m looking forward to take these teachings and rituals nationally and globally in 2016! Starting with a winter visit to the west coast. More on that soon – If youre in the area, let’s collaborate and make magic together!
Stay tuned-in to upcoming classes, workshops, and retreats at www.returntonature.us
Here’s a look at the shaggy mane mushroom – coprinus comatus –
This mushroom is a delicious edible of the genus coprinus (the inky caps).
All coprinus have a very unique “self digestion” mechanism in which their cap turns into it’s own spores and decomposes as a mass which can be carried away and transported by insects, hence the name inky cap.
These mushrooms are great when picked before decomposing and can be sautéed into any dish that calls for mushrooms, including mushrooms and eggs, or any Thai or Indian style curry.
There are several other coprinus that range from inedible to questionable so always forage carefully and have an expert help confirm your identifications.
Today at our family plant walk we discussed the resilient power of nature and how to see that with many examples such as the plants that were sticking out of the sidewalk in the poison ivy that was again taking over the area. We put on our psychic future sunglasses and we allowed ourselves to see what would occur in the hundreds of years and 10,000 years, and that the same very tip of the poison ivy vine called the meristem, would lead the way in the return to nature as the children of the world change their perceptions and become adults.
We talked of some other plants including mugwort and broadleaf dock, and talked of the magic healing of sassafras with a beautiful root to deepen our medicine senses. We then headed into the forest.
The first friend we saw there was a stand of big beautiful black birch trees in which we smelled deeply and everybody used as a toothbrush, we talked of the alchemy of making roots beer with the families as rituals, and envisioned how these ancient beverages were made. dental hygiene for children is easy when you play in nature and chew on sticks .
From there I climbed a tree barefoot to try to get at some of the younger twigs to share with everyone, in which I showed them my new favorite yoga position: raccoonasana – from there when I asked the children what they wanted to do all of them answered that they wanted to climb trees too. We then took a careful moment to assess the area and find a wonderful group of trees to play with.
We spent the next hour climbing trees barefoot and smiling. It was truly a joy to watch the innate ability of children to just climb up and down trees so gracefully, perhaps it is our adult doubts that get in our way.
From there we all ended up in the middle of the trail, discussing the power of homeschooling, nature play, making Mandalas, and any questions the parents wanted to ask. The kids were joyously like a busy bees collecting and digging sassafras roots so they can all take them home and drink the secret medicine that has been drink on this land for perhaps millions of years.
As we enjoyed each other’s company, spontaneously several children and I began to deeply touch and work with the soil. Moving it back and fourth between our hands and Feeling the coolness and it’s familiarity, I then reminded them that they were indeed playing with Stardust. I asked one child why she felt called to touch the soil she exclaimed, “because it feels great”.
From there the children joyously began to rub it all over their feet and their legs and we let them. We let them rub and rub the soil of the earth upon their legs and their feet and they began to turn brown; they are the Earth children and they knew it.
After we all caked up with the power of the earth, I shared with them the significance that indeed this ancient ritual would have been repeated every time our tribe would go out and hunt and stalk animals. They realized how important it was to take away their sheen which the animals watch for if they were in a hunting scenario.
They were camouflaging naturally. Preparing for what work lies ahead. Warriors of the earth, every single one of them.
Plant medicine blessings ,
I’ll be posting a video of us playing in the soil in this magic moment mentioned on my Instagram: returntonature which will also end up on the Rtn fb page at www.facebook.com/returntonatureskills
To donate to the return to nature teaching mission and outreach please PayPal to Dan@ReturntoNature.us – all donations go to further spreading nature education to children and adults.
For 2 weeks (Nov. 28 – Dec. 5 2014) we traveled to Colombia to seek and expand our knowledge of wild foods, medicinal plants, culture, and shamanic practices within these sacred lands.
It was my first time exploring anywhere in South America as well as the biodiversity of jungle habitat, which I had a chance to meet for several months traveling in India, back in 2012. In Colombia I was very excited to meet new plant friends, and see the overlap of plant species, and plant families between what I had seen in India, as well as recognizing anything familiar back home.
This kind of journey is one that fills me with passion and excitement. To allow the plants to guide me to the people, and the people then guide me to plants. Here is a brief look at my experience in Colombia.
Prior to leaving, I did research and collected a plant list, in which Timothy Lane, of who I thank deeply for his botanical offering, his hours of doing the same thing I did enabled me to research potential species and families to look for.
The list combined consisted of potential edible wild plants I may find, as well as cultivated market fruit species, herbal medicines that I could both find on the ground, and in the markets, as well as famous ethnobotanical plants. The working list of species that I’ve compiled and expanded upon have become the field guide portion of this book. (see index 1) As I sought many forms of medicine in the jungle, market place, and shamanic medicine traditions, I photographed and documented what I had experienced.
Chapter 1: Herbal Preparations and Vaccination Awareness
Whenever traveling as an herbalist, especially one who would prefer to rely on the plants of the ground, it takes lots of study. Within that study is 3 main factors. 1. Mainly the ability to see potential and common threats in the particular area you are traveling in, 2. The ability to have an herbal kit that outlines treatment for those issues because one should never wait, and 3. Access to whatever level of “medicine” you may need, if the need arises. It is of my personal opinion that I should never deny more “corporate” treatments if my methods do not work. Yet, as a novice becomes expert, more can be handled.
Oh yea and 4, perhaps most important, the unexpected =)
Herbal Health Care:
In researching the first big scare of South America and the jungle in general, one must first learn what to do in case of malaria. Malaria which usually one treats by taking a preventative dose (which I hear makes people very sick) in fear of the potential of getting malaria. Luckily, it turned out for us that although there were cases of malaria in the areas we would travel to, it was not likely.
As I did my homework on the issue, it generally seemed from observing websites such as the CDC malaria map (http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/map/) that cases were low in Putumayo area, probably the most rampant area, and even lower in the other areas we would be traveling to. Heeding the official websites message to be careful I developed a tincture to take along for the journey. I knew that I would be able to tend to a strong case of malaria for 4-5 days on what I had brought and chose once again to pass on the damaging preventative medication.
For working with issues such as malaria, one should first know if the ailment is bacterial, viral, fungal, or otherwise in its nature. Treatment for each of these cases are different and require different functions from herbs, foods, and lifestyle changes.
The second most important thing in a case like this is prevention. Knowing habitat, location, having working bug spray – working, in this case, means a 4 oz bottle where I put a mix of essential oils, almost all of them will work, with 50% almond oil, shake that, and put in a spray bottle. When I apply that I apply it heavily and repeatedly. After 3-4 applications it works amazingly.
The third most important application is treatment during the earliest stages detectable. This means having subtle awareness of signs and symptoms. Beginning herbal treatment 3-4 days after the first earliest symptoms is “too late”, meaning that the first stage of treatment is to know the body.
Herbal Kit Breakdown:
As I was not sure how far I would be traveling into the jungle, In my herbal kit I brought 16 oz. of a malaria specific formula that I made. I knew it would be a potent general antiviral, and antibacterial, and therefore could be used in any cold or flu, stomach upset, infection, or fungus. However, these herbs are also are the more specific herbs toward malaria or yellow fever and used accordingly. It consisted of Sida acuta (turns out this is a roadside weed in Colombia), olive leaf, Artemesia annua, burdock root, and redroot. This gave a well rounded formula, with enough for 2 people to at least begin combatting any issue that would be encountered. Of course with herbalism and a “use-what-you-have” capacity, a plethora of others to add, includingany other antimicrobials.
A particular hero to mention could be boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) which having a long standing tradition of being helpful against flu and fever, has a wide ranging history of treating malaria. And, there have been studies and in vitro experiments with plant extracts which indicate possible anti-inflammatory effects and activity against Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes malaria. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S037887411100729X).
Yet, I am not a big proponent of “one-herb” solutions, and always prefer to formulate around a strong herb that has the action I seek.
When formulating, I try to consider half “target the microbe” and half “tonify the bodies functions” so in my case burdock for helping the liver and therefore blood, and redroot, which also has antiviral attributes, being predominantly for helping lymphatic opening. Of course activities like sweating, hiking, sweatlodge, and sauna are also helpful for the body adjusting to different microbial environmens in countries and we planned to do much of it.
Basically, when traveling to other countries, usual things to consider are air quality issues and therefore respiratory infections, water borne infections through contaminated water (in which can be filtered and not relied on plastic throw away bottles) and bacterial or viral infections, of which there are many. These issues are very common, and will likely be part of anyone’s travels outside of the country they were born in.
For basic physical trauma issues, I also brought a small medical kit containing some band-aids, gauze, cotton swabs, and 2 pairs of rubber gloves. Of course with first aid, training is primary. I have taken several herbal first aid courses and try best to understand my limits, not my capacities.
Other items included mixed herbal salve for helping skin stay moist, treating any allergic topical issues, and also helping keep infection out of any healing wounds. With a few essential oils which I see as a back-up (Not primary); oregano oil, lavender and peppermint, as well as the abovementioned home made bug spray.
With developing the art of foraging herbalism, “know-how” is an ever expanding thing.
The scenarios and plants, herbal kit will always change and adaptability is the greatest work. A few easy examples would be such as any evergreen sap for cuts or fungal infections, wild papaya leaves as a tea for intestinal issues (plus the seeds of the fruits),
And the most important reason for traveling and practicing herbalism, seeking teachers while at any location of medicine people, to directly broaden any level of foraging and herbalism applications of wild plants, as well as simultaneously preserve and pass on their knowledge traditions.
This writing is part of my “Seeking the Medicine” Herbal Series with lots more to come,