Walking The Green Path of Plant Knowledge: Illuminating Ourselves, Illuminating the Beings of the Forest
The School of Forest Medicine provides many ways for you to deepen your relationships with the plants of the Pacific Northwest and to find your way on the green path of plant knowledge. Our classes and courses interweave direct spiritual experience with practical, hands-on participatory work. We offer you the opportunity to find and connect with your plant allies and to remember your living bond with the elemental forces of nature. Through meditation, ritual, and song you will learn to work with the spirits of the plants and with the spirits and ancestors of this land, learning to be a vessel of healing and a messenger for the teachings of the forest.
We call upon these divine beings to remind us how to find our way here on earth and to guide us on our long term, multigenerational goal of establishing a center of learning and healing in the forests of Cascadia where we can remember how to live harmoniously with all beings. By working to restore authentic initiatory rites we will offer ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren the opportunity to live in an intact culture—fully attuned to the cultural and spiritual matrix of the earth, recognizing who we are, and knowing what we are here to do.
Classes and courses range from long-term initiatory journeys to evening Plant Teacher Ceremonies.
Plant Teacher IMmersion Trips
Remembrance—Finding your Plant Allies
- Awaken your true gifts and find a deeper meaning to life
- Renew your connection with nature and find your plant allies and guides
- Find real and deep community with others who share your passion for the wild
- Remember who you are as you explore the mysteries of the forest
- Learn through direct experience and awaken your heart’s true perception
The Practice of Psycho-spiritual Plant Medicine
- Psycho-spiritual materia medica of Cascadia
- Elemental energetics
- Trauma as initiation
- Working from the heart and holding space
- The practice of listening
- The healing power of song and ceremony
- Clearing, protection, and grounding
- Helping others identify and deepen relationships with their plant allies and guides
- Pulse testing
- Botanical extract chart for 104 medicinal plants commonly found in the Pacific Northwest
- Step-by-step instructions for both the scientific and folk methods of tincturing
Woody lower branches with shredding bark stand erect. Sticky, yellow-green new-growth stems produce lance-shaped, 2- to 6-inch-long, usually hairless leaves. These toothed or smooth-edged leaves are dark green, sticky, and glossy above with hairs between the veins that form a net-like pattern on their lighter-colored undersides. Flowering stalks, lined with 1/3- to 2/3-inch-long tubular flowers that vary in color from white to pink to purple, unfurl like a scorpion’s tail from late spring to early summer.
Imagine you are out in the field sitting in a stand of wild plants. You have positively identified the plant and are sure that it is not endangered or toxic. To determine whether it is sustainable and ethical to harvest this plant, clear your mind and ground yourself. Tune in to your surroundings. Open your heart and use all of your senses. Very carefully observe the area around you with an unattached mind and ask yourself these questions.
Once while on a search for cascara sagrada, I found a tree with many inward growing branches that was perfect for harvesting. I asked permission and the tree said “no.” I was baffled, but as I continued up the trail just a bit, I found a tree with a large broken branch that was still full of life and ripe for harvest.
The history of the expansion of human communities across the globe is filled with stories of plants that we can no longer harvest from the wild in good conscience. As the final frontier of American migration, the western part of North America has fewer chapters to contribute to this sad tale, but we still need to be acutely aware of plants that grow very slowly, plants whose habitat is diminished by human development, or plants whose popularity is leading to more being harvested than the land can support.
Learning to correctly identify toxic plants can save you and others from serious harm. I don’t want to instill fear of the wild in you, but there are some toxic plants in this region that can be confused with commonly used medicinal plants. Here is an overview of the toxic plants you may encounter in the Pacific Northwest.
If we are to work with wild plants for medicine, we must first study their external forms so we can learn to correctly identify them. Once a plant has been positively identified, it can be harvested and made into medicine. After we’ve made the medicine, we need to understand the medicinal activity of the plant so we can correctly administer it for the ailments we wish to heal.
I thought it might be useful for herbalists to have a list of name changes to medicinal plants that I learned as I was writing Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants: Identify, Harvest, and Use 120 Wild Herbs for Health and Wellness. Below you will find a short writeup on Plant Names excerpted from my book followed by a list of name changes and family reordering as well as some tips to pronouncing latin names.
Astringent leaves staunch bleeding; pungent, bitter flowers break fevers and speed the healing of colds and flus; and numbing roots soothe sore teeth and gums.
Yarrow, the thousand-leaved herb of Achilles, you are an arrow of love that flies straight to my heart, a knife that cuts to the bone, and a sword of light that dispels illusion from my consciousness. Yarrow, pare away all excess and unnecessary cruft, bring me to a place of centering where the lies of my lower self will have no hold or sway. Help me rise above darkness to center and align with the clear light of universal consciousness.
Imagine you are walking through the forest as various aromas ride upon the damp air. The heavy smell of the wet, fecund earth rises to your nostrils, and cutting through all of this, you perceive the sweet, resinous smell of black cottonwood buds. Their pleasant odor brings a smile to your face. The buds are swelling—spring is on its way!