Wildcrafting is the craft of harvesting medicinal plants from the wild. Humans have been wildcrafting since the dawn of time, but today when medicines are so easily procured, one might question the effort and time required to gather your own. I can assure you that the benefits of harvesting and making medicine from wild plants are many. It is not only more sustainable to use the medicinal plants that grow in the regions where we live, but the herbs we gather will be fresher and more potent. Also, because they are born of the same forces that give shape to our own physical and spiritual beings, local plants are more likely to offer deep healing benefits for our bodies, minds, and souls. In this series of posts covering Wildcrafting Basics (excerpted from my book Pacific Northwest Medicinal Plants), I will share with you the many elements wildcrafters ought to consider in order to safely and sustainably practice this age-old craft.
Asking Permission and Making Offerings
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. Another time, I sat in front of wild ginger in early October completely exhausted after an incredibly busy year of harvesting and teaching. When I asked permission to harvest, I was told that I was too tired to harvest and was instructed to go lay under a tree and take a nap.
Always ask the plants for permission to harvest. Develop your listening skills. The answers come differently to each person. For me a “yes” may be a feeling of openness in my heart or a vision of arms reaching out to hand me a bunch of plants. A “no” will feel like a shrinking of my energetic being or my head will begin to nod from side to side. At first you might hear “yes” a lot and may doubt yourself, but when you hear the first “no,” you will begin to trust your ability to hear the plants.
Reverence and gratitude open the pathways for us to receive. Offer tobacco, cornmeal, beads, shells, some kind words, a song, or some of your hair to express your gratitude to the plants. As I make offerings to the plants, I thank them for all of the healing that they have brought to me and my community and very clearly describe the help that I and others will need from them.
A Short Meditation to Deepen Your Connection with the Wild
Feel your feet on the ground. As you breathe in, feel the energy of the Earth rise up through your feet and into your body. With each exhale, send roots deeper and deeper into the Earth. Let this energy fill your body. As you continue to inhale and exhale, the energy will reach the top of your head and burst forth into the sky. Now, as you breathe in, draw energy up from the Earth and into the sky above. As you breathe out, pull energy in from the sky and send it down into the Earth. You are now a conduit between the sky and the Earth. From this place radiate awareness from your heart in all directions. Tune into the life energies that surround you. Listen to the sounds of the birds and insects. Feel the wind as it moves across your skin. Experience the subtle movements of the plants and trees. Do you feel more connected now?
I've also included this prayer which didn't make it into the book:
Prayer to Enter the Forest
I come here to remember how to be
in harmony with all life on this planet
I open myself to the light of the forest
To the wisdom of the plants
To the clarity of the waters
I align myself with the stars and the sun and the moon
May my heart beat with the heart of my Mother, the Earth
I come here in peace to learn and to see
To hear, to smell, to feel
Please hold me, please guide me
Receive me as your child
I call here now upon the Grandmothers and Grandfathers
of this place to help show me the way
I come here to remember who I am
May it be so