& Practice of the Wise Woman Tradition
an article by Susun S. Weed
we enter the twenty-second century, herbal medicine
is being integrated into mainstream medicine in
the United States. Or is it the other way around?
Are we in danger of adopting the limited, linear
scientific view of a practice that is also considered
an art? Are we abandoning the sense of delight that
drew us to herbal medicine? Are we vulnerable to
needing to be validated from outside because we
don't value ourselves highly enough?
to answer these questions, we will use the model
of the Three Traditions of Healing - Scientific,
Heroic, and Wise Woman. Knowing the differences
between these three views allows us to become informed
consumers of health care, to repossess the power
of our health/wholeness/holiness in a new and uniquely
functional manner, and to maintain our dignity as
herbalists in a world dominated by scientists.
I want to
focus on the Wise Woman Tradition, its spirit and
practice, because I believe it offers us a way to
look at what we have as herbalists, and what society
seems to be offering us, and to make a better-informed
choice as to the path ahead.
WHAT ARE THE THREE TRADITIONS OF HEALING?
traditions are ways of thinking, not ways of acting.
Any technique, any substance can be used in any
tradition. There are scientific and heroic midwives
as well as wise woman midwives; there are MDs who
are heroic and those who act as wise women, as well
as scientific ones. There are scientific herbalists,
heroic herbalists, and wise woman herbalists. There
are preferred ways of working in each tradition,
granted, but surgery is not restricted to the scientific
realm, nor is a shamanic trance strictly relegated
to the realm of the wise woman. To determine the
tradition of the practitioner, we must look at the
thoughts that lie behind their use of any form of
of us contains some aspects of each tradition. And
these different aspects may want different things
- at different times - or at the same time. The
scientific aspect wants facts, the heroic aspect
wants to be told what to do, and the wise woman
aspect smiles and offers you a bowl of soup and
some bread and cheese she made herself. As I define
the characteristics of each tradition, identify
the part of yourself that thinks that way.
Tradition defines truth as measurable and repeatable.
The whole is the same as its most active part. Herbs
are reduced to standardized extracts; only the active
ingredient is important. Healing is fixing. Linear
thought, linear time. Good and bad, health and sickness
always at war.
mechanized. Bodies are machines. Anything that deviates
from normal needs to be fixed. Measurements determine
deviation; drugs ensure normalcy. Plants are potential
drugs, safe only in the hands of licensed experts.
use of herbs in Germany follows the scientific model.
Herbs are available by prescription and paid for
by National Insurance because they are viewed and
treated as drugs. Herbs are available only to those
with a prescription written by an MD, who has received
little or no training in the use of herbs, so the
overall effect is to severely limit the use of herbal
medicine and its availability.
to a wide variety of manufactured herbal medicines
is a freedom that many American herbalists seem
to take for granted. It is due, in part, to the
strength of the Heroic tradition.
Tradition is not one unified tradition, but many
similar ones collectively known as the Heroic tradition.
Predating the scientific tradition, the heroic view
sees that the whole is a circle made up of all its
parts - body, mind, and spirit.
is caused by pollution of the body, mind, or spirit.
Healing is the removal of the corruption, the detoxification.
Puking, purging and bleeding. Removing curses. Cleansing
the colon and the aura. Making everything light.
We are all
filthy sinners. We have to pay for our fun. No pain,
no gain. If it tastes bitter it is good for you.
Food is the first addiction, learned at the mothers'
breast. Control yourself. Control your thoughts.
Control your appetites. Control you desires. If
you want to get to heaven, follow the rules.
If you are
sick, it is your own fault. You were negative. You
were bad. You ate the wrong food, thought the wrong
thought, sinned. You stepped outside the charmed
circle. You need a savior, purification and punishment.
The Heroic healer saves the day thanks to rare substances,
exotic herbs, and complicated formulae. Powerful,
drug like herbs (such as cayenne and golden seal)
and vitamin and mineral pills are favored remedies
in this tradition. Most books on herbal medicine,
and many on nutrition, are written by men of the
Tradition is the world's oldest healing tradition.
Its symbol is the spiral. The whole is greater than
the sum of its parts. Life is a spiraling, ever
changing completeness. Disease and injury are doorways
of transformation. Each one of us is inherently
whole, yet seeking greater wholeness; perfect, yet
desiring greater perfection. Whole/healthy/holy.
Substance, thought, feeling, and spirit inseparably
may be freedom from disease, but it is also openness
to change, flexibility, and compassionate embodiment,
even when dancing with cancer or healing from a
serious accident. Uniqueness rather than normalcy.
Not a cure, but an integration; not the elimination
of the bad, but a nourishing of wholeness/health/holiness.
of wholeness/health/holiness is invisible, simple,
grounded, holographic, both/and, ever-changing,
woman-centered, and compassionate.
NOURISHMENT IS INVISIBLE
as a bowl of soup. The World Health Organization
says ninety percent of the health care provided
in the world is given by women in their own homes.
Invisibly. With a smile. A hug. A word of praise.
In small daily increments, the wise woman builds
the health of herself, her family, her community,
her country, her world. She does it in the Tao,
so she is invisible.
NOURISHMENT IS SIMPLE
the weeds in the garden. Simple as in one thing
at a time. Simple as in easy. Simple, common, single,
unique. Open to subtlety, simply. The wise woman
uses what is local and common, allying herself with
one plant at a time, matching the uniqueness of
the plant with the uniqueness of the person.
NOURISHMENT IS GROUNDED
as the earth, flowing with the seasons, ever changing,
ever the same. Seeking to increase the power of
the patient. Power flowing from responsibility.
Planting the patient in the ground, to become rooted,
to delve deep, to gain a foundation to grow up from.
Praising the gift of the body, the ground of our
being. Eating from the ground, locally, organically.
images contain the whole in every part. The more
parts there are, the clearer the image. The wise
woman nourishes all the parts of the unique individual
so they become clearer, more filled with life. The
wise woman herbalist gathers holographic plants,
not active ingredients, not flower essences, but
the amazing, complex, vital hologram of healing
that her green ally gives away. A hologram that
nourishes all parts, integrates all the parts, both/and.
universe embraces all possibilities. Allows distinction,
sees beyond opposition. Yin and yang cooperate,
reach consensus. Walking in beauty along the rainbow
path of peace. We are all alive and dead, whole
and piecemeal, healthy and sick, good and bad.
NO DISEASES, NO CURES, NO HEALERS
heart centered, the Wise Woman tradition has no
rules, no texts, no rites. It is constantly changing,
constantly being re invented, open to the ever-changing
perfection of the eternal moment. The focus is on
the person, not the problem, nourishing not curing,
self-healing not healing another. A give away dance
of exploration and experience, with no answer to
the question "why?" No blame, no shame, no guilt,
no reason, no answer ever to "why?"
THE SIX STEPS OF HEALING *
Woman tradition offers self healing options as diverse
as the human imagination and as complex as the human
psyche. How confusing! We need a way to cut through
the confusion and decide which option to use when.
I call it the Six
Steps of Healing, a hierarchy based on the
concept: "First do no harm."
Step 0 -
Step 1 - Collect Information
Step 2 - Engage the Energy
Step 3 - Nourish and Tonify
Step 4 - Stimulate & Sedate
Step 5 - Use Drugs
Step 6 - Break & Enter
I see the
wise woman. From her shoulders, a mantle of power
flows. I see the wise woman at her loom. Every thread
is different, each perfect and splendid, alive with
sound and color. I see the wise woman. She is old
and black and walks with the aid of a beautifully
carved stick. She speaks in song, in story, in dance.
She lives in every herb. I see the wise woman.
And she sees me. She winks at me and spreads her
the ways of our grandmothers, the ancient ones.
Every pain, every plant, every problem is cherished.
Night is loved for darkness, day for light. Uniqueness
is our treasure, not normalcy.
the ways of our grandmothers, the ancient ones.
Receive abundance with compassion, knowing you will
be food for others. Know that dying is a portal
just as birth is. Celebrate all comings and goings,
they are the turnings of the spiral.
the ways of our grandmothers, the ancient ones.
The joy of life is the give away. You are the center
of your universe. You are the axis, life's matrix,
the still point in the ever moving. The designs
of the universe radiate through you. You are god/dess,
unique and whole."
I see the
wise woman. And she sees me. She smiles from shrines
in thousands of places. She is buried in the ground
of every country. She flows in every river and pulses
in the oceans. The wise woman's robe flows down
your back, centering you in the ever-changing, ever-spiraling
I look, the wise woman looks back. And she smiles.
more information on Susun's Six
Steps of Healing please click
PO Box 64
Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com and www.ashtreepublishing.com
For permission to reprint this article, contact
and involved, Susun Weed has garnered an international
reputation for her groundbreaking lectures, teachings,
and writings on health and nutrition. She challenges
conventional medical approaches with humor, insight,
and her vast encyclopedic knowledge of herbal medicine.
Unabashedly pro-woman, her animated and enthusiastic
lectures are engaging and often profoundly provocative.
Susun is one
of America's best-known authorities on herbal medicine
and natural approaches to women's health. Her four
best-selling books are recommended by expert herbalists
and well-known physicians and are used and cherished
by millions of women around the world. Learn more
article is © copyright Susun
S. Weed 2004 - Republished here with kind permission.
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made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose,
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