Wildcrafting is harvesting wild plants for food and medicine. Wildcrafting conjures up landscapes in my mind of pristine wild nature but wildcrafting can be as easy as stepping into the yard or taking a walk down the road. I have an area in my garden that is set aside for this purpose. It is a place where I do not mow and have fenced off from my horses to let grow whatever grows. Here I have harvested dandelion, wild chamomile, chickweed, cleavers, shepherds purse, wild mustards, red dead nettle, and all from one little spot. A veritable feast of food and medicine is all around you if you just take notice with the eyes of your hunter/gatherer ancestors. It is right between the cracks of a sidewalk, a weedy space in the garden, or in an unattended field.
I had a true wild wildcraft adventure recently that took me to a favorite place in the mountains of eastern WA state for a harvest weekend with 3 friends and my dog. We camped at 7,000 ft elevation where the snow was still melting in big piles here and there. The road to my favorite lookout spot was blocked by snow and melting ice. It was a first campout for my friends 7-year-old daughter and a first for my year old puppy. We had the whole mountain practically to ourselves and were astonished at the variety and volume of dazzling colored wildflowers. My favorite mountain plant ally the Osha was only 6″ high at this time but later in the year it will reach its full size and height with blooming umbrella shaped white flowers so typical of the carrot family of plants.
The mountain is primarily pine and spruce trees with some very ancient old growth pine in the center of one of the huge sagebrush meadows. One misty morning we scampered over bogland into the pines and my friend discovered a lightning tree one that had been burned out the middle but was still thriving and alive. We spent time in that forest and communed with the old wise trees. Another magnificent elder of the mountain we communed with were the wise sage brush (Artemisia tridentata), named after the goddess of the hunt Artemis and not really a sage at all but so often called one (sages are salvias). Sagebrush live in a community network of underground roots that originate off of one ancient grandmother plant, some can be 100s of years old and spread over a vast acreage. These plants are so giving of their medicine if approached with respect and reverence. How does one communicate with the plants? Here are some tips. Get a good plant ID book to start learning your plants.
1) I sit with the plants and quiet your mind of chatter.
2)Breath with your plant and connect with the respiration of your body, pay attention to your inbreath and outbreath which is the mirror opposite of a plant, meaning we outbreath carbon dioxide which the plant takes in for it’s existance and we take in the oxogen which the plant gives off for ours and vice versa. A perfect exchange and completely attuned to one anothers needs.
3) Now listen deeply and ask to speak with the plant spirit.
4) I remember to have the basic courtesy and boundaries with a new plant, flower, stone or tree as I would when meeting a new person, you wouldn’t just hug a stranger or cut their finger off of them, so don’t do this to a plant without permission.
5) You may want to use a pendulum, if you are unfamiliar with it’s use then just-get a book or take a class on it’s use. It is a perfect tool for the beginner to help get you started in communicating with the plant spirit deva. Ask permission to speak to the plant deva and listen. Ask in a yes and no format to start.
6) If you are given permission to take some of the plant be respectful and do not take too much from any one plant. Be sure your plant is not endangered or an at risk species. If it is do not select it for medicine and instead choose a plant that has the same medicinal properties but is more common.
7) Always give an offering. Tobacco is a good one or a hair from your head. In Peru they use the word “Ayni” which means deep thankfulness and reciprocity. Your medicine will be so much sweeter and more powerful when the attitude of gratitude is imbibed throughout this process from plant to medicine.
8) Spend time with your plants, it takes lots of time to develop a relationship that is deep. So cultivate it with time and dedication. You may want to journal and draw your plant, visit it as much as you can, see it in different seasons, different conditions etc. Be a good human citizen and ambassador to these plants.
Plants have a lot to say if you listen and use your senses. Plant energetics learned through the senses of sight, smell, taste, touch, can convey so much information about what a plant is used for, its actions in the body and active constituents.
Wildcrafting be it in the back yard or in mountains can connect us to nature and to something deeper in ourselves through our deepening connecting to the plants.
Beautiful Blessings, -Victoria Reddick herbalist, plantspirit medicine practitioner.