Tag Archives: Native American Wisdom

Full Moon Vision: Reconnecting to the Land through Native Plant Gardening in Long Island, NY

i was visited by a great horned owl physically and also in a dream last night. photo by Larry Linton via fine art america

Last night under the Full Long Nights Moon in Cancer, a vision for a native plant revival here on Long Island came to me. (While this article is geared towards Long Island native plant gardening, it can readily be applied to any given area.) There was what sounded like an owl hooting in a tree not far from my bedroom window, a very unusual sound for these parts, which compelled me to research the presence of owls on Long Island. This initial search opened up doorways to reading about the native wildlife here. I finally deduced that it was indeed a great horned owl I was hearing through this youtube video, and finding that great horned owls do in fact inhabit NY. (That led me to much research about owl medicine/teachings of course, which amazingly has a lot to do with the moon, feminine energy, and the harbinger of new cycles!, but that’s for another post…) This was synchronistic because for quite some time I have been curious about which herbs are native to my homeland, Nassau County, LI and only hours prior to hearing the owl hoot, I finally started some meaningful research cross-referencing native LI plants with at-risk native plants listed by United Plant Savers. Had the owl not come, I wouldn’t have delved as far into the research and the vision…and so under the full moon, with the help from a great horned owl spirit, I put down on virtual paper this vision that I hope will somehow be the beginning of a return to the land and plants and animals of this beautiful land called Long Island……the crazy part is after writing this and going to sleep, the great horned owl came to me in a dream as well, crystal clear and so very beautiful!!!! Here is what I wrote shortly after the owl flew away (in real life):

Being born and raised in Nassau County, Long Island, I have become very curious about those plants that are native to where I call home. I believe that the plants that grow naturally in a given area are intrinsically linked to the people living there, sagely providing the needed nourishment, medicine, and gifts that the lifestyle and environment demands. We do not choose where we are born, but I believe one’s birthplace is the product of millions of years of human history and fate and not a mere coincidence. While many of us are relative newcomers to this land, I consider myself a Long Island native because I was born here and grew up calling this place home. If this is our home, then the native plants and wildlife are our long-time neighbors.

the lovely Maidenhair Fern (Adiantum pedatum) is a Long Island Naitive and is on United Plant Savers’ “to watch” list. image via Rebecca in the Woods

While our society has moved further and further away from living closely in partnership with our other native species, they continue to grow and make themselves available to us, though unfortunately we haven’t upheld our end of the partnership as faithfully. Many native plants are at risk or on the United Plant Savers’ to watch list. Others are more prolific but I feel our partnership has weakened and that distancing is detrimental to all life forms here on Long Island. I look to the ways of the native peoples of Long Island who have inhabited this land from as much as 12,000 years ago to learn how to live hand in hand with our plant and animal neighbors rather than separately from them. Of course, these ideas can be applied to any person in any place! My goals in researching and compiling a list of native herbs of Long Island are:

1. to raise awareness of and spark interest in the plethora of medicinal herbs whose home is the same as our own and thereby deepen the sense of connection of the people to the land

2. to encourage Long Island natives to actively cultivate and honor these native plants in order to conserve the rich and dynamic plant life of Long Island for the benefit of all living creatures on Long Island (and the larger web of life)

3. to empower Long Islanders through the framework of promoting sustainable, local, and community-based production of native medicinal herbs for self-reliance and reducing dependence on imported/non-native/mass produced/inorganic medicines

I firmly believe that all we need we are given, if we only open our hearts and minds to these gifts. By studying, exploring, gardening, and partnering with native plants, we will re-establish the long-time connection between these plants and us, their present-day people. Like Adele Dawson, herbalist, taught, herbs and people are partners in life — both providing for each other, as part of a greater circle that has been long neglected but not lost.

Ways we can partner with the native medicinal plants of Long Island (or wherever you live!):

1. Start a small native herb garden in your yard or your community.

2. Visit natural parks and learn about the native plants in their natural habitat.

a book I found at my local library about the languages and lore of the native peoples of LI

3. Teach children* to value sustainability through the use of local resources, starting with learning about the plants that grow closest to home and what their gifts are to us. Introduce the concept of partnership with the environment and how we can help plants thrive as well. (*oh, and I happened to meet this very teacher Friday morning and her telling me about how she teaches students to garden inspired me to look into native gardening yesterday as well, how much more synchronistic can this get?!)

4. Adopt a native Long Island at-risk plant or a to-watch plant from the United Plant Savers lists.

5. Advocate and tell friends and family about the importance of conserving and partnering with native plants.

6. Establish a connection to the land — explore your roots here and foster a relationship with the land that you can be proud of and feel grateful for.

7. Research your town, find out about the customs and practices of the peoples who inhabited it before you and learn to live more in tune with the land and its seasons.

8. Support local agriculture. Join a CSA and eat organic, locally grown foods that are in season and give back to the earth rather than deplete it.

9. Join a local botanical society or visit a state garden such as NYBG.

10. Grow native plants that will not only help you and your family, but also other members of our community such as the bees, butterflies, birds, and animals.

Check back soon for a list of native Long Island herbs, trees, and shrubs that are on United Plant Savers’ at-risk or to watch lists, as well as a general list of native plants, herbs, animals, and flowers of Long Island and other resources for further research and action!

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Wapi’ Yechi :: Tonic Herbs for Balance + Harmony

pejuta win (herb woman) via sodahead

In the wise way of the Native American people, the concept of wapi’ yechi, or bringing a person back to balance, is deeply rooted in the way of medicine. The herb woman (pejuta win) administered herbs and contacted animal or ancestral spirits to heal a sick person.  It’s amazing that curing is equated with balance. The concept of restoring balance is inherent to herbalism, while modern allopathic medicine unfortunately has forgotten this wisdom.

We hear and talk about STRESS all the time, but really when you stop to think about what it actually means, it becomes a little less … stressful. Stress is whatever causes the body to be pulled away from balance. The nature of life is change and therefore no one can escape stress. When stress gets the best of us illness (imbalance) occurs. However, there are herbs that help us cope with stress and restore balance … wapi’ yechi.

Tonic herbs are masters of balance, like Libra. The secret to their gift is that they are dual-natured, like gemini; they contain opposite groups of constituents that each carry opposite signals to the body. The body then chooses based on “specific hunger” which action it needs, based on the situation at hand. For example … echinacea is a tonic herb that has the ability to BOTH lower white blood cell count or raise white blood cell count. If a person has LOW white blood cell count, their body would interpret the echinacea as a white blood cell ENHANCER, and vise versa!! (Specific hunger is the idea that the body is wise and knows what is best for it, such as a child with a fever craving a cucumber…knowingly or not the cucumber cools and reduces fever! This happens all the time, but the important thing is to listen to your own body. Cravings are a whole other story….) This is an amazing interaction between plant and body that reflects our oneness with all of nature…they have this unspoken understanding that transcends the need for specific drugs or “instructions” from us!

Our bodies and the plants are truly partners in healing and harmony.

It is somewhat hard for us to understand that many herbs can have two opposite effects on the body, depending on what is needed at the time. Perhaps that is because modern medicine focuses on solving one problem in the body at a time. Not surprisingly, this approach always causes many side effects, because this method only furthers the IMBALANCE in the body.  A people’s medicine reveals much about the way of life and beliefs that govern daily living and perception of life. It seems that modern medicine ignores the concept of balance and makes it foreign to us. Using tonic herbal formulas daily is a proactive way to “fill in the gaps” of our current medical model.

Tonic herbs are always non-toxic, dual-natured, suitable for long-term use, and restore balance to body systems that are under stress. They don’t need any instructions, just take them and they will work WITH your body to fix what needs fixing. Here are some tonic herbs:

echinacea

ginseng

licorice root

rosemary

motherwort

chamomile

passion flower

milk thistle

horsetail

ginger

sarsaparilla

yerba mate …. these are just a few! as always feel free to message me with questions or help finding the right tonic herbs!

Trust the inherent wisdom of your body and the plants! Tonic herbs are like tune-ups for your body. Even if you don’t feel sick or imbalanced, or you aren’t sure which systems are off balance in your body, you can revive the age-old practice of taking tonic herbs everyday for optimal health.

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4 Beloved Everyday Herbs: Going to Scarborough Fair

Tell him to buy me an acre of land, Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Betwixt the salt water and the sea sand, Then he shall be a true lover of mine.

One of my favorite songs of all time is Scarborough Fair, a traditional British ballad, particularly the version angelically sung by Simon+Garfunkel on their 1966 album “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme.” Whenever I listen, I feel like I am taken to a different time and place, a place of simplicity and purity, romance, magic, chivalry. The 4 herbs sung about in this traditional hymn are some of the most virtuous of herbs, and also the simplest to grow and to integrate into your day to day. Here are some ways to use the famous four and the benefits that come along with them, inspired by The Good Herb by Judith Benn Hurley:

1. Parsley, the magical multivitamin. Hurley writes, “just a cup of parsley contains more vitamin C than an orange, more beta carotene than a carrot, more calcium than milk, and much more iron than a serving of liver.” The Cherokee Indians used it to prevent infections and in Germany and China its been used traditionally to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. You can grow it in a container with enough space for its long taproot, and make sure it gets at least 6 hours of full sun per day. Take a bath with parsley tea when you’re fatigued and it will freshen you right up. Parsley is an herb of gemini.

2. Sage, the ceremonial healer+savior. Used by Native Americans in smudging ceremonies to cleanse and purify the air of any negativity. Ancient Arabic and Chinese herbalists drank sage tea for mental and spiritual clarity, and drinking a cup of sage tea helps concentration and memory. Sage is known to darken hair, cover up grey hairs, as a cooling skin soother after shaving, and to decrease excessive perspiration. Sage can be grown indoors near a window with 6 hours of sun. Keep it shorter than 12 inches tall for best health. Sage protects other plants such as Rosemary from disease. Sage is an herb of Aquarius.

3. Rosemary, the mind soother. The Greeks wore garlands of this herb to ward off the evil eye and to help them remember their studies. It was said that rosemary refused to grow in the gardens of an evil person. Rosemary was placed under pillows to prevent nightmares and induce peaceful sleep. It’s mostly used for stress management, headaches, and digestive health. It is full of calcium that is easily absorbed by the body. Rosemary does not endure freezing winters, so it is wise to plant it in pots and bring them in in wintertime. They need full sun, at least 4-6 hours a day, and the soil should be moist at all times. Rosemary is an herb of Aries.

4. Thyme, the courage-giving mint. Knights of the Middle Ages wore sprigs of thyme in their armor as a sign of courage and bravery. Thyme contains powerful antibacterial and antiseptic properties that fight off coughs, colds, and gum disease. It is high in iron, but use a splash of lemon in your thyme tea to help the body absorb it. You can make a thyme massage oil or tincture to cleanse the skin and treat fungal infections. Thyme grows like the hair of a maiden, falling over in tangles low to the ground. You can grow it in pots indoors and provide 6 hours of sunlight, and it will repel whiteflies. Keep the thyme healthy and growing by pruning them in winter and running your hands through the branches often. Thyme is an herb of Taurus and Libra.

via pen&paperie

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11 Herbal Books to Inspire, Enchant, and Charm Your Way to Good Health

Maude Grieve’s Modern Herbal, 1971 via Botanical.com

Herbals are books that offer information about the uses, properties, and botanical descriptions of herbs — and it’s no wonder they were amongst the first books produced in Ancient Egypt, China, India, and Europe. Ancient herbals and their modern-day counterparts are always fascinating to me, filled with legend, folklore, and other tell-tale information that reveals the quirks and idiosyncrasies of the times they were born of. Many herbals were illustrated to assist readers in plant identification, and some used the doctrine of signatures, which purported that an herb’s physical appearance revealed its healing virtues. (For example, lungwort’s leaves look similar to diseased lungs, the area of the body they are used to treat.)
The beauty of herbals is how interconnected they all are, like branches of one tree, all referencing others and tapping into the wealth of herbal information passed down through the ages. It’s fascinating to see how modern-day science and research combine with the empirical data and theories of the ages in later herbals. Here are some of my beloved herbals, dating from the 17th Century to the amazing herbals still being produced in our days:

1. Bruton-Seal, Julie, and Seal, Matthew, 2009. Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies. Skyhorse Publishing. (*rare)

2. Christopher, John R., 1996. School of Natural Healing. Nutribooks Corporation.

3. Culpeper, Nicholas, (1653). Culpeper’s Complete Herbal: A Book of Natural Remedies of Ancient Ills. Applewood Books, 2006.

4. De Bairacle Levy, Juliette, 1997. Nature’s Children. Ash Tree Publishing. (*rare)

Herbs + Things by Jeanne Rose, 1972.

5. Gladstar, Rosemary, 2008. Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family. Story Publishing.

6. Green, Chelsea, 2005. The Herbalist’s Way: The Art and Practice of Healing with Plant Medicines. Chelsea Green Publishing.

7. Grieve, Maud, 1971. A Modern Herbal: the Medicinal, Culinary, Cosmetic and Economic Properties, Cultivation and Folk-Lore of Herbs, Grasses, Fungi, Shrubs & Trees with their modern scientific uses. Dover Publications.

8. Kloss, Jethro, (1939). Back to Eden: the Classic Guide to Herbal Medicine, Natural Foods, and Home Remedies Since 1939. Lotus Press, 2004.

9. Rose, Jeanne, 1972. Herbs & Things. Penguin Books.

10. Shaouli, Rabbi Moshe Cohen, and Fisher, Rabbi Yaakov, 1999. Nature’s Wealth: Health and Healing Plants based on the teachings of the Rambam. Publisher unknown. (*very rare)

11. Tis Mal Crow, 2001. Native Plants, Native Healing: Traditional Muskagee Way. Native Voices Publishing.

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Cherokee Wisdom: Two Wolves

via Andeole

A wise old Cherokee chief sat with his grandson one starry evening.

“There is a fight going on inside me,” the grandfather said to the small boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

One wolf is cruel. He is fear, anger, envy, greed, self-pity, guilt, lies, false pride, self-doubt, and baseless hatred.

The other wolf is good. He is love, peace, acceptance, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, hope, gratitude, and self-respect.

The stars twinkled above and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves around them. The grandfather gazed at his wide-eyed disciple . “This very struggle is going on inside you – and inside every other person in the world, too.”

The grandson pondered this strange idea, and soon became worried about the fight of his two wolves. He then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old chief looked up at the rising moon, glistening in its sky of blue, and simply said,
“The one you feed.”

Adapted from Pearls of Wisdom 

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