A celebration of diversity and earth-based healing
by Banta Whitner
If you long to renew your spirit, remember your roots and explore the teachings of the Wise Woman tradition, you can experience all this and more at the 12th annual Southeast Wise Women’s Herbal Conference. From October 12–14, more than one thousand women will gather on the banks of Lake Eden in Black Mountain, NC, making this one of the largest and most popular herbal conferences in the country.
“The growth of the conference speaks to women’s desire to be proactive about natural health and wellness—their family’s, the Earth’s and their own,” says Corinna Wood, conference founder, herbalist and teacher. Participants can choose from more than 70 classes and workshops, including medicine making, plant walks, nutrition and self-empowerment, sacred sexuality and holistic health.
“The Wise Woman tradition tells us that compassion, simple ritual and common herbs heal the whole person and maintain health, wholeness and holiness.”
Wood will co-lead the opening ceremony on Friday evening with singer-activist Amikaeyla Gaston of the World Trust Organization and featured presenter of “Healer Heal Thyself: A deeper look into racism and bias in ourselves and the world.” This intensive workshop invites the conference community into a deeper mutual understanding of racial oppression and internalized privilege. The dialogue continues in “Unity Village,” a gathering place for women of color, as well as a vibrant opportunity for dialogue and bridge building among all women.
The Wise Woman tradition
The Wise Woman tradition embraces simple living, earth-based healing, the medicinal properties of native plants and the cyclical seasons of nature. According to internationally acclaimed herbalist Susun Weed, it is the oldest tradition of healing on our planet, yet is rarely written or talked about. “The Wise Woman tradition tells us that compassion, simple ritual and common herbs heal the whole person,” says Weed, “and maintain health, wholeness and holiness.”
Rebecca Word, naturopathic doctor and teacher at the conference, appreciates this yearly opportunity to immerse herself in the Wise Woman tradition. “The SEWW weekend is a time to step outside my everyday roles and into something calm, meaningful and deeply nourishing,” says Word, who joins an impressive faculty lineup that includes Sarah Thomas, Pam Montgomery, ALisa Starkweather, Amy Jo Goddard, Jody Noe, Marsia “Mother Turtle” Shuron Harris, Suki Roth, Lucretia Van Dyke and Kathleen Maier.
Kathleen is director of Sacred Plant Traditions in Charlottesville, VA. “We need to enter another dimension, another language. We need to transcend words,” she says of her class on the meaning of ceremony. “‘Anthropologists call this the liminal place—crossing a threshold into sacred space.”
In addition to a full class schedule, the conference offers dance and drumming, story-telling and music. Chloe and Leah, the visionary musical duo Rising Appalachia, will raise their voices in songs steeped in world culture and a passion for social justice.
Who will attend?
Women of all ages, beginning and practicing herbalists, health professionals, wildcrafters, gardeners and students of the Wise Woman tradition are all invited. Non-class activities are open to all attendees and include yoga, movement and film, along with interactive social events. Special programs for young women ages ten to 17 encourage the development of a strong self-image and an interactive relationship with the Earth.
Conference attendance is limited to women and girls (boys up to age nine may attend). Childcare is available during class sessions. Accommodations range from tent camping to indoor cabin lodging. Weekend meal tickets provide admission to communal meals featuring locally sourced organic offerings. At the Food Pavilion, vendors provide alternatives to the scheduled meals. For conference details, pricing and online registration, visit sewisewomen.com
Banta Whitner is a founding member of the Plough to Pantry editorial council. Holistic psychotherapist, organic gardener and writer, Banta blogs at simpleandgrounded.com.