Each year, a couple hundred souls come to greet the earth at the annual Chesapeake Herb Gathering (Gathering). Held in Southern Maryland, the Gathering is a herbalist’s dream. Brought to us by Centro Ashe – “a community rooted education center, farmstead, and medicinal plant sanctuary … that seeks to cultivate and preserve the knowledge of our food, herbal medicine, seeds, and our healing traditions alive and vital within our communities”.
For two days, a few hundred people gathered with kindred spirits to feed their Souls. I was one of them. This was my first year attending, but I’ve had my eye on this gathering for quite some time. My focus on herbs for the most part is health and spiritual in nature. This gathering catered to that need and a host of others.
Molly Meehan Brown is the founder and director of Central Ashe Community Herbal Education. Among many things, she is an educator, facilitator, consultant and contractor in program design and planning. I encourage you to check out her bio. She is a force of nature. She directs the Chesapeake Herb Gathering and makes this type of work seem seamless. I had the pleasure of meeting Molly briefly, her smile on her photo is real. She’s the real deal and speaks right to your heart.
Officially, the Gathering is an annual event bringing together inter-generational herbal, land-based, and healing communities to celebrate stories, our knowledge, our culture and traditions. Molly’s welcoming presence is woven into all aspects of the programming. You cannot help but feel her love for her work throughout the space.
I noticed people came from great distances to learn about a wide array of workshops from Galactogogues and Other Postpartum Support with Olivia Fite to A Legacy of Herbal Medicine from the Perspective of Enslaved Women in the US with Karen Culpepper. But there was also dance & drum (with Dr. Yew and several seasoned drummers), great food, bonfire, hoops and everything in between (view schedule here). This type of intensive is one of the best ways to accelerate your learning, make new friends and have fun doing it.
My purpose for attending was primarily to increase my knowledge of herbs for my work as a spiritual guide. I got so much more. I went home with countless hours of videos and notes that will take me some time to review. I also made some fabulous new connections and enjoyed spending time nestled in the tranquil beauty of the Piscataway Indian Museum and Cultural Center and its grounds.
The Gathering also featured a selected number of artisans who brought a piece of their Souls to share with us. They came in the form of books, artwork, herbs and other tools. For my new readers, I feel I need to explain my innerstanding of the concept of Soul and spirit. I will stick to the following definition. Everything that is created or that has spiraled into existence has a spirit, even a thought form once it materializes into the cellular has a spirit. We feed the spirit of a thing through our own Ashe, Chi or simply vital life force or energy.
Yet, not everything has a Soul. In order for something to have Soul, a portion of the Soul of its maker must be “breathed” into it. The Soul must come from the depth of the artisan. Cultivated through the labor of the artisan. And birth into a forum where it can be witnessed and given presence. This requires the spiritual art of cultivation, something herbalist are very familiar with.
The Chesapeake Herb Gathering had many devoted artisans and herbalist who have learned to expressed their Soul in bounty. Soul-filled passionate students of the sacred arts which included local herbalist, teachers, healers, botanist, medicine makers, rootworkers, artists, clinicians, green spirit activist, and so many more earth and wisdom keepers.
Fun-shops or workshops?
The gathering was just the right combination of education and play. Over the two days, I attended several workshops. I could write an entire blog about each one. Instead, I will briefly highlight just four.
Handcrafted Herbal Medicine Making with Katelyn Jarkowiec
Herbal spirit medicine brought to life by an authentic wise woman. Don’t let her youth-filled laughter fool you. She is a powerhouse of knowledge and inner-standing of the nature of herbs. She shared samples and taught us how to use our inner wisdom to evoke our inner craft-men or women-ship. She is highlighted in the video below.
Fall in Love with Holy Basil with Henriette den Ouden, Chris Himmel
I fell in love with Holy Basil a few years ago. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with Henriette and Chris. Their presentation stimulated our intellect and our passion for this herb. Their presentation style friendly, down to earth, inviting, with a touch of comedic gems. This hour-long presentation was one of my favorites. I left there committed to growing my own Holy Basil. I imagine, it must be a real treat to visit their farm. Their knowledge and love of nature was visible to all.
A Conversation – Encountering “Isms” In Therapeutic Practice and Herbal Incense Making
with Ayo Ngozi
In Ifa, Ayo is one of the daughters of Oya. Oya is the cosmic force of air/wind. She teaches us among many things how we must be in the face of change. And Ayo reminded me of the same – how we are to be in the face of change and challenges. Her classes covered a spectrum from trust in ourselves to lies in “isms” to how to dance with your herbal incense making process in order to achieve success. She is one of my new activist and herbal “sheros”.
A Legacy of Herbal Medicine from the Perspective of Enslaved Women in the US with Karen Culpepper
I did not plan to attend this workshop because I thought it would bring me too much sadness. My Soul had other plans. I met Karen while having my lunch in the harbor minutes prior to her workshop. Her authenticity, vast knowledge, passion, and Soul convinced me to stay. Karen presented her healing medicine through clarity, divine knowledge while giving us a respite in knowing we are part of the continuum of positive change. She inspired us to continue to learn while embracing the deep legacy left to some of us by our enslaved ancestors.
In the end, my heart was open wide and I was full, mind, body, spirit and Soul. I also purchased enough herbs and other goodies to last me through several months.
The Chesapeake Herb Gathering is a deeply enriching experience that so many would benefit from. I signed up for another class in October. Molly, Ayo and all of the speakers create the right atmosphere for an extraordinary experience.
Check out the video below and be sure o add this gathering to your list for 2017.
Learn more about Sodotutu