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A Shamanic Herbal: Plant Teachers and Animal Medicines by Matthew Wood

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    • Culinary Remedies: Exploring Health in African American Kitchens
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    Mission Statement

    The focus of Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism is on a spiritual practice of herbalism, healing, and medicine.  The main points in this approach are an overall emphasis on Nature as a Living Being, acknowledging the body, soul, and spirit, the four directions or elements, the seven lessons of the medicine path (described below), and the plants themselves.  This is undertaken from a vitalist, holistic, natural, and traditional perspective. 
    The Living Nature (anima mundi) is experienced through the heart, both as a loving presence and as a fountain of wisdom. In order to practice herbalism, healing, and medicine in a sacred way we need to understand the basic principles by which Nature regulates her creatures.  The traditional name for this knowledge is natura sophia (Nature Wisdom).

    The Living Nature encompasses the mineral, plant, animal, and human worlds. As an herbal program, our emphasis is on the plant world, which provides so many of our great healing remedies. However, the animal world is also of great importance because it is the source of our animal vitality (vital force or qi), senses, instincts, emotions, and dreams. We sleep and dream only because we are warm-blooded animals. Internal exploration shows that the dream world is the spirit world; this is an age-old teaching of shamanism, Native spirituality, and the Nature Wisdom tradition. The human adds just self-consciousness and self-determination (a two-edged sword).
    matthew wood

    So we also need to study the animal world. This includes the vital force, which is also equivalent to the animal self (the double with which we co-walk during life in the body), the so-called etheric body, light-body, or energy body.  It is the actualization of the animal self in dreamtime that allows us to have eyes and ears in the spirit world, for the animal world is the source of sensory awareness.  The animal carries the human into the spirit world.  This is why the eternal symbol of the shaman is the Human/Animal.  This is known as the Old, Old Path, innate to the Living Nature.  This is not a religion but an experience.  

    The mineral world adds the physical Earth, which we need to learn to approach in a sacred manner, with regard to our growing, picking, and selection of herbal medicines, and our living upon the surface.  

    Thus, Nature Wisdom encompasses the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire), also the fifth (spirit, inspiration).  It also teaches us that the medicine of Nature is based on natural laws.  These include the law of action and reaction (“karma”), manifesting as the great therapeutic laws of similars (like to like) and contraries (hot to cold).  Healing proceeds from the “touch of the essence,” through similarity or opposition, then continues through the healing principle of the law of direction of cure and the law of the healing crisis.  These three constitute the basic directives for healing from an innately spiritual perspective, in alignment with the Living Nature.  There are, however, a total of seven laws, the higher four constituting therapeutic letting go, therapeutic sight, therapeutic grabbing hold, and therapeutic authority and responsibility.    

    These seven principles also correspond to the organizational themes of spiritual life, the seven levels or rungs on the shamanic ladder (“Jacob’s ladder”), which led us to self-knowledge and the opening of spiritual vision.  For this reason, therefore, our curriculum also offers material on the spiritual journey through life.   

    These are the principles of Nature Wisdom and the way our school of herbal medicine is organized.  A secondary mission will be to collect and offer materials relating to the history of herbalism and herbal practitioners in the last several generations.

    Matthew Wood, MS
    Lowgap, North Carolina
    9:35 am, Jan. 30, 2019

    Our students love us

    I love your Community and your teaching style. Your stories help solidify the knowledge and the visuals seen through your descriptions, gives Herbalists like myself, a jump up to get to know, retain and recall the plants you speak of. I really feel a part of the group when I attend these classes. Thank you...
    I have always considered Ms. Light to be my all-time favorite herbalist, and being a Southern herbalist, I love her historical and regional references. Mr. Wood is also a fount of information...they are so different and yet compatible. Literally every sentence is chock full of experience and knowledge...
    Lily W
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences. As always, I learn from your knowledge and I, among others, truly appreciate it. I highly recommend anything you and your team present. 
    Vicki s