Weed, Susun S. The Wise Woman Herbal: Healing Wise. (Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing, 1989) 295 p., bibliography, index, glossary, list of sources.
ISBN: 0-9614620-2-7

Susun Weed's concept of 'wise woman healing' may be more than a little female centered, but it has a kind of intuitive validity that will appeal to the pagan hearthcrafter and healer. The wise woman tradition, according to Weed, involves a spiral of varying states of health, a spiral of self- and other-nourishment, in which we learn and grow from our problems. She contrasts this with the scientific (medical) approach, which sees people as machines in need of tuneups, and the heroic (alternative medicine) approach, which sees people as temples in need of cleaning or sinners in need of punishment. The wise-woman tradition, according to Weed, focuses around women as healers and nurturers. She lists 8 parts to the 'medicine wheel of the wise woman tradition': invisibility, uniqueness, blood mysteries, surrender, abundance, commonness, compassion, and intention-- all of which have to do with traditional female-based health care. For those who can see the idea of 'feminine' as separate from physical sex, and therefore see 'wise woman' as a male or female figure, and who can get past the feminist jargon, this will be an intriguing concept.

After describing the 'wise woman' tradition, Weed illustrates her principles by describing seven 'green allies' or simples: Burdock, Chickweed, Dandelion, Nettle, Oatstraw, Seaweeds, and Violet. She recommends that the wisewoman in training learn herbalism by working with a single herb for a year or so. For each 'green ally,' she includes a 'dialog' with the spirit of the plant, facts about the plant, a 'weed walk' describing collecting it, properties and uses, 'pharmacy' and 'kitchen' recipes, and 'fun and facts.' It isn't as wifty-farkle as it sounds; actually it's quite helpful and well-researched.

There is also a 'Herbal Pharmacy' section, which explains how to make various herbal preparations. Not only are there references and resources listed for each section, but there is a list of mail-order sources, wildfood cookbooks, list of nutritional values, and an index and a recipe index.

The book is mostly well-written, and it explores a herbal/healing strategy long used by wisewomen and shamans in many times and places-- the extensive use of well-known simples, especially in nourishing the patient. I personally also like her wise-woman tradition; I find a helpful contrast to the alternative herbal tradition/healthfood tradition. (*grin* Terry Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax would probably recognize this approach, too.) But I recommend this work for pagan herbalists and for those studying to be 'wisewomen' (as in the old sense of 'village wise woman').


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Copyright (©) Jennifer Heise, 1997