By Cat Gina Cole
When I was young, I got to spend many hours in the gardens of my aunts, my grandma, and my dad. It was fun spending time with them like that, listening to their stories or hearing them talk about the plants like they were alive. Seeing how they cared for each one like it was their child taught me many things about animism. I did not know then, that was what I was learning because, like most kids, I was often bored or distracted from what they were trying to teach me.
It was not until I was fifty years old those lessons came crashing back into my memory. I was taking an herbal class from my first Pagan teacher that was not my family. In that class, she would give us a small thumbnail picture of an herb with its classification and toxicity on it and nothing more. I had only taught one or two other Paganism 101 type classes prior to this, but I was so disillusioned by what she considered an herbal class I volunteered to teach it myself because I was sure I could do better. In those early days I was only one chapter ahead of my students, if that. However, my students got a lot more information about the herb presented and even had homework. It was what I considered a real class and worth a student’s time. I was being an upstart, and to her credit, the teacher gave me the room. If I had only known then how many hours I would be buried in books doing research and writing lessons, I may not have been so confident, but now I had to put my money where my mouth was and failing was not acceptable.
Along the way, the unexpected reached out and grabbed me. I discovered I liked doing research and fell in love with the discovery of plants and herbs as medicine. And typical of an ADHD person, I was all in and took it very seriously. The more I researched, the more I realized that plants and herbs could heal and kill. They truly are medicine. That meant they were not to be trifled with and it was very important to know the health conditions of anyone they were given to, which made researching thoroughly even more important. This is where I developed my number one rule of herbs: NO MATTER WHO TELLS YOU ABOUT AN HERB OR GIVES YOU ONE, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!
This all set me on quite the journey into herbalism and being a person who journals everything, I wrote it all down over the years.
In “Herbalism For Your Day,” you will get the content right from my own journals. Keep in mind, what I share is my own experiences and discoveries. They are not the typical things you will find in an herbal book and some of it may even contradict the books. In other places as you read you may say, “Oh no, don’t do that!” to that I will remind you once again of my #1 rule, NO MATTER WHO TELLS YOU ABOUT AN HERB OR GIVES YOU ONE, DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH!
With that said, I begin with the discovery that herbs have their own language one needs to learn as it is full of ten-dollar words one needs to know. That is why my second lesson I taught back then was about plant identification. I researched many books and created the following plant identification glossary. I started there because so many folks love the idea of wildcrafting. I highly recommend one has a field guide specific to their local area before going wildcrafting. If you doubt the punch plants, can have watch the movie “Into The Wild.” It is a true story about a guy who went off to live in the wilds of Alaska and ended up dying because he misidentified a plant he ingested. This plant identification glossary is very small and basic compared to what it should be to have extensive knowledge of plant identification. To access the Plant Identification Glossary, click here
The third lesson I taught was about how herbs were used. Again, a glossary was needed to keep it all straight and for safety. Just as a person needs to have cautious respect for wild animals or a river, herbs and plants are also deserving of that respect and caution. To access the Herbal Glossary, click here
Cat Gina Cole is a Herditary Witch and author of Psychic Skills for Magic and Witchcraft (Llewellyn, 2022). She is the founder of The Coven of the Rising Phoenix and Staff Coordinator for “Green Egg Magazine.” You can reach her at www.catginacole.com.