Robin Rose Bennett is a writer, teacher, green witch, herbalist, and a wisewoman… one who loves the earth and gives voice to the healing wild food and medicine plants which surround us. She has been a practicing herbalist for over 20 years, based in New York City and upstate NY. Focusing on the spiritual and ecological lessons of plants and treatment of illness, Robin has pioneered the revival of wild carrot, an ancient and modern method of natural birth control.
— RITUAL —
Do you have a personal ritual with medicinal plants/trees/fungi/the power of the natural word? How does this help to heal yourself and others?
I do have daily, monthly and annual rituals that I practice. Such practices help keep me in touch with, and connected to, the magic of reality and the reality of magic. It underlies all of what is commonly believed to be “the real world”. These practices have proven to be essential to my health and wellbeing. My personal and spiritual evolution are the most reliable medicine for the fear and despair that I, and others, can fall prey to when faced with the horrors and insane practices common to the time in which we are living (inequity, poverty, hunger, destruction of ecosystems and wildlife, etc.). These practices reveal the truth under the daily dramas which help me remember that no matter how it looks from the media saturation we live under, we are evolving as a species and we’re in (a long and difficult) labor to rebirth a connected and compassionate way of walking in the world.
Each morning, sometimes while still in bed, I meditate for about 20 minutes. I move my awareness through my body, giving thanks for all of it, every organ, my bones and blood, muscles, skin, starting with my feet and working my way up. This morning meditation sets the tone for my day and brings me healing if I’ve not slept well or had difficult dreams. I find it turns things around. Also, each morning I go outside and put my feet on the earth either in my medicine wheel, in the forest, or simply right outside the back door and say aloud a simple prayer to greet the day and express my awareness of, and gratitude for, the 4 elements and 7 directions. (I wrote the basic structure of this prayer in my book The Gift of Healing Herbs-Plant medicines and Home Remedies for a Vibrantly Healthy Life). Of course it can vary a bit depending on the inspiration or need of the moment.
My monthly ritual is a ritual that I’ve done for over 30 years now, and taught for nearly that long! The practice is to meditate for guidance at or near the new moon, and from that guidance consciously plant a seed of intention. This intention invites me into a practice for the entire month. I focus on the outward expression of my intention for two weeks until the moon is full, and as the moon wanes I turn to an inward process for two weeks, of incorporating the intention into my body, being, and into my life. I’ve written about this in detail in Healing Magic – A Green Witch Guidebook to Conscious Living and also have the new and full moon meditations available on a downloadable or hard copy CD. Attuning to the lunar rhythms helps me come to experience time as spiraling rather than linear, entering the here and now more fully and more often. Setting clear intentions helps me weave my inner healings within my psyche and to consciously co-create my outer life!
Finally, I love to celebrate the Earth’s holidays/holy days, especially in community with others. I still celebrate and mark the passages even if I am alone. I’m referring to the Solstices and Equinoxes and to the cross-quarter days. As I was taught, and now see and feel for myself, these special times are like hinges that swing open gates between the material and non-material worlds. Portals open and invite us to powerfully experience the magic of creation. These times give us a glimpse of how creativity is at play in our world every single instant. We are always dreaming the world into being. There are many different herbs I use for drinking, burning and anointing during these rituals and the moon rituals, as herbs enhance the experience, whether we are burning Artemisia vulgaris to stimulate a vision, lighting cinnamon to warm our spirits as we celebrate winter solstice, or drinking ginkgo leaf infusion to help us time travel!
— NOURISH —
What tonic herb has consistently supported your health and vitality. How do you prepare and consume it?
Ooh, too many answers spring to mind! One day I might say nettles and another day, linden and another day, plantain. And then how could I leave out oat straw, elder flowers, or red clover blossoms?
I love preparing roses as a hot infusion to drink or to pour into a bath. I cover one cup of dried roses with a half-gallon of boiling water, steep for one hour, and pour the infusion through a strainer into the bathtub.
Long steeping infusions (exact length varies from plant to plant) are my favorite way to drink most of my favorite herbs for nourishment.
I also love motherwort tincture for regular calming, and can’t imagine how I ever got along without her. I have been known to nibble the very bitter leaves, sometimes as a ritual, to help digest life’s more bitter experiences.
For today, if I had to pick just one, I’d say, hawthorn berries. They taste delicious, and nourish and fortify my heart, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I make very long-steeping infusions of the dried berries, 12-16 hours.
— SPIRIT —
How do you gain access to the spirit realm of plants, was this something you worked to developed or inherently in you. If you feel called to share the plant that most helps with this portal of access we’d humbly love to know.
The practices I wrote about in the first question all contribute to opening to the spirit realm of plants, as it’s all about opening to the connectedness we share with all of life, all our relations. Mostly I find gaining access is about being willing to take the time to slow down and sit with the plants, breathe with them and listen with your heart. Patience is necessary to develop the willingness to be present. When you are truly present, patience becomes a moot point since you are no longer waiting for something to happen, you are resting in what is happening, even if nothing much at all is happening!
I find that nibbling a fresh lobelia leaf and putting it on your 1st eye (more commonly called your 3rd eye) can help you hear the plants. Artemisia vulgaris as tea, tincture, oil, smoke, a single fresh leaf licked and applied to your 1st eye, and even woven into a wreath to wear is very helpful, too.
Linden blossoms, as a bath or infusion, can soften your edges and allow you to experience “other” dimensions that include plant communication.
Ginkgo biloba, on Earth for so many millions of years, can help bring you into a timeless place, or an ancient place in your being where you can touch spirit more readily. I use it topically as infused oil, internally as a tincture and/or drink the infusion.
Marijuana can soften the “borders,” too, and open you to the energy and spirit of plants. As in all things, finding the delicate balance of the amount that is enough and not too much is necessary. Otherwise, you may not remember any of the wisdom the plant shared with you!
— HEART —
What do you love about being an herbalist? How do you help others free their hearts through herbal medicine?
I love getting to introduce people to the plants as their elders and teachers, as healers in their own right, as beings who know and accept themselves. The plants do all the heart healing. They love us back to health and wholeness if we let them in.
My job is to be an ambassador, a liaison if you will, between the people and the plants. I love getting to be the conduit and then watching how people come alive through the magic of the plants’ generous spirits. As a practicing herbalist doing a consultation is almost like being a matchmaker!
I love that the herbs have invited me to feel at home and helped me to be happy being in a body on the earth. That wasn’t always true. And the herbs get me to go outside and play more, too.
I love sharing heart-healing practices such as the following one:
Slowly, very slowly, chew a fresh Kwanzaan cherry blossom and let its flavors unfurl in your mouth, layer by layer. Cherry invites us into pure joy and this is an experience in savoring the utter joy of life. Highly recommended!
— BODY —
What is your favorite medicinal herb to incorporate into your food? How do you prepare it?
I love to cook with the plants, such as cooking brown basmati rice in nettle infusion or chickpeas in sassafras leaf or rose bud infusion.
I’m especially mad for wild maitakes and chicken-of-the-woods mushrooms, enjoying their immune-nourishing gifts and delicious taste. My favorite way to eat them is to sauté the fresh, thinly sliced mushrooms with organic butter and fresh or dried sage from my garden. Awesome!
— RELATIONSHIP —
How do you most enjoy creating relationship with the natural world?
The single most important thing I continuously do to cultivate my relationship with nature is to remember that I am part of it all. By spending more time outside, tuning in to the life around, under, and over me through sitting, being quiet, toning, singing, walking with no destination, undistracted, and quieting my mind, (rather than walking and making plans about what I’ll do later) and listening, listening, listening - to the winds, to the birds, learning to be quiet inside. And remember, I spent my first 10 years as an herbalist living in New York City! I always figured if I could do it there, I could do it anywhere.
— PERSONAL POWER —
What plant or element from the natural world has most put you in touch with your personal power as a healer?
Hmmm. Before I knew myself as an herbalist, as a plant person, the first plant to beckon to me, even to claim me, was elder. So she holds a special place in my sense of myself. My three life-long allies are elder, plantain, and rose, so each of these puts me in touch with different aspects of my own gifts. Currently, Oak has been my chief “front and center” ally and helper for nearly the past four years. I had a dream in which I became an oak tree many years ago that always stays with me. I feel that I am living that dream now, through being strengthened by oak I provide sustenance for others who are seeking earth connection through my own rooted connection with our beloved Earth.
— PUBLICATIONS —