Becoming a herbalist Blog

Becoming a herbalist. What do I fear?

Being a human is funny. We decide to do something, have a delirious moment of clarity and then all of a sudden all of our fears and demons rear their ugly heads.

I’ve never had so much doubt about my intentions and capabilities than when I paid the deposit for my herbal school program beginning this October. What the hell am I doing? Is this really right for me? What about X, Y and Z?

And so I thought I would write about them. What do I fear about becoming a herbalist?

I realised my biggest fear is becoming some kind of authority. As an anarchist, my whole life has been dedicated to challenging all forms of domination. If I train and become some kind of ‘professional’ does that give me authority? Is there then a hierarchy between me and ‘clients’? Will I have power over other people? I fear not being able to be a badass folk herbalist anymore, because I’ve joined the professionalised class.

I fear causing harm. I fear to recommend the wrong herb that has an adverse effect. I fear not spotting a symptom and somehow that has serious consequences for a person.

I fear failing. I fear the medicine I make not working. I fear not being able to create a livelihood or sustain myself. I fear not being useful. I fear not being able to fully recover and then feeling like a hypocrite when trying to help others to heal.

I fear pacifying myself. I fear having no time for grassroots organising or resistance work which is the heartbeat of my life. I fear being a sticking plaster. I fear that medicine is reactive, individualist and ‘in the moment’ and not really achieving the long-term systemic change I am seeking to create in the world.

I fear being a white saviour. I question my desires to volunteer in places like Calais with Herbalists without Borders. I fear that by being yet another white herbalist blogger I am going to crowd out people who need a platform more than I do – all the incredible people of colour, indigenous peoples and those committed to decolonizing herbal medicine. I fear that my work only benefits those with money or privilege and that herbalism becomes just another groovy lifestyle choice or consumer endeavour.

I fear losing my relationship to plants. I fear that by turning herbalism into a livelihood, I will start to relate differently to the green friends I love. I fear they will start to become ‘stock’ and ‘income’ and be commodified in my relationship to them. I fear that I will just need to get really good at selling stuff and that it will suck.

Author Miriam Greenspan writes:

“Think of fear not as a weakness but as information, a signal of unsafety, a useable energy, and a way of knowing.”

It’s there to guide us. So, in that case, what are these fears telling me?

I need to study so I know my shit, fearing screwing up is good – it’ll make me a better herbalist. Fearing being a white saviour is important – I have to constantly and rigorously assess my own and other people’s power dynamics and privilege. Fearing becoming an authority – yes you should! This fear will keep me in check. It will keep me analysing how I relate to other people before I slip into patterns that our healthcare system so effortlessly reproduces. Fear of pacifying myself is important. It’s so easy these days to drop out of frontline work, to take the path of least resistance, to compromise who we are because it is easier somehow.

I hope to blog about all of these fears in more detail over the coming months and years. They are all parts of this herbal world I want to explore and figure out as I try to craft a livelihood, create projects and organise for liberation in all its forms.

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