Herbal Medicine and the Way of the Sacred Warrior, by Matthew Wood

What does the Way of the Sacred Warrior have to do with Herbal Medicine? Shamanism is the point of contact between the two. The herbalist is close to Nature and the good herbalist is one who learns directly from the Living Nature. The warrior, on the other hand, is someone who takes life seriously – deadly serious. He or she sees that life is not just a free ride, but an opportunity. Also, life is precious, not only for oneself but for all other living beings. Therefore, one must be magnanimous in one’s dealings with others –with the whole of Nature. One does not waste the time and energy of oneself or others or the natural world. Because of this attitude of caring and reverence for Mother Nature, the Sacred Warrior sometimes is blessed by Her with lessons. Nature is a teacher, as well as a provider. Sometimes these lessons even come in the form of plants. Thus, the warrior meets up with the herbalist.

While the herbalist need not be a warrior, the good herbalist is one who treats Nature with care and reverence, not wasting medicinal plants or wasting the time and energy of clients on side trips and egoic adventures. Therefore, the good herbalist is a natural warrior.

Warriorship is a method of preparation for the meeting with the Living Nature. That is perhaps the greatest meeting one can have in a lifetime, because we are introduced to our true spiritual home, of which this material world is a perfect replica. We know that there is a spirit, that there is another world, that we are a part of it, and we know our place and our true identity. From that point on we are more and more the shaman.

If it was important to meet the challenges of the material world with care and reverence, how much more so is this true of the inner world, the Living Nature. We could get lost in there. We could be seduced by the hidden powers beyond the Veil. Therefore, warriorship is the mortar that holds the bricks of spiritual life together. We need the discipline of a warrior to approach that world but once we enter into that world we are led more by the spirit within, and less by the code of the warrior. The latter, however, provides us with good habits that never leave us, but become unconscious and habitual.

Plants are great teachers and therefore the life of the herbalist and the warrior converge at last in the same green field. Plants can teach us about medicine, about the body but also the psyche and even the spirit. Thus, warrior, herbalist, and plant converge in the arena of shamanism. This is the arena where we learn about the spirit – for the illusive spirit leaves its footprints in the arena of the natural world.

During the upcoming Warriorship and Shamanic Medicine retreat, we will study warriorship, why it is so important, how to follow the path of the warrior, but also herbalism – how it can help us on the spiritual path – and how it can enrich the life of the warrior. We will not only be learning about plants, however, but animals and their significance for us on the warrior’s path. Appropriately, our class is set at a beautiful Wolf Conservation Center in rural Westchester Co., N.Y. This is appropriate because the wolf is one of the symbols or totems of the warrior. Wolf is a citizen of the wild Nature, not man’s domesticated regime. Therefore, Wolf teaches us how to live in the Living Nature.

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