Think of this as a conversation around the cauldron, a gathering space to spin together our stories, songs, howls, and hopes. Each thread that is spun becomes part of a world wild web, connecting wild women around the globe.
We aim to weave in one thread a month. There isn't a set theme. If there is someone you would love to see invited to join us as a Web Spinner, please give us a howl to tell us who and why.
Or keep scrolling to meet the 2022 Spinners...
Welcome to the Wild Woman Web!
Thread 44 - Educating Geeta: Wild Woman Creativity - Dr Geeta Ludhra
Thread 43 - I do not yet know - Clare Archibald
Thread 42 - Sites of Transformation - Dr Louise Ann Wilson
Thread 41 - And they tip their heads back and howl - Tamsin Grainger
Thread 40 - Wild Plant Stories - Amanda Edmiston (Botanica Fabula)
By Dr Geeta Ludhra
Creativity -- the wildfire in my belly that lights my soul, vibrates my mind to think differently.
Creativity -- embracing parts of my heritage, culture and femininity to find joy and freedom to explore and express.
Creativity – a space where the magic happens.
Knowledge – the books, people and life wisdom that guide creative transformation over time and place.
I return to an old journal article that I wrote on creativity in Teacher Education (Ludhra, 2008). The prescriptive style of academic writing makes me feel uncomfortable as I struggle to make words sit neatly and intelligently, trying to meet the prescribed criteria. As I read the paper, I realise how much I’ve moved on, but appreciate the bit that I wrote on the synergy between knowledge and creativity, and how they should perhaps be seen as mutually dependent. I state that ‘creative impulse seeks to break new ground and requires transformation’ – and that I have. My relationship with creativity and knowledge is a complex yet exciting one – when the two dance in harmony, my soul feels wild and happy – in a geeky ‘Educating Geeta’ kinda way (that’s my Indian spin on the 1983 movie ‘Educating Rita’).
My books are creative friends – I play with them, making them look pretty and welcoming on the bookshelf I always craved as a girl.
I’m not a ground-breaking woman who is overly adventurous – I take fairly comfortable risks that keep me safe. But slowly that’s changed, as I lean into the creative opportunities and metamorphosis that female aging offers. Although painful, the menopause has been part of my creative journey, where I’ve given myself permission to carve new spaces as a form of joy and self-care, essential to my thrival. These spaces have allowed me to transform and move forward with warrior-like hope.
‘Creativity is a shapechanger…Some say the creative life is in ideas, some say it is in doing. It is in most instances to be in a simple being” (Pinkola Estés, 1992: 313).
Over time, I’ve moved creative ideas from my imagination to action -- through the senses and psychic feminine intuition. Small acts have led to wild soul transformations, new voices roaring from silenced years.
My creative activities and spaces are simple and feel sacred – the energy generated through the learning and growth feeds my soul, but also my family and the communities I support. When I over-feed and nourish others, I’m ‘gasping for creative energy’ (Pinkola Estés, 1992: 315). I’ve learnt to reflect on my environment and interactions with people, to unblock the chakras and promote energy flow, rather than hosting everyone’s woes. As a woman who has always given and people pleased, stepping back, stepping away and putting up boundaries has felt like a light form of resistance, almost revolutionary.
So where do I find these spaces for Educating Geeta to feel wild, to thrive through the synergy of creativity and knowledge?
* I read books by feminists of colour who speak from a shared ‘truth’ of experience, providing authentic points of connection. I make it my business to educate myself daily to keep the wildfire alive; the Doctorate was an important point in igniting this wild feminist fire.
* I create and lead a reading, writing and walking community where like-minded souls connect. By creating spaces that I couldn’t find, creative energies dance together and vibrate at a higher frequency. As I walk and talk through the countryside as a woman of colour, alone and with people from diverse backgrounds, gentle steps lead to personal and community transformation (Changing Perspectives in the Countryside: Dr Geeta Ludhra - The MERL)
* I play with poetry and feminist theory, honouring my autobiographical experiences and the ancestral wisdom of my great grandmothers. I see this as a form of creative academic expression (I am currently leading a community writing book by South Asian female women, as part of the @educatinggeeta writing group).
* I cook like an Indian dadima (grandmother) who needs no recipe but is guided by her senses and intuition. I crush whole spices for my tea like an Ayurvedic teaologist, connecting to the ancestral culinary wisdom of wise grandmothers before me
* I pick up a paintbrush and teach myself how to watercolour, forgiving myself for those beginner ‘mistakes’, moving away from seeking perfection, focussing on simple creation.
* I connect with feminine energies that open my chakras – people that vibrate a creative flow, rather than absorbing and leaving me empty.
* I chant the Gayatri Mantra prayer in the privacy of my sacred space, to open paths that were once blocked. My chanting acts as a form of release to channel creative energies. I connect with the Hindu Goddesses as I return to my roots and honour their wild creative spirits through Mother Nature’s roots.
Geeta is a British-born South Asian woman of Hindu religious background. She is the daughter of first-generation Indian parents who migrated to the UK during the early 1960s. Her working-class background, along with gendered and racialized experiences, have led her to explore auto/biographical feminist writing that creates space for women of colour to creatively write their stories to raise awareness, educate and shape change. Geeta has two grown-up daughters and works as a Lecturer in Education at Brunel University. Geeta also leads a community social enterprise called Dadima’s CIC, which focuses on encouraging diverse walking communities in countryside spaces, and supporting South Asian female writers. ‘Dadima’ is the Hindi noun for paternal grandmother, and it was chosen to encapsulate the wise grandmother figures and ancestral knowledge across cultures and faiths. You can read more via her social media pages below:
Instagram: @educatinggeetachilterns @_dadimas @educatinggeeta
Geeta is currently developing a Dadima’s website.
(All images supplied by, and reproduced with the kind permission of the author)
Text/images by Clare Archibald
Everything is always a becoming or unbecoming and I struggle with the parameters of definition. With the need to state who you are and what you do or have done. The artist statement. The biography. The headshot that must meet other people’s expectations of the representation of the self that is yours.
I should tell you that I do not consider myself to be a wild woman, nor do I think of others in that way except perhaps frivolously on a particularly raucous night out or when singing certain songs.
When I look back on what I do or have done I see acts of repetition that are a misnomer because they are always different, yet it is how I describe them. Descriptions are not always what they seem. I should use these words to tell you what I do and what it means. Promote myself or at least my ideas or artifacts.
Except I simply do not want to. I would like to not have to be defined in order to have meaning or connection. Yet I believe in my work and that it is about more than me even when the central focus may appear to be me, even when I am erased by my own action or inaction. I reject the notion that I must tell you my meaning even though I also do not believe in manifestos. Who do I believe I am is the question that haunts me, us all perhaps. Or possibly not.
A haunting that is the intersection of private and public, real and imagined, individual and collective.
The to and fro of inside and out, the boundaries of the body.
I coexist with words but do not believe in them all in singular or multiple configurations. I repeatedly test this hypothesis for reasons unknown to others. Or yet myself. We could call this acts of compulsion, of interrogation, or if feeling sentimental, which I generally abhor, wonder. Or we could even call it alone.
I delayed writing and making until I was too old to do everything that I have not yet realised I want to do because I knew always that once I started I would not stop until the end point of understanding which is perhaps death.
I have straddled the time punctuated points of life and death, also felt the metronome of breath heat motion.
These are the points of transformation held forever in everything we think of as a second.
In thinking about transformation it is, I would argue in my non-existent manifesto, impossible to ignore the impact of light, to not contemplate the complexities of darkness. Especially because this is a cliché, a word that surely nobody likes.
You might think my nature is contrary and you would be right unless you considered it in the context of me and then we have the question of whether or not it is possible to be contrary to the self.
And even though I am not unique in many ways your self is not mine in a bundle and we will always be alone on some level of unfolding. I would like to know what the means for you without you having to tell me.
I do not write these words with you in mind but of course I would like you to find meaning in them.
Although I do not want to act from ego that is a choosing that could lead to extinction, to erasure of the self and I think this is what I meant in the old notebook that I found from when I was young where everything was divided into columns marked the nature of being (nob) or the double bind of life (dbol).
If I tell you this it does not make it true except perhaps for me. If I show you this you can decide for yourself. If you listen to it what do you think you are really hearing. If you touch it then I can only guess at what you are feeling.
Would you call this a treatise or a precipice of what is next. I do not yet know.
Clare Archibald is a Scottish writer living in coastal Fife. Her work incorporates text, sound, image, materials, performance and installation. She is preoccupied with ideas of articulation, place, what of the private we make public and why, movement, transformation and the potential of collaboration. Widely published, she has read and exhibited her text, image, and installation work at literary festivals, galleries, academic conferences, car parks and woods. In 2020 she made and scored her artist film, Can You Hear the Interim, as part of her multimedia project The Absolution of Shyness.
In February 2022 she released Birl of Unmap a collaborative album responding to a former mining/unfinished Charles Jencks land art site in Fife with fellow Fife artists Kinbrae, which is being performed in April 2022 at the Queens Hall, Edinburgh (see also the album-related t-shirt collaboration with We Are 1 of a 100 ).
She also set up and runs Lone Women in Flashes of Wilderness, a collaborative project exploring all women’s ideas on and experience of aloneness, darkness and wilderness in real and imagined terms, most recently undertaking a commission from Sanctuary Lab for a 24 hour installation in Galloway Forest of words, sounds and music from 140 women from across the world.
Clare is currently working on several solo and collaborative projects
(All images used are the copyright of Clare Archibald and must not be reproduced or used without permission from the artist)
By Dr Louise Ann Wilson
Last month my new book, Sites of Transformation: Applied and Socially Engaged Scenography in Rural Landscapes, was published by Bloomsbury Methuen.
In the book, I examine the development of scenography as a distinctive type of art and performance-making practice that seeks tangible, therapeutic, and transformative real-world outcomes. Using case-studies drawn from the body of site-specific walking-performances I have created over the last decade, Sites of Transformation demonstrates how I use scenography to emplace challenging, marginalizing or ‘missing’ life-events into rural landscapes – creating a site of transformation – in which participants can reflect-upon, re-image, re-imagine their relationship to their circumstances. These works have been created on mountains, in caves, along coastlines and over beaches.
Further, Sites of Transformation reveals my creative methodology and application of three distinct strands of transdisciplinary research into the site/landscape, the subject/life-event, and with people/participants affected by it. It also explores seven ‘scenographic’ principles that I have developed for the creation of ‘scenography with purpose’. These principles are underpinned by the concept of the feminine ‘material’ sublime, and informed by the attentive, autotopographic, therapeutic use of walking and landscape found in the work of Dorothy Wordsworth (1771–1855) and her female contemporaries, in particular Charlotte Smith (1749 –1806) and Ann Radcliffe (1764–1823).
Written between 1800 and 1803 while she was living at Dove Cottage in Grasmere in the Lake District, Dorothy’s Grasmere Journals log her everyday life, and are full of vivid descriptions of people, landscapes, sights, sound and noise, tactile sensation and kinetic bodily feeling. They show an awareness of changes in temperature, weather, season, emotion and mood. They are dynamic, non-static and overflowing with different kinds of motion: her own motion as she moves in and through the landscape – skidding on ice, crawling on all fours, lying in fields, woods and trenches, swinging on gates, scrambling up valleys in search of fungi or a waterfall, and the motion of the landscape as it shifts and changes around her – as clouds gather and streak the sky, drenching rain falls, flowers spring forth, trees stir in the wind or fall in a storm, the moon waxes, crows fly overhead and the darkness of night falls.
Not only did Dorothy’s walking practice and writings inform the seven scenographic principles but I used it in Warnscale: A Landmark Walk Reflecting on In/fertility and Childlessness (2015), as a framing device designed to frame and immerse participants in the landscape.
Written thirty years later, between 1831 and 1835, when she was living at Rydal Mount near Ambleside and was no longer able to walk, Dorothy’s Rydal Journals reveal her therapeutic use of memory-walking to access longed-for landscapes. It is these journals that informed Dorothy’s Room (2018), an immersive multimedia installation created in her bedroom and Women’s Walks to Remember: ‘With memory I was there’ (2018–19), a participatory project that memory-mapped routes present-day women could no longer walk.
The image on the cover of the book is from Fissure, a three-day long walking-performance in the Yorkshire Dales that took the form of a pilgrimage, that I created in memory of my sister who died aged 29 of a brain tumour. Using a combination of sung-poetry, dance, music, visual installation incorporating materials of the site, and neuro-scientific and medical interventions, I emplaced my sister’s illness, death and the grief caused by her loss into the landscape – which became a multi-dimensional and sensory scenographic environment . Moving on foot, participants circumnavigated Ingleborough Fell, traversed its limestone pavements, crossed its shake-holes, moved through its gaping ravines and scars, and followed rivers into the subterranean darkness of its caves. These topographies were chosen for their fissured-symbolism and dramaturgical echoes of how the Easter Trideum moves from life to death and light to dark. As they walked, participants encountered creative and scientific interventions made by dancers, singers, bell ringers, neurologists, oncologists, and geologists.
At dawn, on the third day, the performance resurged/resurrected from the cave-dark and ascended Ingleborough Fell – known as the Cairn of the Angels – from where an expansive view over Yorkshire, The Lakes and Lancashire can be seen. However, the wind – a force beyond our control – blew up and caused us to retreat from the mountain before the summit. Reflecting on this later, one participant said:
[..] the piece tested my body’s limits and on that climb on day three I could not help wondering what it must be like to be so ill that your body is tested to the limit and to the end.
It was this work that showed me how scenography can weave, distil, and image life-events that are hard to give-voice or words to, and led me to recognise the transformative potential of rural walking-performance.
On March the 8th 2020 (just before the national lockdown) to mark my 50th birthday I climbed Ingleborough with a group of friends. This time, despite the winds attempt once again to blow its visitors off the fellside, we made it to summit where we drank whisky, ate cherry cake, and sang the poem written by the poet, Elizabeth Burns, and set to music by the composer, Jocelyn Pook, for Fissure, and this site:
And now spring turns to summer
the year opens its arms
to lightness and warmth
turning and circling over again
turning as our hearts do
broken and mended, grieving and healed
moving from the bleakest night
towards the sunrise
the world spread out around us –
north, east, south, west
Ingleborough Cairn of the Angels
This year, to celebrate my birthday and International Women’s Day, I plan to walk with a group of women friends, and, to mark the 250th year of her birth, I will read Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere journal entry written on March 8th 1802. In it she describes the valley and lake in vivid painterly, detail and how, whilst still walking, she read a letter from a friend then sits to read another. Her entry finishes with her remembering how, ‘on Friday Evening’:
the Moon hung over the northern side of the highest point of Silver How, like a gold ring snapped in two & shaven off at the Ends it was so narrow. Within this Ring lay the Circle of the Round moon, as distinctly to be seen as ever the enlightened moon is (Wordsworth 1991: 76).
I have asked my friends to share the writing of a woman who has inspired them, and I extend that invitation to you: During March, consider walking – physically or in your memory – and sharing your own words or those of a woman who has inspired you with others. Also, as you go, spend time observing the detail of things, and the moon.
Wordsworth, Dorothy ([1800-1803] 1991), The Grasmere Journal and Alfoxden Journals, ed. Pamela Woof, Oxford: Oxford University Press. First published 1897 by Ernest De Selincourt.
Dr Louise Ann Wilson is an artist/scenographer-researcher who creates site-specific walking-performances in rural landscapes that give-voice to ‘missing’ or marginal life-events – with transformative and therapeutic outcomes. Her work has addressed terminal illness and bereavement, in/fertility and childlessness-by-circumstance, (im)mobility and memory, and the impact of change – personal and topographical. Each performance is transdisciplinary and developed in close collaboration with people who have knowledge of the chosen landscape and/or the underlying life-event subject matter, including those experiencing it. She is the author of the book Sites of Transformation: Applied and Socially Engaged Scenography in Rural Landscapes (2022). Her most recent performance works is Tell it to the Bees (2021) and Walks to Remember During a Pandemic (2020–21). Twitter @lawilsonco
(All images reproduced with kind permission from the author)
By Tamsin Grainger
In the early hours, I look through the glass without seeing. I recognise the familiar butterfly-flutter, a movement in my abdomen, and instinctively curl over into a foetal position. Had I looked down onto the narrow, garden path, I might have seen the baby in the pram sleeping soundly, though my daughter was not yet born.
In the past, in my early 20s, there was a mistake. My periods ceased, my body got on with busying itself for the job it was destined for. I was horrified, felt inadequate, unready. There was no question what I had to do, though the Catholic doctor needed persuading and a second signature had to be sought. Afterwards, womb empty and breasts full, I felt like a crocodile which tried to haul itself out of the mire and got stranded. I didn’t know how being left with the loss would be. Bereft. Later, I told my grandmother, ‘I will never have children, I will never bring children into this ungrateful and terrible world’ and I saw her weeping silently. I turned and stared out of the car window, and ignored her sorrow.
It isn’t long before I sense the moist, folded limbs forming, and then I see them, opaque in the photograph, the veins a lattice with no colour or substance. I understand what form she will take. My corpuscles spiral through her; she lives from me. We thrive privately, she, spooned inside me.
In the night, through the ages, my great grandmother called to me. She was a midwife who crossed the moors come-rain-come-shine, come-day-come-night when she received a call. I saw her entering a cottage and stoop under the wooden lintel. I heard her coax a foundling into cold air, ‘Coo, come on, my beauty’, and then I saw that the drapes were being drawn and the wreath being hung on the door, and I knew that the mother, bled white, had stayed in this world only long enough to deliver her helpless babe. The nurturing she could do, was done; no-one in those days could stem the blood as she drained and so, she slid away.
At term, I crawl on all fours. I descend into myself, listen to the great, deep creaking of my body opening, preparing. I imagine curtains flung to reveal sunshine on the garden grass and see camouflage shadows on the lawn. Then, gaping, the movement stops.
I have to fight for them to hear me, to be believed. Finally, they administer the anaesthetic. I wait – doze – regroup - and then there’s the long slog. Inch by grinding inch, head down, my daughter turns. Feet braced on the hips of solid others, I labour, and when the doctor enters, brandishing metal and warning, I find a mighty strength and at last she is born. It is morning. Such joy.
As that girl-child in that long-ago cottage slipped between thighs, she was gathered into my great-grandmother’s arms and swaddled. That unknown baby already had ovaries full of eggs, and knowledge which had been passed through the pulsing generations, bringing with it the instinct to coddle and wheedle, raise and cosset, should she live to bear children herself. The cutting of the cord had severed her from the only human she had ever known. She knew that the breast from which she suckled was not the right one, and she waa-waa-cried with the wrongness of it all.
Forty-eight periods after, breast-feeding is over, my toddler is at hand, and we make the announcement. Another pregnancy - what repeating, unsuspecting happiness!
Fewer ages before me, my mother’s mother set off across the sea to Africa, obliged to rejoin her husband, her new-born daughter left behind. That baby was nurtured, professionally, by a nurse in an attic room above floors of growing girls in dorms. She remembers, when she was three years old, the sirens sounding along deserted streets and the whine of the doodlebug falling. Then, she told me, they cowered beneath tables or traipsed underground to huddle together, to bed down in rows. Lying awake and looking up at the hollow, sooty tunnel, she heard the clangs reverberating along temporarily disused tube-train rails, and I imagine how she raised herself onto one elbow and looked into the black hole, but could see nothing. I know now that she learned to be fearful, accepting and biddable, and she didn’t recognise the woman who returned to claim her from the Cape of Good Hope.
One morning a heavy door slams on me, knocks me over, shocks me profoundly, and I weep with a friend. I say, ‘What if…. .’ Looking back, I must have known.
Now I am left alone. It’s a loss that can never be fathomed, not if you haven’t felt the heave and squirm inside you. There in the kitchen, my belly a cavern and 'Fare Thee Well' blasting out from the radio, I surprise myself. I drop to the floor and hear myself howling. I keen and wail, for me and for all the mothers everywhere, for all who know, all around the world, all species, through the ages.
5000 miles away in the African savanna, east of the place where I was conceived, an elephant stands on four strong legs. As she hears my distant cry, she raises her trunk to the sky and bellows, she trumpets for the calf lying at her feet without tusks.
This tremendous moan carries across the desert as far as the Iberian Peninsula where a woman lays a stone at the foot of the Cruz de Ferro, the iron cross, in remembrance of her three-year-old son.
As her tears fall, in that place amongst the incalculable others, the geological strata itself, on which a billion pilgrims have trodden, recognises the grief of millennia.
This ululation ricochets all the way to the Pentland Hills where the pitiable bleating of ewes parted from their lambs can be heard even by those who stop their ears, for the yearning is terrible to hear.
And in the deepest waters of the Great Glen, 200 miles further north, the monster lies in the depths of Loch Ness and feels the vibration of a heart breaking. The accumulated waters - more than all the lakes in England and Wales put together - are not enough to assuage her own lament as she rises through the surface, cascades of water falling, and makes the sound of a thousand bagpipes droning.
That plaintive dirge surges over pine and yew, and nothing can prevent that dreadful sound echoing back to me, on my bleeding knees.
Only, nothing can bring back my baby.
The quietest elegy emerges from the she-whales in the deepest oceans; through the air can be heard the requiem of the barren. The earth sobs.
The tremors of the funeral processions passed through the generations. My mother knew it: that wide open mouth with no voice, that hollow windpipe with no-breath, the sinking feeling that comes from losing your child.
After the door slams shut, it is as if I live in an absence of sound. There is an aching in the space between my pubic bones which had already moved aside for the birth. I lie in the bath and look at the mound, the dome of pre-pregnant emptiness and absent issue. For twelve weeks, I had harboured that infant who would never look up at the halo around my head, mouthing my breast, warm milk spurting down her gullet.
The baby-that-was-me was put in the carry cot at the bottom of the garden. My wrongly-timed cries betrayed a cavernous hunger and my mother said she couldn’t bear it. ‘It is best ignored, because her need must not be satisfied before the predetermined time’, said the man who wrote a book which denied the child food and the mother the feeding - for reasons now insupportable.
So, I walk. In the jungle where the sawn-off stumps gape raw, have splintered because the mighty palms toppled and tore, under a sky where the canopy should have been. I watch an ant who is separated from the others in the column she has been following - instinctual, her job predetermined; I watch as she turns on a horizontal axis and does not know which way is front.
The wind that reaches me in that place seems to have already passed through the ruins and rubble of the hearths the midwife attended with hot kettle and rags, wailed across the seas my grandmother had sailed, blown between the walls of the hospitals where my mother and I began our lives. And so, the realisation comes at last, painfully: some are born, others die, some live, many do not. This is the lot of the female, this is our inheritance.
At the top of the sacred mountain, I can see behind me and all around, my past, my present, my future. In a silent forest, I walk. The humus is dark brown, the rotting loam pungent. I crouch down and dig into the layers where shoots and stems underneath are preparing for spring. I stand, lift my fingers to my face and inhale the rich compost behind my nails. I look up to the sky. One by one, I watch the leaves falling, meandering, swaying, and landing, soundlessly.
These days my ears ring - a high-pitched keening unheard by anyone else. I imagine the soundwaves vibrating through my internal waters, travelling around my cranium and down the deepest channel of my spine, transmitting messages. And back. A call is sent and received as I listen down the ages. My uterus fills with lifeless masses which cause my belly to swell to a three-month size, my breasts are still rounded, uselessly.
Now I am not alone. I have two daughters and I am connected. I am one of the women who link arms and make a line across the boulevard, wave after wave of women marching forwards, filling the streets. I am beside the others, those who fear for their lives, the lives of their children and babies. Young and old, we crowd into the square. We step in front of horses, lie down in the path of the juggernauts, chain ourselves to the railings. We stand, back-to-back on the tops of the Seven Hills, so that, together, we can see everywhere. And we tip our heads up to the moon and howl.
Tamsin first trained as a dancer and was the Dance Artist in Residence for the Forest of Dean and Edinburgh. For over 30 years she has been a Shiatsu practitioner, teacher, and is the author of ‘Death and Loss in Shiatsu Practice, a guide to holistic bodywork in palliative care’ which was published in 2020 by Singing Dragon (Hachette). She runs Death Cafes and online self-help sessions for people who are grieving. More recently, she has been writing creative non-fiction and memoir.
Tamsin likes to walk long-distance secular pilgrimages, to drift with a twitter group on Sunday mornings, amble around the city, join as many walking projects as she can, traverse cycle paths, cross beaches, and wander in her dreams. She writes about these walks and what she finds to touch, taste and smell, and she takes a lot of photos to put them in her blogs at walkingwithoutadonkey.com.
Her community walking projects include ‘Walk This Weekend’ and ‘Walking Between Worlds’. The latter celebrated women buried in Leith graveyards for the Audacious Women Festival.
Tamsin’s art work includes the installation, ‘No Birds Land’, and the mixed media exhibitions, ‘Clipp’d Wings’, with short films on Vimeo. She also held an online Tea Ceremony and Death Walk as part of art.earth’s Borrowed Time in 2021.
She is 58 years old and the proud mother of two grown-up daughters.
You can find Tamsin on twitter @WalkNoDonkey or instagram @tamsinshiatsu (image credit: Roger Jan)
By Amanda Edmiston
I've been forming, creating and collecting my whole life, but it came together and became Botanica Fabula eleven years ago. Knitting my own job, if you like! Finding folklore and traditional tales that share the way we use plants, and then collecting and sharing the plants from the stories to add another layer and weaving them into new tales, story-mending fragments of lore into my work to allow them to grow and retain relevance.
Stories naturally offer us an opportunity to reveal new chapters of our lives, whilst also connecting us deeply to the natural world. This weaving of the inherent nature and healing benefits of plants into a weft of words is, I suspect, a vital art and one that people need at a visceral level, offering us the deep understanding held within stories that allows us to reflect on life and change our own narrative as we approach new challenges, combined with the healing or life-enhancing abilities of plants, that give us what we need to enact that adaption.
Some of the time, I feel I ought to justify my herbal storytelling, explain what can happen with stories; maybe use terms like creative visualisation or guided imagery. For those who need it, these justifications offer a rational language to explain how my herbal storytelling works. Oral storytelling changes organically. Modern terms can coil in like tenuous, spiralling, tendrils of passiflora, allowing stories to remain relevant and vibrant for new audiences as language and understanding changes.
The vivid description of the effects of the plant is integral to many of my stories, offering a glimpse into an oral herbal guide. I feel this is often how the stories were told originally. Something almost magical can happen as listeners are held in a moment imagining the plant, imagining the changes taking place within the story, being drawn to find the plant, should they need to, after hearing the story, but also connecting as they listen, to the plants action within the tale. Part of me wants to retain this mesmer, not academicise it or justify it in a scientific manner.
I feel I risk explaining it away, in the same way the ethereal will’o the wisp became mere marsh gas, once a sybil's torch, a haunting hand guiding the careless traveller astray, becoming simply an antediluvian fart if scientifically justified, it's power and beauty lost. Sometimes, we just need to hold onto the magic, it helps us cope with difficult times.
In a way, this wildness, this hint of magic and natural chance for engagement a story offers, is a vital part of the plants power. It risks being lost when laws demand that herbal medicine falls in line with the world of manmade pharmaceuticals, a world of standardised extracts, where everything has a financial value; a world of decimated wild spaces, where people fear things they cannot immediately place and often lack time-tested knowledge. Through legends and folklore, the stories can offer a safe place to venture into and take a sip, to taste the fizzing potential of the power of plants -- a flower remedy-style dose of plant magic administered through a storyteller's art.
So I'd like to share a story with you now, one I wrote to story-mend a piece of folklore. A story, offered up by a mermaid, which advises us to turn to the first nettles when Spring approaches, mineral rich to strengthen us after we have endured winter, and to dream with hormone-balancing Mugwort as Summer beckons. For now, it invites you to reflect on the hidden knowledge, the potential to change your own narrative, to connect to plants and to hopefully enjoy a little look at a wild herbal story!
It’s said Salmon-tailed merfolk once wintered on the silt-strewn banks of Glasgow’s River Clyde.
They could take on legged form wandering the earth, but often found human folk aggressive and loud.
As the focus of man’s attentions became money and manufacture they began to drift to deeper water.
Until just one Merrow woman remained in the Clyde’s tidal flow. Watching as her treasured green place turned to dirt and greed, ‘til folks could no longer hear her sing.
Industry gained momentum, tenements, back-to-back, dark and damp covered the meadows.
Shipyards called for the river to be dredged.
Banks were clawed, forests burnt.
People living foreshortened lives.
Nowhere could be found the iron-rich greens which brought riches to the body, now only iron filled yards brought riches to the few.
The mermaid sensed a world in which she was no longer welcome, leaving this heat-arced world she muttered ‘if they ate Nettles in March and Mugworts in May not so many good maidens would have gone to the clay.’
Her words floating downriver, tide washing in, drifting out, moon pulling water away.
As we gather Nettles in our dock covered hands, inhaling Mugwort’s bitter aroma as Spring arrives, we hope she swims well-nourished amidst Kelp beds, waiting for a time to return as the meadows start moving back to the abandoned ship-yards.
Amanda Edmiston (Botanica Fabula) is a professional storyteller, writer and artist with a background in herbal medicine, based in Scotland. She has a passion for creating and retelling stories laced with traditional herbal remedies, designed to draw her audience further into the enchanted world of plants. She has created work for Chelsea Physic Garden in London, The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Glasgow, and The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford amongst others, and has worked with schools, museums and festivals around the world both online and in-person. She is currently working on The Very Curious Herbal Project which you can catch up with as a podcast and Handing On, a project with her mum Jean Edmiston, an artist and professional storyteller for over 30 years. As part of this, the pair are creating workshops and mentoring opportunities, live and online for those considering adding a bit of herbal storytelling magic to their own creative practice!
(photo copyright 2020 - John Ritchie)