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Welcome to the Wild Woman Web 2022

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. 

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Wild Woman Web Spinners 2022

Thread 30 - Wild Plant Stories - Amanda Edmiston (Botanica Fabula)

Wild Plant Stories

By Amanda Edmiston
January 2022

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. 

Amanda Edmiston -- photo credit/copyright Neill Hanna

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.

photo credit - Amanda Edmiston

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.

Herbal remedies from inside the Kist in Thyme Storytelling box - credit - Amanda Edmiston

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.

photo credit - Amanda Edmiston

Amanda Edmiston
Wild Woman Web Spinner 40

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)