By: Lacey Walker
On a balmy weekend at the end of September herbalists from all over the Chesapeake area gathered at Melwood Recreation Center in Nanjemoy for the annual Chesapeake Herb Gathering hosted and organized by Centro Ashé..
Nanjemoy seems like a forgotten place. A secret place.
Even many who were born and raised in Maryland scratch their heads when they hear it's name. As it turns out, it is the perfect place for herbalists of all genre to gather and lose themselves in their plants and community. Few other places could have embraced the spirit of the weekend quite like the Melwood Recreation Center with it's open air pavilions, wooded cabins and forest filtered sunshine.
With a bevy of workshop choices, there were topics to suit all interests. A People's History of Herbal Medicine, Recognizing Patterns in Nature, Workshops for youth, Appalachian Herbs, Astrology, Basket Weaving, Medicinal Cannabis, Respectful Beekeeping, Plant Walks, and Herbs for your Immune System were just a few of the courses offered on this weekend of practice and exploration.
We asked a few herbalists in attendance to tell us about their experience. Here is what they said:
"We met outside and we got to touch, smell and taste all the roots as she was talking about them. The coolest thing she showed us was the american ginseng. She passed around the age tassel, the part that grows just under the soil and before the root. The one she had was 20 years old! Mimi has such a passion and respect for Appalachian medicine..its so contagious and inspiring!"
-Katelyn speaking about Mimi Hernandez's Getting' Down with Appalachian Roots workshop
"For me, the highlight was Ayo Ngozi's workshop on the history of Western herbal medicine. It was great to hear someone talk about our history in a way that did justice to its diverse roots. Often the histories I've heard and read on the subject are limited to European influences with a small shout-out to Arab medicine. Ayo really brought to life the broad spectrum of cultures that created the foundations of Western herbalism, recognizing the contributions of enslaved Africans and the broader African diaspora, a wide range of Native American Indian cultures and traditions, and the continued influence of centuries of immigration. "
Holly Poole Kavana talking about Ayo Ngozi's workshop Herb & Root - Western Herbalism, History & Culture
"The Chesapeake Herb gathering was an amazing experience this year. The space was super cool with many people camping! I spent the weekend collaborating with participants on a banner for future years. There was an awesome core of people who got into their creative energy."
Caryl Henry talking about the artist space at the gathering.
"Holly Poole Kavana led us on a botany-based plant walk where topics of discussion included: the magic of mimosa, properties of poke, wonders of wintergreen, opportunities to use oak and lessons learned with lobelia."
Tami Bentz sharing a picture of the Medicinal Herbs Walk: Healing Herbs at Your Doorstep Workshop
"I go to a lot of conferences and gatherings with my mom, Suzanna Stone, because she teaches classes on herbalism at many different places, but the Chesapeake Herb Gathering definitely stood out from the rest. It was very fun and lighthearted, and it wasn’t a just-women herbal gathering – it was open to everyone! I didn’t go to any of the classes, but I did hear the keynote speech by Susan Leopold about plant conservation. It was really inspiring and informative, and I think that it helped everyone there to better understand the great importance of plant conservation.
Everyone who came to the Chesapeake Herb Gathering was very nice and interesting to talk to. There were lots of vendors selling a lot of really cool things. I especially loved Ayo Ngozi’s beautiful bracelets made of beads that were made from spices like cardamom and turmeric – they smelled amazing.
All in all, the Chesapeake Herb Gathering was a really great, relaxed and inspiring experience."
Gypsy Mack talking about her experience with Suzanna Stone at the Chesapeake Herb Gathering
Many other attendees spoke of the amazing food provided by Chef Terrance Murphy or the Sunrise Plant Spirit Yoga with April Ramee, or the downright beautiful setting of the gathering. One thing almost everyone expressed was a thankfulness for their community as well as excitement for next year's gathering.
We hope to see you all there next year!
"Take away, there are so many ways to connect with the healing energies of plants and community" Caryl Henry