An interview with Sensory Solutions
The Witches Herbs
Karen and Fiona, are traditional herbalists who have formed Sensory Solutions, after meeting each other at University. They have been working together with plants for many years. They are known as the ‘Wild n Wicked Witches’.
They believe that our local surroundings contain all we need for a medicinal cabinet. They have therefore begun growing, collecting and producing beautiful quality remedies from plants in our native, wild habitats that are not at risk of becoming endangered. These are harvested in harmony with our planet’s sun and lunar cycles in an ecological way in an ecologically sensitive way. They want to share the knowledge they have and learn from others experiences along the way. Education is therefore paramount in what we do. Both Karen and Fiona give as much information as possible about everything they produce and do talks and workshops to reach a wider audience. Our long-term plans are to build this into a wider community and education based project.
Join Fiona & Karen at the October Gallery Tuesday 30th September when they will be elaborating on all things herbal and plants that take us beyond state.
The mysterious past of our native power plants calls to us somewhere deep within. Come and explore the exciting, medicinal and magical world of some of our native psychotropic plants and fungi.
Steeped in political history, many of the psychoactive herbs will be looked at, however this talk will place particular focus on the deadly nightshade or Solanaceae family, sometimes known as the witching herbs.
Karen Lawton is a lively teacher and a witchy herbalist with over twenty years of clinical experience. She runs workshops, ceremonies and apprenticeships through Sensory Solutions, her educational community-interest company.
Interview prelude with Fiona & Karen of Sensory Solutions
Hello ladies, I get a really positive vibe from both of you – thanks for allowing me to interview you! What came first? The Craft or Herbalism? And in the beginning was it a matter of working with herbs in prep for rituals or that of using plants for their medicinal purposes??
In the beginning it was all about playing in our grandmothers’ gardens making potions from roses, daisy chains and blowing dandelion clocks. Over the years, this developed into using herbs for medicine and magic. Coming from protesting backgrounds and living on traveler sites we were blessed with having had access to knowledgeable folk who never visited the GP.
The mistrust of the Health system and deep trust in each other, led us to the biggest rituals of our lives; to birth one another’s babies, all 3 births heald in ceremony using powerful plants and archetypes. Fi flew to the Farm in Tennessee with Ina May Gaskin to do some training before the first, Elektra’s birth and came back with wonderful stories about those amazing women out there too…….
We both see rituals as a form of medicine and healing Herbalism is a Craft, an Art form in itself. As is gardening, growing food, composting, beekeeping, winemaking, cooking……..
Earth activism is at the core of our particular craft and in these troubled polluted times there is a calling for all people to protect and defend their own habitat from the corporate greed that capitalism has birthed.
As humans we can fall in to the trap of individualising too much, we are part of the EARTH and our surroundings have massive impact on our health so a healthy garden and home space leads to optimum health and nourishment.
As the statement written on your site is so true. “Herbal Medicine has been seen as a rival. ….80% of the planet still uses plants for the primary healthcare”… Can you share some of the obvious examples that easily accessible to the public that they may unaware could be of benefit in aiding to an illness?
Malaria one of the worlds biggest killers today is treated with a herb called Sweet annie.
Elder berries, prolific on our lanes and in parks contain a potent anti-viral that can protect against bird flu and is being researched for HIV, a simple syrup that is delicious can be made from the berries and recipes are on our blog. http://sensoryherbcraft.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/antimicrobial-aromatic-potion-to-ward.html
Horsechestnuts out right now are amazing for varicose veins and haemorroids again recipes on the blog
Contraceptive herbal info – http://sensoryherbcraft.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/contraception.html
I believe that plants are “alive” and have a source of energy to be shared, I feel that they also interact and react with us. From this primal and earthly source lies a potent power within them that we all may benefit from; Would either of you comment on the use of ethnobotanical /psychoactive plants used by Shamans, and various practitioners?
This is exactly the topic of our up and coming talk. We believe that plant spirits communicate with us and give us a deeper knowledge and respect of LIFE and aid with incredible healings. There is a cultural thirst for these connections which can be seen with the recent fashion for Amazonian medicines like Ayahuasca and also the amount of people from the UK who now practice as ‘Shamans’. Plants have a lot to say if one takes the time to listen and trust the process.
How the use of these plants is respected and viewed is culturally bound. i.e. the oxford English dictionary states that hallucination is seeing or hearing something that doesn’t really exist. The underground movement of folk experiencing profound connection with spirit through these power plants, can only really come forward as a widely accepted tool if there is a massive shift in the current mores of western society.
You offer a variety of products from Aphrodisiacs, Smoking Blends, to various mixes ….exactly how potent are your products? As we’re all aware of the international legislative variances restricting usage, and or possession, could this mean that we will always be at the mercy of the “system” limiting the practice of herbs overall?
All of our product were made illegal after the E.U. Traditional Herbal Medicine Act of 2004 (passed on Halloween eve!) because they are not licensed. To gain licensing is super expensive and potentially the herbs would have to be animal tested to bring things up to pharmacological standards i.e. Safe for the public!
The system does limit the practice through fear and mis information and has done so for centuries. The current medical model is changing though and people are realizing that our bodies are not machines, which Decartes model of mechanistic medicine assumes. Most illness has at its’ birth a shock/stress to the psycho-emotional-physical system and by treating the terrain of the individual with herbal support and by working with many tools i.e. herbs, yoga, breath, affirmations, massage, ritual etc one can hea at a deep level.
All of us Earth Activists spend time working underground and connecting with other Radical Rootz n Mycelium and we become strong within our communities. Any attempt to ‘fight the system’ head on can lead to violence and imprisonment and that is a choice that right now isn’t right for us. That being said, with the more recent threat of Fracking some have surfaced and are taking front line action, to protect the Earth and the ground water, Herbal medicine caravans have been created to service the needs of the activists, many living in extreme conditions.
Education is our power by showing people how to recognise and make their own remedies for all kinds of ailments and rites we can create positive shifts.
A couple of years ago, on the summer solstice(!) we were called in to a meeting with the MHRA (Medical Health Research Assciation) & Trading standards offices and had to deal with a horrible confrontation from the government because of the afore mentioned European Directive. We spent 3 months feeling RAGE and IRRITATION after the hour interview in a windowless office where we were told of the restrictions and also the consequences of not complying. The only way to deal with how we felt was to transmute this Rage into Creativity by making a new ‘legal’ Superfood –containing Rosehips, Nettle, cherry, beetroot, artichoke, asparagus & bilberries –Foods cannot be counted as medicine so are exempt (atm) from the laws. Food as medicine, we harvested native superfoods and created- Rosies’ Garden Treats –our reaction to the politics…. http://rosiesgardentreats.wordpress.com
Lots of folk now take this amazingly powerful, nutritious powder to promote health and wellbeing.
With your apprentice course you pass the knowledge on for over the course of 12 months covering the weekend pretty much, what can someone expect to walk out of from this?
The initial year is all about the language of Plants and how we connect with the plant spirit through Observations (drawing, creative writings and pressings), Intuition and how to interpret these tools. Learning how to create simple home remedies for friends and family and starting their own Materia medica with deep understanding of each individual herb.
The October Gallery – London
The October Gallery – New York