Numen: The Healing Power of Plants


Let’s face it, herbalists are lucky. We get to interact with plants and people in a very special way, one that emphasizes an age-old evolutionary connection between the two. This was recently brought home to me, yet again, sitting in circle with a group of herbalists, on a warm October day, after harvesting a bunch of excellent roots. We spent time giving thanks to the land, to the plants, and to the gatherers’ hands. We spent time just participating in a moment of deep animal-vegetable relationship, one which humans must have experienced over and over again in the course of our long journey.
In this timeless moment, we tapped into something more than the botanist, with her rich knowledge of the vegetable kingdom, or the physician, with his clear insight into the human body and pharmacy, can routinely experience. Something born of the fact that the roots we pulled, painstakingly, from the soil can help people feel better – and that people, plants, and ecology can all thrive when they actually interact. It’s more than observation, it’s more than knowledge. It’s something akin to the essence of life itself. The ancients called this essence “numen”, or spirit-power, life-force. It isn’t something that “is”, it’s something that “does”: the counterbalance to entropy, the destroyer-force. It organizes, creates, loves, heals.

The excellent film by Ann Armbrecht and Terence Youk elegantly brings this life-affirming force into view. Through the words of those whose journey is devoted to plants, healing, and ecological connection, the timeless life-power humans have thrived on becomes clear. For me, it is a celebration! Experiencing the images and words Ann and Terry have woven together reinforces the feelings of connection all herbalists have known. But perhaps the greatest gift that they offer is to those who haven’t ever felt this life-power for themselves. It is those who haven’t tasted the call of springtime roots and greens, who haven’t heard the words of mugwort on a full moon night, who have only a vague idea of how individual and ecological health might be connected, that really need to grok this film.
Which is why I’m really excited and grateful that Numen: The Healing Power of Plants is available for free viewing, for ten days starting on October 20th, to everyone everywhere. It is an opportunity for herbalists to celebrate, and be filled and renewed by, the joy of being plant people. But crucially, it is a chance for us to bring nature-based, herbal life-power into the lives of those who haven’t really experienced it yet. It is a chance for our families, and our extended communities, to really “get” why we love this art so much, why we have chosen this path. I hope you share this with those you love. Who knows what will follow.

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