This blog post is excerpted from Tammi Sweet’s website.
Rosemary Gladstar is one of the people responsible for reigniting western herbalism in the United States. You can read her long list of accomplishments elsewhere, from authoring many books on herbalism, founding United Plant Savers and the International Herbal Symposium, carrying on the New England Women’s Herbal Conference for 30 years, and bringing thousands of people back home to the plants. I want to take this time to share with you a more personal perspective about Rosemary and how she’s impacted me as a teacher.
The First Gift: The Ability To Rest In And Occupy My Heart
Whenever I get to the part in my thanksgiving address where I acknowledge my teachers, I begin with the first person I consciously and intentionally called Teacher: Rosemary. Even now, when I bring her into my consciousness, tears immediately come and my heart opens. Therein lies the first gift I’ve received from her—the ability to rest in and occupy my heart.
That gift alone would be enough to spark a change in the world. Me, one person, able to come home to my heart a little more often. But like all cascading events, it doesn’t end there; it multiplies exponentially out to everyone I come into contact with. I open my heart, I share it with others, then they share it with others, and so on, someday wrapping the planet in a kinder space.
How does Rosemary do this?
First, by occupying the space within herself. Rosemary’s connection to the plant world is so deep, the field of that connection embraces those around her. We step in and feel the connection. If you ever visited her long-time home in Vermont, Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary, you feel it when you get out of your car.
This unassuming magical connection mirrors the plants themselves. Quiet and so subtle that if you’re not paying attention, you’ll miss it. The connection can be expressed in the simple act of gathering pine cones and fallen pine boughs to place in a room where we gather, the pausing to take in the beauty of the flowers or a gentle caress as we walk by. This is the practice of expressing gratitude. This grateful state is our true home. The home channel for all other beings on the planet.
The Second Gift: Inviting Us All To Join In
The second way that Rosemary has impacted me is her ability to invite others to join in. I have never experienced anyone who cultivates others to step in and step up like Rosemary Gladstar. These small acts of invitation to teach or perform nourishes small seedlings of talent into gorgeous full flowers. The New England Women’s Herbal Conference and later, the International Herbal Symposium, year after year showcased new and upcoming teachers and performers long before they became the well-known and beloved polished presenters you now know. She has a knack for recognizing something wanting to shine through and inviting it in. The list of people who were given a start by Rosemary is a long and gratitude-filled one.
A lesson that I pass onto my students is Rosemary saying to me “In the beginning, teach wherever you’re invited, for whatever you’re paid.” Good advice, especially when you’re just starting out.
When I first met Rosemary I was already well on my path as a science teacher in a male-dominated world. She recognized something in me and invited me to teach both at Sage Mountain and at the Women’s Herbal Conference. I was exposed to the Feminine in profound ways that I didn’t know I was missing. This culture was so foreign to me coming from science and collegiate basketball, that at first I felt like a “tree among the flowers.” Foreign as it was, it still felt like a homecoming.
The Third Gift: Feminine Fierceness
Another gift I’ve received from Rosemary is her example of feminine fierceness. I have witnessed her time and time again stand strong, with compassion and kindness, but standing firm nonetheless in what she believes while inviting dialogue. How I make sense of it from the outside is that she cultivates a deep and profound groundedness in right relationships.
Whether it be in conversation with fellow students about certification for herbalists in the 1990s, to our right to keep Fire Cider free from trademarks, to her support for health freedom. Rosemary has been a profound example to me in standing firm, with kindness, and speaking my truth.
Our “Fairy Godmother” Of Herbalism Has Been A Spark For Others
When you wander in the herbal world you will spot Rosemary Gladstar’s touch upon the community. Those white crescent moon necklaces that rest close to the hearts of thousands of people across the country (and world) are a signpost of her teachings. A small, yet meaningful ceremony when you finish an in-person Apprenticeship with Rosemary is receiving this small necklace. This symbol is so poignant that we teachers who follow her lineage adorn the necks of our own students with the same tiny moons.
At the end of our very first Apprenticeship at Heartstone Center for Earth Essentials, we gifted moon necklaces during our graduation ceremony. The students (all of them our friends, willing to go on a wild ride that first year) later told us they had been secretly hoping they would be getting moons.
I was once told by a teacher that any time you have a chance to study with a master (now I use the word elder), get yourself there and do it. Now, I tell all my students to go to the conferences, go to the classes that other teachers are going to, and for goodness sake, go to whatever class Rosemary is teaching!
I love watching Rosemary walk by on a weed walk with 50 or 60 people following like little ducklings. To hear her laughter and joy at sharing her friends, the green ones, with her new two-legged friends is such a joy.
How To Study With Rosemary Gladstar
Rosemary is no longer offering her herbal apprenticeship at Sage Mountain (though there are other classes available there)—but you may be able to catch her at various conferences and teaching engagements at various herbal schools. Please, if you get the chance to be with her, for even just a little while, do it!
Another way of studying with Rosemary is through the very same The Science & Art of Herbalism correspondence course that thousands of students have taken. This course is still in the hard copy, send-to-you-at-home, form and it’s available online as well. This course has been foundational to the learning of not only the thousands of herbalists out there, but many of your teachers, including me, as well.