Bookmark and Share        

SUSUN WEED - Lady Liberty
herbalist, author, teacher, wise woman

INTERVIEW by Spiraldancer

As printed in and with kind permission of Witchcraft Magazine Australia


Susun, you began studying herbal medicine in 1965 when you were living in Manhattan. This was a change from mathematics and artificial intelligence at UCLA! How did the change come about?

While I was at UCLA I met my husband-to-be and got pregnant. We moved to Manhattan when I was five months pregnant. I didn't want to take any drugs for my minor aches and pains, so I went to the library and began to read about herbal medicine. Little did I realise it would change my life. I was pondering artificial intelligence, but I found green, natural intelligence.

You are a High Priestess of Dianic Wicca, an initiated member of the Wolf Clan and the Sisterhood of the Shields; and a Peace Elder. They seem to be pretty different traditions, so which came first, the Dianic Wicca, or the Wolf Clan?

Native American traditions and Wiccan traditions are quite similar. I remember one full moon night when I was out on a small hill celebrating and doing ritual, thinking I was quite alone. Then I heard a drum . . .nearby. On the other side of the hill there was a Native person also doing a full moon ritual. My mom is Catholic and my dad is Jewish, and I grew up in Dallas where you couldn't be either, so they sent me to Baptist Sunday school, but I had my first communion and went to lots of Bar Mitzvah's, and wound up going back to my real roots: paganism, also known as "Nature worship." Of course, I don't worship Nature; I honour it and celebrate it. That's what witches do. That's what shamans do. That's what native people all over
the world do.

Obviously at this moment peace is more important than ever, what are your thoughts on the current world situation?

Many of my Native American "grandmothers" are from the Great Peaceful Nations. They have taught me many of their ways of peace. One interesting observation they have is that religious leaders make war. So they make certain to honour all beings as sacred. Prayers are done, word by word, by all the gathered people, not by one. What would our world be like if we all honoured nature, the source of our sustenance and life, instead of dead men?

You are the founder of the Wise Woman Centre and Ash Tree Publishing and the voice of the Wise Woman Tradition. Can you please explain the Wise Woman Tradition for those who haven't read your books?

The Wise Woman Tradition is the oldest tradition of healing on our planet. It focuses on healing through nourishing. It is symbolised by a spiral, the ever-changing movement of life and health. In the Wise Woman Tradition, health is defined as flexibility. We build health by nourishing the unique individual in all of her/his wholeness/holiness. The foundations of nourishment are simple ritual, compassionate listening and simple whole foods and herbs.

In contrast, the Scientific tradition, represented by a straight line, defines health as absence of disease and conformation to the norm. And the Heroic tradition, symbolised by a circle, sees health as cleanliness and freedom from toxins. Both of these traditions are actually involved in hating the body and while they can be excellent ways to moderate symptoms, they rarely create lasting health and wholeness.

Was there a defining moment or experience that showed you your path, or did it come about gradually?

I have taken my path one step at a time. Even as a teenager, I knew that I wanted to live in the country and to create my own special life. After two years in Manhattan, I moved to Woodstock and have lived on homesteads, raising much of my own food, heating with wood, raising dairy goats, and harvesting the healing plants ever since (nearly 35 years). When my daughter and I needed extra money, I taught at a local college.

My courses were on mushroom foraging and whole wheat bread baking, but I wound up taking over a friend's course on herbal medicine for one semester. And I'm still doing it! (Incidentally, getting me to teach her course was "the best thing I did in my whole life" she told me recently. The Goddess moves in mysterious ways.) Sage Woman Magazine has been publishing a series of stories about how I became an herbalist if you want to read more.

Do you have a Goddess Archetype with which you personally identify more than others?

For a long time my Goddess archetype was Artemis. But after I went through menopause I felt that I needed someone older to guide me. I know that many people see me as Baba Yaga, the Russian witch with the chicken-footed house. I am happy to be seen as thus, but I wanted someone just for me. My choice? The Statue of Liberty has been my archetype for the past eight years. Hooray for Lady Lib! She evens wears a headband, just like I do.

Could you please tell us something about your work with apprentices- how you teach?

My work with the live-in apprentices is very intense and very powerful. Apprenticing is the most difficult way to learn from me. Taking classes or correspondence courses, even doing a live-out apprenticeship is easier. Learning to be a shamanic herbalist is the hardest work anyone can choose to do. The path leads one into and through one's own darkness. I become the mirror of each apprentice's shadow self, so she may see and interact with her demons. Sometimes (often), they mistake the shadow in the mirror for the reality of me, and want to "kill" me. My commitment is total; there is nowhere to hide and no excuses are tolerated, for me, from them.

The curriculum covers identification of herbs, herb cultivation, harvesting and preparation of medicines, wild foods, herbal medicine for people and animals, spirit healing, shamanic skills, magical plants, anatomy, botany, psychology, yoga, tai chi, survival skills, moon lodges, consultations, tarot readings, first aid, and the thousand and one things one needs
to know to be a healer and a homesteader.

How do you see Women's Spirituality evolving in the new millennium?

In the new millennium, women's spirituality will continue to be the defining paradigm for women who are looking for an inclusive and loving way to incorporate the sacred into their lives. But, more importantly, it will become one of the deepest and most important of all the forces for peace and equality, ecology and social justice. I travel the world, visiting many indigenous cultures; those that are the strongest are the ones that are matrifocal and matrilineal. Goddess spirituality, by helping more and more women remember that they are the Goddess and they deserve the finest treatment, will help us create the matrilineal/matrifocal cultures we need to carry us through the times of change and into the future.


return home

Michelle Royce aka SPIRALDANCER lives with her family in Northern New South Wales, Australia. She has been a freelance writer for the past few years, regularly contributing to magazines such as "Witchcraft" with articles on Women's Spirituality, Wicca, Myth, Ritual and Alternative healing, in between bringing up her two daughters. She is committed to reclaiming the Women's Mysteries of Menarche, Menstruation, Motherhood and Menopause as more than just biological experiences for all women and to that end has just finished writing her first book on Women's Mysteries, Moon Rites, available at Ash Tree Publishing.

Moon Rites - a feminine path to personal power

Moon Rites is designed to be used as a tool to enhance your self-knowledge, acceptance, and personal power. It is divided into three sections. The following is a rundown on what's in it and how you can use it.

With Moon Rites you will:
Rediscover connections between your body & soul
Unleash your inner power, intuitive ability, creative drive
Reclaim the wisdom and magic of the lunar cycle
Renew your female body, mind and spirit
Empower yourself to make positive life choices.

Order Moon Rites in our Bookshop

Read an article by Michelle Royce ~
Moonwatching - reclaiming your feminine power

Correspondence Courses - the Wise Woman Way

Ash Tree Publishing BOOKSHOP