Brigit Anna McNeill is our resident expert Forager.
Medicine forager and creator. Plant walker, Mentor and Environmental and Wilderness Therapist. Connecting people back to nature.
Once we have tasted this wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat of it the more we will awaken. – Stephen Harrod Buhner
Eating wild plants speaks to the ancient and feral part of me that knows sitting in an office or watching endless soul sucking soaps or shopping in supermarkets or joining the rat race day in day out is not quite how life was meant to be.
Foraging, wildcrafting and wild medicine reminds me of a deep and very old connection that is missing in modern western lives and it can’t be replaced with the latest iPhone, dress, bag, shoes or party. I found myself sucked into this modern western culture where i was completely cut off from the natural world and my own body, too busy to stop and breathe, to busy to take time for myself. Many many people live and work in unnatural environments surrounded by concrete and steel. Eating large scale industrial processed or farmed foods, this kind of environment limits contact with nature and many people lack a real heartfelt, regular connection to their natural world and to themselves. This has terrible outcomes for our health and emotional well-being.
As our forests and land are destroyed, and our food, rivers, water supply, sea and air are all being poisoned—we’ve lost touch with a truth—it’s not technology and the latest products or fashions that sustains us, but the earth.
Eating and gathering wild food returns me to my roots, grounding me in nature and my body. I know when I’m eating more wild food, I buzz with a different kind of energy, I feel more alive and less likely to be tamed. I believe in the saying we are what we eat; I feel I am absorbing the experiences, the DNA and karmic trail of what I put in my body. Whether that’s vegetables, animals, wild plants or processed food. I think of food as the greatest medicine and wild food is jam packed with so much goodness that it literally heals me from the inside. It’s amazing too, to know that if I eat alot of one certain plant my dreams will become more alive or if I put that one in my diet my back will feel better, or if I have that one my hay fever will go. I think eating wild food is the ultimate in connecting with the world around me as I am literally taking it inside me. It deepens my knowledge of the seasons and the landscape. I watch plants grow and die, I start to know which plants like to grow together and what type of land certain plants like. Not only is it healing but it is FREE. Nettles have more goodness and vitality than blue green algae bought from the health food shop and they’re everywhere and cost us nothing.
Foraging for me is about a whole new way of seeing, its a shift from mind as panacea, mind as king, mind as judge, jury and executioner, to mind in service of the senses…extracting meaning from the picture presented to it by the senses, the senses that literally touch the world around us. The senses that include heart perception and gut feel as well as the ones we’re taught in school…all presented to our consciousness (if only we STOP and tune into it) as a whole that might be described as “how does this feel?”. I like to compare it to learning a new language that contains no words- a language older than words. A language that involves all my senses. The language of feeling. The lost language of the heart, which is also the lost language of plants. Plants can’t talk. But they sure as hell communicate with us. Being with plants changes how I feel. I know that I know because I feel it. My intuition switched back to ON after having been burned at so many stakes. I know this to be true because it is my experience. I’m sharing it and you will choose whether or not to follow/believe/trust, because of how these words make you feel. This way of being opens the door to life in so much more than HD.
The thing is though it takes time and I’ve had to be willing to learn what is edible and medicinal, how to use it and where to safely collect it. I have luckily had some very good teachers who have taken me deeper and deeper into plant lore. I have had to get into my body and out of my head. I use my senses as I will need them all when foraging; sight, smell, touch and sound and feeling. Without them it could end in disaster, it is easy to tell the difference between a comfrey leaf and a foxglove leaf once you know how they feel on your skin. It is a sensory sensual world out there. I have learnt not to stand over the plant and stare, but to get down on my knees and smell it, crush the leaves between my fingers and breathe in the scent that comes off them, feel with my fingers whether it is soft or bristly, what does the stem feel like? Is it hollow what do the leaves sound like against my skin. Beyond that I have been opened, a whole new world of beings has been revealed to me. I have discovered my lost community which doesn’t just consist of people, my community is full of plants and creatures and forests and rivers. Without them I am not whole. This is the basis of the Gaia principle, world as living being, and the basis of deep ecology. We are a part of an ecosystem…not king or more evolved….just a part and it’s time we acknowledged it and played our part in getting to know our extended families.
Now I can answer the original question. Why forage? Free food, free vitamins and minerals, health benefits to keep illness and diseases at bay, I get fresh air, exercise, quality alone time and quality community time and healthy eating AND last but not least, I am awakened to the highest bandwidth version of me it’s possible to be. So my call to the world of humans is to take your health and the health of your family and extended community into your own hands and forage.