Story & Focus
The Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference was inspired by the thriving herbal conferences for women in the Northeast, Northwest, and California, founded in the 1990's. After running Red Moon Herbs and teaching herbal medicine for women for over ten years, Corinna Wood—student and apprentice of Wise Woman Herbalist Susun Weed—recognized that the Southeast, too, would be eager for this kind of gathering. From our first annual event in 2005 with 200 women attending, we quickly discovered that the community was more than ready, that this event is filling a deep hunger for the Wise Woman Ways in this region. The conference now has a heart and soul of its own. For many, it has become an annual event—with over a thousand women, the October gathering is a tradition in education, inspiration, and sisterhood. Through the countless contributions of women of the conference community, this Wise Woman web continues to deepen, grow, and be enriched by all those involved each year.
The conference mission is to offer women herbal and other natural tools,wisdom, and experiences to support our physical and emotional health. Based in the Wise Woman Tradition, this herbal conference has a special flavor and focus, which resonates for those who become part of this Wise Woman community. Wondering if it's for you? Feel free to browse around below to get a scoop on the focus of this event . . .
What is the focus of the conference?
The Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference is a weekend for women to learn, connect, and deepen into the Wise Woman Tradition through herbal education, empowerment, and community. The Conference includes aspects on women's health and healing, herbal medicine, plant identification, nourishing foods, and sexuality, as well as topics around empowerment, racial equity, and self-love.
Our approach to herbs and healing is steeped in the Wise Woman Tradition with a strong emphasis on the folk herbal tradition and use of local plants. That being said, we have healers from many paths teach at our conference.
What do you mean by the “Wise Woman Tradition”?
The Wise Woman Tradition embraces the Earth, local plants, deep nourishment and self-love. It is a lens by which we can recognize our interconnectedness and wholeness of body and spirit. There’s a deep resonance that many women experience—a cellular memory of a way of life and a belief system that embraces a spiral that includes both light and dark, without hierarchy. Just as the natural cycles of our world constantly move through day and night, from dark moon to full moon, from winter to summer, from youth to old age and death.
The Wise Woman Tradition is practical and intensely personal, calling us to re-integrate ourselves in our own bodies and to reconnect with the Earth. We honor our natural cycles—our ebbs and flows. As we turn our attention away from “fixing” or "cleansing" ourselves, we move towards nourishing ourselves, physically, emotionally and spiritually, such that our bodies respond by moving towards optimal health.
In the Wise Woman Tradition, we understand our bodies as sacred and we trust that as a source of inner guidance.In the Wise Woman Tradition, we celebrate women both old and young, women of all colors and cultures, the many expressions of womanhood. We recognize that when we connect with our natural abilities, women are competent and capable of anything!
We realize that if we look back far enough into our own heritage(s), we all come from indigenous roots, from cultures worldwide in which our grandmothers way back lived close to the earth, learned to use plants around them as food and medicine from a young age, and were encouraged to be resourceful and strong. The Wise Woman path is a process of remembering much of what we already know -- including ancestral memories of using wild plants around us, as food and medicine. We may recall it as “folk wisdom.” We may have heard our elders speak of rituals and remedies that were passed on to them from their foremothers.
As internationally-renowned herbalist Susun Weed describes, “The Wise Woman Tradition is the oldest tradition of healing known on our planet, yet one that is rarely identified, rarely written or talked about. A woman-centered tradition of self love, respectful of the earth and all her creatures, the Wise Woman Tradition tells us that compassion, simple ritual, and common herbs heal the whole person and maintain health/wholeness/holiness.”
The Wise Woman Tradition is at the heart of the offerings and events at the Southeast Wise Women conference.
What is “folk herbalism”?
By definition, herbalism is a traditional or folk practice based on the use of plants. By using the word "folk" we are emphasizing the plants and practices that have been used by our grandmothers from every culture for generations upon generations. We enjoy using kitchen remedies and simple herbs that grow around us and finding ways to incorporate them in our daily lives.
We love seeing women get excited about relating to the plants directly and making their own medicines. We love learning what the plants have to teach us . . . they were here before us, after all. We are also excited by modern scientific and clinical findings and include them in our program as well, although we tend to stay away from teachings based on herbal constituents alone, or a "popping pills" approach to health. Our teachers usually offer a blend of several approaches in their workshops.
Why a focus on local plants?
In the Wise Woman Tradition, herbal medicine is a place where the lines between food and medicine blur. Our food becomes our medicine, and our medicine becomes our food. As we learn to identify and harvest edible wild plants at our doorsteps, we can naturally bring wild foods into our day-to-day lives to support optimum health, Drinking herbal infusions on a regular basis is another excellent way to recieve the medicinal qualities of the plants in a food-like form rich in minerals, chlorophyll, and other nutrients.
So, in general, we prefer to use the common, abundant plants that grow nearby rather than turning to rare, endangered, and faraway herbs with similar actions. When we incorporate the plants in our area into our lives, we have the opportunity to eat and make medicine from herbs that are vibrant, fresh, and potent--and are thriving within the very ecosystem where we live.
Why a focus on racial equity at an herbal conference?
The conference focuses on women’s health, from a perspective of empowerment and self love, including overcoming internalized oppression. For women of color, day-to-day experiences of systemic racism, micro-aggressions, and internalized oppression add up to huge health risk factors. Therefore, we consider the dynamics of racism an important aspect of women’s health to address, individually and colectively.
As primarily white organizers of European descent living in the Southeast United States, we especially acknowledge the unique struggles that African American, Cherokee, and other women of color have endured in these lands, and continue to face today--and we recognize that we have a responsibility and an opportunity to educate ourselves around understanding and addressing racism and white privilege. For example, in the scholarship program, we prioritize women of color in financial need, recognizing racial income disparity connected to oppressions of the past and present.
As the conference has grown, "Unity Village" has become the heart of the conference, which includes a gathering place for women of color as well as opportunities for all women to build bridges of understanding. We see Unity Village as an ongoing experiment and exploration, with no quick fixes or easy answers. As organizers, teachers, and participants, we have been growing and learning together through our experiences and dialogue with one another--honoring our differences as well as our commonalities. And the more we learn, the more we realize we still have a lot ot learn!
Educational resources about understanding racism and white privilege
"White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh, at the SEED website: Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity
"Cultural Etiquette: A Guide for the Well-Intentioned" by Amoja Three Rivers, at the FIC website: Fellowship for Intentional Communities
What do you mean by "nourishing foods"?
Especially as women, we’ve been given confusing and contradictory food advice from all directions for most of our lives. We believe that regular dieting and self-denial--that we have so often been enculturated to adopt--can be harmful for the body, mind, and soul. We believe that healthy foods are one of the key foundation building blocks for health.
Whether vegetarian or carnivorous, we feel that low fat diets can be dangerous for women, and that healthy fats--such as organic butter and coconut oil--are essential for the smooth functioning of the hormonal system. We aim to give health and nutrition information that is based in fact, tradition, and wisdom. We recommend a wide range of whole foods through our choice of speakers and topics, as well as our offering of the Nourishing Foods Meal Tickets, and our endorsement of the Weston A. Price Foundation.
How do sexuality classes fit into a women's herbal conference?
For most of us sexuality has been a closeted, confusing, sometimes shameful subject. We offer the opportunity to explore topics on sexuality because they are seldom offered elsewhere and we believe it’s an important part of a healthy life. Being empowered women includes enjoying our bodies. Which means loving ourselves, in our various shapes and sizes, feeding our bodies nourishing foods, nurturing our bodies with comfort and pleasure, and providing for all of our bodies' needs in safe and beautiful ways. If you're interested in learning more, you'll find class offerings within these various arenas, among the herbal and other women's health topics.
Is the conference appropriate for medical professionals?
While the Conference may not suit all medical professionals, it is a well loved event for many holistic nurses, doctors, midwives, and other medical professionals who wish to deepen their understanding of herbs and women’s health. In fact, 1 in 4 of the conference participants are medical professionals.
Medical professionals benefit from the conference by the augmentation of their knowledge of herbs, women’s health, alternative modalities, integrative approaches, and self care techniques. This in turn can enhance their professional lives, by the integration of these holistic skills and attitudes into the care they give to others.
The conference is not opposed to allopathic medicine. All healing practices have their strengths and weaknesses, their time and place in each person’s life. Although the focus of this event is on folk medicine, we certainly appreciate the resources available through hospitals, surgery, and pharmaceuticals. We honor the right of all women to choose the modalities that seem best suited for their own bodies and situations. We also value many aspects of natural medicine such as yoga, meditation, massage, acupuncture and more.
Note: Although we did offer CE's for nurses for many years, we are not able to offer any CE's at this time, due to the increasingly stringent administrative protocols.
Are you into feminism?
Absolutely. We celebrate and honor women and girls, and we believe in equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women. Or, as Alice Walker so aptly coined the phrase, we are "womanist, committed to the survival and wholeness of an entire people." She goes on to define the term, "Womanist: Loves music. Loves dance. Loves the moon. Loves the Spirit. Loves love and food and roundness. Loves struggle. Loves the Folk. Loves herself. Regardless."
We are very much aware that the women's herbal conferences of today, are standing on the shoulders of generations of brilliant and courageous women who devoted their lives to fighting for women's rights. At our Community Altar, you're invited to visit the tables remembering "The Women Who Came Before Us" ~ the Cherokee Beloved Women, Black Root Women, Suffragettes, and the Women's Liberation Movement.
What do you mean by “women's empowerment”?
We’ve grown up in a culture rife with sexism, racism, ageism, heterosexism, classism, etc. Girls, from birth, are treated differently then boys. Violence against against girls and women continues to be a global atrocity.
Most of us grow up in male dominated institutions, households and religions, where men were in charge. The very important work of our mothers and grandmothers who labor in positions of caregiving and child rearing as well as in nurturing professions is still sorely undervalued today. In many professional positions, women make a smaller percentage of what men make for the same work. Girls and women alike struggle to accept our bodies, unable to measure up to the false images set by media standards of female beauty. By the time we are teens, we have been conditioned into "femininity" ~ eg, to stop playing sports, having opinions, getting dirty, making speeches, looking and acting strong. Often when we act powerfully, or in any way outside of those gender stereotypes, we are criticized. On top of all of that, sexual trauma and domestic violence impact emotional, mental, and physical health for all too many women and girls.
Girls and women are natural leaders, are naturally at home in their bodies, and are naturally connected to each other through mutual respect, play, and friendship. Women are strong, tough, in control of their own lives. Women are loving, brilliant, brave, and creative. When we speak of empowerment we speak of a process to reclaim these truths for ourselves and to help each other remember!
Why is this a women-only event?
We recognize that for some, the idea of women-only gatherings may initially feel unfamiliar or scary. Please know that we respect all people equally. We treasure the relationships we have with beloved men and boys in our lives -- from sons and brothers, to partners and friends.
And we also deeply value this annual opportunity to be immersed in a large group of all women. We find that women-only settings tend to offer a special tone and energy. As we gather together as women, we connect and celebrate our commonalities as well as our differences. In this safe container, we cultivate self-love and dissolve barriers of competition between women.
This women-only setting also allows us to focus on issues that are important to us, free from potential shame or misunderstanding. Women share many common experiences, from menarche to menopause. These all-women classes and experiences offer a special opportunity to share and gather wisdom about health and wellness for our physical and emotional well being. In this context, we are naturally find ourselves deepening our relationships with each other as well as our own abilities, strengths, and power.
Men have had opportunities for public all-male groups for centuries, from the Knights of Columbus and the Masons, to men's country and sports clubs of all kinds. Some of this is changing today, yet men still desire and seek out the comfort, camaraderie, relaxation, and escape that being with other men provides. We ask the same--a place where we can be ourselves together for a weekend. In our times, we're also delighted to see some of the men around us getting involved with progressive men's groups, including A Call to Men: "Help create a world where all men and boys are loving and respectful and all women and girls are valued and safe." We also appreciate the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, who identify as "pro-feminist, gay-affirmative, anti-racist, enhancing men's lives."
We do our best to minimize contact during the weekend with male staff and residents on the grounds. If dropping off participants, we ask men to limit their presence to the parking lot to support the a sense of safe container created during the weekend. This allows the participants to sink more deeply into their experience knowing that they will be held in this women-only atmosphere. We mean no disrespect at all by this and hope instead that men see this as an opportunity to serve the women in their lives and communities by sending us good will, trusting our process, and respecting our needs and desires for sacred time together.
We appreciate that over the years, men in our extended community have been very supportive and respectful about this women's event (and we hear they're thinking of starting a "wise guys" conference themselves!). For example, Steve Torma of the REAL Center in Asheville recently surprised us with this sweet note: "I feel so happy and proud to be associated with a community of women who create this fantastic event year after year. It has been such a pleasure to watch it grow and evolve as it makes bigger and bigger waves of healing, hope, and transformation for so many women. Many blessings as you continue to embody and channel this beautiful divine female energy that is flowing through our planet at this time."
Note: As a women’s conference, we leave it up to participants to self-identify as women. We do sometimes have trans women attend, who are resonant with our focus around earth-based healing and women’s health. If you are a trans woman wanting to attend, please feel free to contact us.Of course, our community includes lesbian, bisexual, and straight women. We also welcome women who consider themselves queer, gender non-conforming, or butch-identified. We recognize that stepping outside of gender stereotypes is not easy, and we appreciate those who stretch people’s assumptions about what a woman looks like and other limiting aspects of the societal constraints around “femininity.” That inspires us all to embrace our wildness and strength!
Want to know more?
We invite you to continue browsing around the conference website . . .
Looking for the current lineup of teachers and classes? Check out this year's program
Wondering what it looks like to learn, celebrate, and connect? Read more about the event.
Seeking details on pricing, lodging, and meals? Learn all about registration.