By Banta Whitner
When women of all ages and ethnicities come together in community, remarkable things happen. The Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference began 13 years ago as a gathering of 200 women who met to immerse themselves in the study of herbal medicine and the Wise Woman tradition of Earth-based healing. Organizers expect more than 1,200 women to attend this year’s event—held Friday through Sunday, October 13–15 at Lake Eden in Black Mountain—making it one of the most popular and vibrant herbal events in the country.
“Based on the comments from early registrants, women of our community, more than ever, are eager to gather with women and learn from one another,” says conference founder and director Corinna Wood. Participants can explore the many aspects of the Wise Woman Tradition through more than 60 classes and intensives.
“This year’s program focuses on women’s health, inside and out,” says Wood. “The class schedule highlights natural support for many phases of a woman’s life, including adrenalthyroid healing, making and using herbal medicines, and herbs for stress and mental health.”
More than 50 leading regional herbalists and instructors will share their skills, including Phyllis Light, Sobande Moss-Greer, Ombassa Sophera, Sarah Thomas, Robin Rose Bennett and Suki Roth. Special guest Dr. Aviva Romm, midwife, herbalist, and Yale-trained MD, will bridge traditional medicine with modern science to inspire women to take back their health.
Women often ask Romm how she gets it all done. “The core answer to that,” she says, “is listening inward to my ebbs and flows of energy, and in doing so, working in harmony with, not against these natural cycles.” Romm will teach how to reset, rather than burn out, in her featured Saturday session Overcoming Overwhelm: Enough is Enough.
Holistic esthetician Lucretia VanDyke came to herbal medicine by mixing herbs, mud and clay on her grandparents’ farm. Her workshop on Women’s Wholeness Medicine integrates indigenous healing rituals with more modern treatment protocols to create healthy skin products.
Brooklyn, NY singer and sound healer gina Breedlove joins the conference faculty for the first time this year with the three-hour intensive Sound Medicine: How Your Voice Can Heal You. A performer since age 15, Breedlove has toured internationally with artists such as Toshi Reagon, Harry Belafonte, Ani DiFranco and Sekou Sundiata. She calls her music Folksoul, a collaboration of rhythm and blues with the story-telling power of folk, soul and gospel.
Breedlove describes the ancient practice of sound healing as potent, powerful medicine. Using one’s own voice to move stuck energies such as fear, anger, grief and racial trauma through the body, sound healing creates space for wellness and growth.
“There is much cellular healing that needs to happen here,” she says. “The work we do now is for our children, planting seeds for trees that we may not get to see. But we get to love each other through all of it, which is a healing balm for generational wounds.”
Breedlove joins drummer Jessie Lehmann, dance teachers Christan Carter and Shea- Ra Nichi, and other talented performers to facilitate a joyful, ongoing celebration of sisterhood and community. Non-class activities are open to all attendees and include yoga, movement and film, along with interactive social events. Special weekend programs for young women aged 10-17 encourage the development of a strong self-image and a hands-on relationship with the Earth.
Accommodations range from tent camping to shared indoor lodges and cabins. Weekend meal tickets are available and communal meals feature a fresh, locally sourced, seasonal menu that is based on Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon—wholesome, delicious and deeply satisfying. Local vendors at the Food Pavilion provide a tasty alternative to scheduled meals in the dining hall.
The conference is grateful for the support and sponsorship of local and regional businesses and publications that share in the event’s spirit of holism and health. These include The Laurel of Asheville, Red Moon Herbs, French Broad Food Co-op, WNC Woman Magazine, Traditional Medicinals, Mountain Xpress, Mountain Rose Herbs, Food Life, Sophie Magazine, Frontier Co-op and Gaia Conceptions.
Attendance is limited to women and girls (boys up to age nine may attend). Childcare is available during class sessions. Registration discounts are offered until August 25. For details and easy online registration visit sewisewomen.com.