Apothecary, Rarities, Oddities

Wise Women of plants

The history of the wunderkammer or the ‘cabinet of curiosities’ is complex. While I tend to think of myself as operating an apothecary [modern day materia medica or a herbal dispensary], the idea of a cabinet of curiosities is something I longed to explore and cultivate. Basically, like a common definition, my focus is gathering “unrelated cultural artifacts and phenomena to show their inter-connectedness in ways that encourage curiosity about the world.” At the same time, my studies of Western herbalism can help support an extension of plant knowledge for the people, by the people. I am not trained at a naturopathic or Eastern medicine school; as I have learned from folk traditions, immersing myself in nature, and listened to elders of different traditions.  As I listed on my Etsy shop, I do not support the appropriation of indigenous and tribal band culture or medicine making for my benefit. I am white, queer identified individual, and an accomplice/instigator with POC identity and culture. I choose not to say ‘ally,’ as white alliance needs to be taken further than just talk.  While European history has a deep history of tribes and cultural identity, it also has unduly colonialized and oppressed most traditions of medicine and plant gathering history around the world.

My background of research is in folk tradition and Western herbalism, mainly, as I have studied the texts of early Arab, Greek, and early European medicine making, keeping in mind, communities have long since practiced medicine before recorded and written texts.  I do like the passage below from Chaucer, in the Canterbury Tales, likening myself to a folk practitioner.

.. and for ye shal nat tarie,

Though in this toun is noon apothecarie,
I shal myself to herbes techen yow,
That shul been for youre hele and for youre prow.

In modern English, this translates to:

… and you should not linger,
Though, in this town there is no apothecary,
I will teach you about herbs myself,
That will be for your health and for your pride.

Seems simple and straightforward to teach thyself, and so you can teach others.

I am open for contact and dialogue, open to the words I can communicate and the texts I can share.

-Kim Schwenk [2016]