Plant spirit medicine
When Cheryl Lucas found out the author of a popular, but out-of-print, book on the spiritual healing powers of plants was both reissuing “Plant Spirit Medicine” and available to speak in Grand Junction, she found the perfect reason to launch a new series of author presentations.
The Off the Shelf series at Lucas’ store, Crystal Books and Gifts, 439 Main St., will start with a discussion of “Plant Spirit Medicine” with author Eliot Cowan at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The series is “designed to be more than just a casual book-signing,” Lucas said. “It is free to the public and will be a chance to not only meet numerous authors, but also enjoy fun and entertaining workshops, readings, talks and presentations by them.”
Lucas is planning the Off the Shelf programs with Patti Hoff, host of the “Book Talk” program on KAFM and owner of Brass Frog Bookworks.
Hoff said the series is designed to provide a platform for authors — particularly local authors — to discuss their work directly with readers.
“We have an amazing group of talented writers on the Western Slope,” Hoff said. “Our intent with the Off the Shelf program is to highlight those people, assist them in promoting their work, outreach and strengthening the writing community.”
Cowan’s book originally published in 1995. It was updated and reissued in April by Sounds True publishing in Louisville. Cowan founded the Blue Deer Center in the Catskill Mountains of New York.
Plant spirit medicine is a term coined by Cowan that describes an alternative healing technique that is a synthesis of shamanism, traditional Chinese medicine and herbalism.
The updated edition is greatly expanded from the original edition, which was a strong seller at her store, Lucas said.
“He’s always used plants,” Lucas said of Cowan’s healing approach. “He regards them as a living organism that we have to honor. The revision of this book takes into account the plant’s spirituality. It’s just really interesting reading.”
Cowan has a degree in anthropology and did post-graduate work in documentary filmmaking at the University of California, Los Angeles. His interest in herbalism started when he was able to successfully treat a sick goat at his Vermont farm with a plant.
After receiving a master of acupuncture degree, he practiced acupuncture for a number of years. Intrigued by an article about the Huichol Indians of the Mexican Sierras, he traveled there to learn more about these indigenous people. Cowan apprenticed with Don Guadalupe Gonzalez Rios, an eminent Huichol shaman.
Cowan describes the Huichol this way: “Even though their lives are hard, the Huichol know who they are, where they are, and what is important. Their world is not a world of inert ‘things’; it is a living world of divine feeling and expression. They live in a mood of retrained joy mostly unknown to Western people.
“Like Huichol medicine, plant spirit medicine is low tech; it produces healing purely though good relationship with the natural world. In this way it is not simply a relic of the past; it is also a medicine for the present and future.”
Medicinal qualities of plants are not to be found in their chemistry, Cowan writes, but in their relationship to you: “There is only one active ingredient in plant medicines: friendship. A plant spirit heals a patient as a favor to its friend-in-dreaming, the doctor.”
In all cultures there are people who have especially vivid experiences with the spirits of nature, writes Cowan, who is a fully initiated Tsaurirrikame — a Huichol shaman.
“When properly trained and initiated, these people become shamans. Shamans make friends of the spirits of nature and call upon them for help with everyday affairs.”
“Plant Spirit Medicine” contains true stories of spiritual healing, with names changed to protect the privacy of Cowan’s clients. He is careful to confine his claims to spiritual healing. In the author’s note, Cowan writes: “You should also know that plant spirit medicine does not diagnose, treat, or cure any physical, mental, or emotional symptom, condition, or illness. It provides purely spiritual intervention. No claims are made about changes in the health of those receiving treatment.”
Lucas encourages people to arrive early in order to get a seat. She said details of further Off the Shelf programs will be released later this spring.