The medicine can only go where the wound is.
When my daughters get stung, I chew plantain leaves with a sprig of yarrow and apply the green poultice on their skin.
But what will I chew when they have heartbreaks?
What bitter medicine will I mix in my mouth so my saliva, that binding agent full of DNA, can transform it into the medicine that will appease their suffering?
Throughout the world, you will find traditional rituals and ceremonies where the flesh is cut, the body is danced and sung to, and medicine is applied to the wound.
No body, no wound. No wound, no medicine.
In-carnation means to live in the flesh, and it is in the flesh that herbs, leaves, venom, berries, tinctures, and dried powders are placed for us to heal.
The grandmothers come to my bed at night while I sleep, and they search for the openings in my flesh. The next day I find a shed snakeskin in my garden or a dove egg at my doorstep; a volunteer yarrow growing near the black irises, or a piece of heart-shaped mica on the riverbed. I know I have to place it on my skin, I have to feel its texture under my fingertips, I have to smell it, taste it, and find out which wound it will address: loneliness, disconnection, grief, shame, not-enoughness.
The oldest medicine I have been given was the stinging one: at 7-year old, I fell in a field of nettles. It was Summer, and we were watching a bike race from the side of the road. I fell backward from my little camping chair right in the nettle patch. I know the spirits pushed me that day. I was such a good quiet girl; I would never have wriggled in my chair. All I remember is the color green - dark, vibrant, gorgeous emerald green, like Medusa's eyes, and a gentle motherly voice. It enveloped me in a strange, eerie, and unforgettable way.
Then there was the not gentle voice of my mother, telling the tale and explaining how she washed me in vinegar to lessen the sting and rash caused by my encounter with the Lady Of The Green.
Now, I harvest nettles with my bare hands, giving thanks and using them for rituals and teas, medicine to heal my matrimonial lineage.
I am also given the medicine of sting through bees and wasps in the most unpredictable ways, like just sitting on my doorstep for a few minutes and watching in slow motion a giant hornet landing on my arm and stinging me. My brain on pause, my incredulity strangely combined with "of course this is happening." Each time I get stung, it feels like a portal opens in me: my body becomes a vessel sailing elsewhere. I sleep for days. The thumping runs in my veins, changes the course of my blood, infusing it with something more alive than before. The swelling and redness are intense and last for a week or two.
This is my medicine: Stings. Bites. Thorns.
This is my wound - from the Sleeping Beauty lineage. The curse of beauty,. The curse of the loss of voice hidden behind being nice, in a society that has forgotten the importance of ritual and ceremony.
Now I am awake. I claim my medicine and apply it to my wounds and scars: nettles, snakeskin, bee stings.