I know of the leafy paths that the witches take…
Whenever people visit our workspace, with piles of herbs in dark corners and long, stringy roots steeping in jars of alcohol, we hear the word “witchy” used more than a few times. We take it as a compliment, because we love the mystical images associated with witchcraft – be it in the form of great, beautiful healers, dark sorceresses, or old women of quiet mystery and kitchen magic stirring cauldrons over the fire.
Of course, this picture of a witch, mixing up potions and casting peculiar spells, is more a Western concept than an Eastern one. In China, where our founder Jess grew up, the meaning of the term is closer to the Western understanding of a Shaman – a term traditionally associated more with holiness and respect than evil and disrepute. Unsurprisingly, it is this reverential interpretation that most closely matches our own experiences with people and practices that are so often described as “witchy.”
Much of our inspiration and medicinal knowledge come from the strong women in Jess’ family, who always had a remedy on the stove in the kitchen or advice for a healing food, as almost all mothers do in this culture. They picked out herbs – and yes, sometimes animal parts – from local apothecaries and brought them home for their families, brewing them while explaining their work, and so ancient wisdom is passed down this way through generations.
With these women in mind, we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, made all the more relevant for us as team made up solely of women. On this day, we are reminded about this idea of a witch, and how we’ve been hearing this term used more frequently this past year, during a revival of herbalism and potion-making. It is a connection that we welcome, remembering that in many parts of the world the term “witch” carries with it a complicated history relating to the economic, social, and emotional realm of women. It was not so far in our past that witch hunts were commonplace, or when a woman taking interest in medicine and science, or displaying any signs of strength or opposition, was suspected of witchcraft and stripped of her dignity, freedom, and often her life. A word that for ages carried with it such fear and persecution, that became an excuse for distrusting the influence of women, now seems to be gaining a positive sense of mystery, strength, and power, especially as more women choose to work as healers in the new wave of botanical and herbal apothecary businesses.
We’re proud to be part of this revival, and want to honor all of the women healers who inspire us with their perseverance, knowledge, and mystical powers. On March 8th and everyday, we remember our roots as part of the historic community of strong women, of female doctors and herbalists, of female entrepreneurs, and of witches.