Brita Wynn Dinsmore 2021


Western Cultural Denial of Plant Sentience and How Shamanic Cultures Interact with Plant Consciousness
Culture has a strong influence on how we perceive the world around us. Most traditional foraging cultures are shamanic, which means the religious specialist they have is also a healer. Shamans work within many mediums and realities. They use sound and song and sand paintings (Navajo), dreaming and chanting (Australian aboriginals), as well as drumming and chanting (Hmong), and all of them use plant relationships.

When anthropologists asked shaman the world over how they know what plants to use in their healing work, how they know how to formulate them, and how they know it is safe, they all answer the same way: “It told me.” or “It came in a dream and instructed me.” These people are able to communicate and commune with plants. Their cultures consider this behavior not only normal but accurate and important. Talking to plants and spirits in these cultures is viewed as perfectly sane behavior. These people are taught from a very young age that they can communicate with animals and plants and view it as an important part of a healthy, balanced relationship with nature. They are taught that plants and animals have souls, personalities, and wisdom to share. These plants are viewed as capable of communication with us and with each other.

Most of the Western world does not acknowledge this as true or stable behavior. Plants, rocks, trees, and other natural beings are viewed as unconscious things, resources to be used and sold. Fewer people hear them or connect with them, and so we disconnect from the sentience of nature and are oblivious to its consciousness. In fact, Western culture actively enculturates people to believe that nature cannot communicate, is not conscious, and cannot instruct us. It teaches that talking to plants and animals is nothing more than lonely delusional behavior at best, and that plants and animals have no spiritual significance. This makes integration with the natural world difficult to impossible for many.

We learn how to perceive our world through the lens of culture. This enculturative process can effectively blind us to true reality because we believe so strongly what culture teaches us is real. We are taught not to trust intuition, not to trust our sense beyond the limits of those teachings.

So what kind of consciousness do trees have? How do plants communicate with us and each other? How can we train ourselves to be more aware of the consciousness of nature? What tools can help us transcend cultural perceptual limitations? What the is the science of plant consciousness and communication as we currently understand it? I will discuss the spiritual and scientific aspects of plant consciousness and what tools we can use to access the wisdom that nature holds.

Bio: Brita holds a four-field M.A. in Anthropology with an in-depth emphasis in Cultural Ethnobotany and Native American culture. She recently retired from 25 years as a college professor to open The Queen’s Ranch Herb Farm in Shelton, Washington. She has 18 years of experience teaching herbal apprentice course work and currently teaches course work that includes Gaia Conscious Herbal Apprenticeship Medicine Path, medicine making workshops, aromatherapy, and traditional herbal folk magic as well as studies of what she calls “the great green teachers”, plants like belladonna, henbane, and aconite. She also has extensive experience with wortcunning and herbal shamanism.

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~Video Recordings from the 2021 online VGS are accessible for 30 days from purchase date~