WHAT: Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference
WHERE: Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain
WHEN: Friday-Sunday, Oct. 10-12
Bound by shared womanhood and a passion for natural healing, more than 1,000 women will gather in Black Mountain for the 10th annual Southeast Wise Women Herbal Conference. Over the past decade, the event has grown to become the largest of its kind in the country. Conference founder Corinna Wood, who’s also the co-founder of Red Moon Herbs, launched the gathering in response to a perceived desire for herbal education in an all-female setting. “I was just seeing that the women of this region were also really resonating deeply with embracing our bodies and having those deeper conversations on emotional and physical topics that are easier in a women-only environment,” she explains.
Although most of the classes focus on herbs, and advanced herbal classes are offered, one could potentially fill an entire day with workshops that have little to do with plants. Those offerings, which focus more on female empowerment, include “Unconditional Self-Love,” “Transcending the Trauma,” a class on female archetypes, and various dance and movement classes.
“We’ve found that the herbal classes are extremely popular — they’re our most popular subjects,” says Wood. “But there’s also a lot of excitement and desire for these other subjects, including nourishing foods, emotional and spiritual health, self-love and many other aspects that come up in women’s lives. For instance, this year we have a class on raising confident girls. We also have classes that talk about midwifing and death, as well as the plant walks, the how-to herbal medicine classes, women’s health and using herbs for specific medical conditions.” When asked about teachers and classes she’s especially excited about, Wood mentions Aviva Romm, a medical doctor who’ll be teaching a class on “Pediatrics and Antibiotics” as well as an intensive titled “Health and Vitality Throughout the Wisdom Years,” and Rosita Arvigo, who’ll be teaching “Women’s Health the Maya Way.”
A quick scan of the schedule reveals a broad range of offerings. “There’s a wide range of herbal backgrounds, from women who are really new and beginning herbal studies to advanced practitioners,” notes Wood. “We have a whole track of advanced classes, and there’s so many different aspects that a lot of women find themselves weaving in different pieces, like ‘Talking Stick’ that we’re doing on racial diversity. Women of all walks of life have found that to be extremely enriching.”
Many women even bring their young daughters along, says Wood. “The conference has women of all ages, which is one of the things that makes it really special and rich: from young women all the way through the 20s, 30s, 40s, up to elders, grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Women now are returning with their daughters, their mothers, their sisters. That’s been a really beautiful, enriching experience for a lot of us to both witness and be part of.”
One thing that all attendees have in common, says Wood, is an interest in what she prefers to call natural health, “because this is really the traditional way, and in a way, modern medicine is more of the alternative.”
Of course, conference attendees also have another fundamental commonality: They’re all women. Wood began teaching herbal medicine to men and women over 20 years ago. “What I found,” she says, “is that mostly women came and, when it was women-only groups, that we were able to go deeper into subjects related to our bodies as women, our emotions as women, our common experience as women. And I came to the conclusion that I have more to offer women, and we were able to go deeper and receive more when we did set it up as a women-only container and environment.”
Ten years later, the conference is attracting more participants than any other event of its kind. “It’s such a reclaiming of our birthright,” says Wood, “because we used to grow up learning about wild plants and how to use them in medicine and in daily life, for ourselves and loved ones. … And with so many people in this area turning to natural and holistic health, it’s just a natural fit.”
For more information, visit sewisewomen.com. Camping is included in the $305 registration fee; indoor lodging is available for an additional charge.