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The Lost Art of Seeking the Powers of Wild Plants – TheTyee.ca

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[Editor’s note: Full disclosure, I was eating some spicy Doritos when I first picked up this book, which were wild and not in a good way. To write the excellent Feasting Wild, out this month via Greystone Books, geographer and writer Gina Rae La Cerva roamed the planet to chronicle the stories of truly wild foods and the people, largely women, who know, cultivate and protect them. “Today, most people will never eat anything undomesticated or uncultivated,” La Cerva writes in her prologue. “Eating something truly untamed has become incredibly rare.” We’re pleased to publish an excerpt from Feasting Wild below.]

As agriculture became the dominant method for sourcing food, wild plants took on new spiritual value. During spring fertility rites in the Iron Age, human sacrifices were made to the goddess Nerthus to ensure good harvests. The victims first ate a ceremonial meal, which consisted, at least in one case, of more than 63 different varieties of seeds, mostly from species we would today consider weeds.

Wild plants were also increasingly sought out as remedies for the diseases caused by moving toward agriculture in the first place. Ancient Greek and Roman doctors believed that the power of herbs to cure was not inherent in their buds and leaves but lay in their complementary resemblance to human needs and desires — a system called the doctrine of signatures. If a flower resembled an eye, it could treat eye infections. If the petals were triangular or flesh-colored, like the human heart, the plant would remedy chest pains and heartbreaks. This belief became popular again in Europe during the medieval period, and wild plant-based treatments were sought after for both spiritual and corporal ailments.

Wild plants were also eaten in times of distress. In the mid-1300s, the Black Plague lifted souls out of bodies by the millions, killing nearly 60 per cent of Europe’s population. With the population decline, there were fewer farm laborers, and many agricultural fields were abandoned to the weeds. Food became scarce. While the rich ate grand displays of game meat, wild birds, and exotic fruit, the poor survivors surveyed their deteriorated society and cooked pottages of whatever could be found free-growing in nearby fields, hedgerows, and woods: plantain and mallow, dock and nettles; woody roots of wild carrot, parsnips, leeks, skirret, and turnips; the leaves of wild strawberries, the leaves of violets and roses; moss, samphire, succory, colewort, nosesmart, peppergrass, bellflowers, scurvy grass, primrose, cowslip, beach mustard, and arrow grass; buttercup, yarrow, rye-grass, and smooth hawksbeard! One hundred herbs to add to the pudding. The strong, bitter flavors of these wild plants seemed to define the lives of those who ate them.

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Initially, the church did not discourage foraging and the use of herbs. Many monasteries had extensive medicinal gardens, and the monks produced numerous herbal manuscripts. Most of these were based on texts first created in classical antiquity, such as the De Materia Medica, a five-volume encyclopedia about herbal medicine written in the first century by the Greek physician Dioscorides. Over the course of centuries, these books were copied and recopied by hand, modified bit by bit — ever-evolving manuscripts with new stories and quips inserted, slowly accumulating into the considerable tomes that existed by the Middle Ages. One of the most comprehensive was the Leechbook of Bald, a medical text written in the ninth century that laid out herbal cures for numerous afflictions, ranging from headaches to aching feet.

But until the printing press was developed in the fifteenth century, these handmade books remained rare, and inaccessible to the ordinary person. Most herbal knowledge was therefore kept alive as folk medicine, handed down from mother to daughter, a kind of inheritance that might do her more good in staying healthy than any other sort of wealth a poor old country woman could offer.

Perhaps the most widespread use of wild plants was for contraception. Many species of the parsley family, such as wild carrot, contain estrogen-like molecules, and consuming them can prevent or terminate unwanted pregnancies. But a woman in control of her own body was a dangerous thing, and the church, along with male medical professionals, began to limit the unsupervised use and trade of gathered plants. The wise women who continued to practice their art were considered witches. Between 1450 and 1750 in Europe and North America, an estimated thirty-five thousand to one hundred thousand people, most of them women, were accused of wildcrafting and put to death.

The loss of common knowledge about wild edibles accelerated during the colonial period. Prior to European contact, the Americas were home to nearly 100 million Indigenous people, who between them spoke some one thousand to two thousand languages. The number of different plants they relied upon was enormous. Across North America, it is estimated that pre-contact people used over twenty-six hundred different species, nearly half exclusively for medicine. Less than one hundred of these plants were cultivated. The rest grew wild.  [Tyee]

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ARTS AROUND: Last chance to view children’s exhibit at Rollin Art Centre – Alberni Valley News

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MELISSA MARTIN

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

This week is your last chance to view an art exhibit featuring local Port Alberni children.

“Moments in Time” is the current art exhibit at the Rollin Art Centre. It is a collaboration of children’s art organized by the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. Port Alberni branch, which looks at the world through children’s eyes.

The exhibit runs until May 20. The Rollin Art Centre is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is located at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Argyle Street.

NEXT EXHIBIT

“SPRING – Seasonal Imagery” is the title of the next art exhibit at the Rollin Art Centre. This exhibit will reflect the gentle changes of the season and create a unique mood and feeling associated with this season based on your interpersonal reflection.

Join us in the gallery on Saturday, May 28 for refreshments and an opportunity to meet with some of the featured artists: Janice Sheehan, Mae LaBlanc, Joan Akerman, Jayant Chaudhary, Cathy Stewart, Cynthia Bonesky, Mary Ann McGrath, Cheryl Frehlich, Dodie Manifold, Patrick Larose and Karen Poirier. The exhibit open May 25.

PAINTING WORKSHOPS

Two-Day Watercolour Workshop at Rollin Art Centre — June 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Ionne McCauley is an accomplished artist, quilter, and author, currently living in Qualicum Beach, who has taught colour workshops for more than 25 years. Next month, she will teach the basics of colour theory and pigments during a watercolour workshop in Port Alberni. In this workshop, you will learn about value, hue, tone, shade and saturation. Explore the learnable magic of watercolour paints, how to achieve glowing colours and how to choose (and use) pigments for exciting colour combinations.

Workshop Fee is $150 and supply fee (paid to the instructor) is $20. Register at the Rollin Art Centre: 250-724-3412. Numbers are limited.

One-Day Acrylic Workshop at Rollin Art Centre — Saturday July 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — When you think of landscapes, you might think “Oh that’s too complicated.” Not so! If you break it down into simple shapes, it becomes easy and fun. In this workshop, Susan Schaefer will guide you through landscapes, discussing what makes a good composition while simplifying your landscape. Schaefer has been a professional artist for the past 20 years and has taken workshops from some of Canada’s finest artists. She has a fun and relaxed way of teaching, working with students at their individual level and ensuring a good learning experience for all.

Workshop Fee is $115 +GST and a supply list is available. Register at the Rollin Art Centre: 250-724-3412. Numbers are limited.

LOOKING FOR ARTISTS

The annual Solstice Arts Festival is back after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. Join us Saturday, June 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rollin Art Centre.

Spaces are available for artists and artisans on our terrace or in our two gardens. There is lots of room to spread out and it is a picture-perfect spot to set up an easel or demos of the artwork you create.

If you are interested in displaying at this year’s free family event, call the Rollin Art Centre at 250-724-3412 for more info. Spaces are $25 for the day.

SUMMER TEAS

Teas on the Terrace events are back at the Rollin Art Centre. Tickets are now on sale at a cost of $20 for our strawberry teas and $25 for a “High Tea.”

Join us on the terrace under the canopy of the trees, sipping tea, listening to local musicians and sampling a selection of scrumptious snacks or decadent strawberry shortcake.

The first tea will take place July 7, with musical guest to be announced.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

June 1 and 2 – Workshop – “Watercolour – The Basics of Colour Theory and Pigments”

June 18 – Solstice Arts Festival – Spaces available for artisans

June 22 – July 22 – “Women’s Work” – group exhibit – Sue Thomas, Jillian Mayne, Colleen Clancy, and Ann McIvor

July and August – Teas on the Terrace – Tickets available now

Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412. Email: communityarts@shawcable.com.

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Let's Get Digital! art exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi – The Florentine

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Let’s Get Digital! art exhibition at Palazzo Strozzi  The Florentine



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Fort McKay artist's council art reflects reconciliation and healing hopes, but demands injustices be confronted – Fort McMurray Today

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The artwork in the new council chambers at the Jubilee Centre reflects the hopes and beliefs that local First Nation and Métis peoples have for reconciliation.

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But Frederick McDonald, an artist from the Fort McKay First Nation commissioned for the paintings, made sure people at an April 25 unveiling ceremony didn’t forget why the artwork was made in the first place.

In a nine-minute poem, McDonald made people at the ceremony confront the legacies of the residential school system, 60s scoop and colonialism have on Indigenous peoples.

He talked about the high rates of homelessness, drug and alcohol addictions, unemployment, food insecurity and suicide found today in Indigenous communities across Canada.

His poem discussed the racism and discrimination inflicted upon Indigenous peoples by some leaders in politics, policing, health care, education, religion and business. He blasted the RCMP’s role in enforcing these policies throughout the years.

Politicians from all levels and parties were skewered. Even racist depictions of Indigenous people in movies and TV shows weren’t spared in his poem. If people listening to his poetry felt uncomfortable, that was his point.

“Have you heard enough? Have you had enough? Do you want to do something? Really, you still want to talk about truth and reconciliation?” he said.

“If you do, let’s talk about healing. Let’s talk about all our pains: there’s, your’s and mine. Let’s talk about the drum’s. Let’s talk about the dance. Let’s talk about celebrations and ceremony, about differences of culture, about understanding and working together. So much to do. So much to do. So let’s begin.”

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McDonald’s poem captured the rage felt by so many First Nation, Métis and Inuit people, but his three paintings in the council chambers reflects his optimism in the future. He wanted his art to acknowledge the past but not dwell on pain or anger. This was also insisted upon by an elders council.

“As Aboriginal people, we want to be able to tell our own stories, so that’s what these paintings are all about,” said McDonald. “It’s about us sharing our stories, sharing them in a positive manner, working towards the future together—not side-by-side, not separate—but together going forward.”

A fourth piece is a talking stick, which was created by Elder Shurley Arthurs of the Fort McMurray First Nation 468. It sits at the desk where guest speakers address council. All the pieces were bound by teachings of honesty, love, truth, humility, wisdom, courage and respect.

“We hope relations between all people will continue to flourish. That is my big wish. I pray for that everyday. Because with the world as it is, who knows how much short time we have?” said Arthurs. “Love the people around you. It’s very important.”

Council decided in 2019 that the artwork for the new chambers would be completed by Indigenous artists, following a motion made by Councillor Keith McGrath. A committee was formed that included elders, knowledge keepers and creatives from Indigenous communities in the region.

Mayor Sandy Bowman said the art will remind council of the Indigenous history of this region, which serves “as a constant reminder to unite, and foster change and understanding.”

Teachings by Frederick McDonald hangs inside the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. An elder on the left continue sharing their teachings with stories and drums. The thunderbird on the drum symbolizes a connection to the spiritual world, painted stylistically with a red dress symbolizing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. A girl on the right learns about Residential Schools next to a picture of a train some used to reach trap lines. The middle background is a reference to past modes of transportation. “All these parts speak of or shared histories,” writes McDonald. “In spite of it all and of all the generations of colonial presures we are still strong peoples—growing stronger through understanding!” Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Teachings by Frederick McDonald hangs inside the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. An elder on the left continue sharing their teachings with stories and drums. The thunderbird on the drum symbolizes a connection to the spiritual world, painted stylistically with a red dress symbolizing missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. A girl on the right learns about Residential Schools next to a picture of a train some used to reach trap lines. The middle background is a reference to past modes of transportation. “All these parts speak of or shared histories,” writes McDonald. “In spite of it all and of all the generations of colonial presures we are still strong peoples—growing stronger through understanding!” Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
True North by Frederick McDonald hangs inside the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. The elders drum while three generations of women dancers dance. The animals in the sky represent the seven sacred teachings: love (eagle), honesty (raven), humility (wolf), courage (bear), wisdom (beaver), truth (turtle) and respect (bison). Symbols on the ground show Indigenous people lived off the land, until governments, churches began moving people out of their communities. “With the help of Aboriginal spirituality, today we live strong in our communities and we celebrate all the things that make us who we are with old traditions, along with the help of newly adapted cultural experiences,” writes McDonald. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
True North by Frederick McDonald hangs inside the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. The elders drum while three generations of women dancers dance. The animals in the sky represent the seven sacred teachings: love (eagle), honesty (raven), humility (wolf), courage (bear), wisdom (beaver), truth (turtle) and respect (bison). Symbols on the ground show Indigenous people lived off the land, until governments, churches began moving people out of their communities. “With the help of Aboriginal spirituality, today we live strong in our communities and we celebrate all the things that make us who we are with old traditions, along with the help of newly adapted cultural experiences,” writes McDonald. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Spirits Having Flown by Frederick McDonald hangs inside the doorway for council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray. The art covers the doorway with symbols of the Seven Sacred Teachings. At the bottom of the side paintings are symbols for the Sacred Pipe and sage, with the colours of the four directions of the Dene and Cree. The pipe is not burning tobacco to represent how some cultural teachings and practices have been lost to colonialism and taken away, but the sage burns to represent the start of a healing path. “Reconciliation is not just an Aboriginal thing; we all have to do this together, no matter what walk of life you live in and come from,” writes McDonald. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Spirits Having Flown by Frederick McDonald hangs inside the doorway for council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray. The art covers the doorway with symbols of the Seven Sacred Teachings. At the bottom of the side paintings are symbols for the Sacred Pipe and sage, with the colours of the four directions of the Dene and Cree. The pipe is not burning tobacco to represent how some cultural teachings and practices have been lost to colonialism and taken away, but the sage burns to represent the start of a healing path. “Reconciliation is not just an Aboriginal thing; we all have to do this together, no matter what walk of life you live in and come from,” writes McDonald. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A talking stick created by Elder Shirley Arthurs of the Fort McMurray First Nation #468 sits where people sit to address council inside the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A talking stick created by Elder Shirley Arthurs of the Fort McMurray First Nation #468 sits where people sit to address council inside the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
The updated council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
The updated council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A drummer at a ceremony unveiling art for the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
A drummer at a ceremony unveiling art for the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Elder Shirley Arthurs from the Fort McMurray First Nation #468 at a ceremony unveiling art for the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Elder Shirley Arthurs from the Fort McMurray First Nation #468 at a ceremony unveiling art for the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mayor Sandy Bowman speaks at a ceremony unveiling art for the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Mayor Sandy Bowman speaks at a ceremony unveiling art for the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Janine Kruse, Indigenous and Rural Relations director for the RMWB, at a ceremony unveiling art for the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network
Janine Kruse, Indigenous and Rural Relations director for the RMWB, at a ceremony unveiling art for the council chambers at the Jubilee Centre in Fort McMurray on April 25, 2022. Vincent McDermott/Fort McMurray Today/Postmedia Network

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