Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Parsley, Sage, Marijuana, and Thyme - why herbal identification training is sorely needed

Bright Blessings.

So, occasionally this column will focus on human interests stories, or person anecdotes.  These are presented as such, and are not in any way to be confused with the normal news.   This story is one of those anecdotes that deals with the burdens of being an aspiring herb wife and Pagan.

Over the freeway, and through the streets, to my Mother's house, this writer went.  To deliver a bundle of freshly picked herbs, my mission was one of pleasant joyfulness.  Upon placing a brimming small basket full of greenery on her cocktail table, the bundles and bunches were sorted and identified for her usage in her culinary pursuits.  Sage, parsley, thyme, oregano, Tiger Teeth peppers, mint, and a few odds and ends from the garden were sampled, sniffed, and set to the side.

After a few days, a phone call split the mundane pace of my day.  It was from downtown Detroit, and on the other line was a laughing, yet slightly offended, mom.  As she related the following, the story became more and more absurd until even this writer was puzzled as to how the minds of folks work.

You see, dear readers, an acquaintance had come to her home had spent some time chatting and enjoying the afternoon in her living room area.  During this visit, this friend noticed the bundles of herbs.  After being informed that they were grown by the daughter, this writer, she inquired as to their types.

As my mother proudly listed each one as best she remembered, the person started acting strangely.  Picking up a bundle, she pointedly asked if this bunch was marijuana.  You know, cannibis.  At this, one can imagine the look of incredulity that passed across my mother's face.  The acquaintance became quite insistent that it would be this, as the daughter is strange anyway.

After a moment of weighty silence, she was asked quite directly what would make her think that any daughter would gift her mother with a bundle of "weed" when she was clearly bringing over herbs.  Reevaluation of the mental faculties of this person took place on the spot.  The eternal mantra of the unpleasantly surprised came forward, "What is wrong with you?", and she was courteously encourage to consider her stay a tad bit overlong.

The fact that the writer is "strange" was code word for "witch" in these circles.  But seriously, when does that make one the local Cheech and Chong dream delivery franchisee?  The fact is, there are so many people who never take the time to look at what herbs, or other foods, look like before they are processed lead to this messiness.  Seriously, sage is not cannibis.

And if she is mistaking it for something she has had before, it is time to reconsider her sources.  Though to be frank, she does not seem the type to be featuring a bong display on her tatted lace doily collection.  While it is encouraging that she attempted field identification with limited training, it is most unfortunate that that was the first intuitive leap she would make.

Gentle readers, this writer encourages you to take to the highways, the hills, the byways, the streets, and the recreation centers to share your knowledge of actual herbs.  Please spread the word that just because it is on a stem, and has flowers and greenery that is not grass or hostas, does not mean it is a drug.  Shaking of the heads, indeed, were shared over this phone call.  Please don't let it happen to your friends and loved ones.  Only you can inspire a potential wildcrafter my fellow Detroit peeps, only you.

1 comment:

  1. This is an alarmingly familiar story. Many years ago, mid 90s or so, when pagans in the Detroit area were just coming out of the broom closet, I had the experience of a police raid on our local coven's ritual. The reason they were called was a misunderstanding about neighborhood kids who were harassing us telling their parents our watchman had brandished a weapon at them. The police arrived, and were greeted by the herbal aroma of the smudge stick burning in the pavilion tent where we were holding our rite. Barging into the crowded space, accusing us of having controlled substances, they had us all sit up on our knees, hands on heads! The high priest and priestess were protesting the innocent contents of the burning incense when one officer says "It's still a fire hazard!" and proceded to douse the smudge stick in the first container of liquid that came to hand... the ritual chalice! Three of our coveners passed out on the spot. The altercation was resolved peaceably, thankfully. Apologies were demanded and later received from the township constabulary, and sensitivity training promised in the future. It does point out the lack of knowledge about Pagan practice in general, and the distinction between the smell of burning sage vs pot. Lucky for us, we were able to clear the air, so to speak!