Whether they called her a wise woman, a woman of Wyrrd, a cunning woman, a medicine woman, a witch, a witch doctor, or a shaman, most ancient cultures had a woman of the old ways in their village. She held the knowledge of the natural world and ancient healing traditions and functioned as doctor, counselor, doula, and wise elder. She was the one you went to for mind, body, and spiritual health. Traditions differed from culture to culture, but the wise women in each worked hand in hand with nature. From herbs and plant medicine to rituals and prayers, the wisdom of generations were held in these elders’ bones.
If you’d like to channel a bit of your own wise woman into your surroundings, consider the list below:
If you have any old journals, recipe books, letters, family bibles, or other collections from your ancestors, bring them out and give them a place of honor. Pour through the writings and look for the knowledge of your grannies. Those old wives’ tales often held great wisdom.
Completing a course on herbal medicine might be more of commitment than you’re able to give, but it’s easy to plant cooking-herb garden to use for your homemade stews and soups. If you don’t have a garden, simple terracotta pots filled with green goodness look fabulous in a kitchen. Hang your herbs up to dry and store some in old apothecary jars with hand-lettered labels. Consider taking a few simple herbs and learning about their properties. Keep them in the same type of vintage jars for an old-world look.
If you wanted to convert your kitchen into one that would make the aunts from Practical Magic proud, consider investing in several small air-tight vintage-style jars and then transferring all your cooking spices into them. Put them on display and enjoy the mystical effect they bring to your conjuring place. More affordably, use canning jars with hand-lettered labels. Disguise the lids by covering them with burlap and twine. You can glue the tie and burlap to the lids so you don’t have to undo them every time you want to open a jar. Simply unscrew the lid.
Hang your copper and cast-iron pots above your stove or center island instead of hiding them in the cupboard. This feels much more old world.
Start a beautiful journal or scrapbook of memories you might have of your mother’s and grandmothers’ remedies, recipes, and stories. Make this your family’s grimoire to pass down through the generations. Fill it with memories and rituals, like traditional holiday celebrations your family enjoys. Put in favorite recipes, tonics, and advice for sick children; favorite prayers; quotes and sayings from your ancestors—anything that links you to past generations and carries your ancestral wisdom forward.
A fun medicine-woman touch is to have an herb-drying rack hanging in your kitchen, craft studio, or porch area. It can be as simple as a mini ladder or long branch, or a dowel suspended from the ceiling. You can also use an oldfashioned indoor clothes-drying rack. Tie herbs and flowers from the garden (or from the grocery store or farmers’ market) onto it. This can be just for looks or your entry point into working with herbs.
Create infused cooking oils and display them in glass bottles for a lovely look. Simply add a sprig of rosemary to a clear bottle of olive oil for a pretty and tasty treat. You can also use chili peppers, peppercorns, sprigs of thyme, or cloves of garlic. Start by washing your herbs and letting them dry thoroughly so there is no water left on them at all. Bacteria can grow in the water so this is important. Gently bruise the herbs so they’ll release their flavor easily. Place them in a tightly sealed bottle and completely cover with a goodquality olive oil. Let it stand for two to three weeks in a dark cool place. Once the flavor is where you want it, drain out the herbs and residue and put it back in the bottle.
However you choose to create an old-world feeling, know that your own personal wise woman lives inside of you. The more you allow her to emerge, the easier it will become. Trust your instincts and inner voice and, above all, have fun!