Manifestations of the four elements in Western herbal medicine & self-awareness

A workshop in Epirus, 18-21/10/2024

Herbal medicine is the people’s medicine, tried and true, shaped by the land, driven by the needs of its inhabitants and handed down through the generations by mouth and pen. Its vocabulary is that of geography, the plants, the elements, the earth and the sky.”

Phyllis D. Light

Most ancient civilizations understood the world as a manifestation of the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. This understanding was reflected in herbal traditions, which often added a fifth dimension, that of ether, in order to describe a state of balance or else the harmonious synergy of the four.

We live in times that life seems to be out of balance, affecting both our sense of self, as well as our relationships to others – humans and non-humans alike. Balance is inextricably interconnected to Others, our multiple relationships to the world, never an individual journey de-contextualised of geography, weather, cultural patterns, communities (winged, four-legged, two-legged, crawling).

In this workshop we will be exploring the concept of the four elements with a focus on Western herbal medicine, self-awareness and how the two may help to co-shape our relationship to the world through (herb)walks, experiential exercises and applied practice with an emphasis on nature skills (moving through/ within the landscape, tracking, caring).

…as within, so without…”*

Herbal theory will explore how the elements interact to shape our unique physical and emotional constitution and ways to cooperate with the plants to bring balance and flow when one or more elements are in excess or deficiency in our body. They are approached in the context of symptom manifestations, while plants themselves are understood as embodiments of the elements.

…as above, so below…”

In order to approach the different plants or move through the landscape we need to be able to observe, feel safe and take care of ourselves and others (humans and non-humans). More so, we need to be able to work on the relevant natural skills; “reading” the landscape, following tracks, understand the flow of water or the ways of the wind and fire.

as the universe, so the soul”

Self-awareness is not an individual process, but rather an interplay between ourselves and everyone else around us: the people, the animals, the plants, even geographies and weather patterns. In our (Western) culture, we’ve been accustomed in approaching awareness as something residing within our skin, but whether we will understand the latter as a boundary or a bridge is a matter of consciousness or choice. During the workshop, we will be working on the self – and hence community – through experiential exercises; alone, in dyads and the group, using art and self-observation, seeking to connect what we learn (about the elements, the herbs and landscape) to how we understand our embodied selves in an animate world.

All activities mentioned (herbwalks, experiential exercises & nature skills activities) will take place in different areas of Zagorohoria, including Beloi and Voidomatis river. The workshop will take place in English. Also please note, that if weather conditions do not allow for walking around the area and/or staying outside, we will have to adapt our activities and schedule accordingly.

If you are interested in additional information about the workshop instructors, costs, schedule, traveling to (and from) Epirus and accommodation, please contact us!

*As within, so without, as above, so below, as the universe, so the soul…” ― Hermes Trismegistus