Learning, Connecting, Healing... and Sharing Our Fabulous Clothes at the Women's Herbal Symposium!

All right team, we're doing this a little differently this time, because there's so much to say! Though we are co-bloggers here, we post our own blogs, either written entirely by Amber or entirely by Sasha. But this blog will have text from both of us.

~Amber's words will look like this~

*And Sasha's will look like this*

Here we go...
~Our first stop on the 4 hour drive from Grass Valley to Laytonville and the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium? Here, of course~
~I scored this hat there for $2. Sasha thrifted this dress a while back and I fell in absolute love with it! I packed my ten favorite dresses for the Symposium (which is, may I remind you, camping). This experience was like total Indulgence for me, I felt so lucky to be there, away from home and my sweet little girl for a while, and wanted to be dressed in only my favorite clothes every second I was there~
*For the record, Amber is a prize-winning Presto-Chango Clothes Artist! She had a new dress on every time I turned around. Never a dull moment for my eyes! I feel practically embarrassed that I only had two dresses planned for each day!*


~The thrift store didn't have a bathroom, so I dragged Sasha next door to a biker bar where we found this pinball machine~
*Yes those are the Reagans on the roller coaster!*



~This dress was a trade with Fruit Salad Vintage. I heart it! I thrifted the hat during the winter. This was taken the first morning as we sat in the amazing Rupam Henry's class on wholistic dental health (seriously changed my life! Go to her website! Your toothpaste is weakening your teeth! You can rebuild teeth with cavities! I will be blogging about her at Nourished Mother in the next few weeks)~


~Another favorite dress, my first ever Etsy purchase, long before I dreamed of having my own shop. This bag my sister brought back for me from Thailand. It carried around my snacks (amazing, whole food, organic meals are provided, as well as a multitude of herbal teas!), water, notebook, pens, etc. Oh, and a change of clothes (including shoes!). The temperature sure changed quickly up there! I wore this later in the afternoon on the first day, when I took a class on Mayan Uterine Massage. This is something I had read about a few years ago and been totally stoked about. I am passionate about women's health, especially around our fertility organs. At one point I thought I'd be a midwife, but now know that is not my path. But perhaps I will pursue uterine massage. Here is some info about it, and I will also go more into depth on the subject at my other blog soon ~



*It seemed so appropriate that the trail to our campsite was lined in sweet Wood Violets! I always camp in this same spot, but I had NEVER seen so many of these precious flowers. Besides being part of our shop name (and Amber's daughter's middle name!), Violets are good medicine for women-- they are even reputed to dissolve breast lumps ~and ovarian cysts~. Soothing and demulcent (aka, slimy!) they are used for sore throats. They are extremely high in vitamins C and A, the essential building blocks of healthy cells. Incidentally I met FOUR girls named Violet at the Symposium this year!*


~Sasha, wisely, led us far from the camp center circle to set up our tents. Though we had to lug some heavy luggage up some hills and down some slopes, it was worth it to be so far away from all the activity and noise (especially on the last night when when there was a late night wild woman drum circle!). We were so far away that we shared our little meadow with only one other woman~
*Our neighbor put up these flags, so we got to think about Maiden, Mother and Crone every time we went back to camp... and of course there were women in all three "life stages" running around the Symposium the whole weekend! It was so nice to be out of my daily routine and get to hang with older and younger women. Personally I love the tweens the most... I used to be a nanny for girls of this age and it was one of my favorite jobs ever!*


*I got this dress at the last Symposium-- it is a little revealing to wear in my day-to-day life, but in a camp of all women it was perfect! Thanks to Malloy for this necklace... one of my faves!*

~I would add that some women wear much less than this at the Symposium! It is so freeing to be out of the Male Gaze for a few days!~
*Seriously true. We don't even realize how some of our clothing choices are influenced by our knowledge of who will See us... this dress was literally sitting in my closet since last Symposium. I wore it to an awesome Drumming and Singing class, where the instructor guided us in some basic beats while we challenged ourselves to sing over the top. I have some serious respect for the lady drummers who whip it up around the fire circle at the Symposium, singing their hearts out and pounding their drums. I never realized how difficult it is to do both at the same time. It's kind of like patting your head and rubbing your tummy... you have to really stretch your brain and undo your conditioned habits!*


~Here we are heading out to the talent show after dinner on Saturday~
*The talent show is such a cool addition to the conference-- it's a chance for women of all ages to show off their stuff and sing, dance, read poetry, demonstrate their hula hoop skills, whatever. One of my favorite all time talent show memories is of my friend Loretta, who did a fire-dancing routine while 8 months pregnant. Scary, powerful, and amazing!*


~At this moment my bag contained only my mason jar for tea and a bunch of really warm clothes for what came to be my very favorite part of the whole weekend- Stargazing with Li. I could set up an entirely different blog just to write about what I learned (and plan to continue to learn) from Li. She is a self taught astronomer, astrologer, historian, and a born teacher. Her class went much deeper than just identifying constellations, although that part was amazing, especially because she has a green laser pointer that reaches 14 miles and appears to literally touch the stars! 

Thanks to what Li calls the "Dude Standardization Project" (LOVE it), which was a project implemented about 2,000 years to evenly divide up the Zodiac and make rational sense out of the sky, most astrologers don't even know how to read the actual stars anymore. Instead, they look at Official Charts and interpret them. For example, right now Saturn is Officially in Virgo, and most astrologers out there are sending out their email lists or whatever acting like this is the case. But Saturn is, in reality, in Leo right now. You can see it, there at the back leg of the lion. We also got to glimpse Saturn through Li's telescope- so cool!

 In order to save you from reading pages of me rambling more about this, check out her website and spend some time learning her calendar (which I am still in the process of doing myself). I feel literally shaken to the bone with the primal remembering of our human connection to the cosmos. Humans have gazed at the stars since time immemorial and gained valuable information from the movements of the heavens. It is time for us to collectively recall this wisdom, and Li is leading the way. (I hope to channel my Aquarian energy to help her set up a more expansive website using cutting edge technology to reach and engage more people). Here I am, gazing into the future~


*Word up to that-- Li is the BEST. I am sooooooo picky about anything smacking of New Age or Out There energy woo-woo... not that I don't believe in it, but growing up in Northern California, I encountered so many self-proclaimed gurus and false prophets that I learned to discriminate. But Li is the Real Deal. Her calendar and accompanying riff on the movements of the cosmos comes to my inbox every month, and it is the ONLY astrology I give a hoot about!
Meanwhile, on the Earthly Plane... I love how this dress becomes a landscape on a landscape when I wear it! I am amassing a collection of these very painterly 70s dresses... they call to the Diva in me!*


~Okay, now to the meat of the weekend- Sunday! In the morning I took Healing The Feminine, a class with Max Dashu of Suppressed Histories. Like Li, Max's depth of knowledge is mind blowing. I have studied a lot about cultural domination and the repression of the female and indigenous cultures etc. in college and on my own, but Max really made all of it come alive. Not only does she know all of the horrible shit that has gone down throughout history, but she also knows that the Old Ways are recoverable, and is working toward that end. Sasha took her class on Pagan Herbs of Europe the previous day, and later in the evening we watched Max's slideshow Woman as Shaman, and in this morning class we chanted, did incantations, and moved our bodies spontaneously. It was the first time, almost 36 hours since our arrival, that I truly relaxed. I felt totally renewed, connected to my center, and energized.

Just in time for Marketplace!!! Sasha and I brought almost all of our shop stock, plus some random pieces of clothing, to trade with other sellers. We hadn't officially signed up to vend so we had to keep it at a trade level (though we were willing to trade for cash in some instances, of course), but next year we plan to go legit! Which will include getting racks for our clothes. This time we just laid them all out on blankets~
*There is no visual thrill like seeing all of our dresses layed flat! The colors and patterns drew the women from all corners of the Symposium... even though we were way off the "main drag" of the Marketplace, they found us as if by magnetic attraction!*



~I can't even describe how fun it was to just stand over our beloved clothes and watch the women flock to us like butterflies to nectar! It was *so great* to actually get to see our clothes on people, and to see their smiles when trying them on! That's an experience you don't get when selling online. And for the rest of the evening (which included an amazing ritual, described below) and the next day we saw girls from age 7 to 70 walking around in our clothes!!!~

*Here we are- the Proprietresses of Fun! Yes I am dressed like a little Austrian girl- it just flowed that way, what can I say? This is my new fave dress in my whole closet, btw.... thanks to Ams for bringing it into my life! It has freaking POLKA DOTS. Rrrrrrrow!*


*It was so cool to see how the dresses fit in person- and how happy they made their new owners! Can you believe how perfect this one is on her?*


~Here's Lindsey, a super rad girl who I had spent a little bit of time with last fall when she was up visiting mutual friends here in Nevada County. She played a major role in organizing the event this year, and I was so happy to have the opportunity to get to know her a little better!~
*One thing we have learned from running this shop is that Fit is sooooo individual. We both laugh about how we no longer get stressed out or feel bad about our bodies when something doesn't work for us-- we realize that it's just not the right cut or style for us, and we move on. If only women's magazines taught this important fashion lesson! Here is a dress from Amber's personal collection that she never quite vibed with-- and it ended up being just PERFECT on her friend Lindsey!*


*This vest was SO made for this beautiful gal... it even matched her outfit! Incredible!*


~This is Alison, who I met when we were all in our birthday suits down at the river slathering green mud from the banks all over our bodies. Turns out she just moved to Nevada County. Yay, a new friend!~
*All the girls love lace...*


*This must have been the most tried-on dress of all! It actually went home with a gorgeous older woman, whose long and lustrous white locks set off the vivid tones perfectly!*


~Okay so, turns out that the tween set loves Violet Folklore clothes more than anyone else! And we love them too! Their enthusiasm and obvious love of the pieces brought us so much joy~
*These girls (aged 10 and 7) spent HOURS with us. I was getting rummy at the end of Marketplace and I asked if they would cover themselves in clothes like they were in an ocean of Vintage. They obliged! Ely (I hope I am spelling your name right, sister!) on the left is seriously one of the biggest Vintage fans on the planet-- she systematically went through all her favorite dresses and tried to figure out how she could make them work for her size by altering them. She went home with a few classic pieces including our lovely high-waisted Gunne Sax skirt. Nice taste, girl!!!*

~And you should have seen the Little Miss on the right pairing her new dress with a wicked 80s belt we gave her- spectacular!~


~This girl and her sister (who also scored an awesome early 90s dress covered in roses, her middle name!) were so wonderfully sweet and grown up. They seriously gave me hope for the future of humanity (well, the whole weekend did, really). She looks like an absolute fairy goddess in this dress. I almost cried~
*This sweet young woman figured out that the Marie Antoinette dress (one of our faves) would work for summer if she cut the sleeves-- she did the alteration immediately and came back to show us!*

~And she was going to make the rest of the sleeves into leg warmers for ballet!~


*These cowgirl boots were perfect on this young woman! Rock on, girl!*


*Some of you will remember our young friend Olivia, who also sells on Etsy. Here she is vending her hand-knit scarves and looking cute as always!*


*Speaking of Etsy sellers, our neighbor turned out to be an Etsian herself! She makes incredible masks for her store, Faerywhere, and they have been part of prize-winning costumes all over the world! Here she is holding up a hand-sewn dress:*


*A closer look at the masks:*



*And look at her hat! I love the antlers...*


Here is what I walked away from Marketplace with- lots of healing medicine made by my herbal sisters and traded for our fabulous clothes! From left to right they are: Swedish Bitters made by Rupam (the dental lady), Ramiel Nagel's book Cure Tooth Decay, Deep Sleep Tonic and Luscious Lover's Delight Cordials made by a woman who didn't put her name of her labels!, an immunity tincture made of reishi, maitake, shitake, oyster, and turkey tail mushrooms along with astragalus root and vitamin C made by Ancestral Apothecary, some of Li's INCREDIBLE planetary essences: Healing Deeply, Good Night, Sweetness Of Life, and Mars Mead, a sweet beeswax candle with pressed flowers as a gift for Mycelia, a peacock feather hair piece, and I also got Rupam's One Drop Only toothpaste (<--scroll down to read about it and, seriously, stop using your crap toothpaste and get some of this!) in spearmint and peppermint and two quarts of raw goat kefir and a quart of sauerkraut from a sweet little homesteading mama. 

~(forgive the crappy cell phone picture)~

~Hello, Sasha of The Alps~

*Thank goodness for wheelbarrows- clothes are heavy!*

~Scenes from the meadow we camped in, taken as we readied ourselves for the evening's ritual~





~The heart of Sunday's ritual honors the girls who have begun bleeding in the last year, the Maidens becoming Mothers, a coming of age ceremony. The women who have stopped bleeding, the Crones, are honored as well. Everyone saves their best dresses and clothes for this event, and we saw at least 5 ladies wearing our dresses! Including one of the girls who was being honored for beginning her moontime. She was wearing one of my favorite yellow sundresses from my own collection, and I teared up watching her. In fact, the whole ritual was incredibly touching, such a far cry from my own experience with menarche. As Judith Duerk says, "How might it have been different for you if, on your first menstrual day..."

So here is Sash and I getting ready, donning our best garments, and getting every hair in place~

*Anyone recognize this dress? Sometimes when an item sits around the shop for a little while, I realize that I secretly covet it! I knew this would be perfect for Sunday night's ceremony, so I decided to hang onto it... and yes, I am doing my hair in a shadow instead of a mirror!*



~A dress my lovely mama bought for me, I was soooooo happy to have a reason to wear it!~

*Thanks to Automne who gave me her grandmother's necklace, which I am wearing as a head piece! And thanks to Ams for my new favorite necklace.*

~The Maidens awaiting their cue to begin marching to the huge circle of women and children who are waiting to welcome them to womanhood~


~There were over 400 folks at the event this weekend, with more expected for the next weekend!~

~After the ritual we all did a wee Celtic fairy dance and shook off the energy before the sun descended. I had brought this poncho for Marketplace. It didn't sell there, just like it hasn't sold in the shop for the last 6 months. And the more I wore it to keep warm that night, the more I realized that it's destiny is... me. Especially after watching Max's Woman as Shaman slideshow, this garment reminds me of the power inherent in being a human, being a woman, and working to recover the wisdom of our ancestors. I bonded deeply with this poncho back in my tent that night, and had lots of significant revelations while wrapped in its warmth. The peacock feather barrett I'm wearing was bought at Marketplace, I love how it follows the curves of my hair in this shot. And the movement around me is so cool~

~Drum circle goddesses dressed in their best "Festival Chic"~
*Ha ha ha! I love how "Festival Chic" is the fashion now... as if it's new. Supposedly it started with a pic of Kate Moss in muddy rain boots at a concert in England. If the mainstream is now accepting that Utilitarian is Beautiful, more power to them! Personally, I think we all look cooler than Kate Moss by far... she's great, but she hasn't got much on the pure imagination of these Mendocino Goddesses. Sheeeeet, we saw a gal who tanned an animal hide HERSELF and made a dress out of it ~the amazing Tamara Wilder, a primitive technologist (is there a cooler phrase?)~. And a soft and thoroughly hip dress it was too! Take that, mall rats!*

*Here's the reason I love this dress so much-- insta-Sufi!*

~This land is used in the summertime for Wavy Gravy's Camp Winnerainbow, a circus and performance camp which I so think my little Leo will enjoy attending in a few years!~


 *A beautiful Tent Silhouette- dew on the grassblades in the clear Mendocino morning...*


~We are so going again next year (and every year after that! I can't wait till Mycie is a bit older and can enjoy and benefit from it, I'm so glad I have a daughter! I'm so grateful to be a woman!)~
*Ain't that the truth. I returned home so inspired-- it was like the windshield over my third eye got scrubbed clean of all the bugs and dirt that had built up all winter (unlike my actual windshield, poor thing). I have noticed since returning that I am sensitive to the women in my daily life in a whole new way, and I feel the strength of my community and connections so much more strongly.
Many thanks to Terry and Karen, the two women who literally devote their lives to organizing and facilitating this event. I don't think there are too many like it in the world, mixing up such a potent brew of Knowledge with Magic and Community. I have been a devotee since my first time at Herb Camp, and I am so glad that I am converting all my friends!
Hooray too for the support of our wonderful customers, who made this experience possible for us. You were all there in spirit!*