In 2012, after I finished my priestess certification and I’d been facilitating women’s retreats and circles for about four years, I got a wild idea to go to a womanspirit or goddess festival of some kind. I did a google search and found one that sounded great—the Gaea Goddess Gathering–and it was happening in just two weeks. Imagine my surprise to then look at the bottom of the screen and see that it was located only a five-hour drive from me, just over the border into Kansas. I decided it was “meant to be.” My mom and a friend signed up with me (and my then-toddler daughter) and we packed up my van and went! The night before we left on our adventure, I sat down at the kitchen table and felt a knife-like stinging pain on the back of my leg. I’d accidentally sat on a European giant hornet (these are not regular wasp-sized hornets, they are literally giant hornets about two inches long).
Though the sting became hot and swollen and terribly painful, we set forth anyway. I asked for input on Facebook and did google research and started putting benadryl cream on it, even though I usually go with home remedies over medical-model remedies. It got worse and worse, eventually running from my hip to my knee and wrapped around my entire leg so that two thirds of my thigh was sting-area and the difference in size between my legs was noticeable through clothing. During the festival, as I watched myself get worse and worse and people kept making remarks about needing epi-pens and maybe I should go to the hospital, I decided to dispense with the benadryl and listen to the wise women instead. My friend found plantain and made me a poultice. The cook gave me baking soda that I applied in a paste. I went to a ceremony that involved a healing ritual with sound and a priestess in a tent beat a drum over me as I lay there on my stomach. After a little Reiki healing, she then leaned very, very close to my ear and said quietly, “are you taking good enough care of yourself? You give and give and it is time to receive. You need to be taken care of too.” And, I cried.
I came out of the tent and laid on a bench and women I didn’t know came and put their hands on my back and made me tinctures of strange plants they found in the herb garden and I drank it even though it almost made me gag. Another woman I didn’t know rubbed my back and though I couldn’t even see her face, she leaned close to my ear and said, “sometimes life stings you. Your friends, your family, being a parent, taking care of your children. It stings sometimes. Things people say without meaning to sting you. You’re sensitive, Sometimes it stings a lot and you worry that you’re not good enough. I see you with your baby. You are such a good mother.” And, I cried again, lying there on bench in the middle of nowhere with my dress pulled up and my red, sore, swollen, horrible thigh covered with a poultice of mysterious weeds, surrounded by women I didn’t know, but who were caring for me. And, I got better. By the time I got home, the sting was almost totally healed.
“I see the wise woman. And she sees me. She smiles
from shrines in thousands of places. She is buried
in the ground of every country. She flows in every
river and pulses in the oceans. The wise woman’s
robe flows down your back, centering you in the
ever-changing, ever-spiraling mystery.
Everywhere I look, the wise woman looks back.
And she smiles.”
–Susun Weed quoted in Birthing Ourselves Into Being
Excerpted from a post originally published at Woodspriestess. I currently have a wasp sting on my thigh that is covering about half of my thigh and it brought this hornet experience back in vivid clarity!
Just because our human language is confusing, I wanted to point out that the plant ally the wise women used on Molly’s leg is broad-leafed plantain (Plantago major), not the green banana. This plantain is sometimes called “white man’s footsteps” because it thrives in disturbed soil — if you live in the eastern US, you might even find it at the edges of your neighborhood basketball court or in the sidewalk cracks. It has a relative, narrow-leafed plantain, that works pretty much the same in its other medicinal uses (the edible leaves can be brewed into an astringent tea, and the seed heads are a great laxative, although that wasn’t Molly’s problem right then) but has narrower leaves, so you would need more to get enough juice for a good poultice. This also works for cuts and scrapes as well as stings. Again, yes, we have no bananas! We have no bananas today! (The other kind of plantain might be medicinal, but probably not for the same stuff.) I love this little plant ally and I’m glad the wise women who were with Molly recognized its value.
Good point! We have tons of plantain (the non-banana kind!) in our front yard and I forget that some people are not familiar with it.