About -

Ann ArmbrechtWhy this Blog?

Numen: the animating force in all things living.

Numen bridges worlds that aren’t often linked: spirit, ecology, and health, to show how each is essential in healing.

Our vision in producing the film is to help launch a grassroots medicine movement that is as widespread and powerful as the local food movement. We hope that the film as well as discussions around topics in the film at screenings and here, on-line, can spark new conversations and debates about health and wellness and inspire real, tangible actions to build grassroots, ecologically sustainable healthcare in communities across the country. Here is our vision of what that might look like.

On this blog we interview leaders, educators, activists, writers, gardeners and more all working to create healthy, more sustainable ways of caring for ourselves and the earth. Let us know who you would like us to interview!

Who am I?

I’m a writer, anthropologist (PhD, Harvard 1995) and mother living in central Vermont. I was born and raised in West Virginia, where the mountains were being emptied of coal to fuel far-away companies and the air filled with chemicals to make plastics for use by people in other places. I lived in a state that was on the dark side of ‘progress’. I imagined that other places, those that were on the bright side – or were beyond the reach of ‘progress’ – must still be enchanted, even if the one where I lived was not. And so I went, like so many before me, to the Himalayas, searching elsewhere for what I failed to find at home, believing that indigenous people must hold some wisdom about how to live on the earth that we had lost.

What I found of course was more complicated than what I imagined from afar (I’ve written about it in my ethnographic memoir, Thin Places: A Pilgrimage Home), but what I experienced in the upper Arun Valley, Nepal led me to Sage Mountain to study herbal medicine with Rosemary Gladstar. At the heart of herbal medicine as taught by Rosemary, I found something similar to what I encountered in Hedangna: Like the ways of knowing at the heart of the Yamphu healers’s relationship with the ancestors, herbal medicine is based on a sense of the sacredness of the earth, a quality of respect and restraint in interactions with the environment, a focus on relationship rather than ownership, and an understanding of the spiritual and cultural dimensions of healing. To me, studying traditional herbal medicine was a way to practice those qualities in my own cultural tradition, a way of finding that far off, enchanted place at home.

And yet, as I learned more about herbalism, especially about the business side of things, I came to see that this tradition, like every other, is fraught with contradictions and complexities, that things aren’t always as they appear. I began to fear that what most drew me to herbalism was being threatened by its very success. And so with filmmaker, Terrence Youk, I co-produced, Numen, to celebrate the values at the heart of herbal medicine so consumers can understand there is more to plant medicine than little brown bottles on a shelf.

With this blog, I will expand on themes and ideas touched on in the film, exploring them in greater depth through conversations with leaders working to transform how we care for our own health and, in turn, the health of the earth.