It’s time for another Tending the Hedge, a series of features highlighting herbalists, artists, educators, and activists who engage in a practice of “magical stewardship,” all bravely sharing their magic with the world, living and working with intention. I see this as a form of mutual aid and raising each other up, as a rejection of competition and scarcity culture, and an opportunity to highlight ways in which folks are tending the hedges of their communities, so to speak!
This week, I am thrilled to feature my friend Coral Dowsland, the birth doula and herbalist behind Divine Dandelion. I first met Coral a few years ago through mutual friends and I was instantly struck by the great joy shining through her. She brings empathy and excitement to all interactions, and with a natural healer’s aura, she is clearly wise beyond her years. Here Coral shares how she found her true calling as an herbalist and birth doula, and how we might connect to magic in our own back yards!
What are your pronouns and what is your sign?
My pronouns are she/her/hers – thanks for asking! I am a Cancer sun (very much ruled by water and the moon) with a Taurus moon and Virgo rising. I am just starting to dive deeper into my chart, so if anyone wants to teach me some magical stuff about the stars I’m all ears!
Are you a witch? If so, what does that word mean to you?
I thought a lot about that question. In short, I would say yes. But that good ol’ imposter syndrome tends to creep in. I’ve felt very witchy since I was a small girl making fairy houses out of kelp and moss on the coast of Maine, but actually identifying as one makes me feel like I could always bring more power or sacredness into my life. I try to remind myself that there is no standard or bar to reach when it comes to this. I think no matter how hard I try to integrate intentional, sacred practices and self love into my daily routine (two huge pillars of being ‘witchy’ I always strive for) I will always want to do more. With that being said, the word ‘witch’ brings to mind someone who really leans into bringing magic to our reality. To me, that can be almost anything! It isn’t limited to the traditional sense of a forest witch or kitchen witch. I see someone as a witch when they create that sparkle that happens when passion, intention and craft meet. I think because I don’t identify as a Pagan, which is where I believed the term originates, I see witches in a non-traditional sense. For instance, I have a good friend, Kali, who I consider to be a true cocktail witch (which is a very good kind of witch to have in your life 😉). She creates cocktail magic with local berries, muddled herbs, medicinal syrups and just overall is passionate about adorning life with extra beauty, even when it comes to a drink. This, to me, is the essence of a witch.
What drew you to your work? Why is it important?
Oh, man. This question runs so deep for me. As a Birth Doula and Herbalist I feel like I have finally found my power and my passion! I have always felt drawn to the ‘healer’ archetype. When I was small, I thought that might look like a Pediatric Oncologist (I know, I was a very driven and specific youngin’). My mom was a nurse and my Dad was a part-time Respiratory Therapist, part-time Sailboat Captain. So health and wellness was a huge aspect of my upbringing and I always felt like the field of medicine was the only path that would make sense. I started my journey by going to school majoring in Pre-Med/Biology. As I grew and traveled and met different people and learned SO much about life and the (corrupt) medical system in our country, I was interested in alternative avenues of health. That’s when Ayurveda, TCM, Western Herbalism, Acupuncture, Birth/Death Doulas, etc. were introduced to me and I just fell totally head over heels. It felt like my worlds of childhood spell casting, using herbs and plants as medicine, and my love of womxn’s health and reproductive justice were finally all aligning! I would not say I have ‘arrived’ at my end goal of my work. I think there will ALWAYS be more for me to learn, certifications and courses for me to take, new avenues of thought to be explored and humbling lessons to be learned. I could not ask for a more fulfilling career. I really could go on forever about why/how I am CONTINUOUSLY drawn to this field.
How can others engage with this work and tend the hedge in their own communities?
Such a fantastic question! If you feel drawn to herbalism, my first suggestion would be to grab a field guide and go for a walk in YOUR woods. I learn the most about a plant when I am looking directly at it, maybe touching or tasting it, observing where and what grows around it, and it’s physical features. I find it to be extremely helpful in learning plant medicine when you can make a first-hand connection with the plants that actually take root right next to you. It’s also hugely important to become friends with the plant allies that are native to your region. Too many times are people searching for plant allies that grow half way around the world because they’re the trendy or popular plants. There are SO many medicinal plants that grow in abundance right next to us that are often overlooked. Some you might be able to already identify! The best advice I can give in tending the hedges in your community is getting to know the plants that grow there.
If you’re feeling drawn to birth work of any kind, I would suggest reaching out to a local Doula, Midwife, L&D Nurse, prenatal yoga teacher, anyone in the field! Becoming nestled in that community of people is such a fantastic way to learn and maybe you’ll even find a mentor you click with. There are also TONS of amazing podcasts and books out there. We absolutely need more doulas, birth workers, reproductive rights advocates and midwives. So if you’re at all interested I would suggest dipping your toe in to see if it’s a good fit! There are a bunch of different paths and organizations you can learn from, I suggest just starting!
Did you enjoy this feature? Check out other magic-makers in the Tending the Hedge series!