Earth poet and plant whisperer Stephen Harrod Buhner died of Pulmonary Fibrosis in December of 2022. Because his work is so important and inspirational to Strega Tree diviners, we wanted to acknowledge his passing with some of his inspirational writing.
Buhner came from a long line of healers both in allopathic and herbal traditions. He followed in their footsteps, combining east-west scientific knowledge with plant and indigenous wisdom. Buhner was an herbalist, teacher, ecologist, scholar, researcher and author of more than 23 books. Buhner’s writing—poetic, deep and rich as healthy soil— is also full of quotes and poetry of other sages and inclusive of many ways of knowing. In his books and life he engaged an approach far more expansive than most.
Reading one of Buhner’s books is a full bodied experience brought by uncommon, evocative vocabulary. As the reader immerses themself into the many fields of wisdom elegantly woven together, they become cognizant of how impossible it is to separate one from one another. Buhner drops the reader into the inter-webbed, interwoven reality of being alive on this planet. He knits it together in such a way that we truly cannot separate the wisdoms present or in fact ourselves from this wise knowing, Though we may try, we cannot extract one thing as more important over the other. It is all delivered as a gestalt.
Alas, we are one with the all. Our bodies, our minds, our emotions, our intuitions, our experiences are all part and product of the entirety of the world around us. For the brief time we spend inside the world of one of his books, we get to rest in that and feel deeply reassured.
The book, The Secret Teaching of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature is the one we will focus on in this tributary post.
Chapter headings from “Section Two: The Heart,” give an idea of where this book leads the reader and all the ground that Buhner covers.
4. The Physical Heart: The Heart as an Organ in the Body
5. The Emotional Heart: the Heart as an Organ of Perception and Communication
6. The Spiritual Heart : Aisthesis (meta perception)
In the physical heart section Buhner teaches us things that we may not know: the heart is an endocrine gland, one of the main endocrine glands in the body in fact, producing at least 5 known hormones at the writing in 2004:
“The heart’s presence in the circulatory system is crucial for many reasons, not just because it stabilizes the blood flow and generates pressure waves. The blood, by nature of it’s primary function—oxygenation—has to reach every cell in the body. Thus the heart’s presence in this system allows it to affect every cell and organ in the body. This facilitates its role as a primary endocrine gland and the most powerful biological electromagnetic oscillator in the body”(78).
In the chapter titled “The Necessity for the Acuity of Perception,” Buhner speaks to us of our senses and recommends training ourselves to perceive through our senses rather than think with our brains. Our senses are formed by our immersion in the world, the world shaped them to its unique contours. We are sculpted into being by the world around us. We are perfectly shaped to its forms and dimensions. Our ears match its sounds, our ability to smell is trained by our long relationship with the chemistry of plants.
“Human senses emerged from immersion within the world. They are part of the earth, an expression of communicative contact subtly refined and shaped through long association. . . allow yourself to sense once again. Allow your sensory perceptions to be your thinking. Sense instead of think. This is what the senses are meant to do.
It’s time to come to your senses.
Our senses are living organs intended to receive communications. They connect us to, interweave us with, the stream of informational energy that comes to us every moment of every day that we live. Focusing perception through the senses immerses the self in the Earth’s sensory flows”(139).
Coming to our senses and allowing ourselves to perceive the world through them sensitizes us to the non human and other dimensional worlds around us. Buhner claims it can return us to the bliss we may have felt in childhood, of living surprised and in awe, experiencing deep realms of pleasure in the ever new.
Buhner’s unique sensitivity to the embodied forms in living systems and the ways these bodies interact with one another through chemical, electrical, magnetic and physical signaling presents the reader with new ways of understanding themselves and the world they inhabit.
When he teaches us to feel from the heart he also teaches us that feelings are not only generated from within ourselves, but that feelings arrive to us from the world around us and all the ensouled lifeforms within it.
Feeling is a sense too, he reminds us.
“Everything we encounter in the wildness of the world gives off its own electromagnetic pulse of communication. These waveforms are filled with meanings, living communications that touch us and that we experience as feelings”(148).
To believe that much of our experience is generated by a non human other is a radical departure from our current assumptions and yet, Buhner urges:
“Embracing the reality of the feelings that come to us from the world is the first step in the decolonization of the soul. In this moment, the linear mind is truly left behind. This is the moment you begin to use a different mode of cognition—the moment you begin to think with your heart”(150).
Training ourselves to perceive through these alternate modalities opens us to the information held in and developed by the rest of the world. There is so much more to know and understand and collaborate with if we can learn to listen with our hearts.
“Plants will, if genuinely asked, respond to you. They will teach you their medicine, as plants have always taught human beings. And though human beings may lose the knowledge of the medicinal uses of a plant, the plant always remembers what its medicine is”(157).
And this all taken from but one book when he left us more than 20. What a gift.
Blessings on your life Stephen Harrod Buhner.
Theresa C. Dintino 2023
Buhner, Stephen Harrod. The Secret Teaching of Plants: The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature. Bear & Co., Rochester, VT. 2004
Theresa C. Dintino is an ancestral Strega (Italian wise woman), Earth worker, initiated diviner and author of eight books.For more than 30 years, Theresa has studied and practiced an Earth-based spirituality. In 2011, she was initiated as a diviner in a West African tradition. She currently helps others reclaim their personal medicine lineages through her divination work. Find Theresa here on the Strega Tree site and at ritualgoddess.com