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Plants as People: Fern Wynn on Energetic Herbalism + Anti-Oppression Work

Fern (left) with new spouse Nell

 

Fern Wynn, the owner of A Wild Light Apothecary is highly sensitive to plant energy, and is putting this power to good use. Focusing on heart-opening as a theme of her work, Fern offers herbal services and remedies using techniques she developed as a young herbalist and during her time at the Blue Otter Herb School in California. With masterful integrity and spirited vigor, A Wild Light Apothecary makes plant medicine and magic accessible to those ready and willing—particularly the underserved and oppressed.


Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest’s lush Skagit Valley, the recently-married clinical and energetic herbalist’s apothecary business is appropriately named due to her Scorpio eyes that sparkle with plant magic. In celebration of May and its blooming energy, Fern offers this interview regarding her day-to-day and practice:


Tell us about your work!

I am a clinical and energetic herbalist. I have a private practice where I see clients for a variety of things ranging from PTSD to hormone regulation—that is the clinical piece. The energetic piece comes in concerning my orientation to medicine. I work to see, understand, and subtly shift people’s energy in order to help my clients. I also teach classes on herbalism, have a product line, make and distribute an herbal subscription service, and organize a low-income herb clinic in Olympia, Washington. I orient from an anti-oppression lens and am very interested in creating and maintaining accessibility to herbalism.


What is it that you most want to change in the world?

My biggest wish for the world is that more people get into their hearts! This I learned from my teachers Karyn Sanders and Sarah Holmes, who run an herb school in Northern California. They say the heart is a safe place, and it doesn’t lie. Getting into our hearts changes the world in ways that we can’t even comprehend.


What does a day at work look like to you?

I work from a home office where I start my day with a period of meditation. My work is about sensitivity to energy, so I try to spend at least 30 minutes sitting quietly, walking with my dog, being still. On any given day I might be teaching, speaking, seeing clients, processing formulas, pressing tinctures, and filling bottles of medicine. My favorite is making flower essences, where I sit with the energy of the plants—sometimes for hours—before I receive their permission to proceed.


Tell us about your event, Plants as People, that took place in Olympia at the end of April.

Plants As People is a class I teach that is an introduction of sorts to the world I live in. We do a plant meditation to help people arrive and slow down, then we get into a conversation about the ways that plants and land are alive! I also talk about ethical engagement with wild plants. I will certainly be offering it again. I put out announcements about my classes on my Instagram, newsletter, and website.


Do you have favorite herbs, and why?

In my field we have a word for plants that we have a special affinity for: ‘allies.’ Some of mine are lavender, devil’s club, rose, and skullcap. The “why” is unexplainable—they’re like people you meet who become your friends and you just fall in love with everything about them!


We noticed that you also offer a sponsorship program that benefits POC and disabled folks. Can you tell us a bit more about that? How have you seen this work benefit your own and other communities?

The sponsorship program is exclusively for POC. I make an effort within that qualifier to reach folks with the most limited access to the subscription service and other things I offer. I prioritize disabled, low income, or single parenting people of color. I believe herbal access programs that center marginalized folks create more inclusive opportunities for healing and connecting with plants. Anti-oppression work is integral to what I do in the world because I think if we aren’t working to break down the systems that oppress, we are likely perpetuating them.


Is energetic herbalism good for everyone? Or would you say it’s a case-by-case thing?

I believe this work can create change for anyone who is committed to doing the work it requires. If you aren’t ready to face your trauma, shift patterns, or make lifestyle changes, this type of work might not be right for you yet. The plants do not do the work for us, they teach us new ways of being and create opportunities for us to grow.


We also noticed that you work with pregnant and postpartum people. Is there any advice or messaging about herbalism and birthing that you’d like to spread far and wide?

I used to practice as a birth doula, and now offer herbal support during pregnancy and postpartum. I am deeply drawn to this work because I see a gap in our healthcare system, especially with the rise in postpartum depression. My biggest piece of advice is to consult an herbalist. There is a lot of conflicting information (especially on the internet) and the contradicting information can feel limiting. Talking to a professional is always the way to go.


How does one go about working with you or another herbalist? Any key advice you’d like to impart?

There are lots of different orientations to herbal medicine, and my style is just one kind. I think just as with any kind of provider, it’s really key to interview your herbalist! I like to see people long term, so I’m asking for a minimum commitment of four months, which works for some, but not everyone. Herbs provide a container for healing work and can be tremendously helpful if you’re ready.


Congrats on your recent marriage! How has being an herbalist affected your relationship(s)? How does being queer inform your energetic work, if at all?

Being an herbalist in the style I practice has meant that committing to changing, transforming, and healing my oldest traumas, and my partner has come along for the ride. Our relationship is definitely stronger because of it. We joke that she’s good at money and remembering where things go, and my talents lie in talking to spirits, plants, and rocks. This sometimes means I can struggle with the day-to-day world. Being queer informs my work because, while I am a white cis-gendered woman, I have an experience of being ‘othered’ that makes me more sensitive to the importance of decolonization. Being gay by no means erases my white privilege but it does help me to be more aware of it.

Fern Wynn, tuning in to the energies of plants and land.

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