Yerba Mansa with Cathy Skipper


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Listen in to the holistic healing journey of my soul sister, Cathy Skipper, and the part yerba mansa played after she received a diagnosis of cervical cancer just one day after moving to a new continent. You’ll also receive access to Cathy’s guided audio journey, a downloadable meditation you  experience accompanied by yerba mansa.

Cathy Skipper is an herbalist, aromatherapist, teacher and wounded healer. After living and working in the herbal world in France for 25 years, she came to live in Taos, New Mexico in 2015 where she lives and works with her husband, holistic psychiatrist Dr. Florian Birkmayer. Together, they run a private practice that combines aromas and Jungian analysis. They also have a school called AromaGnosis where they use a powerful combination of aromas, Jungian psychology, and personal journeying to help students deepen their relationship with themselves and learn to navigate and understand the power of the unconscious realms.

Listen in for:

► How Cathy was led to yerba mansa

► Why it’s important to incorporate all aspects of the self when you’re healing

► An important consideration for essential oils


-- TIMESTAMPS -- 

  • 01:18 - Introduction to Cathy Skipper
  • 02:20 - How Rosalee and Cathy became friends
  • 07:25 - Cathy’s path to herbalism
  • 13:32 - How Cathy got to know yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica)
  • 16:52 - Botany and energetic qualities of yerba mansa
  • 18:39 - Is healing only about the physical? Cathy shares her thoughts
  • 19:20 - How Cathy began working with yerba mansa on her healing journey
  • 24:56 - Cathy’s downloadable audio journey with yerba mansa
  • 29:39 - The story behind Cathy’s Attars
  • 31:04 - Why Cathy doesn’t use essential oils in any products
  • 32:43 - Cathy’s book and program: The Alchemy of Menopause
  • 35:46 - What has surprised Cathy along her herbal path

Download Your Guided Audio Meditation!

Click here to download your guided audio meditation. It's a file that will be downloaded in your browser and that will likely need to be opened with your favorite audio app.


Connect with Cathy

Transcript of the Yerba Mansa with Cathy Skipper Video

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Hello and welcome to the Herbs with Rosalee podcast, a show exploring how herbs heal as medicine, as food, and through nature connection. I'm your host Rosalee de Foret.

I created this channel to share trusted herbal wisdom so that you can get the best results when relying on herbs for your health. I love offering up practical knowledge to help you dive deeper into the world of medicinal plants and seasonal living.

Each episode of the Herbs with Rosalee podcast is shared on YouTube as well as your favorite podcast app. And to get my best herbal tips, as well as fun bonuses, be sure to sign up for my weekly herbal newsletter at the bottom of this page. Okay. Grab your cup of tea and let's dive in.

I'm so happy to bring you this conversation with my dear friend and soul sister, Cathy Skipper. For those of you who don't know Cathy, she's an herbalist, aromatherapist, teacher, and wounded healer. After living and working in the herbal world in France for 25 years, she came to live in Taos, New Mexico in 2015, where she lives and works with her husband, holistic psychiatrist, Dr. Florian Birkmeyer. Together they run a private practice that combines aromas and Jungian analysis. They also have a school called AromaGnosis, where they use a powerful combination of aromas, Jungian psychology, and personal journey to help students deepen their relationship with themselves and learn to navigate and understand the power of the unconscious realms.

Welcome to the podcast, Cathy. It's so good to have you here.

Cathy Skipper:

Thank you, Rosalee. It's just an honor to be here with you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Aw, well, I'm just personally so happy to have you here. And I often start by asking my guests their story and we're going to get to that, but first I want to share our story, your and my story, because we do have a very deeply rooted friendship.

And I think it came about... It was like certainly a plant friendship. We came together because of the plants. So I'll start to tell the story; maybe we can both tell it together.

Cathy Skipper:

Sure.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

So the story for me began, I can't remember what year it was...

Cathy Skipper:

Think maybe it was 2012.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

2012. Okay.

Cathy Skipper:

Yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

So 2012 or something like that. I flew to Boston to go to the International Herb Symposium. I got off my flight and I walked to this space I was supposed to go to get my shuttle to drive us to the conference. And you were sitting there and we'd never met. We didn't know each other whatsoever.

And you're sitting there and I feel like you just looked up and we just started a conversation that we had set down, some time ago, and we were just instantly connected. And I felt like I'd known you my whole life. And we started talking. I don't even remember what we talked about. Probably benign things at first, but I don't know. It really felt like mid conversation.

Cathy Skipper:

Yes, it definitely did. I mean, maybe we did know each other on some ancient level, because that's exactly how it felt for me. And then getting to the conference and spending a lot of time together. And that year Rosemary Gladstar decided to say that we should turn around when we're in circle and find someone that we connected deeply with and build that relationship, that plant friendship, which we did. And I remember turning around, we didn't doubt that it was going to be...

Rosalee de la Forêt:

We just looked at each other.

Cathy Skipper:

You and I, yeah.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I want to feel like we grasped hands, too. It was just kind of like, oh right. We already found each other.

Cathy Skipper:

And I think that's so important in life because as I get older, I'm 55 now and I'm a grandmother and I've moved around a lot, but those deep connections are really, really precious. And we don't have that many in life. If you really tune in they're a rare and precious thing.

And I also think, and I've told you this before, but our connection is deep and deeper than both of us. And I think we really mirror something to each other. For me, you are the grounded herbalist who is really well versed and organized and this beautiful teacher and so earthy and so connected and able to sort of share that with the world.

And I come from a different place, I'm more Arian and I go into the sort of shadow areas and you being there is a very safe anchor for me. And I often say to people, "Well, maybe ask Rosalee, she's really good at that." And I think that adds to this dynamic of our friendship. Some people say, "Oh, it's best to be friends with people who really are very alike." But I think this mirroring is part of our beautiful friendship.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh it so is. I feel like you get me out of my head when I tend to be overly linear, overly logical. Even by asking, you'll ask me simple things, "Well, but how did you feel about that?" And I'm like, "Oh."

But also, even in your teachings, because you learned a lot of French style aromatherapy. And so you were the first person I learned essential oils from that I really got into it. And I remember that first IHS, going to your aromatherapy class and it just opened it... The French style. And obviously, your unique gifts within that, too, are so different than anything that I'd been exposed to. That it really just captivated me from the very beginning.

Cathy Skipper:

Well, likewise. I just went through all my stuff. We are moving, and I'm actually downsizing. I want to be very, very simple in my life. So I got rid of 90% of our books, Florian and I. And your book is the only book that stayed in my kitchen next to my little bookshelf in the kitchen because I honor what you share with me and that beautiful, earthy sustenance. It's full of sustenance.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, well, I'm so honored to hear that. And fun to share who we are together, because we call each other our soul sisters. We had that deep connection from the beginning. And that was like a decade or so ago now. And you've come to visit me a lot and I visited you in France. And so we've been building that relationship just like Rosemary suggested we do.

Cathy Skipper:

Yeah. And there's also the French connection because you are married to a Frenchman. We have that connection too. It's beautiful.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

And so now that we you've told the story of our friendship, Cathy, let's hear about you. How did you find yourself on this plant path?

Cathy Skipper:

Well, I've been thinking about this and I think I have to honor the fact that I come from a family of plants people. So my grandfather, who I actually didn't get on with, although I knew him until he died when I was about 13, was a doctor and a naturalist and well known for his love of nature in the medical world.

And then my father, his son, was a professional brewer, but he spent a most of his life also gardening. And he was, until last year, the chairman of a very amazing and beautiful Victorian garden in the UK that the public would come and visit it.

So I grew up very much involved with plants without really consciously thinking about it. And then when I left, I trained as a drama teacher and drama therapist in London.

And when I left, finished my studies, I wanted to go back to nature. So I had this pull to all the things that were nature related, basket weaving and felt making. And I moved to France.

I met a guy who became the father of my three sons, my first three sons. Moved to France and we started sort of trying to be self-sufficient. And I stayed in France for 25 years and ended up running a wine domain with a small medicinal plant section to it.

And then I made a really beautiful garden and it was an aromatic garden. So when people came to taste the wine, I would, beforehand, get their sort of sense of smell and taste going by getting them to smell the different plants in the garden. I loved it. I loved watching these guys that would look like big guys with tattoos and then you'd give them a plant to smell, and it touches the part of your limbic brain that's next to the emotional center and very primal. And you'd see these people sort of melt into the smell and I really enjoyed that.

And so gardening became a big thing for me and I had seven children that I was bringing up. Three of them were mine, and then I had a fourth and the other three were my husband's children that he'd had prior to our meeting. And I was very tired, had a lot to do running a wine domain. And a friend of mine said, "I've got two Mexican people. They're shamans from Mexico. I've organized this group. Please come. I need people to come." I was like, "I'll go. I'll support her." And I got there late because of the kids and the little one was only a toddler and got in, fell into this meeting.

And it was a very, very powerful weekend session. And these two, they were a couple, at the end, they said to me, "You, plants, plants and plants. You've got to study plants." And I'd wanted to go to the herbal school in Lyon, L'Ecole des Plantes Medicinales, and I'd always looked at the brochure. I was worried about my French and it was expensive. We were poor farmers. And so I'd put it off, put it off. I think I'd got the brochure three or four times.

And anyway, because of these people, I said, "Okay, I've got to go and it'll work out. The finances will work out." And I applied. And as I remember the first day I walked up the steps in Lyon to that school and I knew I'd come home. And I ended up working at the school and I stayed working with the school until I left France five or six years ago.

And my kids, my two oldest sons work in plants. One is a landscaper and one is a botanist now for a huge herbal supplement company in the U.S. called Vitality Works. So, they've kind of followed me into the plant world as well.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

I'm thinking about our timeline. I think we must have met earlier than 2014 because I came to visit you in France.

Cathy Skipper:

Oh yes, you're right.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. And I came to visit you at the school in Lyon and I stayed with you. We traveled a bit and I remember so much from that trip, but one thing I remember is that we were in wine country and so there's these vineyards everywhere. And I remember, me, I'm just like, "Oh, how romantic?" Vineyards everywhere. And you were like, "What I see is monoculture." And vineyards taking over all this natural habitat. And I was like, "Oh right."

And then the other thing that you pointed out to me is you said, "Look at the difference between these vineyards that are organic or bio dynamic versus the conventional."

And I just hadn't opened my eyes to see that. And we'd go past one vineyard that the soil, the dirt was just dead. There's just not a thing growing there. And how did that happen? Lots of chemicals is how that happened.

And then we'd go past one that was organic or bio dynamic. And it was just covered in weeds and ground cover. And that really shifted me a lot in how I thought about the wine I drink. So that's kind of tangential, but that was something that really stood out for me in that meeting with you.

Cathy Skipper:

And I think it's important, just to finish that conversation very quickly, if you think of a vine, the roots, can go 15 to 20 feet down and, terroir, the taste of wine is sort of the roots breaking up the soil and the rocks and taking in the minerals to give certain flavors from the earth, from the terroir.

And they took photos of some of the people that I was working with, actually the agriculture in France of vineyards that are just treated with chemicals and fed chemically as well. So the vines don't go down anymore. They actually, the roots, sorry, don't go down anymore. The roots curl back up, because they're getting their nourishment from these chemicals from the ground. So, it's a terrible thing, both for the environment and for the plant.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thanks for sharing that. So today, we're going to talk about yerba mansa, which I'm really excited to talk about this plant and I'm really excited to hear what you have to say. And we could just start off with why you chose yerba mansa for your plant today.

Cathy Skipper:

Okay. Well, I thought about it when you asked me to choose a plant and I think, well, both the plants that I love begin with "Y", and then I thought yarrow, somebody will have talked about yarrow. And yerba mansa is very much on my radar, even more than it usually is at the moment because I'm incorporating it into the book that I'm writing.

And it's a plant that grows here. It's endemic to here. So I thought I'm going to talk about yerba mansa; actually, just as we talk, I'm smelling the oil. And it's a plant that's very dear to me, because when I arrived in New Mexico, I came from Europe. So the first the reaction was "This isn't my fauna or flora." This is all alien, it's the desert. Obviously there's the odd plant, like sort of mullein grows occasionally, yarrow, but only in very much smaller numbers.

And the main flora was really not mine. And I felt very, like I had to tread lightly. I wasn't at home with the flora. And when I moved here, actually the day after moving here, I had a diagnosis for cancer, cervical cancer, and a friend of mine, a herbalist in the UK said, "Well, Cathy, go and harvest some yerba mansa. You're where she's from. She actually, the yerba mansa, grows in Mexico and all the way along up into New Mexico, along the Rio Grande."

So I asked my husband, he knew this, "Oh yes, I know, I know exactly where we can go." And it was just the right time for root medicine because it was in February. The leaves hadn't started coming back on the trees, the sap wasn't mounting, wasn't rising.

So we went down to the river and there she was. And it was winter so there weren't any flowers, but there was still her brown leaves and she's a ground cover. She covers the whole ground. And when you walk on the ground, you can smell her.

And what was really nice was I was dealing with this cancer diagnosis and really sort of trying to work through how I was going to deal with it physically and the emotions that were coming up. It was just so nice to dig into the earth, the moist, because as well, we're in the desert, so it's very sandy, very dry. There's lots of cacti, but there, right next to the river in this riparian land, as I dug in, there was this moist aromatic, because roots are so lovely and aromatic, it sort of oozes out into the earth.

And so it felt so good. And as I was digging up these roots, I suddenly felt like I can feel at home here and slowly, it was the first plant medicine that I really connected to here. And there's a whole story that we can talk a little bit about probably, but that's why I chose her because she was the one that came and put her hand out and said, "Cathy, you need me. And I know a lot and I can help you." So I owe her a lot.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, that's a lovely introduction to yerba mansa. And where would you like to go from here?

Cathy Skipper:

Well, I think first of all, let's just talk a little bit about her as a plant. So she's a very archaic plant. She is a dicotyledon but she's just after the monocots. So in the evolution of a plant, she's ancient. Whereas orchids, asteraceaes, the daisy family are very well evolved in the botanical journey of plants. So they're modern, basically. She's much more ancient. And I like that about her.

She's had many generations behind her of wisdom. And as I said, she's endemic to Mexico and New Mexico, the Southwest, and along the river and was used by many, many of the ancient peoples and the tribes that lived along these lands all the way up from Mexico upwards.

And so if you study her medicine, everybody has a different thing to say about her. She's a panacea, she's a medicine that really touches everything from tooth decay to stomach to respiratory problems, to venereal diseases. A lot of the tribes used her for respiratory problems, sinus problems. So she really is multifaceted.

And I believe that's because she is so deeply magical that she can help. She meets us where we're at. She meets us where we need her. And I think what I would like to say about her is that, and this goes back to my relationship with you and the medicine that I do and that my journey's brought me on, is really about the emotional and mental underpinning of ourselves. And the journey of healing for me really needs to take these things into consideration.

So, although I honor the fact that we do need to heal the physical body, what I do believe is the physical body isn't doing us harm by being ill. It's trying to tell us something. It's looking for a solution. Often the solution seems quite drastic, it could be cancer, which was my case, but it's still looking to communicate something and for a solution.

So when I started working with this plant, what I did was... Most people decoct her, it's the roots that's medicinal. So, a lot of people, most people decoct her and make a decoction, sort of well decocted herbal tea or a tincture. And I have done that with her. And I have used her in those forms, but because I use aroma for accessing the psyche, these deep, emotional parts of ourself, I thought, but it's so aromatic, let's distill her.

So, with my stepdaughter, she'd come to visit, my dog, Florian, and we had this beautiful harvesting and we brought her home to distill, and that's where it all started to happen because we live in an earthship.

So there are no walls, there are walls, but they don't go up to the ceiling. So the whole earthship's kind of open. And we were distilling and the whole earthship was filling with this beautiful earthy aroma. And it went into the evening, and Florian, I remember, my husband went up to bed and I started to feel really sort of something deep going on, as if there was some kind of psychological change, like something was happening.

And I thought it was a little bit strange, but I went with it. It felt sort of nearly psychedelic. And I went with it and I started journaling. And the plant really took me into this part of myself that was hating myself in a way, a lack of self worth, to do with the feminine, to do with what was passed down from my mom, my grandmother, my great-grandmother and their story.

And so I started writing about this and as I was writing it, I felt guided by the plant and there was a transformation. So she was really showing me that, yes, I feel this lack of self worth, but it's my responsibility. And in my healing journey, I need to find self love. And I spent a long time sort of journaling and smelling this plant and working with her and feeling into this.

And then a little bit later, I went upstairs and Florian said, "I've just had this really weird dream, like a psychedelic dream." And, Florian's a psychiatrist and a doctor and he's scientifically trained and we thought it was odd.

Anyway, the next morning we thought, well, we started to geek out what is in this plant? What are the aromatic molecules? And eventually after a lot of sort of geeking out and searching, we found that there are different chemotypes, which means that depending where the plant grows along the stretch of land along the river that is her home, because of the differences, probably in the land and in the soil, she develops slightly different molecules and they call these chemotypes.

And obviously the chemotype that we've harvested, we realized was the chemotype with elemicin, which is a molecule. And elemicin is a molecule that is really a precursor to mescaline.

So we'd found the answer. We had actually extracted a slightly mind-altering aspect to this plant, which for me made sense, because she's so magical that it makes sense that she's one of these plant spirit medicine plants, as well as everything else that she does.

So I really felt this strong healing from her and I did drink... Oh, yes. And just to finish, so then also in our geeking out, we came across some studies that had been done in the seventies on the essential oil. And there's very little done on the essential oil and good thing too, because her habitat's getting reduced and you need a lot of plant material to make an essential oil.

So it's a good thing that she's not being harvested, because she needs to be protected. But in the seventies, anyway, they did these studies, and low and behold, what they found was that she was very good for cancer of the cervix and the uterus, which is what I had. So I felt just guided to this. I did do some with the hydrosol, which is the same hydrosol I sent you. I did some vaginal douches to help me. I drank the tea and I smelled the oil and I sprayed the hydrosol. I have ever since used her deeply with my clients as well and in my teachings.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Oh, Cathy, that's such an amazing experience of just moving from Europe to New Mexico, what a shift and then getting that diagnosis a day after you've made this huge transition. And then immediately diving into the deep realms of the plants of where your new home is.

Cathy Skipper:

That was the gift. And, I have to say that I have gone very slowly. In Europe, I was teaching botany at the herbal school. So I knew all the plants. That was my job. And if I didn't, I found out very quickly. My son's a botanist, but I have to say the relationship with the plants has changed. I think, I had a rebirth moving here. I left a lot behind. My dad threw all my belongings away when my mom died. So I sort of came here very bare. And so I go very slowly with the plants. I think I go deeper, but I go slower. I don't know all the plants here. There's still so much to discover.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

So as a lot of people know, on the podcast I often have recipes the guest shares and I'm actually very excited to bring a different sort of offering to you today from Cathy. Instead of a recipe, she's created an audio journey for you with yerba mansa. So Cathy, if you could tell us about that and just kind of set that up for us.

Cathy Skipper:

Yes. Thank you, Rosalee. I think it is important that I set it up. So to finish the story with the yerba mansa; what I realized when I sort of delved into the plant, and I loved the Bosque and the Rio Grande because there's water.

So I spent a lot of time down there and I read a lot about it and I came across this story. It's a very famous myth of this area of La Llorona. And she's sometimes called the Weeping Lady or the Wailing Lady. And she is known for wearing white. She's Mexican. She has apparently been spotted along the river in Santa Fe and in New Mexico, too. But in the mythology, she wears a white dress and the flowers of the yerba mansa are white and they look like a little dress, actually, not botanically flowers, they're bracts, but that doesn't matter.

It looks like a flower. And, they've got this long receptacle, so it does look like a little lady dancing. And so I thought, "Wow, the Wailing Woman in white is supposed to haunt the river." And here is this plant that runs all the way along the river, there's a connection. And so I looked at the mythology and yes, of course, the Spanish distorted it into a woman that had killed her children and was wailing when she died because she regretted what she did.

That's the Spanish story because they were the colonizers, but actually it's a deep, deep ancient Aztec story, about how they saw the colonization coming and the loss of the people and the loss of the land and the loss of the women through having children with Spanish colonizers and then the children being told they were Spanish and denying where their roots were and where they came from and their beautiful sort of culture.

So there was this loss, this grief, for this deep tribal culture from many, many generations ago, which actually I won't go into it now because we won't have time, but that is the story of my own mother line. But it was in India and that I believed was part of what I was healing with the cancer.

So, this is how I work with her with my students, is that when we need to go deep and contact these parts of ourself that we forget to honor, because we're in a society that has a certain way of being. And it's very intellectual, very left brain. We're all on our screens and it's quite patriarchal even today. There's this deep, dark, feminine aspect of life and of ourselves, both men and women can connect with this, that this plant and La Llorona really represent the juicy roots in this lovely dark soil.

So I call her the dark goddess and the black Madonna in Europe is one of the archetypes of the dark goddess; Kali, in India; Lilith; Hecate, all over the world there are archetypes of the dark goddess.

So my gift to you listeners is a journey, if you're interested, where I lead you with the help of yerba mansa, so you can make a tea or smell the hydrosol or just take a couple of drops of the tincture. And I lead you into this deep part of yourself, deep in the earth, because I believe we need to bring her out and we need to protect her as she emerges through us as part of the healing that the world needs now. So I hope you enjoy it. Those of you that decide to do that journey.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

That's a beautiful introduction, Cathy.

To help you get to know yerba mansa more deeply, Cathy is sharing a yerba mansa guided meditation, which helps you to connect to the sacred feminine. You can listen to this meditation by clicking the link above this transcript. 

So, obviously, when I think of you, I think of many things, your essence for me is just so intertwined with aromatics. And I want to talk about your lovely offering of aromatics with Cathy's Attars.

Cathy Skipper:

Well, that came about... I mean, it all joins up. Part of my journey of healing was that I went to India. I'd been to India for a year, actually, when my children, who are now in their thirties, were young. But I'd found out a lot more about my story, and my mom was born in India and I wanted to really heal this story.

So I went to India and by I chance I'd connected with an Indian distiller on the internet before I went. And I realized, "Oh, we are very near him." And so I contacted him and we made friends and we had a beautiful time at this ancient distillery. And because I was healing this part of my mother line that came from India, I didn't want to leave. And I didn't want to leave these beautiful... Like the rose attar and the jasmine.

I felt like I needed to connect. So Florian and I, on the spur, he said, "Let's just do a small offering. Let's make a small offering that keeps this connection going and allows us to work with these beautiful aromas."

And so that's how Cathy's Attars started. We do some distilling of our own stuff now that we've added to it from New Mexico. And I have one other distiller, who's an ex-student of mine in France. And it's just a very small, very carefully chosen selection of aromatics to work with the energy of the plant, because, in fact, we've come full circle. It's great because you were talking about the vines in France and how this monoculture, where they don't care about the plants and it's all chemical and it's all about production. Well, the same happens in the production of essential oil.

We have a manifesto on our website where Florian and I never use oils to make product. We don't use oils to make product. We don't use oils in any other way but to smell them because then a bottle of oil will last your lifetime. It's not about pouring it into the bath, and also if an aromatic is going to help you connect with these deep parts of the psyche, it needs to be alive. So the distiller and the harvester all need to honor that in the process that each of those that people are going through. And so we have a very small selection because we only choose the ones that we really feel are vibrant and alive to do this work with.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

And for my birthday, you had sent me some of your latest offerings and you had sent me the yerba mansa, so it was nice to have that today. That's not one you really see a lot.

Cathy Skipper:

It's very rare. And we only distill a little bit because of, as I said, the sustainability issues, but it's great. I think it's great for you, Rosalee, because I think that deep dark part of yourself is very beautiful and I know your story. And I think that connecting with that is like connecting to the whole mother line as well. It's very feminine. And so I think it's a beautiful ally for most women.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Well, thank you so much for sharing about yerba mansa and your aromatics. You also do a lot of work with the alchemy of menopause. Would you like to share something about that?

Cathy Skipper:

It's a big part of my work because when I met Florian, my husband, he's a Jungian analyst, so he taught me about the alchemical stages and I thought, "Wow, this is great. It's a framework." I love the energetic healing and the healing of the deep emotions as I keep saying, but also I am quite intellectual, so I do need a framework. I need a structure. I don't like it to be woo, woo.

And if I'm going to talk about alchemy... lots of people talk about alchemy, but what is alchemy? I like to know what the real sense of it is. And so learning about the alchemical stages, which is what the alchemist actually tried to do... They tried to turn lead into gold. But what Jung realized was these alchemical stages were actually more of a process that the psyche is continuously going through.

Like for example, the digestive system is always digesting. From the moment we put food in our mouth and then once it's disappeared, it's still digesting it from the enzymes in our saliva, right down to the waste product. Well, the psyche is always bringing stuff up from the unconscious continuously. And I understood that with these alchemical stages, this is how the psyche does it.

And then I realized, "Wow, the most alchemical being is the woman." She is the alchemical vessel. All those hormonal changes are really alchemy. And these stages fit beautifully in the journey of becoming a wise elder or a crone. So I married these stages to the different important themes that a woman needs to sort of initiate herself to, to become a wise elder.

I call the journey of menopause, I know a lot of people don't like this word, but I call it a shamanic initiation. Women become initiated. If we want to become a wise elder, we have to do the work. It just doesn't happen magically. And so the work that I do is sort of leading women through that and it's great to see them becoming empowered.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

And so will you share a little bit about that, it's a course, a book.

Cathy Skipper:

Yeah. I've written a book called, it's a workbook, so it's a book that women can use to actually work through these themes, called The Alchemy of Menopause. And that's available on my website and on Amazon, but I am actually writing a more in depth book.

I'm writing two books at the moment. One of them is called Decolonizing the Mother Line, which is really a memoir, but also incorporates the way I manage to get to a sense of belonging in myself and healed myself. And the other one is a sort of chunkier version of The Alchemy of Menopause. And I also teach the Alchemy of Menopause, live online, and we're starting to go out into the world now that COVID is slowing down a little.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. Before COVID you made a lot of big trips and... Well, my last question for you, Cathy, is the one I'm asking everybody in season two. And that question is what has surprised you along your herbal path?

Cathy Skipper:

Well, I did think about this question and it came very easily. So I think what surprised me is this: so I went into the plant world and I went in a hundred percent. And I realized that I was desperate to communicate with the plants on this deep level and desperate to sort of know the plants on another level, not just intellectually, even though I did do all that work, and I did do all that study. I wanted to know them on a different level.

But what surprised me is what they taught me. So by really spending all this time in nature and connecting to the plants, what I've realized is what they taught me was that I needed to know my own signature, not just to understand the plants and their signature and what they know, but I needed to know who I was and my sense of belonging.

And I think they really taught me about lineage, the importance of ancestral work. France, botanically, they're all part of the lineage. And it surprised me because I didn't see it coming. I didn't realize. And they have been my best teachers and not just about what I know, so I can then use them to heal, but they've been my best teachers about what I needed to do to heal myself.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Yeah. That's a beautiful sharing and a surprising thing that has really shaped your whole life since finding the plants.

Cathy Skipper:

Oh yeah. I think without the plants I wouldn't be here.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Well, I'm so glad you are. It's so good to be with you again in this space, my soul sister. And thank you so much for being here.

Cathy Skipper:

Lots and lots of love. Thank you.

Rosalee de la Forêt:

Thanks for reading. Don't forget to click the link above this transcript to get free access to Cathy's yerba mansa meditation. You can also visit Cathy directly at aromagnosis.com.

If you enjoyed this interview, then before you go be sure to subscribe to my newsletter below, so that you'll be the first to get my new videos, including interviews like this. I'd also love to hear your comments about this interview and this lovely yerba mansa plant. I deeply believe that this world needs more herbalists and plant-centered folks. I'm so glad you're here a part of this herbal community. Have a beautiful day.


Rosalee is an herbalist and author of the bestselling book Alchemy of Herbs: Transform Everyday Ingredients Into Foods & Remedies That Heal and co-author of the bestselling book Wild Remedies: How to Forage Healing Foods and Craft Your Own Herbal Medicine. She's a registered herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild and has taught thousands of students through her online courses. Read about how Rosalee went from having a terminal illness to being a bestselling author in her full story here.  



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