Carolyn Herbst Lewis, Ph.D.
I am a historian who teaches and writes about women, medicine, healing, and power in the American past. When I first began studying herbalism, the historical connections to present day practices simply blew my mind. It was as if the past came to life. I recognized references and remedies from my study of women’s history and the history of healing. I understood that herbalism was a way of reviving and reliving a history I had come to love.
Through Mamie’s Way Herbs, I share this history of healing and women’s wisdom with you. I have an ever-expanding herbal garden in my backyard where I grow the same medicinal plants used by earlier generations of healing women. The products I craft and sell have been inspired by historic recipes. In addition to drawing upon my own knowledge as an herbalist and historian, I also have traveled to India, Japan, and the UK to learn about Tibetan, Ayurvedic, Kampo, and English herbal traditions.
My approach to herbalism is rooted (harhar) in my work as a historian. The sources I use to inform my practice are the folk wisdom and recipes of the past. In a time before pharmaceuticals, these were the ingredients and methods that women used to tend to their loved ones. Some of those loved ones would become trained and licensed physicians. Some of their remedies would be the origins of modern day medicine. Mamie’s Way is, in part, a reminder of the importance of women and women’s knowledge to our past and our present.
I have traveled to India, Japan, and the UK to learn about the use of herbs and plants in traditional and folk medicine systems.
Mamie’s Way is also about tending to our heart-spirits. I have been reading Tarot for fifteen years, and I have found it to be an important tool for checking in with my beliefs, desires, and blocks. For myself, I do a large spread every Samhain (October 31st), and then smaller spreads as needed throughout the year. I do not believe that the Tarot predicts our paths or seals our fates; it does, however, let us consider possibilities, ask questions, and hear desires that we otherwise might ignore or silence. The true magic resides within ourselves. It is up to us to make it happen.
In addition to reading Tarot, I also hold sacred the practice of ritual. While I do not consider myself any particular “sect” of pagan, I do follow the Celtic Wheel of the Year. I create altars in my home that honor ancestors and the seasons. Pausing to reflect, like using Tarot, gives us an opportunity to listen and to choose our paths wisely. Ritual also enables us to honor the Earth, to celebrate the seasons of our life, and to show our gratitude to the Universe for all that we have and all that we are. In my experience, I have found ritual especially meaningful at moments of transition — such as after my recent divorce — or at times of deep emotion, such as after a friend’s stroke or, no joke, the presidential election of 2016. Ritual gives space to grieve, to celebrate, to let go, to invite in. Like Tarot, ritual allows us to find the magic within ourselves so that we might choose the paths that enable us to be the best version of ourselves that we can possible be.
Through ritual, we honor the Earth, celebrate the seasons of our life, and show our gratitude to the Universe for all that we have and all that we are.
The products and services I offer you at Mamie’s Way synthesize history, spirit, and the sacred to empower you to take better care of your body and your soul. Please note that I am not a licensed physician or health care provider. For medical advice and treatment, you should contact your doctor. As an herbalist and as a historian, what I offer are products and experiences that support healing and wellness. This is the mission of Mamie’s Way.