Dear Wise Woman,
Thank you for inquiring about shamanic herbal apprenticeship. Please be aware that apprentices are not students. Shamanic herbal apprenticeship is the most difficult way to study with Susun. When you agree to be a shamanic apprentice you are hiring Susun to scream at you, to tell you when you are not in truth, to bite off your excuses, in short, to kill the part of you that prevents you from claiming, and living to the fullest, your power, beauty, strength, and healing abilities. You will cry. You will be pushed. You will at some point think you have made a terrible mistake. You may leave. And you are welcome to return. Susun commits to her apprentices for life.
"Dear Susun, This is goodbye. You have shown me my power. You have shown me my beauty. You have shown me my strength. I find I prefer my shit." (She returned three years later, tired of her shit, and graduated from her shamanic herbal apprenticeship.)
What apprentices learn (click to zoom)
Shamanic apprenticeship is a unique opportunity to maximize your self-potential, drop your ego, nourish your self-love, learn to obey without question, increase your self-worth, face your fears, and learn about living abundantly well. It is not ideal for someone focused on an herbal education. My correspondence courses and mentorship program are much better for that. Shamanic herbal apprentices learn lots about herbal medicine by living with Susun – but the primary study of a shamanic apprentice is her Self.
This is not a program about becoming the perfect person.
This is not a program about changing yourself.
A shamanic herbal apprenticeship with Susun is about accepting the person you are,
learning how to nourish yourself fully,
and becoming larger, wider, fuller, grander.
The prospective shamanic herbal apprentice is committed to self-growth. She seeks a fast, intense, clear program that bars no holds. She comes to participate in the destruction of her lies, assumptions, and excuses. She comes to nourish herself as a shaman who speaks the truth. She takes on responsibility and invests in failure.
Shamanic herbal apprenticeship is not for the faint of heart, the weak of body, or the disturbed of mind. It is challenging on all levels: emotional, physical, spiritual, psychic. Susun is happy to work via correspondence course or online course with anyone with disabilities, traumas, problems, confusions.
To live with Susun as a shamanic apprentice requires 24/7 attention, complete honesty, resilience, courage, and a steadfast commitment.
As a shamanic herbal apprentice, you make and eat your own stone soup. If you bring a willingness to listen and respond, you will be heard. If you show respect, you will be honored. If you bring curiosity, you will be met with curiosity. If you bring an attitude of gratitude, you will receive thanks. If you bring a commitment to yourself, you will see Susun's commitment to you. If you bring an interest in herbs, you will be surrounded by green blessings. As a shamanic herbal apprentice you must earn respect.
Shamanic herbal apprentices live at Susun's homestead: Laughing Rock Farm. As an apprentice, you agree to be an active participant, to spend time in the barn, tending animals, shoveling shit, moving hay, and maintaining the tools and structures. You agree also to spend time outdoors, tending animals, breathing with your green ally, maintaining paths and sacred spaces.
As a shamanic herbal apprentice you agree to hold Susun harmless should you suffer any kind of harm, including, but not limited to poison ivy rash, Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, sunburn, falls, cuts, bruises, burns, scrapes, and stings.
During your shamanic herbal apprenticeship, you agree to be limited in various ways. You agree not to use a flashlight at night. You agree not to listen to recorded music, watch television, or go to the movies. You agree not to eat junk food, drink anything except nourishing herbal infusion, or go out to eat without permission. You agree to use your cell phone as little as possible and to communicate with those you left behind as little as possible that way, with the goal being complete freedom from your device. You agree to any limitation that Susun suggests.
As a shamanic apprentice, you agree to be responsible for what you say and do. This is a lot harder than it sounds. It will give rise to many opportunities for Susun to criticize you. Shamanic apprentices are not given sugar-coated, private, nice criticism. When criticizing, Susun yells. (Yes, you can yell back.) When criticizing, Susun tells apprentices that they stupid, uncaring, mean, and non-mindful. Susun is brutally honest. Susun is rude. Like nettle, Susun stings, Susun is sharp.
"Pay as much as you can for criticism; it is rarer than praise and far more useful."
Shamanic apprenticeship is a tradition that is tens of thousands of years old. It is not modern and nice and soft. It is harsh and scary, loud and real. A shamanic apprentice deals with strong emotion. A successful shamanic apprentice undergoes a symbolic death.
Shamanic apprenticeship begins with a false positive transference. The apprentice sees the shaman as omniscient, magical, special, awesome. The shaman examines the apprentice, looking for an inner spark that can be nurtured. If it is there, the shaman agrees to take on the apprentice.
The usual length of shamanic apprenticeship is at least 7 years. (We condense the seven years into 13 weeks.) During the first two years/weeks, the shamanic apprentice does menial chores and is allowed to listen to the teachings, but not to ask questions. During the next two years, the shaman directly manifests the student's shadow, allowing the apprentice to see their hidden angry, uncaring self. This is hard work for the shaman and a total drag for the apprentice.
"No one has ever loved me as much as Susun. She sees me completely and accepts me."
The transfer of the shadow to the shaman brings about a false negative transference for the apprentice. At this point, the shamanic apprentice may want to abandon the quest, throw in the towel, and leave. The shaman appears to be terrible, evil, mean, threatening. The apprentice may convince herself that she is in real danger and must save herself. She may tell herself that she has made a big mistake and that keeping her commitment is foolish. Some shamanic apprentices sneak away in the night, consumed by fear, some say they had to leave because Susun terrified them, some declare their intention to leave at talking stick, some remember to call the numerous past apprentices who have agreed to help them through this phase, and a few know how to swallow their pride, step past their fear, and get on with their work. They jump into the fire.
Susun has seen all these responses and more, and knows how to help you through your negative transference terrors. This is one of the most important aspects of a shamanic apprenticeship. Prepare for it. Be willing to find a way through it. This is part of the process. Your honest, true, heartfelt commitment to the shamanic process is the coin of the realm that gets you through your dark night of the soul.
If you don't feel like leaving, I am not doing my work.
If you leave, you are not doing your work.
Once the negative transference is accepted for what it is, the last step is under way: true positive transference. The last three years/eight weeks of the apprenticeship are the real work, the real learning. The veil has been lifted. The goal is in sight. Step by step the practices make it real. Until, at last, the apprentice and the shaman come together in mutual trust, respect, and love, working for the good of all.
If you keep commitment to the end and do all your assignments, you will graduate.
About 525 women have committed to being a live-in shamanic herbal apprentice; 316 have graduated. Of those who have graduated, about half exhibit true positive transference, remain in my life as sisters, and are functioning as shamanic herbalists/healers either privately or publicly. Congratulations!
As a shamanic herbal apprentice, you agree to allow Susun to use her full power and vision to guide you. Furthermore, you understand that shamanic apprenticeship is extra-legal, and you agree not to involve Susun in legal proceedings of any kind. (And if you do bring any legal action, you agree to give Susun $5000, due the day you file, to cover her expenses.)
You need to feel called to do this daunting, difficult work. It requires stubbornness, resiliency, and a sturdy sense of self. Apprenticeship is hard work on every level. There are rules and you are expected to follow them. Susun has the absolute right to ask any apprentice to leave at any time. All apprentices may return at any mutually agreeable time to finish their apprenticeship no matter why they left.
"I am an intense and fiery teacher and living with me is not easy."
What Will You Learn?
Each shamanic apprentice draws to herself the specific teachings she needs: plant family reports, green ally projects, Goddess archetypes, classes with Susun and other teachers, field trips, shamanic trances, long walks in the woods. We live, breathe, and play with plants, learning about herbal medicine, botany, and nutrition the easy way: hands-on, day by day. You receive a detailed curriculum when your payment for apprenticeship is complete.
You will have the opportunity to learn:
* How to identify and use plants for medicine, food, and more
* How to prepare herbal medicines simply and safely at home
* How to grow and wildcraft herbs with respect for them and the earth
* How to harvest herbs
* How to keep yourself healthy
* How to use herbs to heal animals and plants
* How to deal with a variety of problems
* How to help others with problems
* How to nourish yourself optimally
* How to make cheese and yogurt
* How to herd goats
* How to understand and use botany and botanical nomenclature
* How the Wise Woman tradition differs from the Heroic and Scientific
* The secrets of the Medicine Wheel of Plant Uses
* How to hear plants talking
* How to find your green ally
* How to communicate with devas and fairies and Goddess archetypes
* How to use the Six Steps of Healing
* How to live in truth and beauty
* What part death plays in healing
* Anatomy (hands on) and physiology
* Shamanic skills
* The wisdom of the talking stick and the moon lodge
* Tai chi
* Feldenkreis and Alexander work
Food for Shamanic Herbal Apprentices
Shamanic herbal apprentices and Green Goddesses participate in gathering wild plants for our simple and spectacularly delicious meals. The entire group shares dinner together each evening save Sunday, the cook's night off. Shamanic herbal apprentice participate in milking the goats and making yogurt and cheese, which is enjoyed by all. Organic produce from a CSA supplements the wild harvest, as does produce from Bob's Garden and local farms.
Let me know if you have special dietary needs.
Extra Benefits During her stay, every apprentice receives these gifts:
Books by Susun and others
Supplies for making your own tinctures, oils, and vinegars
Herbal insect repellent; Herbal first aid remedies
Herbal remedies as needed by you
Group therapy sessions
20% discount on any books purchased on site
Weekly yoga class
Twice weekly tai chi lessons, including self-defense training
Attendance at every class, lecture, radio show, and blog talk show done by Susun
Personal help in learning the language of plants
Optional initiation as a green witch
Ongoing support when you return to the "real world"
Two free retreat days at the Wise Woman Center every year
Lodging for Shamanic Herbal Apprentices
Please alert friends and family that your special apprentice address and phone number are: (physical address & phone number will be given upon application approval)
The Nettles Patch is home for Shamanic Herbal Apprentices. It is a pleasant duplex at the front of the farm. One side is our yoga and tai chi studio; the other houses up to five apprentices in three bedrooms. There is a kitchen and two shared bathrooms.
Camping heightens your experience and deepens your learning by bringing you close to the earth. Sleeping outside is healing. Bring a tent or stay in our tipi. Green Goddess Apprentices camp out, stay in the studio, or, when available, stay at the Nettles Patch.
The Studio is a separate building used as a bad weather classroom, and a "jumble" style dorm. There is one "bedroom" upstairs and lots of room downstairs. No bath; porta-pot nearby.
Laughing Rock Farm is civilized (we do have running hot water) but not modern. The septic systems are small; live-in apprentices are asked to shower no more than twice a week.
Other Important Things
The main house, where Susun lives, is open to apprentices from 9 am-11pm daily.
Pearl's Place houses the Green Witch and Goddess Library, Amused Muses Musing Museum, and the Monica Shaft & Jeannie Parvati Memorial Herbal References Library. It is open all the time for your use.
My consort, Michael teaches our weekly yoga class, cooks dinner, and heads up the barn.
Gordon Cook, licensed therapist, teaches Tai Chi and body/mind awareness, guides our group therapy, and serves as an important mentor for me in my work with the apprentices.
Talking Stick ceremony is a daily requirement. It is the best time and place to express your concerns, gripes, revelations, needs, fears, resentments, visions, dreams, and joys. As a shamanic herbal apprentice, you commit to clear communication.
Emotion is a large part of your apprenticeship. Joy and rage. Clarity and confusion. You will be stretched in both directions. Life as a shamanic herbal apprentice engages your muscles, your psyches, and your deepest Self. Intensely. With great feeling.
There are four portals which lead to a live-in shamanic apprentice. Successful completion of any one of these tasks opens the door to your shamanic apprenticeship:
1. Five workshop weekends in one year
2. Ten days of work-exchange in one year
3. A Green Goddess Apprentice Week
4. A two-week trial period
1. Register for classes as you wish. (In February you can purchase 13 classes for the price of 10.) After you have attended five weekends or ten classes, you may apply to be a shamanic herbal apprentice with a letter of intention and a $100 application fee.
2. Work-exchange weekends occur monthly during the good weather. No registration or application is required. Once you have attended ten days, you may apply to be a shamanic herbal apprentice with a letter of intention, your contact info, and a $100 application fee.
3. To apply for Green Goddess Apprentice Week, send with a letter of intention, your contact information, and a $100 application fee. Once you have completed that week, you may apply for a shamanic herbal apprenticeship with a letter of intention. (No further application fee is due.)
4. To apply for a two-week trial apprenticeship, send a letter of intention, your contact info, and $100 application fee at least six weeks prior to your preferred starting date. (All apprenticeships begin at 10am on Tuesday; all apprentices arrive by 6pm on Monday.) Once you have completed a two week trial, you may continue on as a shamanic herbal apprentice. You may apply half of the cost of the two week trial to a shamanic apprenticeship of at least six weeks.
- All apprentices must pay their full fees 30 days in advance of their start date.
- All apprentices do work exchange and are given refunds for work at graduation.
- Thirteen-week live-in shamanic apprenticeship: $6600. (You may work off up to half.)
- Six week half apprenticeship: $4200. (You may work off up to half.)
- Two-week shamanic apprentice try-out: $2200. (You may work off up to a quarter.)
- One-week Green Goddess Shamanic Apprenticeship. Cost: $1300.
- Graduated apprentices may apply to serve as an intern. The cost is $350 per week, with a three month commitment required. Full work exchange is available.
Shamanic Herbal Apprenticeships 2023 begin:
April 4: Shamanic Herbal Apprentices, Early Spring Group begins
May 16: Shamanic Herbal Apprentices, Late Spring Group begins
June 20: Shamanic Herbal Apprentices, Early Summer Group begins
August 8: Shamanic Herbal Apprentices, Late Summer Group begins
September 12: Shamanic Herbal Apprentices, Autumn Group begins
Due to the nature of the commitment required of apprentices, no refunds are offered for any reason. You may use your apprentice fees for any mutually-agreed on starting date.
How to Pay
All apprentice fees are non-refundable but may be used at any time. Please apply by mail. Payment may be made by check, money order, or credit card.
There are no refunds of apprentice fees for any reason whatsoever.
The work-exchange program is arduous, but never involves missing class time. Maintaining Laughing Rock Farm and tending to the students, plants, and animals that live and visit here requires a lot of heavy physical work, fierce attention, and stamina. It may be challenging to you in unexpected ways and may bring up strong emotions. Apprentices doing work-exchange will be at work or at class 1216 hours some days. Yoga, herbal remedies, and group energy miraculously carry us through long shifts and late nights.
Upon completion of your apprentice commitment, a refund check is issued for your work. Apprentices who abandon their commitment do not receive any refund.
Still want to apprentice? Here's what to do.
Write a letter or draw a picture of your vision of yourself as my apprentice. Include your name, age, address, phone number, email address, choice of starting date and length of apprenticeship. Pay your non-refundable application fee of $100 at wisewomanbookshop.com
When I approve your application, I'll send you an apprentice kit which includes:
A letter of acceptance, including travel directions, and list of things to bring
An autographed copy of my first four books and a 50% discount on the fifth:
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year,
A copy of City Herbal by Maida Silverman; and a copy of Common Herbs by Juliette Levy
New! Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way, and
Breast Cancer? Breast Health! The Wise Woman Way
Down There the Wise Woman Way (fifty percent discount)
A copy of MoonDays and a lunar phases calendar
A copy of Peterson's Field Guide to Eastern Wildflowers
A collection of past Wise Woman Center Gazettes
An hour-by-hour curriculum
Hints and helps for apprentices
Weekly chores sheet and work guidelines
A copy of "The Rules"
"What Apprentices Learn" by Chava (class of '92)
Center PO Box 64 Woodstock NY 12498 phone/fax: 1-845-246-8081
Thank you for visiting:
Before you decide to apply for apprentice time, here
are a few more words to consider.
Quotes below reprinted from the website of Raven Kaldera, author, shaman, activist.
"Actually taking someone on as my apprentice is a huge commitment of my time and energy. You need to make it worth my while, and convince me you are a good investment."
"Students must show initiative, and be motivated to study and practice on their own. Motivating you to learn is not my job. Convincing you that these techniques are valuable is not my job."
"If I wrote a book on whatever it is you want to learn from me, read the book. If the book has exercises or techniques, actually practice them for a significant period of time. Then contact me, tell me what you have done, and where you want to go from there."
"Training takes time, and is hard work. I cannot make it easier just because you think it is unfair for it to be so hard or take so long."
"I will not train you in spirit work if the spirits aren't interested in you. I can attempt to discern why the spirits aren't interested in you, and what you might do to attract their attention, but if they aren't interested, that is the end of it. That said, many of the techniques I teach are not "spirit work" per se, and can be learned by anyone with aptitude."
A live-in apprenticeship may be one of the most challenging things
you have ever done. It may turn you upside down, shake your tree and
release seeds that will take root, and continue to grow, flower, and
nourish you for the rest of your life.
"You are one of the few women in my life that I consider a way
shower -- an example of my life-long quest -- learning to love myself.
. . . Celebrate with me! I stood up for myself with the fierceness that
I would use to protect my children -- without guilt." Barbara
from a letter dated October 2002 (Barbara apprenticed in 1992 for two
Simple herbal apprentices aren't called upon to work as deeply
as the shamanic apprentices do.
"The days I spent apprenticing are unforgettable. Memories, daily
tasks, objects, songs -- so many things remind me of those few weeks.
Thanks for every word, thought, and hand you shared with me. And thanks
to all the sisters I met during my stay. I think often of you and the
generous energy that surrounds your house." Suzanne
from a letter dated January 2000 (Suzanne apprenticed in 1999 for 4
It is not for nothing that I claim stinging nettle as my primary
ally. Like her, I am deeply nourishing, but will sting if not treated
with respect. I speak the truth -- understanding the truth can seem
harsh or unkind -- with deep love for your wholeness and health.
"I had a big brouhaha with my mom. Instead of rushing in to fill
up her empty spaces of inadequacy, I remained strong in my burdock rootedness.
I listened to her but did not make any move to rescue her from her feelings
of self-loathing. I stayed with her and touched her to tell her I love
her. Then I went out to my car and screamed bloody murder. I ran away
from home like I always wanted to and got to a very real place with
myself. And I was able to return to my mother with peace, love, gratitude,
understanding, and my own true voice. Thank you for teaching me to teach
myself the art of being present, of becoming alive and wild in and with
my fear." Emily
"Exposure to the sun can burn my skin and hurt something wicked
if I am unconscious and impatient and proud. But the sun's warmth and
light nourishes me and fills me with energy and a clear vision of my
path when I am conscious and respect Her boundaries. The sun's power
is unquestionable, undeniable, and yet sort of invisible, important
as breath. I will never forget to keep the 'sun' in Susun. Thank you
for the exposure!" Abbi
from a letter dated November 2002 (Abbi apprenticed in 2002 for 13 weeks)
from a letter dated August 1998 (Emily apprenticed in 1997 for 33 weeks)
"Enlightenment comes not from imagining figures of light, but
in making your own darkness conscious."
"Thank you for showing me my fear." Parnee, from a letter
dated September 2001
(Parnee apprenticed in 1999 for 7 weeks and interned in 2000 for three
As an shamanic herbal apprentice you will engage your dark side
as well as your Goddess archetype, use scientific botanical names as
well as commune with the devas, and be actively engaged in learning
and working for ten or more hours per day in a community with strict
rules and high expectations.
"I would like to apologize for up and leaving you in a lurch and
everything. I've thought many times since then about how I still hadn't
learned the lessons you were teaching during my apprenticeship about
expressing feelings, daring to be angry, or being bold and expressive.
I now know that my wholeness, wisdom , and freedom can never be separated
from those parts of me. I was forever changed -- for the good, into
my depths -- by my apprenticeship. And my time with you and at the farm
continues to be a touchstone and reference point in my evolution."
from a letter dated August 2001 (Michele apprenticed in 1995 for 6 weeks)
After completing your live-in apprenticeship, you will be ready
to take on any quest, any adventure, any life path, any thing you want
-- with joy and skill.
"[After leaving you, I've become] like a culture. I go around touching
things, changing things, giving them my flavor, consuming them and dying
in them. Exhaling and creating more of myself. Forming valuable nourishment.
Treating my environment as ecosystem. Proliferating the Wise Woman culture.
More and more, I center in my womb. I show up." Gaia/Helen
from an email dated September 2002 (Gaia/Helen apprenticed in 2000 for
"Words merely scratch the surface in expressing the depths of
my gratitude. I am touched and seen truly. I embrace the changes I made
here: I am awake, alive, walking in beauty and sacredness, in my power.
I have had spirit-gifted dreams on the mesa; passed through trance gates
into worlds within and without; stood silent at altars built by women
who walked their path on this land; walked in partnership with goats
to the point that they are now dear friends; heard the plants speak
to me; swum in the cold waters of the river; and stepped into my own
And with so many emotions: wailing, raging, laughing deep from my belly.
How precious it is to find a place where my whole being feels at home
and pulses intensely with life and vitality.
I deeply honor your insistence to honor life and death, playfulness
and shadows, the entire reality of life. And the energy you give to
stand in this truth! Susun, you are a voice from the wild calling us
home to ourselves with power, enthusiasm, laughter, and presence."
Kris ~ from a letter dated July 2000 (Kris apprenticed in 2000 for 8
"After I left Laughing Rock Farm, I felt your presence greatly
in my life. At first you spoke to me through the plants, and now you
speak to me in my dreams. My work with women has taken on a whole new
dimension. The Wise Woman tradition has enabled me to see and understand
many things in a different way." Greenheart ~ from a letter dated
May 1997 (Greenheart apprenticed in 1996 for four weeks)
"When I look back at photos of myself from before, during, and
after my apprenticeship with Susun, it's startling to see that the transformation
was so deep that it clearly radiated out into my physical form. I became
so grounded, and I came so fully into my womanhood and my body during
those nine months. My life was changed profoundly by all Susun had to
offer, about the plants, the Goddess, sexuality, communication.
As an apprentice, it is hard to be present with Susun's dark side,
but that became one of the greatest gifts for me: Susun is willing to
be fully who she is, and to take responsibility for her feelings, and
to speak her truth, which gives those around her permission to do the
same. She has reclaimed a dark side of womanhood that is our source
of power: the wild, emotional Kali. For those who are ready to receive
those teachings, the gifts are invaluable, personally and for the planet."
Corinna Wood, Red Moon Herbs from a letter dated May 2003 (Corinna apprenticed
in 1993 for nine months)