Brendan Ellis Williams on planting Seeds from the Wild Verge


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Conversation with Brendan Ellis Williams about herbalism, journeying, connecting to ancestral wisdom and pilgrimages in Ireland, using tarot and the Ogam for spiritual divination and the importance of initiation and ceremony in life. He discusses what it was like to write his latest book

"Seeds from the Wild Verge: Myth, Nature, and Theology in the Border Stream of Celtic Wisdom" and the magic of storytelling.


From Brendan's Website:

Healer, traditional Western herbalist, spiritual director, counselor, teacher, and poet-seer, chanting old rebel tales; tracing back song-streams of indigenous European wisdom; ferrying souls on the ancient, mythic riverways of human transformation; guiding folk from all walks of life back to their birthright of wholeness, to their roots in the living Earth, to ancient ancestral wisdom, and communion in a cosmos ensouled.


I can probably best encapsulate who I am and the nature of my work on this particular earthly pilgrimage by describing the role of the poet-seer (in Gaelic, fili), according to the native traditions of my people, who are Scottish, Irish, and Welsh. To be a fili implies many vocational threads, among them healer, priest, ritualist, diviner, shamanic functionary, spiritual counselor, scholar, teacher, poet, and storyteller. The fili is a bearer of cultural traditions, a guide and 'cure of souls', to whom the spiritual well-being of the tribe is entrusted. Though the ancient role of the fili is long since forgotten in our time, these elements nonetheless constitute the essence of my calling and identity on this beautifully strange pilgrim journey, and I embrace them daily with as much power, gratitude, and authenticity as I can.

At its heart, my work is rather like that of the old village shaman, traditional healer, cunning man, or wiseman, combining all the aforementioned vocational elements into one seamless whole—: a bit like the person one might have taken a day's journey to visit in the wilds of the wood many centuries ago: one who would draw on archaic ancestral stories and practices to heal you, bring you into spiritual, physical, and emotional wholeness, and sacramentally initiate you into spiritual adulthood.

The central aim of my work, in all its iterations, is to restore individuals and communities to wholeness, to facilitate a felt, conscious experience of reciprocal blessing and interbeing in the great family of Nature.


I’ve been practicing as a healer, in one capacity or another, for many years. I was trained in shamanic and energetic healing techniques more than twenty years ago, and began my formal training as an herbalist in Northern California roughly ten years after that, initially making a concentrated study of North American rootwork and magical herbalism, followed by training in Native-Hispanic California herbalism. I then pursued an immersive, certificated study of clinical practice in the modality of traditional Western herbalism. I have had the great fortune of studying with master herbalists Charles Garcia, Matthew Wood, and Sean Donahue. I am presently completing a certification in integrative meridian therapy and reflexology, with a special focus on somatics or the ways that trauma and unprocessed grief are unconsciously stored in the body, eventually manifesting as systemic imbalance and illness.

In my work as a counselor, teacher, and spiritual guide, I aim to help individuals and communities inhabit new (and often ancient) stories, to experience new depths of listening from the heart, to shed old narratives that are limiting and life-negating, and instead embody fresh stories that empower and facilitate restorative, holistic, and life-giving transformation—for the human community, and for the whole of Nature.

I hold terminal degrees in poetry and theology, from St. Mary’s College of California and the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, respectively. I’ve worked as a professional artist, counselor, and writer, spent quite a bit of time living in monastic community, and served as a hospital chaplain in the San Francisco Bay Area. Presently, in addition to working as an herbalist and traditional healer with a clinical practice in Colorado Springs, Colorado, I serve as educator, counselor, and spiritual director in a variety of local environments, especially parochial and academic.

I regularly give lectures, presentations, workshops, and retreats on a variety of subjects, including ancient Celtic spirituality and folklore, spiritual plant medicine, rewilding (deep reconnection with the natural world), ancient Christian mysticism, meditation, and contemplative practices.

35 episodes