Through the Wild Heart of Mary

Through the Wild Heart of Mary

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Through the Wild Heart of Mary; Teachings of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and the Herbs and Foods Associated with Them

This richly illustrated book presents a historical perspective on women’s spirituality, an exploration of the roots and evolution of devotion to Mary, and a study of the herbs and foods long associated with the mysteries of the rosary. Its strong Mediterranean flair is inspired by the vibrant culture, customs and diet of the indigenous people of the Apennine mountains of Southern Italy, the author’s ancestral homeland.

Through the Wild Heart of Mary takes the reader on a journey into the Neolithic and Paleolithic past where we acknowledge the brilliance of our ancestors and realize that the roots of the sacred mysteries of the rosary extend this far back in time.

Explores the significance of developing our wild hearts, and invites the reader to connect with the wild heart of Mary as well as with the wild earth, once a key element of the Christian experience.

Introduces the Rosary as a tool for meditation and for grounding personal as well as global peace.

Comprehensive investigation and joyful celebration of the herbs and foods highlighted by the mysteries of the rosary. These provide us with time tested nourishment and a reliable foundation for health of body, mind and spirit.

Here is a review by Michael J. Caduto, author of Herbs for Everyday Life:

Gail Faith Edwards' delightful book, Through the Wild Heart of Mary; Teachings of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary and the Herbs and Foods Associated with Them, leads us down the worn stone cobbles of Monte San Giacomo. We meet the author’s friends and neighbors whose daily lives are rooted deeply in the rich soil of their gardens, even as their faith in the Madonna carries spirits aloft. The rhythms of the local planting cycles and rites of worship cultivate deeply the living of each day.

Gail Faith Edwards provides a fascinating glimpse into the ancient roots of the worship of the Mother Goddess, dating back to 35 millennia and expressed through many of the archetypal Heroines: Hera, Sybil, Venus, Eve and Mother Mary. One branch of this spiritual tradition finds the sacred Earth Goddess in the roots of fruit-bearing trees, as well as elm, sycamore and willow.

The author’s sojourn evokes musings from my own journeys, during which I have trod the timeworn paths of my ancestral paternal village of Pietravairano in the Campania region of Italy, only to enter the door of the church that was blessed by the town’s Patrono, Saint Eraclio. I can easily recall the savory scent of the delicate filets seasoned with traditional herbs—parsley, oregano, garlic and black pepper. On many a Christmas Eve, when Grandma was extra busy baking her mouth-watering Italian cookies and pastries, my mother, Esther, would prepare the baccalà and bring it to the table. Another rich, hearty aroma of spicy tomato sauce, pasta and cheese often filled the house as Esther baked her own tradition—the classic lasagna that became the centerpiece of every Christmas feast.

Culinary traditions grow out of a rich milieu defined by culture, faith and the herbs that grow in everyone’s home region. In this present book, the Blessed Mother Mary, and the devotions of the rosary, form the nexus of a spiritual journey into the heart of herbalism. On these pages the well-fingered rosary beads, and their associated prayers, gradually accrue to honor the 20 mysteries of faith in Mary and Jesus.

This book takes the reader on a unique journey, from the realm of the Earth Goddess to the precepts of faith in Mother Mary. It is a story simultaneously enlightened by humanity’s benevolence and darkened by our lapses into ignorance and violence born of fear. Herein, herbal traditions are turned endearingly in the author’s hands and contemplated as the beads of devotion. Believers in the Madonna, and peoples of all faiths, will discover a compendium of loving kindness, of spiritual and physical enrichment through the practices and teachings of herbs.

In “The Rosary Garden” Gail Faith Edwards tells of the herbs and other plants associated with each mystery of the Rosary. She shares the folklore of these plants and explains their botanical properties and practical uses for food and medicine. Through stories, recipes and plant lore—all of which are grounded in a thorough knowledge of botany and nutrition—this rich storehouse of wisdom reveals that herbs are a gift from God to nourish our entire beings.

Through the Wild Heart of Mary is food for body, mind and spirit. To harvest among these pages is to watch the scales of a bud unfold. The deeper layers of meaning become more pleasing when they are savored like the subtle yet complex tastes and aromas of a good basil.

And more early reviews:

“In this eclectic, interesting and authoritative book Gail offers strong rationales for food pharmacy and the Mediterranean diet. I highly recommend her comments on herbs and foods, there’s good advice here. James A. Duke, The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods

“Thank you, Gail for inviting us into your ancestral Italian village, sharing the deep genuine relationships you are cultivating with your people, and with Mary, that are all about love, rosemary, rosary beads, plants and prayer. This book is both an invitation and an offering.” Deb Soule, A Women’s Book of Herbs

"I read Gail's first book, Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs and loved it, so I have been eagerly awaiting a new publication. This book does not disappoint! Like everything Gail writes, it is a balance of well researched, fascinating information, and her personal experience. This book begins in a lovely Italian village, and takes you on a journey through the history of feminine spirituality, the foundation for the devotion to Mary, and through the teachings of the Rosary and the foods and herbs connected to them. It is an intellectually and spiritually uplifting book. A wonderful affirmation of living a devoted, present, thoughtful life. Highly recommended." Tracy Donat

“Amazing, juicy info packed into every page! A brilliant way to present a way of life grounded in spiritual practice and connection with nature. Brava!” Ruby Webber

"This is a fabulous book. The connection of mind, body and spirit is told through Gail's writing of her devotional practice to the Blessed Mother Mary, her strong connections to ancestral roots in Italia and the spirit of the plants interweaving all of life. There is much knowledge and wisdom to be gained from reading these pages. A wonderful, wonderful book!" Pauline Horvath

"As a lover of nature, a gardener and an herbalist, I enjoyed this book immensely. Gail Faith Edwards writings always impart a feeling of empowerment, hope and joy about life. It has re-connected me to my love of Mary, the Universal Mother, and the beauty and simplicity of the rosary. The story and the herbal recipes and gardening ideas make one eager to get back to the earth and to what is real and simple in this often confusing and scarey world. I highly recommend this book." Rita Shields

"Thanks Gail for your book "Through The Wild Heart of Mary". It was beautiful to read and your artwork is wonderful. This is a book I will return to again and again." Hulda Leifsdottir

Order your autographed copy now - "Through the Wild Heart of Mary" is now available!

Here is an excerpt from the chapter "Reclamation"


It is a language lost we are talking about.
And what is necessary is a reclaiming.

The time has come for us to reclaim an important part of our Christian story. In fact, the future of our planet and all life upon it depends on us doing so. The part we need to find, claim, develop and bring front and center, is the part that is deeply connected to nature. To woman. To the earth. To the wild heart. And that very powerful part does exist. Missing since post Medieval times perhaps, but right here nonetheless, pulsating under the surface of modern day life. Calling out to be reclaimed, retrieved, rewoven into the sacred story of life, celebrated again, as it was in days of old.

During all the many years of evolving human culture, people learned from the open book of nature. Human beings were intimately connected to the earth, and understood her language. They did not come to this knowledge through analytical linear thinking, but through a more holistic and intuitive mode of perception. This ancient way of learning is still available to us today.

In his book, The Secret Teachings of Plants, Stephen Harrod Buhner tells us that all indigenous peoples say that they gained their knowledge of how to use plants as medicine from the plants themselves. They did not use trial and error, nor analytical thinking, but instead learned directly from the plants, from the living earth. They used their wild hearts to connect to and to directly perceive the wild heart of nature.

This holistic means of cognition has not disappeared simply because left brain, linear thinking is now the dominant mode of perception. This capacity to learn directly from the wild heart of nature is not limited to indigenous or ancient people. It is part of our equipment as human beings, a component of our internal structure and chemical makeup. It is still a part of who we are today and we can, with work and attention, develop this latent ability within ourselves.

“It is as natural as the beating of our hearts.” Stephen Harrod Buhner

Buhner refers to this method for gathering information directly from the wild heart of nature as biognosis which means “knowledge from life.” He says that developing this ancient mode of cognition is crucially important for us in today’s world as we face many threats to the life of our planet and ourselves due to what he calls “linear fanaticism and mechanomorphism (seeing the world as a machine).”

Stepping into the sacred wholeness and perceiving the wild heart of nature is about much more than collecting knowledge, however. A profound knowing takes place; an experience and awareness of the interconnectedness of the web of life that surrounds us all.

“Redeveloping the capacity for heart-centered cognition can help each of us reclaim personal perception of the living and sacred intelligence within the world.” Stephen Harrod Buhner

The Song of Songs, lyrical love poems attributed to King Solomon, but actually written down a few hundred years after he lived, were revered across Europe during Medieval times when all of nature was perceived as being imbued with Divine Presence. These Songs of Solomon come from a much earlier tradition of celebrating the human body and all of nature as holy. It is lush with the imagery of fruits and flowers, aromatic spices and trees, all of which embody the beauty of the beloved. Its poetic language celebrates the earth, her seasons, her processes as sacred. During the Medieval times passages from these poems were applied to the Blessed Mother in liturgy and prayer. These became known as the Little Office, or Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Certain lines and images in particular were drawn upon to depict Mary: “A garden locked is my sister, my bride.” Medieval painters often painted scenes of Mary enclosed within a beautiful garden. Other images and titles inspired by these lyrical verses and associated with Mary included the sealed fountain, the Lily of the Valley, the Cedar of Lebanon and the Tower of David.

The fact that the Songs of Solomon were so revered and so widespread gives us a glimpse into the mindset of the people during these Medieval times. They were for the most part an earth-based agricultural people, wise in the ways of the earth. They possessed a knowing body. They were in tune with the earth and understood their place on it. Furthermore they perceived the cosmos as a creative unfolding, a mostly benevolent and nurturing womb.

For these people the living earth was a place of transcendent beauty and grace, and Mary, the epitome of beauty and grace, was associated with this natural world. She was its hills, springs and grottos. The sea and the stars.

This ancient world view of the profound interrelationship of all living beings was strongly and directly opposed by the new Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) which emphasized the word, or commandments. The struggle between these two versions of reality has gone on for millennia.

The latest science, however, especially the new physics, is proving that the reality of our Universe is more closely aligned to the ancient worldview of interconnectedness and interrelationship.

Physicists now realize that the universe is not made of matter suspended in empty space (Newtonian physics) as we have been taught, but is made of energy. Vortexes of energy, with each material structure radiating its own unique energy signature, or field. And strangely, the closer scientists are able to look at the atom, the more there is nothing to be seen. It seems that matter and energy are one and the same.

“The Universe is one indivisible, dynamic whole in which matter and energy are so deeply entangled it is impossible to consider them as separate elements.” Bruce Lipton

In his book, The Biology of Belief, Lipton describes the universe as an integration of interdependent energy fields that are “entangled in a meshwork of interactions with complex intercommunications among the physical parts and the energy fields that make up the whole.” He describes the flow of information in the universe as holistic and immediate, not linear. And, as far as Lipton is concerned, the mechanics of this new science reveal the existence of our spiritual essence.

His study of the single cell, which he devoted his life to understanding, brought him to the realization that just like a single cell, the character of our lives is determined by our responses to the environmental signals that propel life. His studies, he says, “convinced me that we are immortal, spiritual beings…I realized that I could change the character of my life by changing my beliefs and thereby move from victim in the world to co-creator.”

In fact, according to Lipton, the latest discoveries in both cellular biology and physics are creating new bridges between science and spirit. “The latest science leads us to a worldview not unlike that held by the earliest civilizations, in which every material object in Nature was thought to possess a spirit…it is the world of Gaia, a world in which the whole planet, including all the life upon it, is considered to be one living, breathing organism.”

Lipton explains that instead of trying to understand the “natural order” of things so that we could fit harmoniously into that order, the Modern Scientific movement set out on a mission of control and domination of Nature. “The technology that has resulted from pursuing this philosophy has brought human civilization to the brink of spontaneous combustion by disrupting the web of Nature.”

Lipton concludes his book with a call to join with other like-minded people who are working toward the advancement of human civilization “by realizing that Survival of the Most Loving is the only ethic that will ensure not only a healthy personal life but also a healthy planet.”

In much the same way that our concepts and ideas about life are ever evolving through the use of new information and associations, the same is true of earlier peoples. Much of the transfer of knowledge of Christian ideas and dogma that took place across the centuries was done simply by associating certain plants with the new biblical stories.

When early Christianity was spreading throughout the lands, itinerant priests and traveling monks used commonly found flowers and trees as teaching aids. This nature language was easily understood, and in fact, was a commonly shared knowledge among all people. These agrarian people based their plant associations on deep inherent knowledge of the plant’s physical properties, its growth habit, appearance, aroma, color and form as well as its more subtle energetic qualities.

The lily, so soft and feminine yet strong and resilient, became an emblem of Mary, and associated with the Annunciation. St. John’s wort, well known for its spirit healing and pain easing properties, is associated with the Passion of Jesus and the heartache of Mary. This plant oozes a red ink-like substance, very much the color of blood, when a bud or flower is squeezed between the fingers, and this led to it representing the blood of Christ.

A deep, reliable knowledge of plants existed, based on generation upon generation of using them and understanding their many gifts, both physical and energetic. This deep body of knowing acquired over many thousands of years, about nature and specifically about plants, was nearly lost during the several hundreds of years around the Protestant Reformation.

Because of the intense fear of witches and all things pagan, folk wisdom and shamanic practices associated with plants, healing and nature became suspect. This great body of knowledge, the wisdom accrued over millennia regarding the healing properties of the wondrous earth and of herbs, flowers and trees was forced underground. Under the surface. It was hidden and for the most part, forgotten. But it certainly was not, nor could it ever be, lost.

This knowledge of the plants, of the earth and all of nature and its ways, is inherent wisdom. It comes with our humanness. It is part of our genetic makeup as beings of this planet. It is the fruit of inter-communication between humans and plants. This is the wisdom of our cells, formed over eons of co-evolution with all the other life forms on our earth. This is the wisdom of life itself living within us. We can trust it. We need only remember.

There are many ways to do this. One way to remember is through contemplation on nature - in wild and natural places, or in the cultivation of a sacred garden space. Another is through meditation on the mysteries of the rosary, once known as the Angelic Psalter, and the plants long associated with each of these sacred stories. The exploration of these two approaches is the very heart of this book.