Magic has surrounded filmmaker and writer Liz Goldwyn since she was a child. Not the kind of magic that you might associate with wands and pointy hats, but the unmeasurable power that comes from the earth. Her mother used to have natural remedies for everything, from mixing lemon juice and warm water as a natural hair dye to making calendula flower tea to give her children when they were sick: “It’s always been with me, the idea that plants can heal.”
Although her work is based on personal experience, her new body of work, Sex, Health & Consciousness, will be the first time she shares this side of her life. In it Liz explores life and sexuality from a holistic perspective, promoting goddess culture and plant medicine. Sex, Health & Consciousness stems from a strong desire to help others and it was written during a time when Liz herself craved herbal aids. Reclining in her garden, taking gentle sips from a tonic made from rose petals, Liz tells Sabat the whole story.
It all started with the lemon verbena tree. Liz had just moved to her new house in California when a friend brought the verbena as a gift to plant in her garden. Grounded in her interest in earthen healing, the garden turned into a huge project for Liz. She even brought some mementos from the house she grew up in: “In the old house, we had the roses my grandmother planted in the 1930s, as well as the ones my mother planted in the 1970s. When my father died and we sold the house, I knew I had to take some of them with me.”
However, while she meticulously looked for the perfect place to plant the roses, someone else planted the heavy verbena tree for her in a secluded and particularly hard to reach spot on the land. She felt it immediately that tree didn’t want to be there. “Thousands of years of intuition and earth wisdom within us… and yet we often ignore it," she says.
Ten days after the tree was planted, multitasking while packing for a trip to New York, she walked to her garden to pick some of the verbena’s leaves to make tea. As she approached the secluded spot where the tree stood, she kept telling herself it was a bad idea. Obviously the tree didn’t want to be there, it was slippery and hard to reach, but she had a full house of people and wanted to make tea for everyone: “I reached up for the branches, stepping on my tiptoes to cut the leaves. When I came back down I lost my balance, fell backwards… and saw my bones poking out of my skin. That’s when I stopped looking.”
After the accident she was homebound for six weeks, which gave Liz loads of time to reflect on her life. Going through such an experience would undoubtedly leave anyone contemplating pain, death and mortality, but Liz started wondering how could she be of service when she was gone: “You can’t take any of this material knowledge with you when you die,” she says, “so I want to make sure I use my privilege to help others.”
When Liz was 13, her natural curiosity and fascination with sexuality led to her landing a job with Planned Parenthood. This gave her access to a lot more information than her friends and classmates, and even back then it was the most natural thing for her to share this knowledge — she became the person everyone would go to with their carnal questions.
I ask her if this book has made her feel like she’s thirteen again, giving tips to her high school classmates. She laughs, “I’d like to go back to that stage. Sex, Health & Consciousness is meant to be a guide, I strongly believe everyone needs guidance sometimes.”
Nevertheless, she doesn’t think of herself as holding all the answers. Living in California, she’s used to seeing people going through life in the hopes of finding some sort of guru, without ever realising that the information they look for already exists within them. “It’s a matter of learning how to listen to your own body.” While she was recovering she was craving things she’d never had before and she’d look them up only to find that they acted as natural painkillers or helped reduce inflammation. “My body knew what it needed, and through meditation you learn to listen.”
When I ask her what helped her the most after her accident she attributes a lot to using cannabis in place of synthetic painkillers and her beloved crystals: “ People would put them in my cast and between my toes which weren’t moving… but lots of other things helped as well, like turmeric tonic, and being in my garden, surrounded by nature.”
However, Liz’s holistic approach to life goes beyond meditating in her garden. When you reconnect with yourself, you can also realign with mother nature and inherent goddesses: “For centuries, women have allowed their own power to be lessened by the patriarchy and in order to please men; but now we’re waking up from this dormant state, and we’re waking up angry. Rage, instead of something to be feared, is a powerful and positive tool for change and creation. It connects us with the tears and blood of our ancestors — goddesses who’ve scorched the earth with their suffering in order to grow anew. ”
Article written for Sabat Magazine