Vanamuthassi: The Grandmother of the Jungle

Deep in the forest of Kallar in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala in Southern India lives a 77 year old woman named Lakshmikutty. She estimates that she knows how to make around 500 medicinal treatments from the plants near her hut. She learned most of them from her mother but she also claims that she learned many from the forest. She never takes more from the jungle than she needs for a medicine. This seems to be what the forest speaks to her as well.

Certainly there are many things you can learn deep in the green black woods, but it is of an entirely different order where the forest can, in the forest’s way, teach you how to concoct a medicine. I can hardly conceive of it. And yet this woman is so profoundly at home in her home that the very earth can speak to her and she can hear it.
Lakshmikutty is a treasure and the Kerala Forest Department is regularly interviewing her to compile a book about her understanding of the plants there that nobody else seemed to have kept alive like she has. She gives talks widely in Kerala about herbalism and says “I have visited many places outside the forest. Met many people, but I belong here. My heredity exists here.”
In the West, where we live, it is nearly impossible to imagine what it might be like to be so deeply from a place that you could never really and permanently leave because that plot of earth, in fast, thick panting, is breathing your name and informing you, somehow, about how you might proceed in the world. Clearly Lakshmikutty loves plants and helping to heal people with herbalism and yet the forest spoke to her through something that she loves. Perhaps the forest of Kerala speaks to the potter or the smith in completely different ways. Who knows what the forest knows and wants to, or can, tell?
It would be remarkable to see and experience and know that the world is that alive to you. That you emerged from like a wave from the ocean. Apart and yet very much not apart at all. And yet it was for many peoples, and, seemingly, still is for some.
Primal Derma, we pray, is a reminder for you that the world just might be alive, as alive as the forest is to Lakshmikutty, and might be trying to whisper something to you through your skin about beauty and taking care of the world.
Thanks for your ongoing support of Primal Derma and keep an ear out for what the world might be whispering to you.
Until soon enough

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