The Ethics of Wildcrafting

mugwortOn a recent walk with my dog, I came across a nice patch of mugwort on a favorite trail of ours. I made note of its location and watched it grow for several weeks, hoping to harvest some of it for an Old World Mugwort Lemon beer. (Mugwort was used as a bittering agent before hops became the standard.)

This past week we were back on the trail and, much to my shock and horror, ALL OF IT was gone. To add insult to injury, the plants had literally been pulled up by the roots! It was as if it had never existed in the first place.

To whoever did this unthinkable act of carnage, I can only say YOU SUCK! How in the world did you think this was okay? Granted, mugwort grows in abundance in our area but if you did this to mugwort, what’s to stop you from doing it to any other plant you please, including those that are on the United Pants Savers “to-watch” and “at-risk” lists.

Here’s the thing, because wildcrafting is becoming more popular we need to develop strict personal ethics about what we harvest and what we don’t harvest. The old rule of thumb in Wiccan circles is that you can harvest a third, but I think that’s being overly-generous. If I harvest a third, then you harvest and third, and someone else harvests a third, there is nothing left of the plant.

I don’t care if you use it for ritual or medicinal use, we’ve got to protect and preserve these valuable treasures we’ve been given by our Creator. This is both a moral and spiritual imperative. Anyone who claims to be “in touch” with nature is a charlatan if they act so carelessly and recklessly. I have no respect for you whatsoever. Rant over!

My own personal ethics regarding wildcrafting is that I first try to grow what I need in my own garden. If I have an abundance of anything, including young plants in the spring, I give them to others to use. I try to plant what I think I will need during the year and no more. I’m also cultivating bloodroot because it’s on the “At Risk” list. My plan is when I have enough plants to divide I’m going to plant them in a nearby forest so they can continue to multiply and flourish.

Whatever I cannot grow myself I try to wildcraft. When I find the plant I need, I make sure there is plenty of it in the area. If not, I leave it be until it’s plentiful. Then when I decide it’s okay to harvest, I take only what is absolutely necessary for whatever project I’m undertaking. For example, the Mugwort Lemon beer I make only needs 0.3 ounces of dried herb which is not a huge amount. I only harvest the tops and leave the rest of the plant to continue to grow.

I’m sure many of you already have a strong ethic regarding wildcrafting. If you haven’t thought about it before, I hope you’ll consider the story I’ve shared with you in this post. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2018 by David Taliesin,

About David Taliesin

My name is David Taliesin. I'm an writer, teacher and retreat leader who explores the connections between Christian and Pagan Spirituality. E-mail me with any personal comments you'd like to share and I will do my best to answer them. You can also contact me through my Facebook page
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1 Response to The Ethics of Wildcrafting

  1. Agreed! I grow everything I want in my own garden. Would not dream of pulling up a wild plant by the roots!


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