We were joined by well-known Astrologer and Moon Gardener, Kerry Galea. Kerry taught us the medieval techniques of determining temperament using a birth chart. These temperaments originated in ancient times and were used by doctors, apothecaries, herbalists and astrologers.  Attendees received their individual birth charts and a personal temperament assessment. The four temperaments are choleric, melancholic, sanguine and phlegmatic. Each align with one of the four  elements: earth, fire, water and air. In addition, each is also hot or cold and moist or dry. The earth element is cold and dry – melancholic temperament; the air element is hot and moist – sanguine; the fire element is hot and dry – corresponding to choleric; and the water element is cold and moist – phlegmatic.

The ancients also assigned these qualities to plants that developed into the Doctrine of Signatures still in used today in homeopathy. Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century herbalist and astrologer informed the pharmaceutical industry and is still widely referred to amongst herbalists, naturopaths and gardeners. Kerry encouraged us to look at local plants and determine the temperament of the plant, what kind of medicine it could be used for, and if that medicine could suit the client’s temperament. Her guidance helped us realise that one size does not fit all. Medicine that best suits each individual is unique to their temperament and their illness.

We learnt about ancient timing techniques and Moon gardening. We learnt about Planetary Days and Hours and Moon timing. Moon timing helps us decide when to harvest and create remedies with enhanced potency. We also learnt how to dowse; using dowsing rods or pendulums can inform this work. We spent time outside dowsing for water and energetic lines running through the landscape and garden.

We also learnt that the moon phases closely watched by gardeners also correspond with our daily lives: as above so below, as within so without. Being tuned in to the Moon’s cycles can provide us with optimum times to undertake projects in our daily lives, not just gardening or medicine making.

Arrernte (language group of the Alice Springs region) and other Aboriginal peoples in Australia are renowned for being the oldest living cultures in the world. Prior to 1788, they lived in harmony with the environment, tending it, respecting it as the giver of all life and the mother of us all. In Arrernte cosmology everything comes from and returns to the Earth. The Earth holds all we need and that includes the medicinal use of plants to heal the people who walk the land. We spent a day with six Arrernte women. They took us North of Alice Springs to a place of great significance for Arrernte people. In the 1980s hundreds of Arrernte people camped on this land for months shutting the highway to demanding their land rights. They were successful. The first Native Title was granted to three family groups in and around Alice Springs. We made a campfire, cooked roo tails, damper and johnny cakes, and boiled the billy for tea. MK Turner OAM, a most respected elder, told us some stories about their time camping on this site and about the plants and medicines around us. After lunch, we all went walking with the women to collect a local plant, Aherre-Intenhe, an Eremophila variety also known as Kangaroo Shade Plant.

We returned to the fire site and sat down to grind the plants. This was done in the timeless traditional way with two rocks, and took a lot of effort to get the right amount to make medicine for all of us. After grinding the plant material, it was soaked in oil (traditionally it would have been goanna or emu fat) and then cooked over the fire.

We finally ended up with a jar of oil to take home with us, which is good for aches and pains in muscles and bones. This was traditional women’s business. We had a man in our group, so his job was to use an axe to get all of the bark off a branch of a Corkwood tree. This is called Untyeye Anapipe. He burnt the bark and then we ground it into a fine powder. This is a healing potion for skin rashes and wounds; we also took some of this home with us.

The experience and learning on this day was very special and will never be forgotten. These Arrernte women were generous and humorous, sharing aspects of their culture with us. We felt so privileged to have this experience.

The final day of AstroCamp was with Doris Kngwarreye Stuart, a respected Arrernte elder whose cultural role is to care for the sacred sites of Mparntwe (Alice Springs). Doris took us on a bus journey, “From Alice Springs to Mparntwe”. We needed tissues! This was a disturbing and distressing experience. We visited many sacred sites around Mparntwe. We heard the stories associated with each of them. This was confronting  and we all felt very moved by Doris’ journey. Doris opened her heart, her experience and her country to us. I cannot write anything more about this experience, or your own experience if you visit this place will be spoilt.

After this tour, we spent time at a local waterhole to integrate all our experiences. We then went back to the dry riverbed beside our campsite for the closing ceremony. We made a mandala of natural materials from the country we had spent such precious time on. We had some quiet time to reflect on the camp. That sacred space and experience continues in each of our hearts. What a wonderful experience.

The next dates are April 23-27th 2020. If you are interested please contact the ANPA office.