Protecting Our Inner and Outer Wilds: A Conversation with Vanessa Chakour [Episode 21]

From a young age, author and herbalist Vanessa Chakour was struck by the archetype of Artemis as the original land protector and environmental activist. In her book, Awakening Artemis, Vanessa skillfully tells her personal story through a healing mandala of herbalism, plant lore, and eco-warriorship. In this latest episode of the Woman Who Rubs the Mountain, Vanessa further explains her draw to Artemis and all things misunderstood in nature, particularly weeds and wolves. Vanessa also gives us all of the exciting details of her burgeoning love affair as the land steward of a place called Mt. Owen Forest Sanctuary, which will be a refuge for plants, wildlife and humans alike.

Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:

  • Vanessa speaks to the affinity she has had to wolves since she was young. Supposedly dogs are “man’s best friend” and yet we persecute their ancestors, denying them their place as ecological stewards in their own right, upholding an essential balance within the landscape.
  • Our culture maligns so called “weeds” because they are everywhere and no longer hold any perceived value for us. Vanessa speaks to one of her favorite weeds, Mugwort (or Artemisia Vulgaris), its connection to Artemis, as well as its talents at inciting labor and enhancing dreaming. Mugwort also subversively loves to grow as an edge-walker, acting as a boundary between wild and more domesticated spaces.
  • There are love affairs all around us in plain sight, such as Chaga and Birch or Monarch and Milkweed. It takes a certain courage to be that vulnerable, to feel like we can’t live without that other being, whether we are human, animal, or plant. Are we brave enough to let ourselves be consumed, let go and fully fall in love?
  • Many United States history books still promote an idea of “pristine wilderness:” that much of the US was untouched and free for the taking. This myth of intentional erasure not only denies the existence of the First Peoples but it also ignores the on-going relationship building they had with the land: tending, gardening, pruning, planting, using fire, etc. Instead of further promoting this idea of “no impact on land,” we can tune in to our essential role as humans and the positive impacts we might have.
  • In certain landscapes there is a growing tension between nostalgia and how the land wants to evolve. By listening better, we can adapt to the way the land is shifting instead of clinging to nostalgia or our unconscious agendas.

Vanessa Chakour is an author, visual artist, herbalist, naturalist, former pro-boxer, and environmental activist. She is the founder of Sacred Warrior whose mission is to deepen relationships with ourselves and the environment. Her recent book, Awakening Artemis, shares her journey of healing through the lens of 24 medicinal plants. Her new book, Earthly Bodies: Embracing Our Animal Nature will be published by Penguin Life in 2024.


Vanessa Chakour:

Awakening Artemis: Deepening Intimacy with the Living Earth and Reclaiming Our Wild Nature

Rewilding Through Writing: A 5-week online workshop 

Weeds, Wolves & Wild Women substack

Mt. Owen Forest Sanctuary



Vanessa's book recommendations at

Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

If Women Rose Rooted by Sharon Blackie

Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness by Mary Reynolds Thompson

The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than-Human World by David Abram

We Are the ARK: Returning Our Gardens to Their True Nature Through Acts of Restorative Kindness by Mary Reynolds