Meet Our Makers: Dancing Sage
Herbiary prides itself on sourcing all our products from ethical (and local, when possible!) farms and makers. We'd love to introduce you to some of them in our new Meet Our Makers interview series!
Meet Anna Claire Lotti, the founder of Dancing Sage. We sat down virtually with Anna Claire to hear more about the story behind her work.
Can you tell Herbiary's community about yourself and your work?
I came to study herbalism through my love for nature and science and also through my love for animals. In college, I studied marine biology and was convinced I'd live a life of swimming with dolphins on a daily basis, researching and documenting their magical ways of being in the world.
In my very last semester, I took a nutrition course as an elective and was absolutely intrigued by all of the information about the foods we eat and the physiological and psychological ways they interact within the body. This led me to graduate work in nutrition, where I dug deeper into this fascinating topic.
At the same time, I found one of the greater gifts in my life when I got my first dog in my adult life, a Catahoula/Australian Shepherd mix named Bella- she was my heart! I did everything I could to learn about the best foods to feed her and the best ways to support her growth and development on every level. Through her, I came to learn about flower essences, which challenged my scientific mind and prodded me into the world of understanding things on a more energetic level. From flower essences, I came to find out that there was an extensive array of medicinal herbs and plants that could be worked with for health and wellness, and then I learned that there were schools that actually taught this wisdom!
Long story short, I moved to Asheville, NC, became an apprentice and student at the Blue Ridge School of Herbal Medicine, and my life has never been the same since! In the years since I began this journey, I have gone on to study clinical herbalism, consulted with clients, managed an herbal tincture business and apothecary, planned herbal events around the country, and continued to go deeper into my practices with plants and nature.
When I first started Dancing Sage, I wanted to make all the herbal things! Over time, I have come to learn where to best focus my intentions and energies, and I'm now beginning to offer a much more select set of herbal remedies such as digestive bitters and herbal teas, while also teaching for my herbal alma mater.
In recent years, I have begun offering international wellness retreats in Peru and also in Costa Rica, which focus on experiences of learning about local plants, connecting with nature and plant spirit medicine, and in Peru, also learning a lot about the culture and ancient practices of the area. These retreats are more like pilgrimages, where we hold space for our participants to really go deeply into the healing process of getting to know oneself and deepening their relationships with the natural world.
How did you create Dancing Sage?
I actually had the idea for Dancing Sage before I even began studying herbalism. I had been finding myself increasingly interested in looking for sustainable ways to make my own self-care products, without all of the chemicals and unknown ingredients in many of the store varieties.
It started as a *very* humble operation, crafting homemade sugar scrubs and lip balms. After sharing with some friends and family, they encouraged me to start selling these creations, and for that of course, I needed a brand name and label design. As cliché as it may sound, the name came to me during a meditation one day. For me, the word "sage" was a bit of a double entendre, representing both the medicinal herb and the "wise sage," or the person who gains wisdom through experience, reflection, and observation.
Even at the time, I knew I was embarking upon some magical journey, and the name of my burgeoning business needed to hold space for this. I added the "dancing" part, thinking of the simple image of plants dancing in the wind, and also my lifelong love for dance, and the ongoing dance with life in which we all take part. Over the years, Dancing Sage has taken on many iterations, as my education, passions, and experiences with plants and nature evolve.
What has your journey been like working with plants? Why do you feel connected with herbalism?
To sum it up, I'd say my journey working with plants has been empowering and magical. In the beginning, I never knew the depth of riches I would find in this journey.
On an intellectual level, learning how to identify and work with plants in healing and wellness is invaluable. I have felt so empowered in knowing how to care for myself, my family, and my community with the plants that grow around me. Coming from a background in science, this felt important and exciting. And then, I started to connect on a deeper level. Once I began taking in the science, tradition, and book knowledge, the plants beckoned me to go deeper. To hear their songs, experience their energies and interconnectedness, and, eventually, to share these experiences with others.
Through herbalism, I have found greater connection with myself, and with the natural world at large. Working with the energies, personalities, and spirits of plants has been a natural unfolding- once I got through a lot of the heady stuff! At this point, I find great joy in walking between the worlds of intellectual herbalism, experiential herbalism, and plant spirit medicine.
What would you recommend for someone looking to begin working with plants more in their daily life?
Working with plants, for many of us, is a lifelong journey and endeavor- which is part of what makes it so exciting!
For anyone whose interest in this realm has been piqued, my recommendation would be to incorporate plants into your life in any way possible! It really can be as simple as carving out a time each day (or week) to make an herbal infusion or tea and sitting quietly with it.
Or to go outside and sit with a plant that's been calling for your attention. Maybe do some journaling about your experiences, or if you feel called to draw, paint, or sing, these can be other ways of connecting with the plants around you and learning about them on a subtle level. Of course, there are also numerous books, teachers, and other resources for learning the basics of working with plants...I feel one can never have enough herbal books!
If you could have a cup of tea with anyone (dead or alive) who would it be and what kind of tea?
Oh my goodness, this is a tough question for me!
I could probably come up with a long list of people I'd love to have tea with, but there are two that initially popped into my mind. The first is my maternal great-grandmother, who passed away when I was very young.
As I came into adulthood, and especially as I began studying herbalism, I'd hear more stories about her from my mom and aunt: "Oh- apple cider vinegar? Nanny used that for everything! And she loved rosemary!".
More and more, I'd hear about all the natural ways my great-grandmother worked with plants and foods for healing and wellness, but the stories sort of stopped short. No one really knew that much about it, or why she did the things she did that seemed "different". I'd love to know more about her connection with plants and nature, and to hear her stories of growing up as an orphan and finding her way. We'd maybe share a cup of rosemary tea with some mint and honey.
The other woman that came to mind with whom I'd really love to have tea is Mama Maria Apaza Machacca. She is the oldest living Altomesayoq in the Andean wisdom tradition in Peru, which is essentially the greatest level of wisdom keeper- though it's really not a hierarchy. She is somewhere around 95 years old now, and is also the grandmother of the wife of my Peruvian paqo teacher, Victor. I have only seen pictures of her, but there is something about her countenance and her smile that is both alluring and enchanting. To see her face is to see the wisdom she carries, and I can only imagine the experiences she has encountered in her years- both on a physical and spiritual level. In true Peruvian fashion, I'd imagine we would share some coca leaf tea to facilitate our togetherness and conversation- perhaps with a bit of muña, a local Andean wild mint that's truly delightful. I really hope to meet her while she is still on this earthly plane- but I may need to brush up on my Spanish and Quechua before then!
What advice would you give your younger self?
Ha! I think I'd have a lot to say to my younger self, but mostly I'd advise to be true to myself, and to always stay the path of authenticity. Sometimes it's challenging to be different, to go against the grain, and to explore the longings of the heart and soul. But in doing so, this is where I have found the most truly rich and meaningful experiences in life. It is a wonderful gift to hold the space for exploring our own uniqueness and purpose here at this time.
And for fun, what's your astrological sign?
Virgo sun, Taurus moon, Sagittarius rising ;-)