Georgina Langdale has experienced a long personal awareness of how nature’s energies can support people through life transitions. 

As a seven-year-old child she underwent a traumatic episode and, being unable to articulate the event, she was able to find solace in the natural world. Throughout her life, this memory of receiving nature’s support and how it helped process her trauma has stayed with her, leading to a lifelong search for connection with plants, landscape and ancient knowledge. 

She grew up on a farm in Wiltshire as an only child.In 1976 her parents Jane and Philip made the decision to move to New Zealand. They had fallen in love with the Hawke’s Bay region when they visited it the previous year and met some wonderful people who would become their lifelong friends. So they upped sticks to New Zealand where they began a new life of farming, first in Argyle and later in Raukawa where her parents continued to live until her mother died in 2014 and her father went into care. 

As a young adult Georgina left New Zealand with no intention of returning here to live. She worked and studied in London, successfully building up a cultural communications agency with a client list that included the British Museum, the Royal Festival Hall plus individual artists, writers and singers across a range of genres. 

Meanwhile, her connection to nature was a private passion that propelled her to search for more knowledge. “The incident as a child cracked the world open for me,” she says, “I had no siblings, I couldn’t talk to my parents, but nature had brought me through and helped me to rebuild. So, I sought out ways of informing myself about how, throughout time, humans had worked with nature for health, wellbeing, and healing, growing our spiritual and creative life through myth and legend.” 

It has been her life-long odyssey – the study of ancient herbal medicine, energy works, and different kinds of spiritual practices related to the land, myth, and legend. It has entailed digging deep into plant knowledge and medieval concepts. 

“I loved the arts, but the environment kept calling to me and in the 1990s I undertook extramural studies in environmental science and sustainable development. I had always wanted to work at Kew Gardens in London as it is one of the biggest and oldest botanical gardens and research institutes in the world,” she says. “Then, I was appointed to a senior role in the Kew Foundation and was part of the senior management team at Kew, and I was thrilled.” 

Landscape and medicine 

“Kew was instrumental in helping me to cement the links between modern plant use and the historical uses of plants as medicines, with its lore, myth and symbolism. In the Kew library, wearing conservators’ gloves I pored over many books including the Hortus Sanitatus, the beautiful illustrated manuscript on herbal knowledge from the 15th century. It was intoxicating for me to see these very early texts describing our relationship with nature and the uses of the plant world around us.” 

Another inspiration was Renaissance physician, philosopher and priest, Marsilio Ficino who lived in Florence under the patronage of the Medici family. 

“Ficino’s writings describe our relationship with nature and the cosmos and how we can work with that for our health and wellbeing. He was drawing on ancient texts, but they have a very contemporary feel to them. Today we might describe them as a form of ecotherapy. For example, he would prescribe nature cures, like going for a walk at night in a scented garden. He worked with herbs, landscape, seasons to help address the health of a patient’s physical constitution and soul state. I really love his holistic views. I think aspects of them have value in today’s world and so that is key to the work I now do,” Georgina explains. 

While at Kew, she was shoulder-tapped by the UN Environment Programme as communications manager for a study called TEEB (The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity). The study’s final synthesis report was released in 2011 at the Convention on Biological Diversity COP10 Conference in Nagoya Japan and made the economic case for the conservation of nature.

“Working at the UN was an incredibly intense experience,” she says. “Day after day after day, I saw data coming across my desk about ecological destruction and biodiversity loss. There were also examples of initiatives to help support and restore functioning ecosystems so there was hope in there, but mostly it was stressful and heartbreaking. We have done so much damage to this planet. It grieves me that twelve years later the data is still heading in the wrong direction for biodiversity, the health of this planet, and ultimately our health and wellbeing too.”

In 2011 she returned to Hawke’s Bay primarily to care for her parents, but continued working with the UN project from the farm at Raukawa. But managing the workload from the opposite side of the Earth was a crazy working life. After two years she resigned to focus fully on just being here, in this landscape. 

Georgina had come full circle; from her idea of landscape being a very internal relationship with nature for her own health and wellbeing, to the macro-level environmental concerns within the UN. 

“I’m glad I came home,” she says. “Over the years I’d had incredibly powerful visions of the Hawke’s Bay landscape – the rivers and ranges, Te Mata Peak and the coast. It is all within me now, I eat vegetables grown in its soil, so it is me.” 

The actualisation of her belief in the power of nature to heal and the insights she had gained from her UN experience compelled her to set up a business that ‘walked the talk’. 

Archeus was established in 2013, making herbal skin care products and remedies. The term ‘archeus’ used by Paracelsus in the 16th century – meaning ‘the vital force that runs through us, nature and the universe’ – captures the essence of her nature-based practice. The company has evolved into three distinct areas – NatFem Botanics, a range of products for women going through menopause; Atelier Signatum Naturalis, a high-end offering of exquisite products and perfumes; and a range of training opportunities online and at workshops.

End-of-life care

About the same time as Archeus was launched Georgina’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “Supporting my mother during the 18 months until she died, at a time when I had just launched a business and was going through menopause myself really formed the way I work in helping others to navigate their major life transitions. I came to see how nature-inspired ways could provide a bridge between the people who are going through somebody’s final illness together – the loved ones, family, friends, and medical support staff who gather to bring support.” 

So, she started developing products that could be of help during these transitions. Many of the products, such as her range of plant essences are made with plants growing organically in her garden. “I love them because they embody the energy of this landscape as well as the plants themselves,” she says. “It comes back to this connection thing. You discover that they can support you through difficult times at a soul level. I began to teach people how to make and use plant essences within the context of end-of-life or life transitions.”

Her mother’s death had showed her how challenging such life events can be; how with all the love in the world communication can break down. “We live in a death-phobic society so it’s hard to talk about the reality of death and dying, to find the courage to ask the deep questions – asking, what do they want while also feeling scared of asking how we can help – or what may not help.” 

So, what help might be given to somebody through final illness or the grief of those who love them? 

“Support can be conveyed through verbal and non-verbal listening and communication,” she believes. “Drawing on the help of plant energetics and learning the ways of working with landscape and nature can also be a huge aid – it might be the use of visualisation or the artworks or the flowers we bring into the room, introducing floral or herbal aromas, ritual, prayer, or ceremony and working with the seasons to feel supported by the world around us. I work with those ancient ideas of the deep connections between people, place and nature.” 

She has also been collaborating with others, working with institutes for compassionate end-of-life care based in San Francisco, Colorado, Santa Fe and New York. “By the time my father died in 2019 I had been working in this area for some years and I was so much better equipped to help him through that journey. I felt profoundly connected to him in a beautiful way as he was dying. In fact, those last few days taught me more about love than I ever thought possible.” 

With a lifetime of reflection, research and study Georgina has developed an extraordinary understanding of why as a child she found solace in nature – the significance of connecting to landscape, plants and the cosmos. Today from her home in Havelock North, she uses her knowledge to help others through their life transitions, offering training that is being sought out by people here and overseas. 

What initially started out as a 12-week online course with a mix of online content and weekly Zoom calls has been broken into bite-sized modules accessible through the website, so people can choose a topic module relevant to the time they need it. Or it can be completed as an entire series giving a more well-rounded understanding of the philosophy of nature’s connection and end-of-life care. An in-person workshop will take place in Havelock North in August. 

Georgina observes that although most take her end-of-life care courses to prepare to help with someone else’s dying, many are surprised to learn so much about life and living. One woman said, ‘It makes living so vibrant and I feel alive to life in a way I was not before’.

“When someone makes a comment like that after going through a course or workshop with me, it makes me feel that there was some sort of purpose in my own story, to be able to be doing this work, right here, right now.”

‘Inspired by Nature – End of Life Care and Planning’ Workshop

Saturday 13 August, 9.30am – 4pm (lunch is included) $195

Location: Demeter Room, Taruna College. Bookings available at: georginalarcheus.com 

Photos: Florence Charvin

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2 Comments

  1. How wonderful and timely. I was given a bottle of your archers herbals to support me and my son”s passing on Easter Saturday.
    I am heart grateful to you.

    1. Dear Skye, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for your comment. Do not hesitate to reach out if there is anything more I can do to help xx

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