Ancestral Herbalism

Ancestral Herbalism

Almost immediately after arriving in Portland, Oregon (indigenous land of the Chinookan people) a heavy blanket of sorrow was draped over my shoulders. Its weight was unbearable and I could feel a dampness weighing on every thought. I knew about some of the atrocities that black and indigenous people experienced in Portland’s history and thought that may have triggered something with in me. I don’t consider the sudden sorrow to be negative but I also wanted to understand the cord that was struck within me and change the tone.

To help lift the weight I tuned to rosemary and cedar. I wanted to work with plant medicines that held wisdom and memories of the land I was on, that were also abundant. I gave thanks and collected enough of each for a facial steam and spirit bath.

After my steam and bath, I laid down and rubbed my mugwort and pedicularis (a plant that can help release personal and ancestral trauma from the muscles) oil on my womb space and pulse points. A few minutes later in a post herbal bath relaxed state, I heard a child singing. I saw the child being carried on the back of it’s mother in what seemed to be a tropical jungle. I remember the markings on the mothers face and the sensory experience of deep connection with her. She was scared, that was not a feeling the child had never experienced up until that point. She told the child to stop singing. She was speaking to me and told me to be quiet. She heard the sounds of foreigners and her fear brought me to tears. Then I saw the pain of losing our indigenous language that was full of tones and sounds that expressed our connections to each other, the earth, and the unseen.

That vision brought clarity and lifted the blanket allowing me to see a path towards healing. I had no idea that memory was living within me but in my years of ancestor work, I’ve learned so much about restoring my voice. That vision was another point in history when our voices were silenced. Following that trip, I began working with herbs for the throat and received wisdom around working with song and music for healing.

That vision wasn’t an isolated incident. In my healing process, I’ve found that common herbs can help us access powerful visions and memories of traditions and magic. Herbs have been like keys for me, unlocking ancestral memories. The practices and traditions I thought were lost to colonialism, have been restored through daily work with plant medicines from imphepho to mint. Reactivation and restoration of magical and healing practices can come from working with herbs in ritual or to to help with healing.

While any herb can help us access the wisdom we carry, I’ve found that aromatic herbs like rosemary, spilanthes, or sage can help trigger the release of ancient knowledge stored in the body. I often turn to rosemary and mugwort to help bring forgotten wisdom to the surface. These herbs lay the foundation for any other herb I may be working with at the time. The herbs you choose may be different.

I work with a rosemary and mugwort herbal oil as a base for any other herbs I may work with. Rosemary is known as the herb of remembrance and I have experienced that truth. Physically, rosemary can help support brain health and cognition. As a visionary, rosemary has helped me restore entire stories from my lineages and childhood.

As a dreamer, I work with mugwort often. While I turn to rosemary for daytime visions, mugwort (not for use in pregnancy) is my ally for dream visions. It helps with dream recall, clarity, lucidity, and protection in the dream space. Rosemary and mugwort together make an amazing base for any other herbs I wish to learn from.

For a few days in a row I work with the visionary oil placing a few drops on my pulse points, womb space, inner ankles, or temples. I like to apply the oil both before bed and in the morning. I then consume the empress herb (the main herb I am looking to learn from) I am working with in tea, flower essence, or tincture form. Your empress herb can be one that is helping support your health in some way or an herb you feel a particularly strong connection to.

As with any other practice, an intention for this ritual can help with navigating the information that surfaces. When working with an herb my ancestors may have used, I ask for clarity on how my ancestors may have connected with and used that plant. Always give thanks to the plants for their medicine and guidance. Keep a journal on hand for the information you receive. Pay attention to shifts in your mood, energy levels, thoughts, feelings, dreams, and the situations you find yourself in. Insight comes in so many forms and each herb can help us connect with the information we seek in a way that is in alignment with the actions of that particular plant.

There are so many ways to heal and restore the practices of our lineages. This ancestral herbal practice is one way to open the door to many other practices that are waiting to be restored. As the descendant of African, South American, Caribbean, and European peoples, ancestral herbal practices have helped ground the healing work I do.

Visionary Oil
1 part rosemary
1 part mugwort
A glass jar with a lid
The oil of your choice ( I typically use olive or coconut for better shelf life)

Add your herbs to the jar, filling it 3/4 of the way. Pour the oil over your herbs making sure it’s covered with about a 1/4 of oil floating over the herbs. This is a good time to connect with your herbs, express gratitude, and speak your intention. I like to leave my oils under the moon for a night before storing them in a warm dark place. You want the jar to be somewhere you’ll see it so you can give it a shake every few days or whenever you walk by it. Wait at least 2 weeks (or a moon cycle) before straining your oil into a glass bottle for use. Work with your oil as often as you’d like and try to use it all within a year.


Raven Rose

Menstrual health herbalist and Kambo Practitioner