Our work is dedicated to re-membering, reclaiming, & protecting indigenous** (original) ancestral wisdom and paradigms of practice across our respective communities. Our approach is rooted in healing relationship and accessing embodied memory/resilience/knowledge in collaboration with the natural world. We have a special emphasis on re-membering the original ancestral wisdoms, indigenous sacred traditions, and feminine mysteries of the SWANA* region.
* SWANA stands for SouthWest Asia & North Africa. This is a less Euro-centric term for the incredibly diverse geographic area more commonly referred to as "the Middle East and North Africa".
One primary way that we facilitate this work is through partnering with ancestral plants as teachers and agents of consciousness-raising, healing, culture, memory and story. We work in a way that emphasizes relationship and strives to honor and re-centralize the wisdom and memory alive in our own blood, bones, and hearts to uncover/recover "lost" or forgotten ancestral knowledge, and co-create forward from relationship to this place. We call this Plantcestral re-Memberance* work. We understand that just as ancestral trauma remains alive in the memory of our body, as does ancestral resilience, wisdom, and medicine (which is also alive in the body of our plantcestors***). Through building intentional relationship with our plantcestors and other ancestral medicines such as our dreams, folk traditions, and cosmologies, we work on waking up this wisdom and healing in our own lives. Re-membering our ancestors' wisdom necessitates rewiring how we think, relate, and arrive to understanding & truth. We work on this rewiring through creating sacred containers for intentional, experiential, relationship-based knowledge-building and story making with our medicines and one another, and supported by/honoring the teachings of our living indigenous and traditional elders where it is extended to us. We ARE our ancestors. What we are re-membering, is ourselves.
* re-Memberance as in: remembering/returning to something that some part of us has known before - a truth that precedes our current consciousness, *and also,* re-membering, or gathering the fragments of something severed back to its unified and whole state.
We share this work through:
Online + in-person courses facilitating Plantcestral re-Memberance work, SWANA ethnobotany + cosmologies, and other ancestral, herbal, and traditional healing themes
A product line of herbal medicines, flower essences, writing, and more
Hosting a SWANA community ancestral healing program + an online archive/hub for the communal re-collection and cross-pollination of stories, traditional healing, ancestral folklore, indigenous practice, and plantcestral re-memberance across all SWANA time and space zones (diaspora + motherlands)
Offering consultation, educational workshops, and talks to organizations, universities, and other institutions on topics pertaining to any of the above subjects. We are also eager to share explorations around subjects of ancestral + intergenerational + colonial trauma, mental health, and healing, decolonizing research methodologies, and the decolonizing/feminist pedagogies*, epistemologies*, and paradigms* of practice embedded within our philosophy of practice and more generally.
[ *pedagogies: ways of educating, *epistemologies: ways of knowing, *paradigms: ways of viewing and existing in the world. ]
We understand colonialism as a profound wound which marks the violent severance of many of our globe's people from our relationship to the living natural world, it’s complex mysteries, and our understanding of ourselves within it. We view this trauma as a primary source of the dissociation/disconnection/spirit-loss which un-dealt with, has contributed to a diminished reverence for life in the broader culture and institutions that dominate our contemporary world. This has resulted in both profound spiritual and mental sickness and lostness amongst everyday folks like ourselves, as well as horrendous acts of institutional man-made violence at the systemic level which are desecrating the life-affirming nature & possibility of our earth and humanity. We look to our ancestors for a remedy to this trauma and the multi-dimensional suffering and imbalances it has caused. We understand that healing trauma always means healing relationship. Through healing this relationship to our original ancestors, to the stories, sciences and nature-derived paradigms they lived by, to our roots and cultural forms of practice and resilience, our innermost selves, and the natural world, we restore much needed medicine for our times, our future, and even our past. We recover a fundamental piece of what was violated and intentionally stripped by the colonial process. We relocate parts of ourselves and our lineages that have been displaced, repressed, left behind, and severed intentionally to defeat our spirits and dismember our communities and our culturally rooted know-how to sustain life in responsible and dignified ways. We recalibrate ways of knowing, healing, and being that help us reclaim who we are at our best, and access the deep medicine within our unique relationship and purpose in the interconnected web of life we are a part of. We restore integrity in our ability to relate, love, and persist thru all dimensions of our lives. We restore our ecologies and our abilities to live in equitable, respectful, life-affirming, and sustainable ways for the longevity of our earth and lineages to come.
We see this re-membering work as fundamental to healing both the deep personal confusion, relational disfunction, and suffering so many modern humans experience, as well as the prevailing systemic imbalances and injustices of our time and the consciousness of greed, discrimination, patriarchy, and profit that perpetuate the destruction of life characterized by this global era. This work is fundamentally restorative, de-colonial, feminist, ecological, and liberatory - sacred and life affirming - anchored in the Justice of a cosmic/natural order that dignifies all living beings and holds us all accountable to doing the same. It grows upon and alongside an extensive body of liberatory, creative, and consciousness-building work being done by indigenous, feminists of color, and de-colonial thinkers, cultures, and communities across the globe, and anchored in the wisdom of our most righteous ancestors who work through us.
This vision is initiated & run by Layla Kristy Feghali, MSW, Plantcestral re-Memberance facilitator, traditional health educator, and reGather our Ancestors | نجمع جذورنا program founder & director.
Layla was born to a Lebanese immigrant family in Tongva-Tataviam territories (Los Angeles area, California). Her parents embody traditional values and village roots from both the northern coast and southern mountains of Lebanon (the historic lands of Canaan/Phoenicia) that they carried with them into her upbringing. This included fiercely collectivist, service oriented, and relationship centered ways of existing in the world.
Layla has a background in community organizing, community mental health (Masters in Social Work) with an emphasis on trauma and cultural interventions, folkloric dance, herbal medicine, and traditional and ancestral healing practices from various corners of the world. She has been a student and practitioner of ancestral and indigenous paradigms of healing, understanding, and spiritual practice for over a decade and continues to learn thru study, mentorship, and direct/embodied practice.
* This vision and body of work would not be possible without the generous mentorship and lineages of teachers and elders of the various herbal, ancestral, and indigenous traditions that have blessed my path from across Turtle Island (aka. the Americas- from Maya land & Mexico, to the northern indigenous cultures of various tribal peoples across the “US & Canada”), the African continent and the African diasporas (especially Ifa and it’s lineages), and the SWANA region. Most of all, the ancestors of my own lineage and family who have inspired and guided every step and mystery and it’s unfolding in my life in both the diaspora and motherlands. Your names are etched on every aspiration, understanding, and sharing that I weave. My re-memberings are branches sprouted from your trees, flowers bloomed from your seeds. My offerings are inseparable from your guidance and influence, sacrifices and resilience, and precious knowledge shared. Thank you. *
We are a reflection of our diasporic reality, living and working between California (mostly Tongva aka Los Angeles area) and Lebanon. We also travel and offer services through other parts of both the SWANA region and Turtle Island (colonially referred to as the USA). We do classes wherever in the world we are requested, including virtually through regular online programs.
** Indigenous refers to original (pre-colonial), nature-based (earthly & cosmic), regional ancestral paradigms of understanding and living, rooted deeply in the specific geography of a people and the culture and stories that place has reflected/created for them to understand, heal, and conduct themselves within- the ecology, origins, cycles, and laws of our natural living world & their particular relationship, purpose, and roles within it. EVERY people across the earth lived indigenously at some point in time.
***PLANT·CES·TOR (aka. PLANT·CES·TAR)
\noun\ plant-ses-tər also -səs-\
: an ancient living organism of the kind exemplified by trees, shrubs, herbs, grasses, ferns, and mosses, who live through absorbing water and the soil's minerals through their roots, sunlight/starlight/moonlight/cosmic energy through their leaves, and the carbon-dioxide exhaled by humans and other mammals which they transform into oxygen. These beings are predecessors to the human kingdom, which depends on them to survive for food, breath, medicine, fire, shelter, and more. Through their intimate daily relationships to humans for many centuries, they have acted as vessels of ancestral, elemental, and *cosmic* knowledge, folklore, culture, history, and memory, and have been utilized to support the spiritual and earthly well-being of humans for many generations. They are our ancestor's ancestors, amongst the earliest and most ancient beings whose livelihood, sacrifices, and brilliance has made human & animal life possible upon this Earth. Through intentional and reciprocal cultivation and respectful relationship with these diverse and multi-dimensional allies, humans have been able to access the masterful and mysterious healing miracles and deep wisdom afforded by these highly intelligent ancestors, towards greater alignment with our own authentic purpose, greater wholeness & peace, and balance with the natural order of the universe that ensures and sustains all life.
[*This term was created by Layla Kristy Feghali, founder of River Rose Apothecary.]