Our work is dedicated to healing colonial trauma (to our persons and our earth) through re-membering, restoring, & protecting indigenous** (original) ancestral wisdom and practice across our respective communities. Our approach is rooted in healing relationship and accessing embodied memory/resilience/knowledge. We have a special emphasis on re-membering the original indigenous knowledge and medicine 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, medicine, and memory. 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" ancestral knowledge. 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, 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 with our medicines, and supported by/honoring the teachings of our living indigenous and traditional elders and protocols where it is shared with us.
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 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 our humanity. We look to our ancestors for the remedy to this trauma and the 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 paradigms they lived by, and to our natural environments, we restore much needed medicine for our times, our future, and even our past. We recover a 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. We recalibrate ways of knowing, healing, and being that help us reclaim who we are and access the deep medicine within our unique relationship and purpose in the web of Life. We restore integrity to our ability to relate in all dimensions of our lives. We restore our earth and our abilities to live in equitable, respectful, life-affirming, and sustainable ways for the longevity of our earth and lineages. 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 and reGather our Ancestors - نجمع جذورنا Program Founder & Director.
This vision and body of work would not be possible without the generous mentorship and lineages of my teachers and elders of the various herbal, ancestral, and indigenous traditions that have blessed my path from across Turtle Island (aka. the Americas), the African continent and the African diasporas, and the SWANA region and ancestors of my own lineage and family. Your names are etched on every aspiration, understanding, and sharing that I weave. My re-memberings are branches sprouted from your trees. My offerings are inseparable from your guidance, influence, and knowledge.
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 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.
SWANA Ancestral Project
Workshops & Events
*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.]