What is (re)Gathering Our Ancestors project about?
This is a group dedicated to the re-membrance, resurrection, and reclamation of ancestral medicine and the ancient traditions of South West Asia and North Africa (SWANA- This term is a less Euro-centric description of the region more commonly referred to as the Middle East and North Africa or MENA). Individuals who have native ancestry from these regions are welcome to participate in programs that emphasize embodied, historical (including oral/storytelling), genealogical, and intuitive ways of knowledge towards the purpose of restoring the region's original healing wisdom and traditional ways of living in relationship to ourselves and our environments. Workshops will be offered, and eventually, relevant knowledge will be compiled, documented, and archived for healing usage by the broader community. Embodied and otherwise suppressed pre-colonial forms of knowing and relating will be prioritized, including those generally associated with feminine and gender-variant sectors of our societies. Some mediums that will be utilized to support this exploration may include but are not limited to:
- plant and mineral medicines
- dance and movement
- music and song
- traditional food preparation
- teachings from traditional elders
- regional cosmologies
- ceremony and ritual
- ancestral relationship building, familial wisdoms, and genealogy work
- direct relationship to land, elements, and sacred sites
Each program will be announced individually and explained in greater detail as it is initiated. Additional community suggestions and collaborations are welcome and encouraged so please don't hesitate to share your ideas and skills! Long distance programs will also be included when possible to accommodate and incorporate the deep spread wisdom of our wide diasporas, so stay tuned!
Why does this matter?
It is my belief and experience that the original medicinal ways of our indigenous global ancestors can offer genuine healing & a restoration of balance collectively, interpersonally, environmentally, and cosmically at these critical times of increased global stress and dis-ease. Reclaiming these indigenous forms of medicine offers the possibility of accessible, effective, and self-empowered care to achieve health of body, spirit, land and community alike and transform the deepest imbalances being faced by humans- a true people's medicine. "Indigenous" refers to the earth-based traditions established through the early sciences derived from our ancestors' detailed relationships and astute observations of the the natural world and the multi-dimensional interconnectedness inherent within it.
In a climate of ongoing war and a region who has seen multiple iterations of colonization and patriarchal conquest for thousands of years now, it is hard for many of us to even trace who our early ancestors actually are, none the less connect to their initial wisdoms around navigating earthly life. Our indigenous languages, traditions, narratives, ceremonial practices, cosmologies, rites of passage, medicinal forms, relationships to the environment, social structure, concepts of gender, birth and childrearing, and ways of being are largely buried or forgotten. With the exception of unspoken residue from these old ways which have managed to weave themselves between the lines of more contemporary practices so undetected and subtle, the rawest instinctual expressions of our own bodies and intuitive insights are perhaps the most powerful and viable gateways to the medicine of this ancient wisdom. Our mere presence is the greatest testament to our ancestor's resilience and steadfastness after all. We are our ancestors, and their efforts, livelihoods, and labor have literally produced both the cellular, cultural, and essential fabrics that we are made of.
Legacies of Colonization...
For generations across the whole span of this earth, humans have proven the fundamental importance of culture in preserving sustainable, healthy, and self-determined ways of living across global communities. We have seen time and time again how conquerors have strived to kill and suppress the original cultural ways of a people in order to effectively gain control over them and their lands. There is a relationship between culture, land, and power, and there is something irrevocably resilient about being in-tact with your original traditions and ways of medicine. For generations, it is these nature-based ways which have determined how a people sustain and understand themselves on the physical, personal, and relational levels, delegate and utilize their natural resources in sustainable ways, and realize health that is self-determined, communal, accessible, relevant, holistic, and effective. Land-based aboriginal cultures have been attacked strategically to undermine the self-determined existence of global indigenous peoples.
To reclaim these aspects of our lineages puts us in touch with a fundamental capacity to heal and sustain ourselves and our lands in practical and multi-dimensional ways not narrowed by colonialist definitions and external power. The effort to reconnect to this wisdom is a part of reclaiming wholeness in a way that resonates with our most basic sense of natural well-being, retrieving balance and connection to our foundational capacity and know-how to flourish in life-sustaining ways- beyond war and its damage to our lands and relationship as a people, beyond fabricated divisions and vulnerable unities constructed by imperial influences, beyond engrained colonial identities and ways of navigating our day-to-day well-being, and past the amnesia, trauma, and despairing chaos that has so often been created thru it all. Reconciling our relationship to our ancestors is a fundamental aspect of restoring peace, dignity, purpose and integrity to our lands, selves, and communities. It is the empowerment that takes our lives and health back into our own hands and allows us to know and express more fully who we really are by honoring the wisdom, sense, and resilience from which we come, and the relationship we bare to the living world around us.
Earth Crisis, Life Crisis...
In a climate of increasing environmental stress globally, returning to the wisdom of our indigenous ancestors earns an added layer of urgency and importance. Increasing pollution of our air and earth, deforestation, the deadly nuclear radiation leaking across our ocean and water systems-particularly in the aftermath of Fukushima, fracking, climate change, droughts, floods and natural disasters, are posing inevitable and fast-approaching threats to our actual livelihood as a species. In the meanwhile, our economies continue to suffer, political conflict and war is increasing, and maintaining preventative and accessible levels of whole health thru the increased toll this all causes is more important than ever.
At the most basic level, the elements that nourish our livelihood are being diminished as a result of our choices and ways of life as a global human community. We have failed to regard the basic tenement of our relationship (and responsibility) to life itself. It seems we no longer recognize that the elements of life, both within and around us, are fundamentally constructed to reinforce more life- the water and sun nourish the plants, which transform the air, which circulates through our blood cells, which mineralize our bodies and feed our organs, and on and on and on, just to keep us alive. EVERY vessel and cell in the microcosm and macrocosm of this Earth, including our own physical bodies, are constructed merely and purposefully with the intention of sustaining more life, and are dependent on one another to do so. The human species is forced to either reconcile our relationship with these elements that give us life, or to extinguish possibilities for our next generations to be born at all. Returning to the indigenous principles of our ancestors provides culturally relevant and earth-wise instructions on how to live in sustainable, resourceful, and respectful land-based ways that are necessary to rehabilitate and maintain the future of life for humans. They offer us medicinal tools to understand how to sustain life and realize our own intimate connection to its constant happening, reconcile and transform some of the damage which has already incurred to our communities and lands, and re-invoke a spirit of balanced living that is desperately called for thru this time and has already been overdue in its neglect. They are the most basic yet profound principles which reinforce the ways that life in its most natural effective state, instills more life, and that WE as humans are not isolated from our function in upholding this basic reality. Reciprocity is key to realizing this right relationship.
The Authority of the Feminine...
The question is inherently feminist- how do we respect the life-nourishing qualities of this Earth and of our own bodies and relations (regardless of your sex or gender)? How do we transform the damage of exploitive relations already perpetuated for decades by our global economic and socio-political structures to the rawest elements that we depend on for life- including the suppression, devaluation, and disrespect of our own mothers and their rightful authority- their offerings, principles, and ways of relating and perceiving? We are being asked to return to more life regarding, sustaining, and relationally in-tact ways of living for our basic survival, and must restore the balance and sanctity of the feminine (and masculine)- both physically and otherwise- in order to do so. Much of this balance has been observed and cherished by our global indigenous ancestors and their earliest organization of society.
Perhaps the current earth crisis can be viewed as a resurrection of Life's fundamental authority, delegating an inevitable justice of direct consequence to the offensive actions of humans in violating the respectful reciprocation needed to nourish life and its elemental creators. We have the option to listen and regard this call, make amends through transforming our global actions in how we relate to the principles and forces that create life, with reparations for the damage already done, or die as a stubborn and stupid species unable to regard the basic source of what has nourished us and undermining the efforts of our preceding lineages in the process.
Amongst our Earth-based indigenous ancestors, matriarchal values were a natural expression of this necessary regard for life itself. In the ancient SWANA region, women's rites and matriarchal values were practiced commonly, proven in some of the earliest documented ancient civilizations on the Earth. Steeped in ancient Egypt, across Mesopotamia, and beyond, one of the most ancient sites in the world documenting our matriarchal origins is Catal Huyuk, in Southern Anatolia, Turkey, which archeologist date at 7500BC. Women's spiritual societies and traditional rites of passage are still practiced within the subtle crevices of SWANA's most underlying social fabric, despite the widespread domination of patriarchy and its effective efforts to repress expressions of feminine power. Sadly, the proper and widespread regard of the feminine medicines have been violated severely in the SWANA lands, and are lost to the majority of recent generations, and absent to even the consciousness of many. Even the most fundamental and visible power of the feminine, the ability to naturally give birth to new life from one's own self-empowered body, is becoming void of meaning as time passes thru the region. While probably more than 90% of our mothers and grandmothers only two generations ago performed the profound rite of birth in their homes and villages amongst the support of one another, many younger generations in urban SWANA areas have begun to preemptively arrange for C-section births, choosing the illusion of a "less painful" surgical experience over the opportunity to manifest the natural power of their own instinctual bodies in the attempt to pass a child thru the birth canal naturally until otherwise deemed necessary. We do this unknowingly of its impacts, uneducated about the possibilities of our own power, capabilities, and sacredness as female bodied people, and the implications of so willingly handing it over without trusting our own effort first. We have forgotten the value of performing this directly life-giving act, and the purpose and authority which we carry within it and are responsible for maintaining and protecting throughout many different expressions in our lives; HOW we create and trust ourselves to do so, be it physical birth or otherwise, is fundamental to understanding, transforming, and restoring the sanctity of the feminine and its necessary power in sustaining all life for all genders and our place as a species across the Earth.
(re)Gathering our Ancestors WORKSHOPS & PROGRAMS
The above icons offer an updated schedule of current & upcoming نجمع جذورنا - (re)Gathering our Ancestors workshops, programs, and events. You can also access this information on our Events page - (events with the label "SWANA Community Space" are specific to the نجمع جذورنا - (re)Gathering our Ancestors program.) Our SWANA programing is often times done through online sessions to accomodate our rich and expansive diaspora. I am also open to invitations all over the world to conduct in person sharing wherever there is a SWANA community who desires it, so please do not hesitate to reach out! Some of our past SWANA programming includes:
SWANA Medicinal Archive Story re-Collection Hub
Join this hub, (which is the Arabic word for "love"), dedicated to archiving knowledge collected about the physical and sacred/energetic uses of plants, animal, and minerals/gemstones and other medicinal and traditional practices ancestral to South West Asia and North Africa (SWANA) region. Feel welcome to add any insight you have gathered through your own experiences relating to plants, traditions, stories, medicinal ways, myths, proverbs, and folk wisdoms, oral histories, and other traditional wisdoms from our region. Family histories, personal experience, as well as relevant research you've come across are all welcome for sharing. This space at its best will act as a platform for our collective wisdom to be brought to collaborative consciousness and feed each other's memories, knowledge, and wisdom out of hibernation and into the community for greater usage and a more self-sustained ability to facilitate our inside-out healing, in a way that is relevant and resonant with our lands, cultures, and deepest most essential sense of holistic wellbeing- across borders, continents, and the boundaries of time, funds, and space.
Homeward Healing 2016
In 2016, I began the fulfillment of a long-held dream in which I journeyed through many parts of the SWANA region to engage in the re-memberance and collection of ancestral wisdom and knowledge on the topics of ethnobotany, cultural preservation, traditional healing practices, and indigenous cosmology & culture native to the SWANA region. You can read posts I wrote on my travels on the "Homeward Healing" menu of our SWANA Hub, as well as go to my Instagram page and review the regular documentation I posted there along my journeys (some of it shown in the gallery below). Here are two short videos I made through my journey with some more information about my trip and how to support this ongoing work. All the online fundraisings offerings are still available in our Events page if you would like to participate.