What is (re)Gather 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
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, ecologically, 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 its laws and principles, and the multi-dimensional interconnectedness inherent within it. These understandings are reflected through our ancestral stories, crafts, languages, lands, and cultures.
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 and ways of 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 and landscapes. 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 being. For generations, it is these nature-based ways which have determined how a people sustain and understand themselves on the ecological, personal, spiritual, 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. It realigns us with the truth and justice of a natural/cosmic order based on the rhythms of our natural world and the relationships that affirm and uphold life (rather than a man-made order which destroys life for the sake of power and profit, for example). The effort to reconnect to this wisdom is a part of reclaiming wholeness in a way that resonates with the most primordial sense of who we are, 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. This does not mean we romanticize the cultures of our ancestors or the nature of how they lived; rather, it means we connect with the original truths by which their lives were organized in order to ensure harmony and alignment with the forces of nature/creation at work around and within them, even when this obliges us to reconcile with the violations and imbalances they too perpetuated.
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, the institutions established to take care of our public well being are corrupt and breaking down, 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 as a broader culture 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 creation-based ways that are necessary to rehabilitate and maintain the future of life for humans, plants, animals and beyond. 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 as well as our consciousness as a species, 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, respect, responsibility, and reverence are all part of the equation.
The Authority of the Feminine...
The question is inherently feminist: how do we respect the creative and 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 and relationships that our lives are built upon- 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. And it is needless to say that within this, our HOW itself must be (de/re)constructed- re-empowering the wisdom of our stories, our bodies, our dreams, our senses and emotions, our relationships, our natural world and other non-linear and receptive ways of knowing, as our ancestral cultures and creative/feminine aspects always have. (This is one of the many things that has been devalued and dismissed by colonial and patriarchal institutions and the ways of knowing they have instilled in many of us, and one of the things we work on rewiring through our group work with the medicine.)
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 and high respect for life itself, in all its reverence. 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/Historic Armenia, 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 and reverence of the feminine mysteries/power worldwide. Sadly, the proper and widespread regard of the medicine of the feminine have been violated severely in the SWANA lands (as they have elsewhere), and are becoming lost to the majority of recent generations, and absent to even the consciousness of many. Even the most obvious expression the feminine mystery/power, the ability to give birth to new life, is diminishing in its ritual potency as time passes thru the region. For example, in Lebanon, while probably more than 90% of our mothers and grandmothers only two generations ago performed the rite of birth in their homes and villages amongst the support of one another, it is close to impossible to even locate a traditional midwife anymore in most Lebanese villages, none the less one who has an apprentice to pass their teachings onto. In fact, not only have hospital births become nearly the singular option available, but many younger generation people in Lebanon have begun to preemptively schedule medicalized C-section births, opting for what they deem a "less painful" surgical experience before even entertaining the natural self-determined ability of their own bodies to pass a child thru the birth canal as their own mothers did, until otherwise deemed medically necessary. Instead of allowing the technology of our modern (colonial) medical institutions to support us and work in tandem with our ancestral resilience to ensure our lives be safe and prosper, we have completely thrown away the very ancestral and particularly feminine wisdom which brought our own families into existence for thousands of years, effectively enough for all of us to be here. We have not even considered the deeper implications of so willingly handing over the authority and power of our own bodies and spirits and that of the life we are ushering in without trusting or even acknowledging our own potential first as people who have been born with this sacred life-giving ability, and in the process severing from thousands of years of hard-earned feminine medicine, ritual, sacrifice, and practice. We have forgotten the value and medicine 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)Gather 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
UPDATE: Our SWANA HUB has been extended to this new site, a membership based platform where folks can subscribe on a monthly or by-post basis to gain access to regular New and Full Moon offerings while supporting our growing body of work in an ongoing way. We are using it to run an online “magazine” of sorts dedicated to themes of SWANA ancestral + plantcestral re-membrance. It is being run by participants of our “Plantcestral re-Memberance for SWANA Healing” circles. The funds from this project will be used to provide course scholarships, conduct annual residencies to deepen our re-membrance work, and fund the creation of our own interactive archival platform.
Our space shares the brilliance of SWANA folks across motherland and diaspora contributing to folk medicine, ethnobotany, ecological restoration, cultural work, ancestral healing + re-memberance, oral history + storytelling, original poetry, music, and artworks, and more. Our subscription rates start as low as $3/month (less than a cup of coffee!), and range up to $333/month. each rate grants access to different online material, services, and original artworks made by us. See all the details on our Patreon, and be sure to follow us on Instagram @swana.ancestral for regular updates.
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.
Follow @swana.ancestral on Instagram for HUB specific content:
Homeward Healing 2016
In 2016, I began the fulfillment of a long-held calling in which I took a spirit-led journey through many parts of the SWANA region (including Egypt, Nubia, Palestine, Jordan, Armenia, Iran, Kurdistan, & Lebanon) to engage in the re-memberance and re-collection of ancestral wisdom on the topics of ethnobotany, cultural preservation, traditional healing practices, and indigenous cosmology & culture native to the SWANA region. It was an "embodied research" journey in which my methods of re-memberance involved a combination of ceremonial engagement, visiting sacred sites, working with plantcestors and the geography of where I was, communicating with locals and elders to learn about regional cultures, languages, ethnobotanical practices, birthing practices, divination practices, oral history, spiritual practices, and much more. 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 fundraising offerings are still available in our Events page if you would still like to participate. These research trips will be ongoing, and all funds raised will support me to continue this work.