ancestors

The Mermaid's Daughter

The Mermaid's Daughter

This June I’ll be taking a return pilgrimage to my ancestral homeland of Italy. I am currently preparing for it by spending time in deep study and listening with my family lineage and ancestry. My grandparents were Italian immigrants and my relationship with them has had a profound impact on the shaping of who I am. I grew up in an immigrant and refugee community in the city of Utica, NY. My neighborhood, during the 1970’s and 80’s, consisted of mainly 1st and 2nd generation Italian, Polish, Puerto Rican, Lebanese, some German, and Vietnamese immigrants. I really didn’t understand or consider my neighborhood an “immigrant community” at the time, however. I just thought we were all Americans. This was my America; the statue of liberty took us in, “America is made of immigrants, a melting pot”, a place of refuge from famine, fascism, war, and colonization. My mother is 2nd generation Irish and she still carries An Gorta Mór/The Great Hunger in her belly, as do I.

Plants and Flower Essences for Ancestral Healing

Plants and Flower Essences for Ancestral Healing

My time spent working with the people, plants, and their relationship has led me far beyond the first few steps I took with my plant ID books into the fields and forests. This is because plants are like that. And nature is like that.

They invite us into a system, a network, a community, or more accurately, they make us aware that we’re already in one.

I often imagine it like a scene from Alice in Wonderland; I bend down to sniff a flower or to observe a leaf and match-up the vein pattern with the picture in my book and the next thing you know, as I go to simply harvest a couple of buds, an entire nation of roots, plants, seeds, and trees, jump into my gathering basket all talking at once and demanding I make them into tea. Or, paradoxically, I’m pulled into the world and wonders of the soils. Making relationships with plants can lead us into unexpected places.

One of those places, for me, has actually been less of a place and more of a practice.  My ongoing contact and exchange with the healing plants has pulled me profoundly into the blood threaded web of my own ancestors and the traditional practices of ancestor veneration that was present in some way within all cultures on Earth. I believe this to be even more than a practice but also a human instinctive drive or impulse that we have been disconnected from. Especially those of us who belong to one or more of the cultural diasporas that have lost place, family, and community based traditions due to colonialism, forced emigration, genocide, and the promise of something better on the horizon (that’s pretty much everyone at this point).