Since the beginning of recorded history, our relationship with plants has been that of communion and healing, through passed down knowledge, folklore and traditions. Our ancestors gave each new generation the wisdom of the land, and only in recent generations has this tradition been broken in many families and communities. Time, immigration and colonization have separated us from the wisdom we were meant to be carrying in ourselves, using this to heal our communities and families, and equally important, learning how to commune with the plants as our ancestors did.
An important piece of reclamation of ancestry through folk medicine and herbal healing, is understanding where we come from, where the whispers of our ancestors are being carried from, and there’s several ways to do this. Having the privilege of asking your family and looking though last name records can be the easiest way, although for some families it can be more difficult than that for a variety of reasons. If you are unable to find this information, your ancestors are still whispering to you. Find a moment of peace to connect with yourself, your roots, and listen for those whispers, they’re carried on the wind, they’re marked on your soul. It’s where your heart is pulled to and your spirit yearns for. Listen, and you’ll find it.
Many witches around the globe can feel disconnected from their heritage, as many are the descendants of settlers, immigrants and colonizers that assimilated into their surroundings, far away from where these plants and trees grow. This is where we get the opportunity to decolonize our relationship to plants and herbalism by growing our understanding of the native plants to our ancestral homes. With the knowledge of where your kin folk called home, you can look at the history of the native plants of the land and build your apothecary and practice around them. What did your Great-Great Oma, Nonna, or Abuela use for washing wounds, or for a persistent cough? What would kitchen magick have looked like for your Great Nana or Maimeó, using their own herb gardens for love charms and sleepy teas.
Start with one herb, plant, fruit, spice or tree from your motherland and get to know it well. Is it something you’ve been using in your mundane life or magickal practice? Listen to your ancestors voices, feel them in your heart, and research folk traditions and lore around it. Get to know it so well that you start to integrate it without even thinking, just as your ancestors did. Some of the mythology and lore around the plants is just as beautiful and interesting as the uses for it. If this plant does not grow in the region that you now live in, find out if it can be grown indoors, or simply contact your local herbalist for it, ethically harvested and dried to keep safe in your cabinet.
Getting to know your herbs one by one through your ancestry can be a beautiful reclamation of what we feel we may have lost, or have appropriated from those around us. Healing and sharing the way our ancestors did is empowering, and a true call to action to every witch, you don’t need to be a green witch or a herbalist to work with and commune with the plants. You’ve always had the magick in you, just open your heart to those that came before you and reconnect with what you’ve always carried in your spirit and your soul.