I grew up in a small white farming community in Northeastern Washington State. It’s the same town my mother and my father both grew up in, and where they both still live (though they are divorced).
It’s also my maternal ancestral homelands.
I am an enrolled member of the Okanagan Indian Band— a small band of First Nations peoples who are now headquartered in British Columbia, but whose traditional territory spanned central and eastern Washington and British Columbia. I am a U.S. Citizen but enrolled with a Canadian First Nations tribe. The border crossed us. On the Washington side, we’re known as the Colville and I have many Colville nation family members. And although I am a legal tribal member, although I grew up in my ancestral homelands (but not on a reservation), I sometimes have a hard time identifying myself as a tribal member.
Part of the reason is I don’t “look” the part— at least not all the time and not to all people.
I’m 1/4 First Nations/Indigenous/NDN/Native American. Phenotypically, I’m a racial chameleon. Most people don’t know where to box me in and I get a lot of “what are you?” questions, including one really awkward conversation with a security guard at my undergraduate school who asked me (with hope and nostalgia in his eyes) if my mother was from the Philippines . . . he new a woman there once when he was in the Army and I looked just like her.
Along with my racial ambiguity I can be, and have been, white passing. This means that I have also benefited from the privilege that comes with being perceived white. I’ve even had two ex-boyfriends, both white, male and vert privileged, encourage me to not identify as Native, and just consider myself white.
And then they wondered why I promptly broke up with them after they expressed those opinions.
Here’s Why I Found Their Remarks Offensive:
Not too long ago, being 1/4 or even 1/8 Native was enough to classify you as 100% Native— and be racially profiled and discriminated against because of it. When my grandmother was a young girl she was forced into the Indian Boarding School program— a program in the U.S. and Canada, that ran until the 1970’s, designed to “kill the Indian and save the man” inside every indigenous child. Her hair was cut. She was forbidden to speak her first language of what is now known as Interior Salish, and she was forbidden to speak to her own siblings, who were also in the school. And that’s not even the worst of what she was forced to give up and take on.
My grandmother later fell in love with a white man. I’m told they loved each other very much but they couldn’t get married for two reasons: 1) he had an estranged white wife and divorce wasn’t so easy or accepted in the 1950’s. 2) my grandmother was a Native woman and it was illegal for a white man to marry a woman of color.
However, they lived together, ran a ranch together and had four children together.
And then, when my mother was about 10 years old, her father died of a heart attack and his white wife and children came and took everything from my grandmother and her children. And they had every legal right to. They left a single Native woman without home, supplies or resources to raise her four children and the two nephews she had taken in so they wouldn’t die of neglect. To survive, my grandmother had to go through the shame of asking for welfare from the government and the government’s white male representatives.
And she was turned down.
The white man told her that her current situation was her fault and she needed to work harder and the government would not be helping her.
Her situation was her fault and the government would not be helping her.
She forced into assimilation. She couldn’t marry the man she loved because the government wouldn’t let her. She couldn’t protect her assets because the government wouldn’t let her. But it was her fault. Because she was an indigenous woman.
So no, I won’t be giving up my Okanagan identity, especially if a white man thinks I should.
And yet . . .
I didn’t grow up with the traditions or the language. First, the U.S./Canadian border was one hindrance. Second, we weren’t raised on a reservation, Third, my grandmother HAD to assimilate to survive. Preserving what little she remembered from the first six years of her life before she was taken into the boarding school, was not and could not be a priority.
And there’s something else.
I Don’t Fully Trust My Tribal Membership
A few years before I was born, the tribe was receiving a large monetary compensation from the Canadian government for land and resources they had lost.
The tribe disenrolled ALL THE WOMEN in the tribe so there would be less people to share the resources with. My mother and grandmother were disenrolled. For being women.
My mother told me this when I was young (aged 10 or so) and I felt the wind go out of my sails when she did. I felt the pride of being Okanagan lessen in my heart. And something else, that I couldn’t identify until recently— I felt the fear and uncertainty of being an Indigenous woman. The message was clear:
You are an indigenous woman and you are not safe, not even with your own tribe.
Unfortunately, my tribe was not the first nor the last tribe to do this to indigenous women. And a side note: this is one reason why I cringe when I hear white women/people far removed from a tribal identity, refer to their businesses as “tribes.” You. Have. No. Idea. What. The. Tribal. Experience. Is. Like. And it is mostly definitely not about 100% belonging, safety and security. The tribal system had it’s flaws long before Manifest Destiny came along too.
My ancestors are Okanagan, Nez Perce, and came from Sweden, Ireland and Germany. I’ve always felt like an insider-outsider. I’ve felt like an insider-outsider in the dominant culture and I’ve felt like an insider-outsider around other Natives, despite working in Native media for 10 years as a journalist and radio producer. Despite earning a Master’s degree in Intercultural Communication which helped me learn A LOT about how my different cultural identities inform who I am. And now, as an expat living in Costa Rica, my insider-outsider status is even more pronounced.
Where Ancestral Healing And Connection Comes In
Nearly two years ago, I was working 1-on-1 with a spiritual mentor and asked her to teach me how to do ancestral healing work. I had actually never seen the words “ancestral healing” before nor had known that it was possible to heal your ancestral wounds, stories and traumas. As part of learning how to heal my ancestors, my mentor, Mary Shutan, taught me how to connect with my ancestors in my body and how to create a spiritual practice around that connection.
The first time I connected with my ancestors, I sobbed. I sobbed with grief. I sobbed with love. I sobbed at the overwhelming sense of connection, deep love and belonging that I experienced in my own body.
A year after I had begun my ancestral spiritual journey, I was introduced to another ancestral healing modality and I jumped in immediately, it was such a full body YES.
Over the last six months I have deepened my connection and healing process with my ancestors in a profound way as part of my training as an Ancestral Lineage Healing practitioner. In fact, it was my ancestors who reminded me about the story my mother told me when I was a young girl about being disenrolled from the tribe. It was my ancestors who showed me that that story was underlying a lot of other stories and situations in my life where I wasn’t feeling safe and also wasn’t recognizing the feeling of being unsafe. And it was my ancestors who helped me begin to heal that story and begin to feel safe.
Why I’m Telling You This
All of this informs why a large part of my life’s work is to bring Ancestral Healing to you. It informs my experience of the Ancestors, of Spiritual Connection and of my place in this world. It informs my sympathies and my proclivities and it is informing a lot of the offerings and content I have in the chute for you. I want you to understand that Ancestral Healing isn’t just a spiritual healing modality flavor of the week for me— it’s something I’ve been searching for and engaging in for most of my life, and something I will continue to do for myself and now, for others, for the rest of life. I have personally and profoundly been affected by this work, for the better and I hold it in integrity and in all sacredness.
If you’re interested in learning how to both connect with your ancestors and to begin healing your lineages (and receiving the blessings of your lineages!) please check out my Ancestral Healing offerings here.
I grew up in the same small town that my parents grew up in. There were 80 kids in my high school, one blinking light (20 miles away in the county seat) and a little over 7,000 people in the entire county. I grew up thirsting for big city flair, drama and access to art and entertainment. In 2008 I finally got my wish, at the ripe old age of 26, when my now ex-husband and I moved to Madrid, Spain (he’s still there!). We lived almost smack dab in the middle of the city of 3 million people. The noises, smells, crowded subways and alleys were all very exciting and tantalizing but came with an unexpected side affect: social anxiety.
There were probably several reasons I was simultaneously excited and scared of Madrid. It was, after all, over 4,000 times bigger than my hometown . . .er, hamlet. It was a foreign country with a foreign language that I had to adapt and operate in, every day. It was stressful, chaotic and also a lot of fun and more than a little romantic.
However, I was also on the verge of a spiritual awakening, a divorce and my Saturn return and thus was beginning to realize how empathic, sensitive and hermit-ish I really was. Although I was propelled to wander and explore the city streets, I found myself wanting nothing more than to claim the streets as my own and kicking everyone else off of them. Ha! But I soon realized that I had already intuitively stumbled onto a solution for demarcating my personal boundaries, not picking up other people’s chaos and emotions and to reclaim my body and energy for myself after every foray into the bustling streets: I began washing my hands in cool water. Frequently. Every time I emerged from a Spanish powder room, hands cool and slightly damp, I felt refreshed. I felt drawn back into myself. I felt my energy recalled from the various busy distractions and I felt the energy of others be repelled– just like you’d expect something cool and damp to repel — hehe.
Although there is as many different meditations, visualizations, herbs and crystals for protecting one’s energy as there are people in Madrid, one of the simplest, most effective, and available options is to just wash your hands. You may already be doing this. You come home from a busy day of running errands or attending to people and the first thing you want to do is wash your hands– and part of you just knows it’s about more than any germs you may have picked up on the commute home.
Water, as we’ve seen from the work of Dr. Masuru Emoto, is programmable and susceptible to our intentions. Energetically it also makes a great personal barrier/boundary marker and cleanser. In my upcoming Spiritual Cleansing and Protection Course for Soulful Living, I’ll be teaching all about the healing power of water and how to utilize it in spiritual baths, protective house washes and more. But know this: All you REALLY need is water. Pause, take a beat and add the intention to wash away any energy that’s not yours, then wash your hands in cool water.
This works great if you’re an empathic hermit like me. It’s wonderful to use if you’re a hands-on healer type. REALLY handy if you have little children crawling all over and needing you all day e’ry day too.
Let me know how it works for you!
In love and sacred darkness,
P.S. The Spiritual Cleansing and Protection Course is happening next month and it’s only $13! Those $13 bucks get you a front row seat to an hour long workshop PLUS a 30-page, full color, beautifully designed supplemental ebook. I’d love to see you there! You can learn more, register and get a sneak peek at the ebook here.
Oh my goodness look at the time! The last week of April already. I have a lot to share with you this month, including some new favorite Spirituality podcasts (both began this year!), some book recommendations and, of course, awesome spiritual links. Let’s get started!
I’m sure you’ve heard allll about Mercury Retrograde this month. I even chimed in with a Divine Feminine/Feminist Communication take on the phenomenon here. But what if you were born with Mercury Retrograde in your birth chart . . .
In her article, Spiller writes on natives, “In this lifetime, they are not allowed to speak superficially. To feel “straight” with themselves, they must communicate fully, from the authenticity of their entire being. Naturally, it takes time for them to get in touch with this level of authenticity.”
Emotional Intelligence: Your Moon Sign and You: (Complete with a sign-by-sign take!)
The moon is beyond our personality/persona of what we want people to see and often the parts of ourselves we want to hide or don’t like. While the sun is our conscious awareness of parts of ourselves, the moon is our unconscious and the parts that are more difficult to see. It is our most human and most vulnerable.
An Introduction To Breath Work: How I Accidentally Cured My Anxiety And Cyclical Depression By Breathing
My results at work have improved dramatically. I’m sleeping and eating better. I’m getting more done in less time. I’m enjoying more relationships with more people, and actually enjoying them, not just waiting until they leave so that I can work more.
Do you have an Instant Pot? It’s a 7-in-1 electric pressure cooker/slow cooker/yogurt maker and I use mine several times a week, if not several times a day. I strongly recommend buying an extra stainless steel pot/insert and a second silicon ring– one for savory things and one for non-savory things like yogurt or. . . cheesecake. Yep. Today I made a pressure cooker cheesecake in 14 minutes and it is divine. I halved this recipe.
I listen to a lot of books and podcasts in the car and while I’m cleaning the house. I’ve stumbled upon a few gems and wanted to share with you:
Shift Your Spirits Podcast-– this podcast recently launched and is hosted by one of my very first mentors, Slade Roberson. With episdoe 7 Slade began doing a intuitive “download” at the end of the show– an oracle of sorts. He gives you a few moments to think on a question and then he tunes into his guides and relays a general message. OMG. SPOT. ON. Plus, the guests he’s had on have been fascinating . . . And let’s here it for the boys! We need some more intuitive men around here.
The other podcast I’m loving is the Priestess Podcast (and I don’t usually go for “priestess” anything) by Julie Parker. I just discovered this podcast last week and gobbled up the first 18 episodes. Now I’m a sad housewife waiting for Wednesday to bring me a new episode . . .
I’m not a raving Danielle LaPorte fan– I can take her or leave her– but when another cynical friend recommended the audio version of her new book, White Hot Truth, I jumped on it and I am so glad I did. White Hot Truth asks us to question what we take for Truth on the Spiritual Path and I was nodding my head and softly screaming YES right along with her wisdom and insights. The book comes out in May but you can download the audiobook immediately if you pre-orer the book (and yay for no annoying $1,000 worth of “bonuses”).
See you next week!
In love and darkness,
According to the new insights of behavioral epigenetics, traumatic experiences in our past, or in our recent ancestors’ past, leave molecular scars adhering to our DNA. Jews whose great-grandparents were chased from their Russian shtetls; Chinese whose grandparents lived through the ravages of the Cultural Revolution; young immigrants from Africa whose parents survived massacres; adults of every ethnicity who grew up with alcoholic or abusive parents — all carry with them more than just memories.
- New favorite find: Jennifer Racioppi. Jenn is an astrologer and life/biz/health coach who suffered a hysterectomy at age 20 (!!). Her life and her emotions were a mess until she learned how to chart the moon as a stand-in for her menstrual cycle. She now offers coaching at the sweetspot between astrology and life/biz/health.
- I love talking about the things no one is talking about– especially if it’s difficult or awkward (ha! Cancer sun meets Aries moon). Although I haven’t read this book, I recently recommended it’s topic to a client: Liberating Losses: When Death Brings Relief
- In honor of women’s history month, I’ve been posting interesting women with little-known stories on instagram. Recent features have included Mourning Dove, an Okanagan (my tribe!) woman who was one of the first Native American novelists AND who featured a half-blood protagonist who happened to get a happy ending at the end of the book (not a common theme for half-blood characters 100 years ago). I’ve also featured Lucrecia de Leon, a Spanish girl whose dreams were used to spy on France and England AND Harriet Tubman, who, little-known-fact, dreamt/dream-scouted the routes of the Underground Railroad before she took them. She never once lost a passenger or got caught either.
- Speaking of dreams, my course: A Course In Dreams has been completely revamped, redesigned and re-released in the School of Dreams and Divination! There are several modules available as a free preview as well.
- Finally, I have a secret. I hosted a Divine Darkness symposium in January and have been promising a follow-up symposium . . . well the symposiums are about to get a whole new look and attitude. Watch this space for more 😉
- Love the photos in this post? Me too. They are from the bohemian home decor site, soulmakes.com
In love and Darkness,
To wrap up our discussion on talismans and amulets, I wanted to go over a few common and yet powerful symbols often found in jewelry that attest to feminine power. I find this subject fascinating because most of this symbolism was born, or became popularized, in the Victorian era. This was an era in which it was scandalous to show your ankles; to be alone in a room with a man who was not your father, brother or husband; and in which women never ever traveled, walked or lived alone.
Women were infantilized: helpless and needing all of the attention and humor that a child needs.
BUT. Symbols of feminine power persisted, in fact flourished, as they have always persisted throughout time.
Although these symbols have persisted in many ways: in art, in religious symbols, in rituals and even in nursery rhymes and fairy tales, jewelry has also contained these symbols and their secrets. And as jewelry is most often associated with and for women . . . it’s become the chosen method for armoring ourselves with the power these symbols contain and making a statement, even if the statement is/was only visible to others who had “eyes to see and ears to hear.”
The Figa, or Mano Figa (Fig/ Fig Hand) is a symbol that I recently wrote about on Instagram. While the symbol is ancient and goes back further than ancient Rome, it experienced a revival in the Victorian era. While it’s official purpose is to ward against the Evil Eye (and is usually worn as a necklace), it’s symbolism actually goes much deeper. If you examine the charms, it has a thumb thrust in between the forefinger and middle finger. This gesture is known as “The Fig” or in modern slang it would be called “The Pussy.” It imitates both heterosexual sex and the anatomy of a woman’s vulva (the thumb would be the clitoris). It’s a sexual sign and also a sign of sexual power. In ancient Roman times these charms were most often made out of silver, which is sacred to the Luna, the moon goddess, or red coral, sacred to Venus, goddess of the sea and of love and red being the color of blood/the blood spilled at menstruation and during birth.
These days, figas are made out of all sorts of different stones and materials and it can be a lot of fun to start a collection or search for a figa made out of specific material(s). Wearing the figa is an invocation to the Mother Goddess. The Dark Goddess. She rules over sex and death and the things hidden in the night (Luna) and hidden in the depths of the sea (Venus). You can wear yours as I wear mine, as a testament to the enduring strength of women. Our strength is often silence and goes unnoticed, but we know it’s there. Just as the silent and unnoticed pendant hanging from a woman’s neck.
My favorite place to look for Figas is at a local antique jewelry shop or on Etsy. Ebay is also a great resource, I’ve just never really used it and I tend to trust Etsy sellers more for some reason.
The Victorian Rose
Roses are another ancient divine feminine symbol that saw a revival in the Victorian Era. In the Victorian era, roses took on a language of their own to speak coded whispers of passion between lovers in a time where they had no privacy. Red roses came to mean love and passion, while yellow means friendship and so forth. Mother Mary is associated with roses and, of course, the rosary. However, Roses are long associated with love and love goddesses, as well as fertility because of it’s resemblance to female genitalia, it’s sweet fragrance, and it’s delicate and thorny nature. And while the Catholic church will tell you that the rosary was given to Saint Dominic in 1214 in a holy vision, the use of rosaries actually goes back to the ancient world as prayer and meditation beads (like a mala), and Jesus even warned his followers against using prayer beads:
“And when you pray, do not…repeat the same
words over and over as the Gentiles (pagans) do,
for they think they will be heard for their much
For more on the pagan origins of the rosary, see here.
You can also make your own rosary, dedicated to the Mother Goddess however you most identify with her, including Mother Mary/The Black Madonna, or you can wear your rosary as an amulet. It has been used as such for centuries and there is a lot of power in this repeated tradition. Learn how to make your own or dedicate one you already have here.
Although the snake has always been a powerful symbol used in amulets, talismans and jewelry, coiled snake rings became forever popular in the the mid-1800’s when Queen Victoria received a coiled snake with an emerald head (her birthstone) as an engagement ring from Prince Albert. It was one of the first pieces of celebrity jewelry to be widely coveted and copied.
I cannot wait to find the perfect coiled snake ring to add to my own collection.
Snakes mean many things: as a symbol of healing they come down to us from the tradition of Asklepios, an ancient dream healer who had temples sprinkled throughout the Mediterranean. Snakes were sacred to Asklepios and when pilgrims were incubating healing dreams in the underground dream chambers, snakes (non-deadly ones) were allowed to roam free in those chambers. “The rod of Asklepios” has become an international medical symbol, not to be confused with the caduceus.
Snakes are also associated with feminine wisdom and sexuality (the snake and Eve in the Garden of Eden), with transformation and rebirth . . . and with death, as snakes can be deadly. Snakes are a symbol of alchemy in more than one mystical tradition. As the ouroboros, or the snake eating its own tale, the snake is a symbol of eternal return or of constant re-creation.
Moons and/or Stars
Moons and Stars were also popular in the Victorian Jewelry. The moon, usually a crescent moon, was a blatant and outright symbol that glorified the divine feminine while stars meant guidance (guiding star, North Star). Paired together this motif can easily be read as turning to the divine feminine as a guiding star. And, after all, the daughters of these Victorian moon and star-wearers did become flappers who revolutionized what it meant to be a woman in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Horseshoes are a relatively old symbol of luck and protection. Horseshoes are made out of iron (which is considered sacred and holy because it doesn’t catch fire or melt) and have seven holes, meaning they can be attached to a wall with seven (iron) nails. Seven is a holy number as well and so it’s seen as double the protection or luck. A horseshoe hanging with the open end up, as in the pictures above, is for luck, while a horseshoe hanging with open end down is for protection.
Horseshoes enjoyed a heyday in the Victorian Era as both men and women wore them for luck, fortune and protection.
Finally, my favorite thing about Victorian jewelry was the revitalization of mourning jewelry (no pun intended). While we humans have been immortalizing our heroes and loved ones by way of jewelry and adornment for thousands of years, mourning jewelry became quite the trend in the Victorian era when Queen Victoria began wearing a mourning ring to mourn her beloved husband Albert. That’s right, Queen Victoria kicked off two huge and enduring jewelry trends: The coiled snake ring a la her engagement ring, and a mourning ring a la the one she wore to mourn her husband.
Common motifs around the mourning ring include urns, forget-me-nots and weeping willows. Jet or onyx is also often used in mourning rings and sometimes the hair of the person being mourned is incorporated in some manner as well.
These are some of my favorite shops to follow and buy from– none are affiliated or probably even know my name 😛
I hope you found this Sacred Adornment series helpful! If it inspires you to start a collection or to buy your first piece of antique jewelry, I’d love to see it!
In love and darkness,
It’s embarrassing to me that the first time I heard Sojourner Truth’s name was in grad school. Not high school. Not undergrad. Grad school. She has been completely eradicated from my history books.
But when I did finally hear her name for the first time, I sat up a little straighter and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up a little. Sojourner Truth. Any woman with a name like that must have something important to say. And she did.
Sojourner was born into slavery and later became an abolitionist and women’s rights activist. But what she is most known for is the day she told Her truth, to a Women’s Convention in Ohio. In 1851. She said:
Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?
That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?
Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?
Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.
If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.
Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.
And over 150 years later, my heart swelled and my soul leaned into those words as if she had just said them.
Today, when millions of men and women are marching for women and against Trump, I hold these words in my heart and blow them in a prayer to all of you.