September 24 & 25th, 2016 the 4th Annual Chesapeake Herb Gathering was held at the Piscataway Tribal Cultural Center in Waldorf, MD. The Chesapeake Herb Gathering is an annual event organized by Centro Ashé bringing together inter-generational herbal, land-based, and healing communities to celebrate our stories, our knowledge, our culture and traditions. It was all outside around where they have their annual PowWow in June. A few workshops were held in the actual museum. It was a two day gathering of herbalist, farmers, activist, cultural and plant people.
The gathering started on Saturday and I participated with my mom, aunt and cousin. I helped my mom sell some of her things like necklaces, medicine bags, blankets and sage spray that a Chinese Lakota friend of hers makes.
Cryz Nkëchehósi Proctor of the Piscataway tribe welcomed us to the space and sang us a beautiful song from her people. Then Molly Meehan Brown the owner of Centro Ashe & create of Chesapeake Herb Gathering gave us the lay of the land for the weekend.
I also attended some amazing classes taught by some super knowledgeable people. The first workshop I participated in was called Charming our Migratory Plants – Creative Art Activity with Caryl Henry one of our Ecohermanas and an extremely talented artist. During this workshop we were asked to go foraging for migratory plants or plants that were not Native to the area and then make charms out of them. The key was to look at these migratory plants less as foreign plants and more as our foreign friends who just happen to come from some where else. I made a wond of sorts.
After that workshop I went to my mom’s workshop she was doing with the little kids. Her workshop was called Stories & Art with Kids & Making a Chain for Standing Rock with Rabiah Al Nur. Basically the kids all made necklaces to send to Standing Rock and a few for themselves with happy, positive messages or drawings on them for the kids at the camp so that they can have something to look at that will make them smile. I made one too.
Once the first set of workshops where finished it was lunch time and we went back to our table where we were selling things and helped to sell some more during lunch. Next some folks did some yoga before the second set of workshops started.
During workshop seastion two I went to the Beyond the Party Dose: Healing Trauma with Visionary Plants (Psychadelics) with Steffanie McKee where I learned about using different psychoactive plants to heal different forms of trauma. It was a very enlightning workshop where we talked about the different psychoactive plant based “drugs” like weed, payotie and iawasca. She made it very clear during her workshop that she only used these medicines with a trained teacher or spiritual person/medicine person around who really understands the plants well. The way you can take iawasca is through drinking the plant which can make you throw up. Steffanie said that in doing iawasca it takes you on a really powerful journey where you go inside yourself to find what the issues are you are facing and why you are dealing with these things. That can mean seeing a family member who has passed or even seeing yourself at a different stage of life like birth or inside the womb. In doing this it can really help you heal whatever traumatic thing is going on with you. This was a great workshop.
Workshop Three was next and I attended A Conversation – Encountering “Isms” In Therapuetic Practice with Ayo Ngozi. It was a workshop dealing with all the different “isms” in the world from racism to sexism and everything in between. Starting out Ayo wanted to get into a wide range of “isms” but was overshadowed once the topic of racism was brought up. People explained their stories from what they had experienced in their lives and the conversation lead to a big discussion on how being black can be mistreated in our society.
After this workshop we did a Blanket Dance for a bus from Charm City Farm in Baltimore who took our donations from the gathering and others all the way to the Sacred Stone Camp in North Dakota. My mom & I did a Blanket Dance with the kids who were in her workshop and we collected some money for the driver of the bus. I helped drum as we walked in a circle with the blanket. Then my mom went into the bus and helped to smudge the inside.
The last workshop of the day that I attended was Under the Blood Red Moon: Honor our Menstral Cycle through Personal Rituals & the use of Healing Herbs with Hillay Banachowski who I attended her Shenandoah Valley Herbal Gathering in June. Her workshop was all about our moon time and trying to find ways to be in harmony with our selves during this sacred time. I learned many very good tips and tricks in how to help us when we are going through this time. Many different cultures have many different ways of thinking of our moon time like Red Tent, to the V Steams, to the giving our blood back to the Earth during our time. Remember to get lots of rest during our moon and to take it easy. This is when we are most spiritually connected and we must use this time to manifest things.
Once the last workshop of the day was complete we took a little brake and then got ready for storytelling around the fire. While we set up for Storyseeds with Penny Gamble-Williams by the Bonfire Ni Dembaya an African Drum and Dance Class did some dancing and drumming with folks who wanted to participate with that. Then at 8 the story telling begin with Penny telling lots of different stories from the Wompanoge Tribe. She did some stories, songs and cultural telling of different stories and then let other folks in the circle tell some stories of their own. One guy told a very vivid retelling of a time he had encounter with a magic deer in the Amazon after loosing his wallet and passport. It was a really fun story. After the story telling was finished those that were left a the fire got to experience some of my mom’s rich wisdom on so many different things. Once we were finished we all went to bed in our tents.
The next day we tried to sell some more things from my mom’s table and attended a few more workshops. We caught a little of ‘Poor Peoples Pharmacy; How to Create a Low Cost Home Apothecary using Foraging and Food Stamps with Amanda David which was very informative on how to basically use herbalism even if you don’t have a lot of money.
The second workshop I went to was the Herbal Incense Making with Ayo Ngozi. I learned that making incense is actually pretty simple once you know how to do it. I learned that their are two different kinds of incense one combustible where you can light it to get the scent of it or non combustible where it’s more in a loose potpourri version or a small pellet.
Next was lunch and the big group picture. For lunch I had a delicious frybread taco and frybread with some pumpkin preserves on top. I love frybread even if it’s not the most healthy food. After we took our big group picture my mom went to a workshop & I stayed at our table and did some more selling.
Once the day was over Cryz came back and did the ending ceremony where she & her partner Amanda taught everyone some really fun Piscataway social dances. Everyone had an amazing time learning them. Later once we were done we all started to pack up and go home. This years Chesapeake Herb Gathering was a lot of fun and very memorable and I can’t wait till next years gathering where I learn even more about plants and ways to stay in harmony with Mother Earth.