Driving through the Back roads of Brock county became one of my favourite things to do when I lived in Cannington, Ontario many years ago. On September 7th, I made the trek through familiar roads to the beautiful Dogwood and Brambles farm to learn and connect with healers, herbalists and plant lovers. I had a deeply grounding experience at the annual Back To Your Roots herbal retreat and came away knowing that my journey to Canada was perhaps the dream of someone in my genetic history. The programme for the day allowed for several breakout sessions, with topics ranging from Materia Medica for Cannabis to tea and tincture making workshops.
Jus Crea, Indigenous Naturopathic Doctor, took us on a journey to understanding how to live harmoniously with the planet. It made me think of how much those in the diaspora have lost in terms of our own traditional practices and how much that knowledge might serve in healing trauma passed down from generation to generation. How important is the medicine of our Ancestors? How did they find resilience in the face of so much torment? Traditions practiced in secret and learning about how to use the plants of the land as medicine all helped to build a new connection.
Aku Dunyo Richter led an impassioned workshop about herbs out of Africa. It inspired those of us from the Diaspora in attendance to feel, perhaps for the first time, the power of Ancestral Medicine. Aku is a member of the Ewe tribe, born in the village of Dagbamate in the Volta region of Ghana. Her understanding of plant medicine is a practical one. She commented that she could not imagine day passing without the pleasure of touching soil and working with plants. Whether she is visiting her home in Dagbamate or behind the scenes in the green house of her family owned business, Richter’s herbs, Aku’s love for plants connects her to something that transcends distance. The connection to the energy that animates all that lives.
I am grateful for the lessons on how to live sustainably; how to give more than we take from the land and to always leave something for the next generation. This “something”, might look like observing cultural traditions, learning about the medicinal plants native to where we live or creating communities that value sustainable practices that allow for continuity of life on earth.
Aku’s practical knowledge accompanied potent wisdom as she answered questions we longed to understand from a cultural perspective. Her sharing brought me to tears. I became enlivened by her compassion and humbled by the grace with which she spoke of her path. I learned that even though you may try to escape your gifts and your calling, you will always be guided back to your true self.
We ended the night with a Kava tea ceremony and a mesmerizing fire dance that left attendees with much to share with those in our day to day lives.