By | Kyra Skylark
Sitting in silence with our eyes closed, we listened to Loba guiding us through the mediation, instructing us to allow the seed to tell us what it needed to communicate.
La Loba Loca, a queer herbalist visited CCAT (the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology,) this past Wednesday guiding students on an herbalist knowledge share centered around herbal Medicina Feminista.
Erick Garcia, a Sociology major, was right at home in the herbalist knowledge share.
“I’m queer and I enjoy herbalism, so it was the perfect thing for me,” said Garcia.
Loba is from Arequipa, Peru, but currently resides in LA teaching herbal medicine, conscious mooning (classes on menstruation,) the oral history surrounding the healing practices as well as many other topics and practical tools. Loba identifies as “a queer, Chocolla, Andina, South American migrant, artist, researcher, writer, handpoke tattooist, full spectrum companion/doula, aspiring midwife student, seed-saver, gardener and yerbetera,” on La Loba Loca’s website.
The knowledge Loba shares with audiences is Abuelita Knowledge, the wisdom and practices passed down through generations of women and femmes. Leading the knowledge share with a seed meditation, Loba gave each individual a seed to hold. Loba then introduced the idea of seeds as technology.
“Literally to me, seeds are the most reliable technology that we have,” said La Loba Loca.
From there everyone was led through a meditation in which we held the seed in our hands and were guided to open ourselves to anything the seedling wanted to tell us. In a room packed so that only standing room remained, everyone there simply closed their eyes and focused on the knowledge that the seeds had to share.
One attendee said that their seed was old, “not necessarily the seed itself, but the information it holds.”
Other individuals attending the workshop simply reflected on the importance and process of a singular seed, noting that we often don’t stop to appreciate the work and undertaking of one simple seed.
Loba then encouraged everyone attending to research seeds and plants important and cherished within our own heritage and cultures. Different plants used for healing and nurturing native to one’s own history that we could incorporate into our diet and/or daily life. The coca plant, specifically the coca leaf holds special significance to Loba as a grounding and energizing plant native to Peru.
From there, Loba went into the oral history and roots of some of the healing practices of herbalism today. Discussing the power of Medicina Feminista, its origins, certain tools and practices, as well as the history of the witch trials and how that has affected women/femme interactions and healing.
“To me, feminism is the magic that happens when women and femmes have resisted the patriarchy,” said Loba.
Loba delved into the topic of women/femmes as the traditional caregivers and healers in comparison to the male and masculine dominated health fields of western medicine. In a field composed of primarily white males, Loba works to take back and teach the traditions and knowledge to healing through herbalism. Loba honored the acts of women and femmes who for centuries have healed and cared for individuals, sharing their knowledge and healing as an act of free labor.
Aliah Bueno’Strong, a Rangeland major at HSU felt a strong connection to the dialogue surrounding feminism and Loba’s
“Hearing her talk about feminism, that’s what I really resonated with the most,” said Bueno’Strong. “I’m one of those people that doesn’t believe that you have to have equality of the genders, but simply the equality for everyone. It was good to hear it come from someone else.”
Loba discussed the current inequality between the genders, allowing for discussion on historical events that influence us now, such as the witch trials.
Viewing the witch trials as an intentional act of the church and state, the patriarchy, as a way to take away women’s power. The healers, midwives, doulas, herbalists, and any woman or femme who practiced traditional non-westernized healing were persecuted. Even women who were not as versed in Medicina Feminista and Abuelita Knowledge were under suspicion.
“The witch hunts were toxic masculinity at its best,” said Loba.
The witch hunts eliminated much of the trust and communication between women, turning one another against each other to prevent their own persecution. This robbed women and femmes of spaces to share information and stories, places to come together in healing and discussion.
“They took away the bond and unity between women and femmes,” said Loba.
Loba discussed the effects of the trials in the way women and femmes bond and communicate with one another today. These historical events are still very much with us in that they affect the perception and acceptance of woman interaction and healing today.
The systematic goal of mainstream society is to prosper as individuals, to rise up alone. Herbalism and Medicina Feminista work to bring up everyone and benefit everyone collectively.
To learn more on Abuelita Knowledge you can read Loba’s article, “Reclaiming Abuelita Knowledge as a Brown Ecofeminista.” The article discusses the roots of Loba’s knowledge and works to take back the knowledge and practices that have been westernized and claimed by many white hippies as new eco-friendly practices.“Specially all these white supremacist ideas that make people believe that conscious mooning is a white hippie thing, that giving birth to a baby under a tree is white, that gardening organically is white, that meditating is white,” Loba writes in the article.
Deconstructing common misconceptions on this passed down cherished knowledge and working to reclaim these ancestral practices is one of Loba’s main goals. Knowledge shares like the one held at CCAT is another incentive for Loba to continue educating and sharing knowledge.
One of Loba’s goals laid out on the La Loba Loca website is to create safe spaces and resources for “Spanish-speaking communities of color as well as queer and trans communities of color.”
Vanessa Cota, a Political Science major at HSU, left the knowledge share at CCAT house feeling nourished and refueled.
“It’s a space that was very needed,” said Cota.
After going over some of the oral history and recalling the origins of some of the practices, Loba moved on to share knowledge as an herbalist discussing certain plants and their beneficial properties.
Passing around borage, fennel, rosemary, lemon balm, calendula, tulsi, and a Mexican Marigold, Loba shared knowledge on each plant, explaining their healing properties and some of the ways incorporating them into our lives could beneficial.
Each plant was discussed in-depth with an open dialogue between Loba and the audience as everyone shared their experience and knowledge with the different plants.
“It takes what I’m learning about in Botany out of the confines of academia and back to the down to earth roots on how people actually interact with plants,” said Kevin Riley.
Riley, an Environmental Science and Management major, loved attending the knowledge share, both for the knowledge he gained and because of the space CCAT and those in attendance created.
“It was very positive and uplifting, we were talking about life and health together,” said Riley.
After the workshop, Riley said, “I have the biggest smile on my face I’ve had all week.”
The knowledge share concluded with a tea meditation, in which all of the attendees were given a cup of tea that had been brewing throughout the event.
A simple mixture of lemon balm and rose prompted the ending discussion on what the tea could do for our bodies and minds. With each individual in the audience feeling and focusing on the tea, we concluded the knowledge share explaining what the tea brought up for us, both physically and emotionally.
Erick Garcia was glad to have attended the event.
“A whole bunch of people ready to learn came together, if you wanted to be here you were,” said Garcia. “We came in here with love and joy and we are leaving with love and joy. Some of us don’t have that on a day to day basis, so it was nice to know that there is a community filled with that.”
Aliah Bueno’Strong is in the herbalism class on campus at CCAT, and knew a good deal of what Loba went over. Bueno’Strong had a strong appreciation for the dialogues on feminism, gender, race, and equality as well as the herbal discussions.
“I’m heterosexual, but to be in a room with a lot of people who are not necessarily like me was amazing,” said Bueno’Strong.
Loba succeeded in creating a safe space to discuss the power of plants, the history of healing and herbalist practices, the effects of the patriarchy and white supremacy, as well as many other topics that come up when a large group tells stories and shares ideas.
“I was very happy by the turnout, I left to go get food and when I came back the room was full,” said Bueno’Strong. “It shows how diverse and inclusive the school is as a whole, and our students.”
Everyone in attendance stayed until the very end, soaking up all of the knowledge Loba had to share. While each individual gained something different from the workshop, everyone left feeling different from when they entered CCAT.
“Rooted is the best word to explain it,” said Cota.