LOVE MAGIC: With Herbalist Phelicia Magnusson
Phelicia came to us this summer, an energy both calming and invigorating at once, eager to share her passion for all things herbalism. She'll be returning to The Cellar to lead her second class, this time in tandem with fellow herbalist Fern Wynn, focusing on Love Magic February 9th.
We asked her some questions about herbs, rituals, and why she's so magical....
First order of business, what is Herbalism?
Herbalism is the medicine of the people, it is the expression of people living in harmony with their surroundings, knowing where plants grow and how they can be prepared and harvested as food and medicine. It is still one of the most widely practiced forms of medicine around the world for the very reason that it is deeply accessible. It is rich in history and can be found in every culture everywhere. Herbalism is the active awareness of knowing what is growing beneath your feet. It is the invitation to come into balance by caring for wild things, [with a] knowing that they care for you. Herbalism moves beyond active compounds and chemical constituents, it is the herbs in your grandmother’s cooking, your digestif, and the active story that tells how plants and humans have evolved together.
Can you share your earliest memory of using plants as medicine?
My great grandmother grew bright red peppers in her Brooklyn apartment, she’d throw them in her fish stew and curries, and warn us kids not to bite into them. I understood it was ALL about the pepper. Ginger tea was her remedy for most things and it became mine. My mother whom I cross examined about her religious affiliation when I entered Catholic school told me that “Nature was [her] church.” These were my first influences when it came to seeing plants as medicine. I understood that many things could be cured with some pepper, ginger tea, or a walk outside.
Who is your current Herbal Crush?
I have an herbal crush daily, but I deeply admire the work of Dori Midnight, Sean Donahue, and Karen Rose because they all move with deep respect and awareness of others, and in their work. These folks are using herbalism as a platform to have discussions and navigate agency, power, access, ancestry, responsibility, community and empowerment.
Any advice would would share with someone interested in exploring a career in herbalism? or using it more at home?
Folks who are interested in herbalism or working with plants in general, I urge you to become aware of the plants that are growing around you. Get to know them intimately beyond their medical application - to know them season by season, to know herbs by picking up a cookbook that invites you to bring plants into you everyday life. I also tell folks to ask about the medicines in their family. What remedies did your grandmother use? Who was the master gardener in your family? What plants do you always seem to notice? What were the secret ingredients in your family’s favorite dishes? I encourage folks to start their journey with herbalism by uncovering the ways in which plants are already a part of their lineage.
We know you love to travel! If you could travel anywhere next, where and why?
My hips long to travel to Salvador, Brazil to dance samba, practice capoeria and learn the way herbs are used in the ritual practice in celebration of the Orishas. My hands wish to go to Nigeria to uncover the medicines that follow my father’s name... Travel is like this for me, every part of me longs to learn in a different place for a number of reasons, I am always learning how it comes together and how I am truly a citizen of the world.
What kind of rituals do you frequently practice to bring you balance?
To bring myself into balance I consistently employ my connection to water or any of the other elements. When I feel at a loss in my connections with folks I spend time by the ocean observing her movements, the way she ebbs and flows, nests on the shore and releases. I bathe often with strong infusions of Rue, Rosemary, or Basil, or another plant I feel drawn to. I’ll add flowers to my bath, like Calendula and Roses and I’ll call on the wisdom and Spirit of these plants through song, gratitude and offerings to come into harmony with myself. I observe and work with the Lunar cycles to understand the timing of my life and connection to the world in a way that is cyclical instead of linear.
I move through spaces making sure I am gathering my energy and bringing it into the present. Sometimes I do this with breathing exercises, or by sitting down with a tea. Other times I do this by becoming aware of the plants I see everywhere - the ones that make their way through the cracks in the cement, that tower over the sidewalk or look at me roadside as I sit in traffic or ride the bus. Becoming aware of the plant life that exists everywhere is a ritual practice that’s allowed me to find home in my body, in my travels and in moments of fatigue, panic, and ungrounded bliss.