It was more than 20 years ago. She brought me the bitter brew of roots of plants I barely knew. 3x daily. I drank this. She did not know the names of the old old gods. But in those years she taught me how to build a smokeless fire. How to sew leather into clothes. How to pound copper into adornments. How to make unseen shelters on the edges of cities. The names of the old old ones are in all of those actions. She taught me survival. Nyssa brought the old ways to me and once she bought me a clinical abortion when I was held against my will, strangled by a boyfriend who hijacked me off the highway as I was trying to escape him. He threw me in a truck and then kept me in a motel beating me, raping me for three days. I emerged alive but pregnant. Nyssa wired me a western union. Money she scraped together from twisting on a pole. Hustling on Bourbon.
A month or so later, I was in North Carolina, I had no people there so I went into the clinic alone, still really fucked up from the experience. I had to go through protestors yelling at me. Holding up signs of unborn fetuses bloody in a waste pile.
Afterward I laid in a bush out of the way where people don't go. Two train hoppers found me, they shared a six pack with me. I think they got me Mcdonalds too. One was Seth. Anyone here remember how funny that kid was? I stayed in the bush for a few days, then a friend from Raleigh heard what happened and came to me. Took me far away to Montreal where we were sure I couldn’t be found. I took on a new name for a bit and found my way out. But I had been held under water, and I lost parts of me that took a long time to gather.
This is not the whole story. A piece. Of a piece. Piece by piece. Return to me. Whole. I return to me whole. Born into a world of men who from birth told me my body was not mine. From Birth. I was told. I was shown. My body was not mine. I have no Gender right now, only rage.
Piece by piece by piece. To claim myself. Whole. Sovereign unto myself.
I have spent decades learning the edge ways. The hedge ways. These ways born out of a need to survive- grown into a wildness that desires to thrive. I know how to grow the bitter herbs. I know how to prepare the herbs. How to draw down the river. I know that they don't always work. I know a multitude of strategies you have to turn to. I know that you need a diversity of support. I know that it can be very hard. I know it is our birthright. I know it is a vital part of our bodies' wisdom. It has always been our wisdom. It is in our hands. It is in our blood. This is our knowing.
Back then information came in zines and there was a midwife coalition from England who passed on wisdom from people who kept traditions during times of intense subjection. We held skill shares and showed each other how to use the speculum. The first time I met feirce creature was on that forest floor of the Institute for Applied Piracy. Someone volunteered to simulate an extraction. My son was maybe 6 months old, he was in my arms as we gathered around in the dirt, opening up our softest places, punk doulas and midwives. This was such useful information. I didn't hold on to it though. Through the years, that particular skill slipped between my fingers.
I have leaned heavily on queen anne’s lace seeds, vitamin c, parsley stuffed up inside of me for prevention. Relied on Black cohosh, blue cohosh, angelica, cotton root, pennyroyal for releasing conception. I have screamed into the sky for the knowledge to come flooding back. For the new ways to be visible.
Once, I ingested way too much pennyroyal in desperation and an herbal elder chided me remarking that I was going to have a very hard time during menopause. What can I do? I said. STOP Using pennyroyal. She replied harshly. But it was the kind of desperation that demanded I get this out of me. I would have rather died than come to have a baby.
I hold an array of these life experiences, gathering collective stories along the way. People who have succeeded and people who have not been able to succeed with herbs and have had to go to a clinic. I have not met an herbalist who actually knows the way because the way is a process that differs from body to body. Most of the elder herbalists who were in practice with hedge way abortions lived through the sixties when abortion was illegal. I’ve heard some horror stories of experimentation and also some truly liberating stories of release and renewal. When you go the route of herbs and you don’t succeed and you have no access to a clinic you can really harm yourself.
In my 10-11-12? abortions, out of all the clinics, Istanbul was the kindest one. That clinic held the process as a sacred experience. When I entered the waiting room it was full of goddess statues from all over the world. Large bodied femme figures, with big bellies and vulvas, classical turkish music playing and a thick lovely woven carpet laid out on the floor with intricate patterns. It was sumptuous, relaxing and sensually pleasing.
I’ve had three abortions outside the walls of a clinic, with my last abortion during the Blasey Ford trial. At the time of that trial, there was one clinic open in New Orleans for the whole greater area. During that time it felt like we would not have access to abortion in the future so I wanted to go through the process as clearly as possible holding all the agency. I told bae we were going to do this at home. The hedge ways.
I start with black Cohosh, blue cohosh, angelica, yarrow, Dong Quai and cotton root.
Two weeks. Then I try add every single fucking combination of herbs. Adding in more formulas on top of the original formula. Combined Acupuncture. Consulted with a Chinese herbalist who sent me herbs in the mail. Grounded two altars in the hands of my death doula ancestors.Had support from my Herbalist elders.
I asked my closest witchers and workers to talk to this spirit. I contacted someone who once was my lover and a communicator to my 5 spirit daughters whom I placed in the Saguaro. But This spirit would not budge for anyone. She would not flow down. It was so painful. In the end, I had to take an abortion pill from an Abortion midwife who was not in town but had a supply that was accessible. That is what shook all the blood and spirit loose to leave my body. To leave my body. To leave my body. Leave my body!
That abortion breaks us. Two days later my boo turns away from me. He tells me he can’t be with me anymore. It hurts so bad and My mind goes immediately to the streets. I am now in rags and I’m running. Nothing he says will hurt me. That thought blazes inside of me for one bright moment. His words don't make sense yet.
When the world doesn’t make sense, I often turn my mind towards my life experience living houseless. I turn to that place as a survival mechanism but I also turn towards that place because it holds a lot of skill and wisdom of navigating a fucked up world in community, solidarity, syncronicisty and magic.
If you know me, then you know I like to slip back into the street from time to time. With ease I slip between. So a couple years ago, I was sitting on the riverwalk and inevitably the lost boys start to gather around me. They break out the whiskey. Pass the bottle. I take small sips. They were showing off a little bit with all their train stories.
There was a lot going on that day. Lots of characters running all their charm. Reminding me of people I knew in the past, sitting on those stairs when I was older and didn’t see things as precious as I do now. A few more of the lost boys came, sat down to share that bottle and soon they were all so silly. Some started diving in the Mississippi splashing around the nice photos the nice tourists were trying to take. Some of the boys started to grunt like pigs and flap their arms like chickens and they did a dance through the bland mass of tourists who were just going along with the wave. The boys were filthy, matted, grey and yellow eyed. They were in rags and buttflaps.
They were embodied disruption. The best kind. It wasn’t contrived. It was from the heart of chaos’s mischief. The sacred mischief. I leaned back and just admired the sheer audacity of these beauties breaking up the spell of complacency, took another sip of whiskey, spit it on the ground as an offering while Tourists clutched themselves and walked away in disgust.
For seven years I lived that way too, so far outside of the thinking that keeps the grind smooth. I lived far outside of that form of complacency. It was not an easy road to get to, but the madness of my childhood brought me to that place.
Back then, the way we communicated and shared information was through fire. Fire was our ritual most every night. That's where we gathered. That’s how you would know where so and so was, how they were doing, what they were doing, You would hear a story you never heard of them before. You would share information about what was going on in the outside world, the prisons they were building in the middle of nowhere, thermal imaging put down on borders, new scams you could engage in, where the crew changes were,
We didn’t have phones. We had computers in the library and we were rarely sober enough to write an email. So everything we did was pass by word of mouth and our network was so strong that you could be in New orleans and know what was happening in Montreal, San Francisco, L.A, whitefish, Taos. Who was where. What they were doing. The news traveled by train, by foot, by thumb and was carried through the circles of the fire that gathered all the people in our nightly rituals.
I think about that now, that skill. We were gathered force with everything against us. We would be the ones who were swept up for sitting on a sidewalk, for walking down the street. For sleeping under a bench. For choosing an abandoned building to sleep in. We would get arrested for living. Miranda rights did not exist for us. None of the systems supported us. Some of us wouldn’t even touch the army navy shelters in a storm, preferring to sleep under cardboard in a dumpster through the freezing rain.
We would also be the ones who flew signs, panhandled, robbed stores to get our needs met. Then we would disintegrate into the edges. We would have each other’s backs in the most fiercest of ways even if you had just met the person. All of sudden you’d be swinging a bottle upside some cop’s head to get your newly discovered kin out of the cop car. Yes, that did happen once upon a time in Jackson’s square. And yes we both got away.
Us broke ass, dirty, scroungin, traumatized and brave kids, we were our own mutual aid. We didn’t have anybody but each other and what we did for each other was the greatest of lengths sometimes. We didn’t like outsiders. Spectator sport of riding trains was scorned. People that came with a bank card + trust fund were trussed up and taken in for the night to support our drinking habits.
Even house punks were outside of us. We were wary of domesticated consciousness. Our senses around that were like dogs sniffing an unseen scent which brought the hackles up and we backed off, preferring ditches, waysides and bridges.
We just had nothing to say to people who were still living inside the system. Except hey you.. can you spare a dollar?
We were so intimate with each other, we slept together, spent every moment in small herds, sometimes you'd get a lone wolf but they always come to the pack. We shit in front of each other, fuck right next to each other, shoot up, wipe up each other’s vomit, take care of someone’s mental health cracking open, Break every single law together just by living. Experienced the most wack divine time bending wild adventures that might have receded as a dream to some of us who felt more comfortable finding their way into a double-wide, taking up their seat on the couch in a retirement of bud light and daytime soap operas. But some of us carried that magic and connection into the next life that we lived, struggling to figure out how to bridge all the intersections of life’s experiences and continue living in some semblance of our ethics and our intensity.
This was our initiation into adulthood. Most of us were teens when we entered. So like kids who have nothing, we had each other’s back like no one else ( when it came to fighting the outside world) Still to this day I’m most at ease with the people that lived/live like that because I know that exquisite combo of generosity and throw down. It’s like no other.
There was a link of deep commitment to holding each other while we fought against everything else. Our culture was held so strongly, we became a home for others. Others who were kicked out as early as 13,14. Others who had been raped, who had been harmed by their fucked up parents. Others who had nothing. We were all taken in and We shared what we had.
If I was who I was then, living at this time, I would be exiled for my behavior. I wouldn’t have survived call out culture. The rigidity and inflexibility that exists in radical space would have ensured that not only would I have been called out but other people would have been shamed for having a relationship with me. I wouldn’t have been able to survive that because who are you without community?
but back then people didn’t give up on bc you were smoking crack and flying off your fucking handle. We had a pretty wide berth for people and even when you fucked up, someone was going to be there for you.
So this is alot to speak to and I'm speaking very broadly about a very nuanced experience that a vast amount of people held. Of course there was betrayal, abuse and violence that we carried out through our inter relationships. We were immersed in madness and in an experience that some feel was similar to living through war. A Lot of us did not come back from that madness. We would lost dozens of our people a year because violence, overdose, suicide, murder has always been a part of our living. In our hearts we hold too long lists of names of our loved ones that passed on way too early. It takes a collective memory to bring all the names together. What is remembered lives.
Rarely would you know a last name. Everyone went by one name. Maybe it was a nickname. Mostly it was. If you needed to find a last name to get someone out. You could find it by asking through the chain.
Most of us took on new names. You disappear that way. A new name is a form of protection and anonymity which is also a pathway to come out of one world and into another.
Otherworlds are possible underground but you might be required to give up many things in order to exist in a completely different form of consciousness.
In Irish imagination, the otherworlds aren’t fluff and fancy. They are as real as the dirt beneath our feet and the cultures of those otherworlds demand a deep respect to even approach entering.
There are stories of my ancient ancestors who choose to go underground, who opened the way beneath the hills. By shrouding their arts, their culture, the gifts of their community, the Tuath removed themselves from the influence of the oncoming wave of consciousness that was soon to wash over the land. This story, which was passed on to me both orally and through the blood, reveals patterns and routes that relates to this time we are in now.
Sacrifice the surface to hold what is sacred underneath us.
We are still in the gate of solstice, where the otherworlds come more brightly into ours. Mugwort is burned to clear away untruths. At this time, one can invite the vision of the otherworld when one is too anchored in the inflexible, rigid realities of this world.
Sometimes you have to go away, so far away, to retrieve yourself. To immerse your being in the patterns that you need to reweave your wholeness.That is your personal magic.
But sometimes you have to go so far outside the dominant culture and retrieve patterns that weave in such a different reality that the dominant has no way of possibly being comfortable within it. That is the collective magic.
So I look back to the stairs at that time. Seeing the way the lost boys disrupted the currents of comfortability so easily just by being themselves. Their selfhood being anchored in a culture that exists far beyond the margins of the grind. I ask myself and I reflect. What did they sacrifice in order to come into that place of Selfhood? What did they give up in order to be that embodied disruption? What do I need to examine in my thoughts and views of sacrifice?
We are at a time that we are really being asked to give up these aspects of life that bring us comfort. We have to give up to unhook ourselves from the system that doesn’t support the health and well being of our EARTH, our Bodies, our more than human kin.
I’m not saying we have to move back to being under the bridge. But we have to move past our own margins of comfortability and really make the space in our lives to submerge our thoughts in the consciousness of otherworlds. To assess the radical actions we can individually take to create a strong otherworld together.
We need to take our attention back, which is being stolen by the phone. We really need to know that Information we share with each other in that way is not safe. Community + communication can still happen over a vast land space in other ways. Many aspects of Social media manipulates us and disperses our concentrated energy. We need to retrieve that energy and if we think about being able to help others. We need to assess our own inner resources which leak in every direction when we open up to so much emotional information.
We are going to need lots of people to take on that responsibility of learning extractions, lots of people who have access to medical equipment and lots of people who have access to prescriptions. And we are going to need our own underground systems of making that a possibility for others who might be needing that kind of assistance. bc we all know it's not stopping at abortion and most everybody living in their equisite splendor is going to need access to get their needs met.
We might be needing to change names. To create new ones. Keeping all that chameleon, snake shed change off social media. We might need to pull in everything that was extended outwards in order to create viable pathways that curve underneath what is seen on the surface.
We may need to turn away from the paved road and start to walk down the dirt road that ceases because the forest took it over and only the deer know the shape of the way because they are being hunted.
We are going to have to take long pauses and really question ourselves;
What do we need to give up right now that frees us from the hooks, from the surface?
What energy do we need to Retrieve that is being wasted on trying to fix a broken system? How can that retrieved energy be utilized to create a more tender, more vivid, more honorable culture?
We actually have the ability to create an otherworld. We have the ability to Retrieve our stolen energy. We have the ability to reroute our energy. We have that ability to take only what we may need. To bring it to a whole other dimension, to create such an otherworld that it exists beyond the margins.
We need to turn away from the bright light of the phone and begin to turn towards the light of the fire, the dark edge that surrounds the circle and remember how to gather. ]
I am finishing this writing up in Belfast where I connected with someone who also lived those ways, during that time and we share all the same friends, Nyssa being one of them.. We never met then, but our memories are linked and we have a connection of deep kinship from all that we survived and what a miracle that we are still alive. She is soon to come and scoop me up to bring me into her home and her family and into the waters of the Ocean. Where we will paddle little kayaks and be the selkies that we are. This is the synchronistic magic of life. These moments where the intricate webs of life brings you aligned with the support and comradery you need in the moment.
I am so grateful to be alive, to be here breathing while you are breathing. If anyone wants to come into conversation with these thoughts and perspectives, reach out to me. I'm still here.