On Instagram, you go by DarkMotherRising. I love it! Tell me more about the inspiration and meaning behind this name.
As a young woman and mother, I am still learning how to harness my power and fire. In many ways I have stumbled through life, though in retrospect I was being lead by something. I recently relocated to Hawaii with my family and the journey was not a smooth one. Hawaii has welcomed me with open arms, but Tutu Pele (the great goddess of the volcanoes through which the island chain was formed) is formidable and requires much from her daughters. Like many of our beloved goddesses she is fierce and will command your attention through any means necessary. There was a very rough period in my development recently where Oya, Pele and Kali ma were visiting me in my dreams every night and whispering in my ear by the day. The energy was very intense and at times overwhelming but the messages were clear. I was being reborn in the fire. I was, the Dark Mother rising. I was getting in touch with the dark goddess, our first mother and would embody her teachings. What a responsibility…what a blessing!
You are a woman of many crafts, but I want to start with talking about your altar dolls. What are altar dolls and how did you begin making them? How can someone use them in their conjure work?
Altar dolls are a tool to utilize when invoking the energy of a particular deity. My dolls were made to call upon a particular energy, a deep memory within us. Many of us love visuals in our conjure work. Altar dolls help us to focus on the energy we need to move through or create a situation, just like a particular scent or color of candle does. The true conjuring happens within. All tools are made to enhance and strengthen what is already inside of us.
I started making dolls because there was a lack of dolls for children of color and I wanted to offer more options. As I grew more in my conjuring and ancestral work, I thought altar dolls would be a great offering!
I know that you recently began making and selling natural plant based remedies. What called you begin working with plant medicine?
Its funny, it’s one of those things that found me! My mother is a herbalist and taught me much about plant medicine. She was and still is very connected to the earth and our plant relatives. I can remember at a very young age listening to oldies on the radio with her and helping her blend herbal formulas and making capsules. She was known in the hood for her amazing remedies for blood pressure, PMS, allergies and much more!
As the cannabis industry continues to boom, I worry that folks of color will be left in the dust. I fear that the very communities who relied on this plant medicine for generations and were criminalized for it will no longer have access to it. There are many amazing medicinal products out there but when you take a look at the price tag…my hood aunties can’t afford that! My college students, single mothers, grassroots activists. The people who need it most are being pushed out. The face of cannabis is a White man in a suit and its being rebranded as a billion dollar business. Hemp is an incredible plant that has so many uses i.e. building materials, clothing, fuel, food and more! I want us to be at the forefront of this movement. As so, it has little to do with me. If I have access to it, I have to share it! I have to spread knowledge about it, break down barriers, offer something different which our energy, our magic.
How have you found healing in connecting with nature and using plant medicine?
Oh yes! Far more than I can express. It is such a gift to be able to help someone. My goal is to take away some of the pain so that you are able to focus on the important things, like your art, your purpose, your family. The times we are in are very scary and uncertain. The energy is high and there is much pain and confusion. As an empath, its easy to get caught up in that. And then we become numb and disconnected so that we don’t have to feel so much pain. Crafting medicine has been such blessing in my journey. It helps to ground me and get more in touch with my ancestors and guides. They are involved in every batch I make. I put on music they like, dance, drink wine. I hug and laugh with my children. All of my tools have been blessed and I encourage the spirits to come through me and infuse their magic with mine. Its such a beautiful process. Then to hear that it has helped someone get off their pain meds, or allowed them to regain their strength so that they can get back to the things they love…I can barely put into words what it does for my soul. I truly love helping and healing people. This has given me a tangible way to do that and I am so very grateful!
I saw one of your recent facebook posts where you talked about the commercialization of indigenous forms of healing, like plant medicine, and how that has affected these communities access to their own resources and knowledge. How have you seen this play out in your own work and how do you think we can remedy it?
There are many companies and products out there that are very effective. And they have a hefty price tag. The island I live on reminds me very much of my hometown, in which there are very affluent areas and very poor ones. They are more than enough “upper class” folks with the means to buy these products. I do not judge or hold ill will towards that anymore because its a waste of my energy. I have refocused so that I am able to help the communities from which I came. I see myself in them and so my loyalty is to the people. I made a promise to myself not to price any of my products above a certain amount which makes my products some of the lowest on the market. This makes some people turn up their noses because they assume my product couldn’t possibly be as good. My magic is not for them. It makes others feel competitive and want to question the integrity so that I don’t take sales from them. My magic isn’t for them either. I have great faith that my medicine will make it into the hands who need it. And so it is!
I believe the remedy is a simple one. Educate yourself on the different kinds of plant medicine. Reclaim your ancestral knowledge. They have been waiting for you. Take the first step and the rest will reveal itself!
My primary vision and motivation for Witches Brew was to create a safe space for Black Femmes to remember our Ancestral wisdom and reclaim our tools for healing and creation, which seems to be a common mission that we have. Where do you see your role in helping women, specifically black women and femmes to reclaim our ancestral wisdom and tools?
I give thanks for any chance to inspire and encourage other Black women/femmes. We have such great purpose here and we are the most vulnerable. I intend to be a listening ear, a lover, a protector, a birth worker, a medicine woman, a counselor, and a mother to those who need it. I am growing more into myself and I believe being transparent in my struggles will help others not to feel alone.
What is a favorite ritual of yours?
I love my new moon and full moon spiritual baths! But my all time favorite has to be having my two children greet the ancestors with me each morning with offerings. I love that they think of them through out the day (Can I put this flower on the altar? Can we give them some dragons blood?) and the ancestors love to hear from them!
Who are some other magical black femmes who inspire you?
They are many! There is a group here based in Oahu called the Cocoa collective. Its a crew of beautiful, multi talented, intelligent, spiritually attuned Black women that inspire me to no end! Their grace, their fierceness, their compassion, their down to earthiness…they reflect me and embolden me.
I love Hoodoo Hussy, Daizy of Afromystic, Myesha, Shine Blackhawk…There are many!
And of course you for bringing your vision into existence and providing space for magic women like us!
What’s next for you?! What are you dreaming about and conjuring?
I am in a space of transition. I am following my instinct and intuition and am open to receiving the Universe's directions. I am expanding on my knowledge of plant medicine and making new products. I am stepping more into birth work and finding out what other deliciousness Ive been hiding!
Leila is a magic loving mother of two currently living on the beautiful island of Hawaii. She is a dancer, writer, craft maker, medicine woman and gardener. She is an aspiring postpartum doula and emerging conjurer. She loves traveling, beach days, reading and connecting with other women of color.