When deciding what to write for this first post the words of one of my mentors, Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill, come to mind… “begin at the beginning, then give thanks.” To understand why Sky World Apothecary is, you need to understand where it came from- where it originated. Our stories are told, not written, well, at least not until the Anthropologists came. I wish, today, I could tell the story myself but am still too unskilled in the art of storytelling to do that. Also, there’s no snow on the ground. To honour the ways of my ancestors who carried these stories in their hearts and Good Minds since time immemorial, I suggest you watch the following video.
Sky World is all around us, within us, as we are made of stars. It’s where our ancestors come from, where Awenha’i (Sky Woman) comes from, where she fell from. Awenha’i brought medicines and food when she came from Sky World. The first of these fruits was niyohontéhsha’ (Fragaria vesca/wild strawberry), known as the “Big Medicine” because of its powerful healing properties- enough to warrant its own ceremony, enough to welcome the beloved dead as they walk the pathway, lined with niyohontéhsha’, back to Sky World (Doxstater, n.d., Adams 2013.)
It feels fitting to start with the cosmology that informs my life, and the name of this thing I’m trying to birth into the world, today on the full Strawberry Moon.
The other reason I love the name “Sky World” is a little more fantastical, a little more sentimental. Like any good Anthropologist, I need to situate myself in my work.
One of my favourite ways to spend time with my mother when she was still here on Turtle Island was to climb the one-story set of steps up to the top of a stone building at a nearby state park in the traditional territory of my people, the Haudenosaunee, and Star Watch. We lovingly call this place the “Stone Tower,” because, well, it was stone, and a tower. I was not raised “traditional Longhouse,” but instead was the granddaughter of someone who we now call an “Indian Residential School (IRS) Survivor,” who had the “traditional” beaten out of him by nuns and teachers at a nearby IRS known as “The Mush Hole.” Because I was raised virtually cut off from my culture, my family found other ways to express our spiritual connection to each other and the land. One of the traditions we created was to designate the space of the Stone Tower as sacred, a place for rites of passage like blessing new babies and honouring the women of my family before transitions, and most of all, Star Watching.
I grew up with a mother who taught me how to Star Watch. The trick was to soften your focus just enough to let the periphery of the sky encompass your vision, and scan back and forth searching for anything that seemed to move, shine brightly, blink, or change colour. I was around 10 years old when my mother started becoming more active in her passion of exploring the possibilities of the universe and questioning the reality we are conditioned to believe. She came by her inquisitiveness naturally, having experienced something(s) that catalysed her inquiry into UFOlogy.
I come to this name, Sky World Apothecary, the product of a childhood that was filled with what others might consider abnormal or strange, but to me was a vector for mystery and connection to something larger than myself. As I have grown more familiar with my culture I began to recognize my own passion for inquiry, especially regarding Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) of which Star Knowledge is a facet. When I heard the Sky Woman story, the Haudenosaunee creation story, I wondered what my mother would have thought about it. I soon learned that a tried a true conversation starter with native people is to ask someone if they have ever seen a UFO. The stories emerge and often are connected to the Creation story. I have often been reminded that Star People are our original ancestors. I wanted to honour my mother’s memory when naming this new path in life, making medicine for those still here with us, while honouring the Sky World, which informs TEK, or Indigenous Science.
Although TEK has no singular definition, it is generally agreed by Knowledgekeepers that it is a process- a relationship one maintains with Creation. It is the participation in an active partnership between knowledge, humans, and the whole of Creation, including earth (natural) and the Sky World (spiritual) (McGregor 2009.) It is from this definition we can gather that TEK is not a singular closed system rooted simply in the earth-bound natural world, but is a reciprocal partner in Creation with the spiritual (Sky) world. The whole of Indigenous knowledge, therefore, is made up of the ecology of both worlds, the latter of which is maintained by “Star Knowledge.”
Ultimately, Sky World Apothecary came to me after a long day of hiking and learning and picking medicines with some fellow herbalists. I came home sore, sun-burnt, and bug-bitten, full of bliss and scratches on my legs. As I lay in bed I felt something click open in my heart centre, something activating inside me. It felt pink and soft and vibrant. As I lay there, drifting down to sleep, I saw nothing but strawberries. Big Medicine from Sky World.
So there you have it. Sky World, strawberries, UFO’s and healing. It’s all a reminder that we’re a part of something larger than ourselves. There’s much more to share about why this is the path in front of me right now, but for now, there’s magic outside and thanks I need to give on this full Strawberry Moon.
Adams, Amber Meadow. “Teyotsitsiahsonhátye; Meaning and Medicine in the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Story of Lifes Renewal.” State University of New York at Buffalo, Department of Transnational Studies, Apr. 2013.
Doxstater, E. “Creation Story.” Learning Longhouse, i36466.wixsite.com/learninglonghouse/creation---eliz-doxstater.
McGregor, D. (2009). Linking traditional knowledge and environmental practice in Ontario. Journal of Canadian Studies, 43(3), 69-100.