Indigenous Self-Care Practices for Organizers

 
May 21st, 2017

There’s no denying that we are in the midst of a historical time where social, political, and economic trends are changing. Folks are organizing their communities, jumping full force into defending freedoms and fighting for liberation. It’s important in these times to not drift from ourselves; our bodily and spiritual needs.

As an Afro-Peruana, I grew up around my abuelas conducting “rituals.” When I moved to the U.S., I heard these rituals described as supersticious at best, and demonic at worst, especially in comparison to mainstream Christianity. Years later, I came to find spiritual fulfillment as I followed the path of my ancestors, which has helped center my intentions in the movement.

I chatted with Francisca Porchas, a Mijente member, an organizer with Puente Human Rights Movement, and an Ifa Practitioner. Francisca Porchas is well-versed on the topic of healing and finding our spiritual ground. Francisca is from Mexico and resides in Arizona. In speaking to her, she offered some advice on returning to our roots to find restoration.

Going Back: The How

How do I return to a tradition that never felt mine? Francisca said she began with the basics, by honoring her ancestors. “Our ancestors need us and we need them,” she said. “We are a result of their struggle.” Francisca began with acknowledging the trauma her ancestors survived, both personal and from colonization. Her first step was to set up an ancestor altar. Our ancestors don’t just include blood relatives or immediate family–we can also call on the ancestors of the movement. Francisca has an image of Malcolm X on her altar.

Setting up an altar:
The Incas used altars to honor Mother Earth or Pachamama, their guides, helpers and allies. Find a private area in your home–it can be small, even as small as a bedside table. Clear the area of clutter, add a cloth that is beautiful or sacred to you. Add a statuette, flower, or crystal representing the Spirit. Add photos, totems, candles, and art work. Healing herbs can be lit during prayer.

Prayers:
Some of us call it prayer, others meditation, but all must be approached with intention. Francisca Porchas published a guide called, “Morning prayers to the universe, your ancestors, your guiding spirits.” It includes:
“I give praise to the universe
I give praise to mother earth
I give praise to all of nature and its beings
I give praise to all my guiding spirits

I give praise to my ancestors
I give praise to all that came before me in this struggle
I give praise to my elders
I give praise to all those who have cared for me, protected me, guided me and loved me.”


Releasing self-depreciation energy:
Since colonization, we have been told that we are less than. Those sentiments have been echoed in the modern sociopolitical climate we’re facing, especially under the new administration. Burn out and a feeling of inadequacy can quickly bring down a community continually fighting for its protection and rights. In Ayahuasca traditions, ritual baths are a communicating method between people and the plantas maestras or Spirit of the plants. The goal of these baths is to bring coolness and clarity and are often performed by shamans or curanderos. At home, they can be performed with the intention of washing away the negativity we have internalized.

Other tips:

– Use limes and leave out to dry to capture negative energies.
– Leave pomegranates out to dry to bring you spiritual and emotional prosperity and fertility.
– Place (uncooked) rice in a container on altar as a thanks to Pachamama for the crops.
– Yellow flowers in the home invite brighter energies.
– Aloe Vera plants are believed to bring protection to our homes, and double for medicinal use.

In our conversation, Francisca and I found a common theme: Our elders and ancestors are the guides we turned to when we felt our spirit calling for growth. Despite the differences in our practices, the similarities far outnumbered them. There are elders in our communities that can lead us in our spiritual practices as well, and whom will teach us much more than Google search or a book could.

For our ancestors, our communities, and our own liberation.

Veralucia Mendoza is a queer, Afro-Peruvian immigrant residing in the Midwest. Aries, organizer, survivor, lover of books + wisdom. Follow her on twitter, @conamorelucy and IG @conamorelucy.

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