EP 213 - Samhain 2023: Altaring Grief w Mara June AKA Motherwort And Rose

"The festivals of death at this time of year remind us that grief and joy are woven together."

Amy Torok
Oct 31, 2023
41 min read
PodcastSabbat SpecialsDeathworkEarth MagicWitches FoundTranscripts
Motherwort + Rose

We are all grieving. For this year's Samhain special we invited educator, facilitator, community weaver, writer, caregiver, death doula, and community herbalist Mara June AKA "Motherwort and Rose" to help counsel us through.

Mara reminds us that there is dignity in grief and medicine in creativity, and suggests that we need to come together to fall apart. They say, "If we're going to try to birth other worlds, Collective Grief has a powerful role to play."


Find Mara on their website and on instagram

May the gravity of our grief bring us back to each other, ourselves, our bodies, the plants, the land, the water, the animals, our ancestors, and future generations. May the welling in our chests remind us how expansive our capacity is to hold and be held of the deep well of love and nourishment in which there is enough for everyone, for every child. 

May our breaking break patterns that need breaking, and break us open to even deeper capacity for making beauty, love, and magic where it seems least possible, for making honey at the places of rupture, inside us and between us. May our grief make us into delicious libations for worlds in which we all belong. - MARA

Grief Spells For Scorpio season + Samhain: making home in the unknown

The festivals of death at this time of year remind us that grief and joy are woven together. These are festivals after all, where we are invited to pour libations, celebrate the liminal, thresholds, the dead, the thinning of the veil, our undying connections to them. And grief itself is an altared, liminal state, in which we may experience not just sorrow but an impossibility of ignoring the sacred and the magic of being alive at all. The unknown extends a hand, asks us to dance. This time of year can be so interesting for those of us in grief, for this time of year, connections with the dead, death, loss, mystery, and liminality are more widely celebrated, or at least acknowledged and given a place at the table.

About Me

Hi! My name is Mara. I’m an educator, facilitator, community weaver, writer, caregiver, death doula, and community herbalist. I’m excited about plant magic, story-telling, art + ritual making, shapeshifting, and dreaming together.

My death care and grief support work is community oriented, taking place in group settings to feed the collective work of growing more deeply attuned and resourced communities who love, care, dream, and create courageously in times of loss, change, and grief.


Amy: If you want to support the Missing Witches Project, support each other. Try to remember that every person you meet is grieving a loss. Not only a loss of a death, but a loss of a friend, a loss of an opportunity. Be there for each other. Find someone to hug or make yourself a soft, safe place. To land. 

Amy: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Missing Witches podcast. Theresa and I are here with such an exciting and timely guest. We usually, or always at this time of year, do an episode about death. 

Or dying. But this time, we really wanted to focus on grief. I feel like we are all grieving right now. The whole fucking world is grieving right now. And as one of our Coven mates said the other night, sometimes you just gotta bring in a professional. So, we have brought in a professional grief witch to talk to us and soothe us and counsel us during this time. 

Thank you so much, Mara June, for being here. A. K. A. Motherwort and Rose. I want to ask you to introduce yourself and talk about your practice and if you could include, I read on your website, why Motherwort and Rose, but for our listeners who haven't been to your website, I would love for you to tell them why you chose those as well. 

So tell us about you, tell us about Motherwort and Rose, and welcome so much, thank you so much for being with us to celebrate. And mourn on this Samhain.

Mara: . Thank you so, so much, Amy and Risa for having me. Um, yeah, it's such an honor to be here with y'all. And I know back when we scheduled this time, we didn't know what would be going on in the world. 

And so it just feels, um, yeah, it just feels like a deep honor to get to be here in this moment with y'all, um, talking about. The power of grief and coming together in it, and I love that the coven is here to some of the coven members and just like being being together in this time feels so potent. So thank you. 

Yeah, I'm coming to this work with a background in community organizing and the deep love of creating in community. So I'm, I'm an educator and facilitator of grief spaces, a caregiver, a writer, death doula, community herbalist, um, a lover of folklore and tarot and magic and making music and art. And my death care work really centers around, uh, yeah. 

Creating collective spaces to be with, be with grief together and creating space for us to be in dialogue with one another around our losses and our experiences of grief. And I teach classes and facilitate spaces to learn about plant magic and herbalism and art making and, um, in, in times of grief and for grief support. 

And so, yeah, I really come to this work as. A griever, um, and also, um, as a community organizer and for me, two of the biggest supports, um, that I've had in my grief process have been the plants, mother, war and rose. And so I love to share about 2 plants in particular. Um, Mother. So if we could start with Mother Wart is, um, the Latin name is Leonis, aka, and means lion hearted. 

And they are just this incredible plant hug for our nervous systems and our hearts and times of deep activation. And I love, uh, the lion hearted piece about Mother Wort and how Mother Wort has also this in their name. Um, the, in the mother. Part, they've been used to support caregivers and thinking about all the caregivers on the front lines of our movements. 

Um, all of us, all of us who are doing both caregiving in our interpersonal lives, as well as trying to create spaces of care and nourishment for ourselves in times of grief. I just think Motherworth is such an incredible ally who really, really like. Asserts also in the lion hearted piece, the dignity of our grief, the need, um, and I always like, think of it in this certain embodied way of like, mother war is both a plant hug and a chin lift, like, and kind of like, shoulders back. 

Your grief is beautiful. It's needed. So I love mother where it's so much and I would not be here without their medicine and holding me through grief and loss in my own life. Um, and rose. Um, Rose is just, uh, just has continuously like taught me so much about. Beauty and making beauty in places where it may not even feel possible. 

Um, and just like the, the need again, to create spaces of softness to be able to, I know a lot of your work has to do with re enchantment to be able to create spaces of enchantment and, um, pleasure. And that these are like also really crucial for being with grief. And I, for me, rose really. Drops me into this more heart centered place this like feeling of like I can, it's it's safe to drop into my feelings and it's just has this real softness that I think is such powerful medicine for our times at the same time as having thorns and mother were also has these prickly calyx is these. 

prickly sharp parts too. And so they both have this incredible, uh, nourishing softness, as well as this strength, um, and protection that I think is so powerful. So I love, yeah, thank you for that question. I love to talk about Motherwort and Rose. 

Amy: You mentioned the dignity of grief. I love this turn of phrase so much because we tend to think of like crying especially as like an undignified thing. 

Um, we go on and on all the time about how you know, tears are your body's natural way of, you know, expressing stress hormones and all that. We could go on and on and on, but I want to hear you talk for one second about this notion of like Dignified grief or the dignity of grief. 

Mara: Yeah. Thank you for this question. 

I, I really think about how courageous it is to feel in these times. Um, and needed. It's so needed. Um, and we've, we've been told by These oppressive systems that we live under that, like, we just got to get back to work, you know, we, we can't stop and feel what's going on in our own bodies or in our communities, um, and respond in some meaningful way, or even just slow down enough to feel our own grief and our own personal loss, um, losses that we may have experienced. 

Um, and I just think about, like, Martine Prechtel shares that grief is praise. Grief is how we love our loved ones. We honor our love for our loved ones. Like, our hearts break because we have loved so much. And, um, and I, and I also think about, like, Joanna Macy's work around, um, grief and this, the, its capacity to really help us. 

Evolve and meet the world. Um, as it's unfolding around us to, like, be able to be capable of response to be transformed by what's happening, that grief is a huge part of that. And so another thread in my work is that curiosity about grief's capacity to unravel us and unsettle us and reorient us and re enchant us to the sacredness of the webs of life we live within and the power of creating spaces for being present with. 

Death and grief together and what that does in a society where so much of the violence for it to continue, like demands that we not feel that we not grieve. Yeah.

Risa: Can I ask more about that? 

Um, because I certainly feel that in me and in. My loved ones, like not just the rush to like, continue to keep like laboring and to stay in like a surface place and not get sort of sucked into the grief where we're approaching an anniversary of a big loss in our family, and we're all dealing with it differently, you know, but there's definitely this. 

Difficulty in how to make it safe to go all the way into that feeling, you know, like, and I think also if you're somebody who isn't super comfortable with maybe going in these big emotional waves, I'm, I'm on the way of all the time crying. Laughing hysterically. Um, that sort of is like maybe my energy or my flux, but if you're somebody who doesn't, it can feel even more scary, right? 

Like what if I go in there and I can't get back out or I go in there and I don't know how to be productive again, or I don't know how to honor their life and their joy. I don't want to get stuck in just the loss. I want to honor everything they taught. How do you suggest people open containers for that in ways that feel safe and that let us access the. 

The sort of transformation that might be possible or the enchantment that might be possible there. 

Mara: That's such a beautiful question and I, I want to respond. I also would love to know what y'all think. Um, if you have ideas too, but I. Well, one of the things that I think is important is like, I guess there's a few threads of this, I'll try to talk about, but one, I've in the grief, the community grief spaces that I facilitate, I try to welcome people, however, their grief is present without a pressure to you know, Like come in and fall apart and howl and be like, this is the way to grieve. 

Like, I think for a lot of people, it's important just to have a space where their grief is welcome, however, like close or overwhelming or distant it feels, because then it's like, that's. That's meeting people where they're at in a way that also still is like, and this space is for you and like to get to talk about like the discomfort of numbness, or like, of not being able to lean in or being afraid to feel and to get to do that in community with other grievers who have all different kinds of experiences, but then get to like reflect back at each other. 

Um, That maybe that they resonate or like how they've worked through that or just like holding space and being witnessed in it. I feel like can do so much like just acknowledging like what's present right now, um, can really open the door to more, um, more capacity to be with grief. I think that's 1 1 part of it. 

Yeah, I think, yeah, well, I 

Risa: also, I was thinking when you're saying making it. Making it okay to name the grief, I, I also want to say, like, we're grieving now, the unsaid thing, right? Like, we're... There's another fucking war and there's kids who are trapped and there's racism spiraling out of control and antisemitism and all the distortions of our language and the way that that gets turned brutally against innocent people. 

And there's an ongoing war in the Ukraine. And like, we're, we're just, there's climate crisis like that. It's okay that we're overwhelmed in them. And I just also want to say those things in case it helps 

Mara: somehow. 

Amy: Thank you. Um, that kind of leads me to one of my questions that I really, I really want to hear what you have to say about because I think, I don't know, but I think that there's like a difference between personal grief and global grief. 

And I want to know what you think about like, how we grieve differently when a loved one, loved one dies, versus the grief that we feel about like war and genocide and Risa mentioned climate crisis and. Because, I mean, I guess the grief when someone dies, it's like, it's over, but this grief is like, it's never gonna be over. 

So they feel like opposites, and I'm not sure if they even sit in the same space in my body. I don't know how to further articulate a question, so I'll just put a question mark at the end of this sentence. 

Mara: Totally. Thank you. Yeah. Yes. Yeah, I just want to, like, echo the acknowledgments of, like, we are at a time where we are watching genocide unfold on social media, where we're Witnessing a ton of and, you know, and have been since before that, like witnessing so much, um, suffering, whether, you know, it's obviously different for those on the front lines of that, but witnessing it as a collective and, um, and again, being in a. 

You know, a society where there really isn't space for us to collectively grieve, like, to just, like, actually feel what that, what this experience is of bearing witness to suffering in this way. And like, so this question I think is just so, um, important for us to think about in community together. And to be honest, like, I don't have a very, like, specific definition of personal versus collective. 

I think it also depends on. You know, our positionality, like, I think for many people are the personal losses that they're experiencing and the collective grief are happening at the same time. I mean, for most of us in different ways, but I think like this, you know, like, if a person, you know, loses a loved 1 to police violence to genocide to war to a hurricane present industrial complex, like displaced from their home. 

Like, there's so much of that. That is. Both personal and collective. And of course, like, I, I think, you know, this, there is a difference in the like, if you have, you know, one loved one, you've lost versus you're watching hundreds of people get killed. Like, that is. You know, that is different. I think it does sit in a different place in our body. 

And so I do want to really like, honor that. And, um, I think like, I also hear you talking about like ongoing loss, like when the losses, it's not like, okay, I have a moment to respond and process this one death that's happened. It's like, yeah, we're still in the midst of. So many different kinds of unfolding loss and many of them that feel like completely unnecessary. 

This isn't just like getting older and passing away. This is, yeah, this is, um, You know, directly driven by oppressive systems and like, there's, you know, the things don't have to be this way. So, yeah, but I do think that, I guess I think that personal loss, even if it's not directly related to oppressive systems or like that is obscured in some way, that connection, like, I think it still has the power to radicalize us and bring us into irreverence for all life. 

And to relate more deeply with one another and that like even a personal like one personal loss of a grandparent who lives to, you know, old age can still help us like compost this idea of the separate self and kind of remind us that we don't do anything truly alone as individuals, um, that we're part of this like great web. 

that humans don't do. Grief alone as a species that this, this great web we're a part of is like made up of the living and the dead, our ancestors, future generations. I think that like grief can really bring us into an altered state of reverence, even though it's not like that's it. That's the only thing we're experiencing. 

Um, I think sometimes when I talk about that, folks, you know, it may not be accessible for everyone. Like if you're in the depths of despair, you may not be feeling reverence, but I do also think that like being aware of becoming coming face to face with like the preciousness of life can really just like, um, root that more deeply. 

In our bodies, and I think, like, with collective loss looking around right now, um, just like I'm thinking about if we actually allow ourselves to bear witness to what's happening, that the grief is really overwhelming and. I think about Joanna Macy's work again, like she says, we must learn again together to fall apart. 

It's an essential part of, of evolutionary and psychological transformation. Like, if we're gonna try to birth other worlds, um, that this, that grief is actually, um, especially like collective grief is a really powerful, uh, has a powerful role to play. Can you talk more about 

Risa: that tension, I guess, between, 

Mara: so there, I identify both with the like, um, rate, 

Risa: like the anger and the rage and the irritation and, uh, and the, like the, the coming into more reverence, but there are some losses I've had this year where it doesn't, I'm not more reverent yet. 

You know what I mean? It hasn't, I, I haven't, I still just feel. Feel confused and angry, you know, there's something to about feeling this love and connection for people that are really spread out around the world. Like, I guess, because of the way that I've done community building on the internet, like I have like beloved friends who I haven't seen in a long time. 

And then suddenly they die. And I don't know, I didn't know they were sick. And they're my age or younger, and they have kids my age. And I just radicalized. Yes. More angry. Yes. More at a loss, yes, but how can 

Mara: we, are there, is there, 

Risa: how do we deepen a plant relationship or a spirit relationship or a writing relationship to help us cross over when we're stuck in that rage or frustration or confusion, you know, what, what's, what are the rituals that help maybe transmute 

Mara: that? 

Yeah. So I think this is such a good question. I definitely don't have like a, you know, like a standard, like, here's, you know, here's what we can do. I think the one thing that I feel like lucky to bear witness to again and again is the simplicity of just creating spaces to be with other people, other grievers, um, like just to come together in a society where there's You know, our communities are so fragmented and yeah, there's just not a lot of, for many of us, community or community spaces. 

Like I watched this week. Uh, some good friends of mine or last week organize, uh, a vigil and, you know, hundreds of people showed up and my friends like who, you know, facilitated this, um, like they hadn't done that kind of work before and I just, and it doesn't have to be that scale, right? It can just be with a handful of loved ones, but I think it's like, it is like sitting with the, the, the discomfort of like, sometimes there isn't. 

Like something to, to do to transmute, like, or like sometimes it's just being with the discomfort and, but doing it together. And I actually think humans are really good at this. If we're given the opportunity to like, you know, our bodies are kind of like made for it, like made for just like finding ways to like break into song or like bring nourishment 

Really impossible times, and it doesn't like, again, like, it doesn't have to like, I think we take turns. Like, I think we take turns having that capacity to, like, bring that nourishment in and, like, create space for people to fall apart in. Um, yeah, and I. I think that it's also just super real, like I don't think that we're always gonna feel enchanted to the world, I think also grief can do some important like disenchantment work, like kind of breaking, you know, breaking the spell of the things that have a hold on us that we don't want. 

And, um, but that's, that's also just really real and like needs space and I, yeah, I think just sort of jumping back, like, I'm thinking about, I guess, like, this, this idea, or I guess I'm thinking about, like, collective grief again, and how, if we are able to create spaces to drop in and feel them. Yeah. That collective grief that that is a really powerful place to root our movements, actually, in like this real, what I see as like fierce love, um, For one another, rather than like, okay, if I don't drop in and I just let myself be driven by urgency and social pressure, like, what is my, what are my actions from? 

Like, where is that coming from? Like, that's, that doesn't feel I don't know. Like a deep well from, uh, to be able to draw from, I guess. And I also think that like creating spaces to be with grief, like we also need to create spaces to be with joy. Like we don't just need the, you know, grief spaces. I think we need both. 

We, and like, we need to also create like spaces to, um. That are like soft places to land in the midst of, um, great loss like I, and I think that often actually is what I've experienced grief spaces to be is like, let's come together, hug each other, light some candles, share some food. And maybe saying, and like, that that's actually really soft and that that is really like transformative and connecting and that that may be when we're able to experience that together is where, like, the awe can, uh, an enchantment could come back in. 

Um, but again, yeah, I don't I don't think it's always accessible. I think the disenchantment piece is also really big important part of of grief. 

Amy: Yeah, I, we do this too, and I love to see it in your work, where we sort of put the word alter, A L T E R, um, next to the word alter, A L T A R, and I think that's what you're, sometimes you see something and you want to change it, you want to alter it, and sometimes there's something that just needs to be placed on the, on the high shelf of our, of our alters and just like allowed to be, What it is and and remarked upon for that. 

I want to backtrack a bit because I want to know like a lot of the people that I know don't want to talk about death and they don't want to be seen grieving and they don't, you know, want us to think that they ever have cried or what that they're weak, I guess maybe is where all that comes from. So like, what drew you to this? 

line of work that so many people spend their whole lives trying to avoid. Like, was it, was it personal? What brought you to this work? 

Mara: Thanks so much. I, so many things I think brought me to this work, but the first thing that popped into my mind today when you asked was my mom, who, um, is Yeah, so powerful in so many different ways. 

But one of, one of the things that I feel like she really encouraged growing up was like, you know, I didn't grow up in any kind of like religious community, but my mom, um, encouraged me to like do my own kind of like grief rituals when like an animal we had would die or to like participate in different like vigils and, or to make our own. 

And she also is just someone who like is a deep feeler. Like kind of like not by choice, like it's very hard for her and like seeing her feel her feelings and like grieve growing up, like in ways that like wasn't always comfortable for me, like the death certainly wasn't comfortable for her, but like, she was just a, she's just a feeling person and like, feel, yeah, I mean, like she would be both, you know, enraged and, um, You know, in deep, like, in deep pain over watching, like, different parts of the forest get cut down around our house, like, and just, like, even, like, how normalized that is, and, you know, suburbia, like, this, but she was feeling it, like, every time. 

And so, that really was powerful to grow up around, um, as well as just that encouragement of, of creating my own altars and, um, experimenting with. Ritual. And, but yeah, I think, you know, I also like grew up feeling pretty terrified of death. I had a lot of like Christian friends growing up in their families who would tell me like, our whole family's going to hell and like, just explain all this terrible stuff to me. 

And I was like, very like, I just took that in. I'm just really believed that. Um, so, like, I don't think, you know, like, growing up, I would have thought, like, oh, I'm going to end up being a death worker. But at the same time, like, I had all these experiences of, like, being, you know, being encouraged to be present with death and grief, um, in ritual ways. 

From my mom. And then, yeah, like when, so there were like three deaths that happened for me in a row, or like in a series of few years that felt particularly transformative. And one of them was my grandmother's, um, and. Just like getting to be just a small part of her end of life care, like, and just like rubbing her feet and like being present with her, like, just really opened me to like, what is, you know, what is this, like, process, like, this is, this feels so important, so human, like, to just be with our loved ones in, in death and dying. 

Um, and then my dad died several years later after a two and a half year battle with colon cancer, and I got to be like a very active part of his end of life care and, um, we were able to have him at home with hospice. Um, and yeah, that experience just really, completely reoriented me in life. Like I was both. 

Very unsettled and broken open by his death and also his dying, like just being with someone you love suffering is so, um, Yeah, it's impossible. And also, like, the feeling of, like, and I have to be here. For me, that was my, like, this feels like, again, just a very human, um, thing, like, that we, this is one of the things we're here to do, like, hold each other and living and dying. 

And, um, so I felt also, like, simultaneously grounded. It was this really interesting experience of like being totally broken open and at the same time rooted like, yes, this is important that we do this for each other. And yeah, I think that and then yeah, that just that experience alone, um, really, really slowed me down like my grief. 

For my dad, really, um, really slowed me down. And like, I was not the same person. Like, I think so many of us after a big loss, like, do not feel, um, like ourselves as we knew ourselves to be, um, and I was in a Ph. D. program and I was like, really like. Doing a lot of community organizing and of a certain kind and I had to like, pull, pull back because my brain wasn't working in the same way. 

Like, I just was not able to move at the pace that I was used to and, you know, and then, and then my like, beloved dog, Poppy died. And I just had like, these experiences, then the pandemic hit and I was like, okay, you know, like, there's, there's been so much grief. There's been so much death. And like, now that I've experienced these really close. 

Losses that, like, for me, that my experience was one of, like, feeling cracked open to collective grief and new ways as well, um, through those personal losses. Um, yeah, and yeah, it's just been like, it's just been this journey for me of trying to find new ways of being in the world as this person who is. 

And has been profoundly changed by grief and like, for me, it's like, I can't be in a space or like doing work. It's not related. Like, if there's not space for grief at the table, like, there's then it's like, I'm cutting off a whole part of my, like, huge part of myself. And so, um, I feel really grateful that I've been able to, to turn towards this work and like, move outside of academia and, um, You know, have classes and workshops and spaces, uh, feel super privileged to be able to do that and also just like super resourced by it in terms of like getting to be in these spaces. 

With other folks who are looking for and not finding, um, often spaces to be with grief. Like to me, it's just a huge honor. Um, yeah, I feel really grateful to be able to, to be where I am right now. 

Amy: And how can our listeners create those? Those spaces, if they're difficult to find, like we always say, if you can't find what you're looking for, you have to make it yourself. 

So how, how, how do we do that? Mara, how do we do that? 

Mara: Yes. I mean, I think that it's, it can be really simple. Like, I think just Like, reaching out to our networks of loved ones and saying, you know, like, I want to create this space, I want to create a collective altar, I want to create some, you know, small ritual, or I want to do, I want to have a night where we're talking about stories of our beloved dead, or I want to, you know, I just want to come together and have some tea and light some candles and be with what's happening, maybe read some prayers, some spells, some blessings, some You know, um, yes, just like that. 

There's that. It gets to be. It also gets to be simple. Like, if even if it's just you and like, 3 other people or like, if you're someone who hasn't even had a chance to be with your own grief alone, like alone using air quotes, because I think that. There are so many ways that we're held by the more than human world by our ancestors, um, even in just doing, you know, sitting in front of our altar by ourselves. 

Um, like, just creating a small altar, like, to your grief or to those you grieving or creating 1 offering, like, making, you know, uh, some sort of. Gesture towards being in, you know, being present with your grief, like that can be one step in, and so I feel like it gets to be, it gets to be simple. And it doesn't mean that it'll be easy, but it gets, we get to just like, you know, create in small ways together. 

And I, so I guess that's what I would say. It's just like. Thinking of like one one step that you can take to create more space to do with your grief if you've never gotten to like actually sit and be with it yourself and like create that alter and tend that relationship, then maybe that's where you want to start. 

But also, like, you know, I think there's just so much power and coming together in the uncertainty of even how to do that. Like, just being like, I don't know how to do this. Can we come together? Like, yeah. I think there's so much power in that. And I think that's a lot of what grief asks us to do is like, let's be real together in the face of so much uncertainty. 

Like, let's just come together and find a way to bring nourishment here to this place where we feel really disoriented, really confused, really, like, um Yeah, like there's so much that maybe we, we don't know. 

Amy: Since this is our Saw Win special, I went to your website, listeners, go immediately, well, no, wait till the episode is over, then go immediately to the Mother Wharton Rose website. 

Um, I pulled this from something that you wrote about Saw Win and, um, It's amazing, it has that, um, altered state, A L T A R bit in it, which again, I just, you know, I love so much. So I just want to read something that you wrote, and then I would love for you to just like, Expand. Um, so this is from your website. 

The festivals of death at this time of year remind us that grief and joy are woven together. These are festivals, after all, where we are invited to pour libations, celebrate the liminal, thresholds, the dead, the thinning of the veil, our undying connections to them. And grief itself is an altered, liminal state. 

In which we may experience not just sorrow, but an impossibility of ignoring the sacred and the magic of being alive at all. The unknown extends a hand, asks us to dance. This time of year can be so interesting for those of us in grief. For this time of year, connections with the dead, death. Loss, mystery, and liminality are more widely celebrated, or at least acknowledged and given a place at the table. 

Can you talk about this weaving of joy and grief, and this time of year specifically? Mm, 

Mara: thank you so much. Yeah, well it's really interesting, right, like that we have this, this moment of turning towards death that we've, you know, preserved even. In this modern world that this and maybe in those ways that yeah, of course, it's done, you know, capitalized on, but also just like that. 

This is still. This is still a part of, like, our, our seasonal celebrations are, and I think that that is really powerful to lean into. Like, we already have people sort of turning towards. Death and grief and ancestors in this way and ritual, which is so powerful. And we already have, like, there's so much joy in this time, you know, in this time of year in those celebrations, um, which is so powerful, like seeing people dress up seeing there's just so many different ways that people are kind of bringing the magical out or sinking into that. 

Um, even in like, more mainstream, mainstream. Ways and I think that's powerful to lean into and like a way to kind of like, pull, pull more people into relationship, um, with death and grief. And like, I think just thinking about the, the connections between joy and grief, I'm thinking about how joy is not really like an absence of grief, but a capacity to come alive as we fall apart. 

Um, the ways that we celebrate who and what we love. Um, like the way my dad made jokes on his deathbed, like, there's just like, there's this really incredible human spirit that, um, yeah, it's just like life kind of like reasserting itself or like this capacity for, for play, um, that is present and again, doesn't always have to feel accessible, but like Carla Bergman and Nick Montgomery talk about in Joyful Militancy, they say joy is the capacity to do and feel more. 

It's a process of coming alive and coming apart. It's the increase of our capacity to perceive with our senses. And so, in this sense, I think joy is actually something we might need grief or falling apart to, like, really experience the depths of and that, like, allowing ourselves to feel our feelings, um. 

Actually can open us to deeper joy to that, like numbing ourselves, um, limits our joy to like, we may cry harder, but we also may laugh more deeply when it comes like the laughter, um, like in in caring for my dad at the times when we laughed and I've like, seen this in other folks experiences and caregiving, like, they're just so powerful, like those moments, like the capacity for joy to surface, even where it seems least possible. 

And I think that, like, also just points to, like, if we create spaces for our joy, that this can also be a way of grief tending. Um, and, like, so many Black feminist thinkers and Adrienne Marie Brown and Pleasure Activism and Emergent Strategy have just, like, pointed to that importance over and over again and that capacity. 

Um, and I think that's what I was trying to point to. Um, in that passage, uh, a bit, but yeah, I'm not sure if that, if that gets, gets at it. 

Risa: Okay. Yeah. I got so emotional when you were talking about that. I, because it's so true. Like those, I guess I, I, I was rushed with like a moment of remembering being in 

Mara: hospice 

Risa: with, um, my, my, uh, husband's mom died last year. 

So my four year old, my like kids, grandma, you know, her best friend. And, but we, it was. There was like, we had the, the TV on with the fire crackling, you know, on the TV, the fake, the fake fire and, uh, and May was like lying on the floor, putting little glass Christmas lights into those vintage ceramic Christmas trees, you know, those ones. 

So she was like. Individually placing them all and we're hanging up Christmas lights and Cece was basically unconscious. We knew it was like days or hours, but it glows, you know, it has like a glow that memory. There was like a joy. And I hope that May has both those, you know, she has the heartbreak, but she has that like, no, we were joyful. 

Cece was joyful. We were joyful together too. It's, it's Sal and it's a conversation about grief. So I'm going to let myself. Feel that out loud. 

Mara: Yeah, that's so 

Amy: powerful. 

I kind of want to add another emotion and, and bring a space for it too. Um, I was the caregiver for my father who had dementia. He lived with me for 10 years, um, on his rapid. Decline. And there was laughter, and there were tears, and there was anger, and there was frustration, and then more laughter, and, you know, grieving the man he was while he was still alive. 

Um, because that, that man didn't exist anymore. Um, but when he did die, it was fast and easy. And his doctor, our family doctor, You know, the first thing she said to me, when we spoke, was, It's okay to feel relieved. And, it was like she had lifted this great, Because I did feel very fucking relieved, many, many times. 

It was so difficult, it was impossibly difficult. And I was very relieved. Um, but I felt like a monster, for feeling that relief. And I was so grateful to... this medical professional for giving me this, you know, that I've had friends who have lost family members who were difficult, difficult people to love. 

And so I, I wanted to bring relief to the table and, and, And Mara, if you, like, as a, you know, will take it from a medical professional, my family doctor, but I also want to take it from a grief professional, if you could give us all that permission to feel relieved when things end. 

Mara: Yeah, absolutely. I think, I mean, I hear that all the time. 

I think it's so common and feeling relieved makes so much sense. And And there's nothing monstrous about that and I think what, you know, a lot of what I've, you know, what I've heard and experience feels to me, like, it points to the fact that, like, so much of our caregiving falls on individuals and, and our. 

Society rather than like, uh, you know, we don't have those networks in place to like fall on to hold us as caregivers to like spread out and share that work. And it is too much. It's too much for one person that, you know, and as much as I think like, yes, we are here to do this work of caring for each other and holding each other and living and dying. 

Like, we're not meant to do that alone. Um, and so feeling relieved from being put in an impossible situation where you are Forced to care for someone alone is, makes so much sense. Um, it's just really real. May I ask 

Risa: too, working with death and grief, you're right up against the unknown, right? And so everyone who comes to you, um, maybe has a different cultural assumption about what happens after. 

A different religions context that they come in carrying or, um, atheists, you know, like determined, practical, grounded, atheist people who are like, it's, it can be really confronting that we don't know, you know, like people come with all of these different armatures. To something that has no answer, it's not something that you can give people an answer to. 

Don't worry. It's all okay, heaven. Here you go. Guaranteed, you know, like you have to go in and meet people with, with more unknown. How do you do that? What, what do you offer people? What can we offer each other in the face of something so enormous? When there aren't easy answers anymore, I 

Mara: guess. 

Yeah, I think, yeah. Well, okay, first, I want to kind of jump to back a second to this idea of like, you know, I mean, there is there is a whole death care, like industry, there's death care workers, there's, you know, grief doulas, and they, you know, and I'm one. And I also want to say, like, I feel like so much of what I do is yes, like trying to get resources and people's hands and tools and spaces to be together. 

And Like a lot of it is just being real about what I also don't know and like that there's like my One of my teachers, um, elua arthur talks about like imposter syndrome and death duel work And she's just like, well, you know, none of y'all have died. So like, none of us have died. We can't actually be experts in this, you know, like we, we are professionals in a sense, but we're also not, like, there's no way that I can be an expert in someone else's grief experience. 

I can only share about mine and like my experience being in community and I can just listen. Um, And try to try to bring resources in, um, that have been helpful to me and those that I love. And now, um, one of the things I've been thinking and feeling a lot about, which I don't think this answers your question. 

I think this goes in another direction, but, um, is. Just like how, again, with this unknown element, often loss brings us into contact with what was like, unimaginable. Um, and I also, so I also think like grief is. similarly also connected to our imagination and like thinking about um, just like This, the, the wisdom of our bodies, if we like uncouple creativity from productivity and like having all the answers and like something a disembodied mind can do. 

I think about like how there is medicine and creativity in the ways that grief can just show up as like embodied refusal of uncertainty, a kind of like stopping everything on. And, um, that has a lot of power. Um, And I think like, just this is semi connected to the unknown piece for me and like being in the unknown together is like, I think it's a creative practice that we make up together as we go along. 

Um, it's a process of creativity that like, unlike capitalist expectations of endless productivity or like easy kind of like 123. Here's what we do. It's like we. Our, our creativity together gets to look more like ecosystems. It's like a process that's woven from rest and attunement to our bodies and attunement to each other and like embracing seasons of decay, like, and, and that grief can make us creative in the ways that ecosystems are creative and it has to be collectively figured out. 

Amy: Is this related to your notion of shape shifting? In your work. 

Mara: Yeah. Yeah. I feel like whenever. So I've been just sort of coming back to and rooting in this idea of grief as a creative process as an organic process as shape shifting and they all kind of feel like similar ways or attempts to name the same thread, which is like. 

You know, grief as an essential part of living and dying, as rot, as this essential and nourishing and life giving force, as this having an important role to play, grief as a destabilizer and disruptor of that which needs shaking up, um, as a force of nature, that compost, again, what needs composting, and I think, like, through grief, which often disrupts these kind of, like, it's, it's just like coming face to face with the, the, like, ever present Hope nature of our world that has changed. 

Like, I feel like that is, that is what we're doing as grievers. And so I feel like that is inherently pointing to the shape shifting nature of the world and of us that is always actually present. And like, kind of that grief in itself is this veil thinning experience where it's like, we realize that the veil has always been thin, you know, like there's these moments where we come into contact with it and we can't, we, it's undeniable. 

But I think, like, you know, through grief, we also become less like these fixed ideas of ourselves, like less like nouns and more like verbs, um, like our, like ecological processes, like aware of ourselves, we're, um, made up of all of our ancestors and our beloved dead, um, and the, the places and relationships that we're grieving and. 

I think about how, like, our tears can remind us of the ways that we are fluid, like, coming together and coming apart, spilling into the world, being spilled into, and that that, like, spilling is a kind of shape shifting sight of possibility for us. 

Amy: I have a non sequitur before we turn to the coven because I really want you to talk about plant magic for grief support, um, as a zine, um, but also, like, as an idea. 

Mara: Absolutely. Well, I just think it's so important to note, like, how we are You know, we are not actually like, whether we're dropped into a relationship with plants or not, like, we are made up of plants. We, you know, we are in relationship with so many plants, whether or not we actually, um, are, you know, really thinking about it. 

Um. And like, we're already so indebted to the plant realm, um, in so many ways, uh, but that, that plants have been a huge part of our death care and grief rituals as human beings that like, even like, they've been plants have been found in some of the oldest graves uncovered, you know, and that they have been, we've been adorning our dead, you know, we've been bringing plants into our support of the bereaved of those grieving that, that, um, This whole idea that, you know, we, we are alone and I agree for as a species is not really something that, like, holds up historically, like, looking at, um. 

All the different ways that plants, um, have been brought in, whether it's through ceremony or through, you know, meals or through libations or through, um, you know, ancestor plates through bouquets and adorning the bodies of our dead or, you know, carrying a sprig of rosemary to remember our beloved dead or just like there's all these, you know, depending on, you know, The place in time, like just the humans have been working together with plants. 

Plants have been death doulas for humans for a long time. Um, and. Yeah, so like one of the plants I've been thinking about a lot right now, um, is chamomile and I just got to make a pitch for chamomile right now because, um, yeah, they're just such an incredible plant that I think is really kind of taken for granted. 

And it's like a. Accessibility or like, you know, so many people have heard of camomile like, all right, tell me about a plan. I don't know. No, like camomile is amazing and super underappreciated. And I think has so much to offer moments like this. Um, or whenever we feel dropped into the collective ongoing. 

Trauma and grief, and it's not just the, um, the herbal actions of chamomile that it, like, physiologically is, um, relaxing to our nervous systems, helps us digest our food, is, like, soothing and relaxing to our muscles, can help us release tension, can, can help us, um, is also a great ally for our lungs, for those with asthma or who feel like their breath, um, Is, you know, I mean, breath is really one of our lungs are another seat of grief and in traditional Chinese medicine like that's understood, but just like the ways that our nervous systems are connected to our breath and like the quality of our breath being feeling breathless or feeling yeah, just like this, that tension in our chest. 

Camomile is helpful for that as well, but like aside from all of all of those amazing things that camomile is doing. I think just like the magic of camomile. Um, yeah, I also forgot to mention is, um, really this incredible nourisher of art. And like helps us get a deeper rest. Um, and also it's been used to like prevent, um, insomnia or help with insomnia and nightmares. 

Just like this really powerful ally for our dream space and our rest space. Chamomile also just has all of these like incredible, um, magical. Like history and folklore and practices and like, has been used as a grave plant to help ease the passage of the dead, um, has been strewn on birthing beds to help ease the passage of those being born. 

And I think just really asks us to examine our relationships with rest and rupture with birthing new worlds with bringing nourishment into times of crisis and, um. I just, yeah, I just feel like in these times when we, when so much can feel overwhelming, Cam Emile is really this ally for helping us to co regulate, to remember to breathe, to like ground ourselves in our movements in this. 

deep well of compassion and, um, and to cultivate this like ongoing attunement to ourselves in the world where those things aren't pitted against each other. Like, I think chamomile helps us not soften the edgy edginess or like the edges, but like meet the edges, like come with gifts, you know, and, and that is really beautiful. 

And also just, again, reminds us that like attunement is always. Relational like that, we can only, you know, we that this whole, like, idea of self care and collective care. I think they often get pitted against each other. And I, my experience with camera meals, it really helps us to remember both ourselves and others. 

And that those. Things can't actually be separated. Um, and that we have to nourish both ourselves and others, not nourish ourselves at the expense of others or show up, um, offering gifts when we ourselves are not been able to create that space for ourselves that they have to be, we have to figure out how to do it together. 

And so cam and meal, I feel like just as carrying this, um, into the world right now for me in big ways. And I'm just want to share and encourage folks. If you can. Can get a hold of some camomile tea or even just like sit with some of the messages of this plant that I think they they have a lot of a lot to offer this moment. 

Amy: Thank you so much for bringing something so accessible to the table, too. I feel like even people who don't, you know, haven't thought in such a complex and expansive way as you have about it, it's probably in your cupboard, or in your mum's cupboard, and it's not expensive if it's not in your cupboard. 

going by. And I also just want to point out how much I love that when you're talking about plants you say who and not that. I'm sure that's something that you've like done consciously and and now it's very natural for you. But, um, do you, do you want to talk about this, this kinship, this allyship of like, um, using human pronouns to talk about plants? 

Mara: Yeah, I mean, I think like For me, I don't even remember, like, the conscious decision, like, when that happened. I think just, like, the more that I've spoken and shared about plants with other people, that that's just how it's come out for me. And I also, yeah, I feel like it's just... really helpful to have language that can reflect, and I'm not saying everyone has to go do this, but just that for me it's been really helpful to have language that reflects this understanding of like, you know, humans aren't the only Like, like, that, that plants are beings to that, like, we get to be in relationship, um, and that, like, bringing in this, like, personhood of plants, or this more, like, animus kind of understanding of, uh, the world around us is very much alive, but this isn't even new, like, this is something, you know, indigenous people have been doing that our ancestors, I don't know, you know, you know, the exact language they were, they were using, but just that like this orientation towards the world is very much like teeming with life, like not just, you know, the plants, but the rocks and the river and the, you know, the ocean, like the, the land is alive. 

Like it, it is. And, um, yeah, I just find that to be. a really, um, resonant way of speaking about them for me. I was just rereading, 

Risa: um, Braiding Sweetgrass, and there's a moment in there where Robin Wall Kimmerer is talking about taking a class of students out into the woods and explaining that You know, she's in the midst of relearning her, her language and explaining that in that language, there is this like, animacy, um, that, you know, the maple tree is she, and like, talking about it in that way. 

And the student is like, but isn't that sort of dangerous to anthropomorphize beings that aren't us, like impose our human systems, human ways of thinking doesn't that like, um, Erase what's sort of unique about them because we're imposing our humanness on them. And I've been thinking about that so much that like there's an internal assumption there that like by acknowledging their identity, we're only going to acknowledge the ways that it's like us. 

Instead of be like de centered a little bit that maybe how we think of how we are could be changed by being in. community with these friends that we might think about beingness differently instead of just we're imposing our human beingness on 

Mara: everything. Totally. Yeah. And, and like, I think Sophie Strand has said, like, I'm I'm more interested in trying and getting it wrong than not trying at all, like trying to listen to the mountain, you know, or trying to listen to a plant and being like, yeah, again with the uncertainty, but also the openness to like, actually look at the world around you more and like be in some kind of dialogue rather than closed off to it. 

Amy: Let's take some questions for consideration, again, from, from one of your Samhain pieces. Um, there are so many, and again, listeners, like, we'll, we'll link this piece in, in the show notes. Um, because I think that all of these questions are really worth thinking about and exploring. And if you're doing, like, a personal grief ritual for Samhain, this is a way that you can enter that. 

Again, they're, they're, they're questions, so they're, they're open for you to, um, be inspired by or Or enchanted by, um, I'm going to pick a couple because I want Merit to answer. What if this being together in grief is a portal? 

Mara: Thank you so much for drawing these questions out and sharing. Um, yeah, I think the ways that we've been speaking about like grief as being in grief together as Shapeshifting as being open to being changed. I think that is what I'm curious about with this question, like where, you know, how are we going to be transformed together by going through this portal of grief, like crossing this threshold together of the unknown, like stepping in together, um, another version of this question that I posted on social media. 

It's like, what will we become in this belly of grief? Like, and to me, it's not that I have an answer so much as just this, this curiosity to find out, you know, what will happen, the more of us that come together in grief, especially right now, like what, like, I really do believe that grief is this trickster, as Bayo Akomolafe talks about this, that has this power to change us and change the world in ways that are not even in our control, not even necessarily something we can plan or orchestrate, but just that it has this role, this potential. 

And I'm also curious if y'all want to respond to this question, no pressure. 

Amy: I love any question that begins with what if, and, and all of these questions that you listed begin with, with what if. Um, but it, It makes it so difficult to answer in any kind of like, quick or assertive kind of way. Because what if it's just like the most expansive way you can begin a question, like, what if, um, what if I mean, I just want to answer your question with another one of your questions, like, what if the point is to be so completely broken open that we cannot help pouring ourselves into this world? 

It's just completely reframing, like, our, our capitalist brainwashing about, like, keeping it together and, and keeping that brave face and keeping that chin up. But what if the whole point is to break open so much that the contents of your very soul are forced to spill out into the ground? Again, I, I've, I've answered the question with another question, but we could just, what if? 

All day. Instead of what if ing all day, I was hoping that you would close us out with a prayer or a spell. I know grief spells are your thing. Um, and if you have one that you want to share with our listeners, we would be so very grateful. 

Mara: Thank you so much. Yes, I would love to. This is one that I wrote recently for this particular moment of collective grief that we are in. 

May the gravity of our grief bring us back to each other, ourselves, our bodies, the plants, the land, the water, the animals, our ancestors, and future generations. May the welling in our chests remind us how expansive our capacity is to hold and be held of the deep well of love and nourishment in which there is enough for everyone, for every child. 

May our breaking break patterns that need breaking, and break us open to even deeper capacity for making beauty, love, and magic where it seems least possible, for making honey at the places of rupture, inside us and between us. May our grief make us into delicious libations for worlds in which we all belong. 

Amy: Let's, let's sit in the quiet silence. 

Thank you so very much. How can our listeners find you, support your work, find, um, plant magic for grief, support the zine, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. How can our listeners support you? 

Mara: You can find me at Mother Wart and Rose on Instagram or at mother wart and You can sign up for Grief Spells my newsletter on my website. 

Um, you can also find the zine Plant Magic for Grief support as a free download there. Um. And then there's there's also another zine that I'm hoping to release soon. That's called grief as shape shifting spells for coming undone. Um, and you'll find that there as well. And there are some classes coming up next year if you're interested in working together, um, in a more ongoing way that are also on the website. 

So thank you so 

Amy: much. Thank you so much for opening this circle for us to grieve together, and be joyful together, and be relieved together, and, um, happy, or sad, or grieving, or whatever kind of Samhain you're having, um, we wish an expansive openness of whatever emotion you're putting into your Samhain this year. 

Thank you again, Mara, so very much, and... Blessed fucking be. I'm blessed fucking be. Blessed 

Mara: be. Be a witch. You must be 

Amy: a witch. If you want to support the Missing Witches project, find out how at missingwitches. com

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