Missing Witches Ostara Special – Talking Spiritual Bypassing with The Birch Trail

"You can't take the spiritual tools of someone who went through fire and hell to come back with that knowledge of healing for their people."

Amy Torok
Mar 20, 2019
43 min read
Sabbat SpecialsIndigenous MagicOstaraTranscripts

Risa and Amy welcome the Spring and Welcome you with Gratitude to Season Two of the Missing Witches Podcast. In this episode, we share Amy's chat with mixed indigenous artist and community organizer, Michelle aka The Birch Trail.

Music: The song Michelle sings is called “Honour Song” by George Paul. The lyrics in English translate to: “Let us greatly respect our being L’nu (Mi’kmaq/native). My people let us gather. Let us greatly respect our native roots. My people let us help one another. Let us help one another as Creator intended when he put us on the earth”

PHOTOS BY julienlauzonphotography.com

The Birch Trail is inspired and deeply rooted in Michelle’s relation to Turtle Island and her mixed Indigenous roots. Using the same mediums her ancestors have been using for thousands of years, Michelle has been transforming nature with resin into classic jewelry designs for over the past 6 years.

Michelle Beausejour is a mixed Indigenous artist from Tkaronto and currently residing in Tiohtià:ke. Entrepreneur & community organizer, Michelle currently makes jewelry as The Birch Trail and organizes maker markets as Collectif Creatif EtsyMtl.



Michelle’s Fav Indigenous accounts & learning resources:
https://www.ictinc.ca/blog – Working effectively with Indigenous Peoples

https://hownottotravellikeabasicbitch.com/traveling-while-native-2/ (Insta handle: @hownottotravellikeabasicbitch ) – Specifically traveling while Native series

Reclaiming Roots (Insta handle: @reclaimingroots ) – Maker & cultural activist
Chief Lady Bird (Insta handle @chiefladybird ) – Artist and activist
Cali Wolf (ig: @caliwolf / www.throughhernativeeyes.com )
Native Appropriations www.nativeappropriations.com (blog)
November Sage (insta handle @novembersage ) – Indigenous Bruja, healing magic shop
Lotus + Sage Holistics ( ig: @lotusnsageholistics ) – Kahnawa:ke’s first holistic center
Indigenous Goddess Gang (ig @indigenousgoddessgang / www.indigenousgoddessgang.com )
All My Relations Podcast (ig @amrpodcast
www.allmyrelationspodcast.com )

Michelle’s Fav Ethical Witchy Accounts:
Miss Bourguignon (insta handle @missbourguignon )
Circo Tarot (insta handle @circotarot / www.circotarot.com )
CityxWitch (insta @cityxwitch / www.thecitywitch.ca
Equinox Art (ig: @_equinoxart_ )
Emilia Ortiz (ig: @ethereal.1 )
Hood Witch (ig: @hoodwitch )






Ostara with Birch Trail

[00:00:00] Michelle: Ah, bonjour Ostara. You aren't being a proper woman, therefore you must be a witch.

You must be a witch. 

[00:00:13] Amy: It's the Spring Equinox, which means there is a balance of light and dark. So Risa and I thought it would be really interesting to get into the concept of spiritual bypassing in an effort to balance our light and our dark. It's a term that comes up a lot because it means a lot of different things.

Number one psychologically, it's, it's about... Using your quote unquote spirituality to pass through, not pass through, that's wrong, to avoid your dark, to not go through something, to say like namaste and ignore and then you've not gone through it so you can't heal. Part of what we do as witches in healing is, is to really go through things, accept them, not even accept them.

But like, you know, we respect our dark sides as witches. We respect darkness and we definitely do not put it in a hierarchy above light. And, and that's sort of the psychological. Definition of spiritual bypassing, but it also really relates to appropriation and how we think we can just take the symbols of things and have them work their magic for us without actually doing the research, doing the work, doing anything.

[00:01:40] Michelle: Yeah, or having the lived experience of everything it cost. to learn that sacred knowledge, you know? So I think when, I'm glad you explained it cause I understand it a lot better now, but I think when you talk about, you know, some, you know, talk about not smudging or you know, not burning Palo Santo or, you know, trying to be careful about not, it's, it's not just like, Don't take from another person's culture because of course we're like learning from each other all the time It's that you can't take the spiritual tools of someone who went through fire and hell To come back with that knowledge of healing for their people, you know, you I don't know.

[00:02:29] Amy: Well, we don't know. We don't know. And so we talked to you. That's the main thing. I know. And, and that is what we're doing with this project ultimately is that we don't know, but we're curious. We we're just trying to read stuff. 

[00:02:40] Michelle: Guys we're here, we're reading 

[00:02:42] Amy: and ask questions. But we were super lucky because we had Michelle AKA, the Birch Trail actually hit us up.

She's a a mixed indigenous woman, and she hit us up and was like. I want to come and talk to you guys, you know, she loved the first season and thank you to all our listeners and all the people who have reached out to us. Oh 

[00:03:02] Michelle: my god. And shout out to Birch Chow. She's like a, a master arts organizer as well.

She's like someone who, who, who brings together the world and, and, and came with that confidence to be like, let's talk about 

[00:03:15] Amy: some stuff. Let's talk about it. So she and I got into, you know, the difference between smudging. Which we do not do unless we're Native. And cleansing with smoke. I didn't know this either.

I even think I posted something about smudging last year. Because this, this was new. We, we learned to smudge from a mixed Indigenous woman. And so we thought, great! You know? Now we know better. And thank you Maya Angelou. When you know better, you do better. That's all we can ask from each other. That's all we can ask from ourselves.

But don't let your ignorance be an excuse. Learn, then know. Then do better. We all make mistakes and we're all in this learning thing together. What's that Kurt 

[00:03:55] Michelle: Vonnegut quote in Mother Night? It's something about like, he could understand all the people that were missing cogs in their minds because we all are, but he could never understand the people who had willfully filed down the pegs.

That's it. I guess I do want to think about... The original definition you gave us of spiritual bypassing, or I just want to go back to that kernel and leave it with you guys that sitting in the pain of something, like the pain of Finding out you were wrong. The pain of shame or embarrassment. The pain of anxiety, which hi, I'm a little bit postpartum.

Yeah, that, um, sitting in it and sometimes. Resisting the urge that pushes in on us on all sides from our culture to skip it and get back to the happy and the positive and the proactive and the doer, but to really find ways to eat and marinate in and sweat in and stew in and thank and love and thank our pain and our shadow is the root of magic.

So. Bypassing that shit just means you're stuck on the bypass forever until you get into it. 

[00:05:13] Amy: I, I certainly believe that we learn more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. We learn more from being wrong than we do from being right. So if you're like us and learning is kind of your ish, then get into being wrong and take responsibility for it.

It's. It ain't no crime. And 

[00:05:30] Michelle: guys, please keep telling us when we're wrong. Thank 

[00:05:33] Amy: you. Oh, yeah, you know, that goes for us too, y'all. We need 

[00:05:37] Michelle: you and we love you. And yeah, just to circle back to the, the response from people on our Instagram and it's 

[00:05:46] Amy: just been so lovely. One of the, we're not big into numbers, you know, we're art people, we're not super numbers people, but one of the greatest things about the statistics.

page of our podcast is the map. We have had listeners from like something like 50 or 60 countries, which I still can't get my head around. Who are you? Like write to 

[00:06:09] Michelle: us, write to us missing, which is a gmail. com. Tell us your stories. The people that have written us their stories know that we read them aloud to our loved ones and 

[00:06:16] Amy: cry.

We love them. We, I mean, when we don't know why we're doing this, we always get an email. And then we know why we're doing this. But yeah, all y'all out there, all, literally all across the world, my mind is blown that y'all are listening to this. So please let us know who you are. And if 

[00:06:34] Michelle: there are witches.

that you want to tell us about. Please tell us. We want to buy your books. We want to receive your newsletter. We do buy your books. It's something that we really care about. We spend money on books. Tell us about Your fucking badass witch aunt send me her biography 

[00:06:53] Amy: Yeah, or at very least like we will speak your badass aunt's name into the universe with love and honor and respect 

[00:07:00] Michelle: Yeah, a million times.

[00:07:02] Amy: So with honor and respect. Here's my conversation with Michelle the birch trail. We love you

[00:07:25] Michelle: Michelle.

My name's Michelle. I'm also known as the Birch Trail. I'm a mixed indigenous woman. Originally coming from Toronto, but now I'm living as an artist in Montreal. 

[00:07:43] Amy: Do you want to tell us about how you started your introduction? 

[00:07:48] Michelle: Yeah. So, I, it's in Mi'kmaq. My maternal side hails from Nova Scotia. So it's, I think it's just like important to indigenize the space that you're in.

I probably spoke the language really bad. I've been practicing it all morning. Well, actually for a while, I won't lie, but. It's just important to, like, recognize, like, the lands that you come from, the lands that you're living in, and just, as Indigenous people, it's important. Like, with the rise of, like, you know, doing land acknowledgements, and people think this is something new that's just coming from reconciliation, but territorial, territorial acknowledgements have been used for hundreds of years.

So it's something really important amongst Indigenous people. 

[00:08:34] Amy: And we are in Montreal right now. Yeah. So what's the First Nations name for Montreal? 

[00:08:41] Michelle: Okay, well, there's two names that I do know of. One is Anishinaabe, and then one is Haudenosaunee. And the Haudenosaunee, which is Mohawk, if you're unaware, is Jojage.

And if you look at the spelling, it definitely doesn't look like that phonetically, but how to pronounce it slowly, Jojage. Yeah. And I, there is also, I don't know how to pronounce the Anishinaabe name, but it's Muniang? Muniang. Muniang. I will give you the spellings. Yeah. And I apologize, to my Anishinaabe relatives for that.

I should have done my research. 

[00:09:20] Amy: Well, we're learning and we're working hard to, you know, but we all are starting somewhere. But you're Quite a bit further ahead than a lot of our listeners, I think, in terms of your, your knowledge of the indigenous land that we live 

[00:09:34] Michelle: on. Well, even, like, I didn't grow up knowing this knowledge, though.

It's really interesting. So, it's something, obviously, I learned in my teenagehood and then more into my adult ages, but growing up, like, in school, we never learned about residential schooling. We never learned about our history before. It was just like, the English showed up, and They beat up the French, everything's great, now we're here.

And it's just like, okay, what about everything before? 

[00:10:01] Amy: And we hear that a lot, like, it's always been this way, and yeah, no. 

[00:10:05] Michelle: Definitely not. And it's just, like I said, growing up. Growing up Indigenous, it was just something that was, like, I've always known. This is something that I grew up with in my family.

Whenever I have interactions with people, that's always the first question. Like, how long did you know you're Native? And it's like, well, like, I was born like this. I don't know. I didn't do a test, like, to find out. Like, if you, if you... Identify yourself as, quote unquote, Canadian, chances are you might have a family story somewhere.

And it even happened in my family, like, the story of the chief's daughter, and I was just like, I went and looked into my genealogy, and Unfortunately, there is a lot of romanticizing, and people like to romanticize really far removed ancestors. And my family did get caught up in this, but then when I did our lineage, I was just like, but here, look, here's our whole Métis lineage that you're ignoring that goes right up into our direct family.

But a lot of that is just because we don't know. And the general public doesn't know and unless you're faced, um, with those issues or you deal with Indigenous people on an everyday basis, you don't know. And some people do deal with Indigenous people and they don't know because we're white passing. And they don't, they have this romantic, this specific view of how we should look like based on, you know.

the original paintings of like when the sellers came and it's like the dark native guy with the headdress and your nose has to be a certain way and your forehead has to be a certain way and it's even then people don't realize that they cherry picked Those people to paint and bring back to Europe to show.

This is a new world. Come see these exotic people. And a really great person actually to follow would be Kent Monkman on this and his, he has a, I don't want to call it a drag persona because he doesn't I call it his drag persona, but it's Miss Chief Lady Eagle Testicle. Miss Lady Chief? No, Miss Chief, Miss Chief Eagle Testicle.

Gotcha. And he's a painter, he's a, well, multidisciplinary artist. He does a lot of the, those really, like, old colonial style photos with like, really detailed, but then he indigified, indigified. Ties it. Like, he, and there's a lot of queer imagery, there's a lot of, like, that kind of like reverse view of looking at the settlers in the same way that they painted us.

Like, that's, it's definitely someone to check out, he's an amazing, he actually has a gallery. In Montreal until May at the McCord Museum. Oh, 


[00:12:56] Amy: this is going to come out at the end of March. So the McCord It's 

[00:12:58] Michelle: on, it's open now and it will be open until May. Great. 

[00:13:03] Amy: Say the name one more time 

[00:13:05] Michelle: so it sticks.

It's Kent Monkman, and his show's going to be at the McCord Museum. If you live in Montreal. The actual show is called Sh Shame and Prejudice, or Prejudice and Shame, like the book. 

[00:13:17] Amy: Shame and Prejudice. Shame and Prejudice. I thought at first you said Shame and Prejudice, which also would make sense in the context of this conversation.

Totally. So he's someone who's taking his Indigenous background and sort of playing with it in a modern 

[00:13:33] Michelle: way. Yeah, well, like, well, I guess you can say modern, yes, modern, no. He's just taking, like, the lens that have all, has often been put on Indigenous bodies, and just reversing it, and putting it on the settler.

And he has this amazing Amazing painting that he did and it's, it's like heart wrenching because it's like you have the mounted police there with the priests and they're pulling the children away from the mother, but you have like the eagles and the animals helping the other children escape and it's really just this like hyper realistic, like, masterpiece.

It's like, you need to check out his work. We 

[00:14:14] Amy: will definitely post this piece on our Instagram if you follow us. We will make sure to spread this widely. Yeah. I'm not familiar with the piece, so I'm excited to go check it out myself. For 

[00:14:25] Michelle: sure. Yeah. But yeah, so, where do we go from here? 

[00:14:30] Amy: One of the things that you, I know you really wanted to talk about and I think is so important in this, um, contemporary world that we're living in where, you know, the witch is, is becoming like a, for better, for worse, you know, becoming a trendy thing.

And people are, you know, taking, taking the iconography without understanding. And I'm going to be talking about the sacredness, or whatever, the term that you use when we've talked before is spiritual bypassing. So let's, let's dive into that. I mean, you, I know you are like a pagan but you're also an indigenous woman.

And a lot of times the pagan community has been pretty... Sick about, uh, taking. So yeah, let's dive into that. I know you have thoughts. 

[00:15:16] Michelle: I definitely do, and it's just like, So, to give a little backstory, so, I grew up Indigenous, but I call it Pan Indigenous just because culture was removed. My family is a victim of the Sixties Scoop residential school system.


[00:15:33] Amy: the, the, you were talking about before how some people just don't know, and it's not a question of like, oh, they just don't know, like, they're erasure, erasure, erasure, erasure. 

[00:15:43] Michelle: And people don't realize, they're like, oh, so long ago, but no, it's our grandparents. It's our parents. It's still happening today.

Children are being removed at an astronomical amount. And they're not being, there's, they're not being put back into indigenous families. And it's really for my minor issues that, you know, honestly, if you were a white heterosexual family with a child and That was your situation, your child would not be taken away.

But at the 

[00:16:13] Amy: same time, you're, you're like, you know, forced to live in a certain situation and then you have your children taken away from you because of that situation that you've been forced into a lot of times. 

[00:16:21] Michelle: Poverty. Poverty and just, you know, not understanding that it's families dealing with the trauma they're dealing with.

My aunt spent a lot of time in and out of the foster care system. I do, I do know them, though, like, they are part of our family now, they weren't permanently removed, thankfully. But it was just like a lot of fear like that, and you can, you, you see the trauma just kind of trickle down, and you see it in just mannerisms through your family, through your parents, and then even, like, myself, like, my cupboard is full.

Stock full of cans just in case, you know, like my go to comfort foods like Spam and KD. I don't want to go there, but Insecurity, you're always like ready. I'm always prepared for the worst and I lost my train 

[00:17:12] Amy: of thought. We backstory. 

[00:17:15] Michelle: Yeah, so, okay, so growing up, it's just, I grew up with, like I said, a pan Indigenous teachings.

We knew who we are, who we were, but we're, we grew up in an urban centre, so our connection to it was not very strong. You know, my parents were working, like, two jobs to support us. My mom had me when she was 17. My parents are still together, which is amazing, but they, they worked their asses off to support us.

So it's, like, other than the odd summer powwow, there wasn't much of a strong connection there. And I really, really resonated with the pagan, paganism. And now I realize a lot of it's just like from blood memory and trying to make those connections, just because there's a lot of, a lot of similarities.

Connection to 

[00:18:04] Amy: the earth being a major one. 

[00:18:06] Michelle: Exactly. Connection to the earth, connection with the animals, you know, you have the web of interconnectedness. And in Mi'kmaq language, that's like, you know, nsit nkoma, which is like, we are all connected. Can you say that 

[00:18:19] Amy: again, just for my 

[00:18:20] Michelle: ears? Nsit nkoma. But it's...

But, And even in Wiccan, like, the web of rid, weird, blah, blah, blah, like, that whole web of interconnectedness. But, growing up, and learning more, then I realized, oh, it's just kind of been cherry picked from different ancestral teachings. And, like, even when I listened to your guys first. It's a podcast with Pixie Coleman and it's just like, there is another prime example of spiritual people cherry picking and taking those teachings and stepping on the backs of minority to do so.

And, but it was something that I connected to, like. Growing up, I was supported. My mom supported me. We, there was a Wiccan priestess who lived down the street from us and she's just like, if you ever need, you can go talk to her. She bought me my first tarot deck. It's, yeah. So I've been, I've been generally supported.

I've never been in the broom closet. And I just found that like navigating the pagan world when When topics of genealogy come up, because people are curious, people are gonna always ask. And then they're gonna scrutinize when they're like, oh, but you don't look how I imagined you to look. And then just romanticizing things like, oh, Like, the, like the whole wave in shamanism and you have all these, like, white spiritual people calling themselves shamanistic healers and it's just...

If you're to actually find, you know, a medicine man, he's not going to go around calling himself a shaman. 

[00:19:57] Amy: And Annie Lamereaux, who was on season one, said the same thing, you know, I was like, are you a shaman? And she was like... No, someone would never . . If somebody says 

[00:20:06] Michelle: yes, then . That terminology is just not really used either.

Like the terminology I know is as like a medicine woman or man or a medicine person. Mm-Hmm. and 

[00:20:17] Amy: that person in the 

[00:20:18] Michelle: community Exactly. People go to. Yeah. And people like you won't find out that person like, like you, you're not gonna be like, where's the shaman? Bring me to the healer . 

[00:20:30] Amy: Unless. You are an outsider who's coming and looking for a quick, easy fix that they can purchase, right?

[00:20:36] Michelle: Well, yeah, but there's always that. Yeah, there's always that. There's always that, and that, that goes back to the spiritual bypassing. Like, so, the actual definition of spiritual bypassing, and ironically it was coined by an American guy in the 80s who is a Buddhist teacher. Oh. And it's the tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and undeveloped undevelopmental tasks.

Unfinished developmental tasks. Yeah, basically 

[00:21:15] Amy: skipping going through the, the ugly stuff and just... 

[00:21:18] Michelle: Exactly. Yeah. But I, a lot of this goes hand in hand with appropriation. A lot of it goes hand in hand with toxic positivity. 

[00:21:26] Amy: Toxic pos let's talk about toxic positivity. Because that's not a phrase that you hear very often.

But honestly, I mean it, high vibrations are nothing. We were talking about that. We were just talking about that. Good vibes only love and light, love and light, love and light. No. Like some we as human beings should be required to experience the full range of human emotion. Especially if we're trying to get through something 

[00:21:50] Michelle: dark.

Exactly. And love and light is great, positive thinking is wonderful, it will help take you out of a very dark place. But, if you can't sit with your anger, and if you can't sit with your shadow side... Okay, so what kind of witchcraft are you doing, is my question. What kind of witchcraft are you doing? What kind of 

[00:22:14] Amy: witchcraft are you doing?

Honestly, let's take a second and ask yourself, what kind of witchcraft are you doing? And not in a judgmental way, but like really, let's think about what 

[00:22:23] Michelle: we're doing. Like it goes all into like, when you're doing a spell. And you're picking out your herbs. What kind of relations do you have to those plants?

Do you know what they do? Do you know what their properties are? Have you grown it? Or do you go through a list and then just throw a dump pile of herbs in a fire and say, woo, go, money spell? Like, no, like, it's really like developing those plant relations and developing, like, your knowledge, like, your intent.

And growing that intent just makes your spell work stronger. But if you are just taking from a list of things, like, I know these are good for this certain spell. And dumping in a fire and just like hoping for the best. There's not much intention in there. Right. And a lot of that comes, you know, like with the use of sage.

And, and everyone saying smudging. Let's talk 

[00:23:13] Amy: sage. Since we're here. Since we're here. Because this is like a... a problem like sage is what isn't White sage, white, white sage is on the endangered list in California now. I think, I mean, I'll cut this out. If I'm completely off 

[00:23:29] Michelle: base, it's at risk. And it grows in California and along the coastlines, and white sage is It's Medicine for the Indigenous Peoples of that area.

And we have our own local sage, too. Wild sage does grow up here, but it's not the white sage, it's not the giant beautiful smudge sticks that, like, you know, with the smith. But it's like. The original custodians of that land and the original people to use that medicine don't even have access to it.

And indigenous peoples who use it here, all across Turtle Island, they don't have access to those medicines because of like, let's say, over harvesting. Abalone shells, they're at risk too. They harvested as well. And it really goes against. So, I'm going to start with the idea of take what you need because now we have this mass consumerism and mass need that people absolutely want this medicine.

Yeah, we have 

[00:24:34] Amy: definitely reframed the idea of need. Oh, I need that jacket. I need that white sage. 

[00:24:40] Michelle: And then you just Like, all I ask is, like, you try to think, what is your connection to that herb? What is your ancestral connection? And for me, my, which, my, my, my craft is a lot about ancestral connection. And that includes both my white side, my settler side, which is Irish Scots, and then of course my Indigenous side as well.

And I find a lot of the appropriation and the A lot of the cherry picking from Indigenous cultures is, like, a lack of knowledge. Like, I always ask, you always talk to a white person, and they're just like, I'm 50 shades of mayonnaise, and I'm, like, I don't have any culture. And it's just like, well, no, you have.

So many beautiful cultures all across Europe that have unfortunately been trampled on by Christianity as well. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. That you have such beautiful ancestral teachings that you can go reclaim. Mm hmm. 

[00:25:43] Amy: And, you know, a girlfriend of mine and I were talking once and she was saying, like, you know, as a Canadian, that she doesn't have this, like, wonderful, and I was like, blueberry pancakes.

Like, blueberry pancakes, her grandmother would make them and they would pick the blueberries from the... You know, just because we don't see it as exotic doesn't mean that it's not beautiful and not part of your ancestry. Like, blueberry pancakes can be just as sacred as anything 

[00:26:07] Michelle: else. Well, of course. And we were, you were posting about like that magical cooking and it's just like cooking is such a huge part of that too.

Like, that's how you feed yourself and it's like going out... and picking your medicine when you grow it is an amazing way to connect with those plants. It's an amazing way to not exploit. Like 

[00:26:27] Amy: growing your own, you know, here at Missing Witches, we are very DIY. We support artisans and we'll get into your art that you sell in a minute.

But when you support artisans, but also if you can make it yourself or grow it yourself. That's the ideal as far as I'm, as far as I'm concerned and I wish, you know, I moved from an apartment to the woods and I wish that I had known how easy it is to have plants. And edible plants. You know, I had roommates who had a lot of ferns and whatever and I was terrible at taking care of them.

But like having something and pulling it out of the dirt and putting it into your mouth is one of the most amazing things. And it tastes so good. It tastes so good. It's like. spiritually fulfilling. You taste the happiness. You feel like I planted this, I grew it, and now I'm eating it and I'm just going to pull it straight out of that dirt and put it right into my mouth.

And you can do that. You can do that. Anybody can do that. And it doesn't mean you have to, you know, go to Walmart and get your white sage. Oh no, no, no, no. 

[00:27:30] Michelle: I can, luckily we do have a good. There are ethical sources to get sage. There's ways for you, if you are, if you really want to use sage, if you really connect with that plant.

I'm not, I'm not saying in all of this, I'm not saying don't have an appreciation for another culture. I'm just, turn your Appropriation into appreciation. 

[00:27:53] Amy: Excuse me. Yeah, my sort of go to phrasing is that appropriation to me is when someone takes something sacred and treats it as if it's not sacred. And that to me is the bottom line.

You know, like, We'll probably get into this with many of our guests, but if you're a white Rastafari and that's like, you know, and it is sacred to you and you 

[00:28:16] Michelle: understand. Not just smoking a joint on your couch on weekends. With your Bob Marley. 

[00:28:20] Amy: Yeah. You know, legend, you know, have all his records, just that one compilation and, you know, and so that, that's taking something sacred and rendering it unsacred.

If you recognize the sacredness of what you're doing and part of what you're talking about. Not just going and taking the easy road and going, okay, I'm going to just get some sage from whatever 

[00:28:38] Michelle: And I'm going to read a couple of like websites or 

[00:28:41] Amy: not even Like I saw this post on Instagram and it looked great.

So I thought but part of treating something as sacred is to go and do your research and Find it from someone that is also treating it 

[00:28:55] Michelle: as sacred exactly or just go straight to the source like we talked about You know, bypassing and just wanting to learn quickly and not do the actual path. Like, I guess the best way that I know this is I'm on a Reiki path right now.

I'm learning with the Nootopia Holistic Centre. And my Reiki master, her name's Jen. She's an amazing woman as well and a crystal healer who does ethically source her crystals. 

[00:29:23] Amy: Again, that's, that's another thing, you know, just like if you think that you're going to get some good vibes from something that's been ripped from the earth by a person who was not getting paid to do this labor and then is shipped, you know, I feel like some of the good vibes are going to be lost.

Yeah. In the process. Yeah. 

[00:29:41] Michelle: Right? It was definitely. Yeah. And like, doing the Reiki path though, it's, it's gonna take me three years basically to do, to get to the level where I want to be. And I see so many courses that are like, do Reiki online and we'll attune you. And it's like, that's, that wasn't the original learning system that was intended.

Like it is a shared. Healing, healing modality, it is a, it is a shared healing modality, but it's a certain teacher student path. You learn certain symbols, and then you do your you do your case studies, and then you graduate into the next level, so you get to get more symbols, like so on and so forth.

And then you, on the other side, you have spiritual bypassing, where it's like, you can do this course online. Google it, and you can find all the symbols. And it's, it's not respecting that. It's not respecting that. How it is supposed to be taught, how it was originally supposed to be taught, like the yogi yogic path, everyone calling themselves a yogi.

Meanwhile, they don't really know what the actual definition of a yogi is. Mm-Hmm. . And 

[00:30:56] Amy: they've never heard of Ayurveda. Exactly. And all that kind of 

[00:30:59] Michelle: thing. Yeah. And it's just

like we talk a lot about like appropriation in that sense. And it's like. My question is, is like, if you are interested in these things, why wouldn't you seek out teachers with that ancestral teaching, with that? And a lot of the marginalized community we talk about, like, rather than just sharing these posts, let's see some reparations.

This is a wonderful way to do it. Seek out an Indian, uh, yoga teacher. Seek out an Indigenous person if you wish. To experience smudging, anything like that. But just keep in mind that you're a guest, and you're not there to change, you're there to To listen. 

[00:31:47] Amy: But all... And you're certainly not there to pick up a skill in an hour that you can go and sell for trade.

[00:31:51] Michelle: Exactly. Mm hmm. And you also have to understand, too, like, especially within the Indigenous community and, uh, people don't realize that ceremonies were banned up until the 50s. Mm hmm. Mm hmm. And people don't understand that within that terminology, that also includes making crafts. Mm hmm. That also includes making any Native crafts, anything like that.

All of that was banned up until the 50s. And 

[00:32:20] Amy: again, this is an important thing for settlers, for white people to understand, is that if you're casually doing something that someone of a different ethnicity was killed for doing in public and you're again, you're not treating it with that kind of gravitas then I see that as a problem.

[00:32:39] Michelle: And just like I do know people that have come up to me and just as a mean to sort of trying to like Relate, like, I grew up as a hippie near, like, a reserve and I got to experience the ceremonies and so on and so forth, and it's like, you don't realize that, like, indigenous people ha don't are barred access to some of to their ceremonies.

Some of them are, like, are are two spirit, are trans non binary folk, um, urban natives. There are people that have been removed, people through the foster care system. There are different bars that we don't have access even up until this day. Some people have never gone to their ceremony or they don't feel welcome.

And it's just, it's because of all this like trauma and this hurt and understanding that. So when you have someone who, I guess. is bypassing and I went to the ceremony. I got my XYZ native name. It's, you're, it's hurtful. It's hurtful. And it's all, it will always bring up that trauma that it's like, not even I have access to it.

So, so it's, that's why be mindful when you turn appropriation into appreciation. Just being like, well, then again, if it, if you're turning appropriation into appreciation, I think you would already know these things. And I, like, I have a rule, like, when you don't know, you don't know. There's no harm. And we live in, like, a call out, a very calling out, like, society right now, especially online.

And I don't necessarily. I agree with it all the time. It's always best to call in before you call out. 

[00:34:29] Amy: Ooh, say that again for the 

[00:34:30] Michelle: people in the back. To call in before you call out. Yeah, yeah. And I have a really, really sad story about that. Well, let's hear it. But so... In our, it has nothing to do with witchcraft.

That's fine. It was this poor it was an animal, quote unquote, animal abuse story. It ended up getting published in one of our local papers, I believe it was CBC. Huh. aNd a dog died in a car. And no context, no anything, this guy, the owner of the dog. In the end, ended up committing suicide. And people were harassing him, they were calling him out online, but they didn't realize he was an alcoholic.

He had a lot of depression problems, or he suffered from depression, and that he actually He sent his dog to someone to be watched for the day because he knew he was out of it. That person figured he would find the dog in the car, which he never did until a few days later. So now you have both of them that have now passed on, and what, what was achieved.

What was really achieved there. And you have in the example, there are a few stores. On Instagram, anywhere that, that do, that are appropriating. And they don't, some of them don't realize it. Some of them are just like, the dream catcher is really pretty. Here's a pretty design. And that's where you call in.

You send it a private message. Hey, I'm so and so from such and such a nation. Do you realize that this is hurtful and this, you know. You're appropriating. Mm hmm. And then that puts it in their court. If they're just going to block you and be like that, like certain certain spiritual Yeah. That spirit, that Instagram account.

You want to. I don't know. That Audrey Kitchen account. I don't know if you're, you're, the listeners follow her, but. Let's 

[00:36:42] Amy: just say there are lots of examples of this. Yeah. And this one in particular where this woman was, Calling herself like an energy healer and was just buying her stuff 

[00:36:50] Michelle: on from Alex Express's, then reselling it 

[00:36:53] Amy: as a handmade item and Exactly.

And this is just one example of a lot of what we're 

[00:36:58] Michelle: seeing. And she has, and you have people accusing you of something and then you go run and hide. Mm-Hmm. . And you block them and you don't answer to it. So in that. Point in time is appropriate to call out. Yeah, that's when you call it because that person is avoiding.

Yeah, but 

[00:37:13] Amy: we Ideally, we'll leave room open to make a mistake I can make I would love to make missing witches if I if we're creating a space here a space where you can make an honest Mistake where you can ask an honest question That might be scary to ask but if you're coming at it respectfully and you can tell the difference And you know, you get, you give this person the opportunity, Hey, I'm, I'm from this nation and I don't know if you know this, but this, and then they block you or, you know, I took a one day online course.

And so then you can say, okay, you don't get it. Now you're canceled. But I prefer to give, give people the opportunity because 

[00:37:55] Michelle: sometimes they don't know and you want to know what chances are if you are a witch identifying person. You have appropriated and you have bypassed at some point in time. We all have.

I have. I was a preteen. I didn't know what I was doing. Like... I 

[00:38:14] Amy: mean, especially when I was growing up, we didn't have the internet yet. Yes, children. No, not at all. Like, I, I was, went to high school in the early 90s, late 90s, 

[00:38:21] Michelle: so. And the eatin the whole lot. And the books on witchcraft that you'd find in the 90s and the 80s.

[00:38:28] Amy: I remember going to the library and it was like you know, medieval witch hunt. And so I, I know a lot about medieval witch hunt because those were the 

[00:38:36] Michelle: books. The very first, actually, I have the very first book I ever bought on witchcraft when I was 11 or 12 and I was super. Overzealous? I don't know what I was...

Actually, now, as an adult witch, it's really interesting. And it's called The Witch's Magical Handbook. By Gavin Frost and Yvonne Frost. And they are the founders of the Church and School of Wicca. And this book is very, I want to say, scientific. Oh, I love that. Because it's very, like, energy directing. This is a poppet.

You're using it to, like, very technical. But, like, 11 year old me is like, whoa! Like, there's a lot of stuff I don't understand. 

[00:39:24] Amy: And you just kind of dive in, because that's what we do. We get excited, and we want to dive into this kind of thing. And the more, ideally, the more you get into it, and the more you learn, the better you try to do.

Oh yeah. Right. Exactly. In life in general, magic, whatever, the better we can do, I mean, just try. Just try. I mean, sometimes you're going to have to get a disposable cup and that's okay. David Suzuki's going to forgive you. Just 

[00:39:49] Michelle: try. Just a paper cup. Yeah. 

[00:39:51] Amy: As often as you can avoid it, you know, but please like, don't beat yourself up.

Just try to do better. We're not sitting here telling you, you should feel shitty about anything that you've done, but 

[00:40:02] Michelle: like. And even now, like, Llewellyn Books published a book on smudging rituals by a British woman. And, the, and, yep. And that's recent! That's just this year! And then she posted it, and then she got called out.

And she... I don't know if they're pulling the book. I haven't updated with that again, but she was just like, I'm heartbroken. I tried to do good. 

[00:40:30] Amy: And that's understandable, too, you know, 

[00:40:32] Michelle: but... But a lot of it's deflecting, too. It's like, okay, now make the change. Well, I'll have to check to see if that thing is published.

[00:40:41] Amy: But we know that this happened with the the witch kit that Sephora was selling last year and there was an uproar and that was eventually 

[00:40:50] Michelle: pulled. That was pulled. But now you find, like, mascaras and eyeshadows based off the Zodiac and like, you 

[00:40:57] Amy: can get anything. And I think that that's the thing we, I'm in another place where spiritual bypassing, for me anyway, in a sort of different.

Definition of spiritual bypassing is that you, you want the objects, you want the accoutrements, you want the pentagram necklace, but you don't actually want to take your time, and You want good vibes. 

[00:41:19] Michelle: There's 

[00:41:19] Amy: another term called vibes Virtue signaling. Yes. You want everyone to know that you're cool and you're spiritual and you're this and you're that.

So you get your little moon phase T-shirt or whatever. It's and then everybody knows how cool. Mm-Hmm. and, you know, magical. You are. But you don't actually spend any time with the moon. I mean, I don't know. 

[00:41:40] Michelle: I'm, I'm all for like witch aesthetic . Oh 

[00:41:45] Amy: yeah. Don't get me wrong. 

[00:41:46] Michelle: Witch aesthetic forever. Witchy aesthetic forever.

And it's like you have. You, in your, in your craft, you don't have to be practicing all the time. You can, you can be a light believer, but depending on what objects you're carrying, you can't just, when someone is gonna question you, you have to be prepared. Like, and this 

[00:42:08] Amy: is the thing that I think is at the root of the root of the root is that a lot of people, when they are questioned, Get defensive, or again, they'll block you, 


[00:42:19] Michelle: And that's why calling in, where calling in comes in. And rather than going out and attacking like, You did this. I don't know what you're doing, you're crazy, like, that's accusing. Of course someone is going to go hide away, like, oh, I'm being attacked by some person online or in person or wherever you are, and that is a normal human reaction to someone coming at you.

[00:42:48] Amy: And again, sometimes this call out culture is not what we're talking about, where you say, hey, you know. Maybe you made a mistake here, but it's like, you should go kill yourself, for example, which is not something that anybody needs to respond to. And if somebody is coming at you abusively, obviously block, block, block away.

That is not the same as, as you know, it's not the same as bypassing as far as I'm concerned. If someone is being abusive to you, then to 

[00:43:13] Michelle: just, there was a good example of that with a shop called. The Spunky Squaw, and Squaw is a derogatory name, and this woman in the States had a shop, and it was, she was appropriating a bunch of stuff off the Navajo Nation, she was using a lot of their imagery, and people tried to call her in, and then we got blocked.

And then people tried to call her out, and then they start, then her followers started coming and just. Shooting the most ignorant stuff, and then the death threats, and it's just like, it is intense. It is intense. Fast forward to a few months later, and I'm pretty sure I know that there is a lawsuit, potential lawsuit at some point.

She changed the name in the end, but no, nothing was learned. Nothing was learned. It was just, oh, okay, well, I realize it's wrong. After, 

[00:44:10] Amy: kinda after I fought you in court. . . 

[00:44:13] Michelle: I don't even know if it went to court. I knew that there was a lawsuit building, but no, it's just like nothing to learn. Like, oh, I realize it's wrong.

It sucks. Like I want this. I'll just change the name. Yeah. Yeah. And there's just so many, so many examples of that, and I just, it is a lack of education. It is a lack of not knowing what's beyond your 

[00:44:35] Amy: bubble of knowledge. And quite honestly, I mean a lot of indigenous people aren't necessarily going to have the resources that the, the white people in the same environment are going to have.

So sure, I can set up my business like this. Because I have all those resources but the person who's been doing this for life and, you know, and so on and so forth doesn't have the resources to set up a business immediately. So you can say, Well, if, why don't they just go and do their own business? And it's not that easy.

[00:45:04] Michelle: And then the misconception that, you know, we just. Just get all this tax money, and like, all this free stuff, and let's keep in mind no. I will not expand, because I cannot, I cannot talk on the experience of someone who would be more marginalized presenting than me, and I'm not, I'm not saying like, I had a difficult growing up.

I, it was, it is. It is an interesting learning experience. It is hard, a bit, growing up mixed and, but it definitely is not the same experience as someone who is more marginally presenting, someone who grew up on a reserve. 

[00:45:49] Amy: But you've sort of, you're, you're mixed, so you've sort of taken your your privileged side, let's say, and used it to the advantage of your Indigenous side.

So let's talk a little bit about your, your craft. I know, like, a lot of your projects, you give a large portion of your proceeds to... 

[00:46:06] Michelle: That was for my 41 Days project, yes. 

[00:46:09] Amy: And but some of your other stuff, like a lot of... I 

[00:46:13] Michelle: do a lot of fundraising. Actually my next project, which I hope will be launched by the time this episode is out.

It already got pushed back from Valentine's Day. But I'm doing I, I partnered up with a Mohawk organization. And we're going to be doing a shirt campaign for just land acknowledgement. It's going to say unceded Tjotjake Unceded. Which means Montreal Unceded. And on the back... I didn't learn how to pronounce it before, for this episode, but it's going to say residents of Jojoge in Haudenosaunee.

And the money is, the entire project is all Indigenous made. All the money raised is either going to, is going towards paying for the people involved in the project, and the entire amount will be donated to a local charity. I don't feel this is something that I'm going to. This is not something that I should be making money off of, considering that this is not, I'm not a custodian of this land.

Because they, the recognized custodians are the Mohawk, are the Mohawk Nation. Although the Anishinaabe peoples did... did go through this land as well. So that's actually a campaign that I'm coming out with. My previous campaign, 41 Days of Healing, was just a just like a combination of all of my artistic disciplines.

It was a portrait series. I made one necklace a day over Over what, 41 days as a pilgrimage. So each thing was, everything was done in ceremony. Yeah, it's like a 

[00:47:52] Amy: very ceremonial, religious, like, process for 

[00:47:56] Michelle: each one of the pieces. Yeah, exactly. And each one is is inspired off of deconstructed medicine bags.

So it's just like a different way of wearing your medicine. And I shared a lot of experiences I had growing up, and a lot of the things that people have said to me, and a lot of the things that my own family members have said to me, because a lot of mixed kids do deal with racism within their own families.

And just like that kind of like lateral violence is that's why I say it's like it's a very, it's very interesting growing up mixed. Like my maternal side and my paternal side come from two very different worlds. And the combining of the two is, you get a lot of prejudice, like within your own family.

That's like what I'm trying to say. In the actual project, like I guess, Like, I shared a conversation I had with one of my direct fam not direct, because direct's your mom and dad. Like, I didn't consider them, like A family member. A family member. A non distant family member. A non distant family member.

Someone who is, who is close around me. And she's just looking at me like, you got dirt on you. And I'm like, I don't have dirt on me, like, I, this is what happens when I go outside in the summer. And it's just the comments, like, oh, don't you, if you tan too much, you're going to look like your mother. It's just like, whoa.

[00:49:29] Amy: Like, 

[00:49:29] Michelle: that kind of like, that kind of like, preconception that, you know, light is beautiful. Why, like, you know, dark hair isn't beautiful. And like, a lot of these like, polarized, polarized opinions just kind of like, pull you all over the place. And it pulls you in different political spectrums and different like, It's very confusing.


[00:49:55] Amy: Identity is confusing for everybody, but some people have a little easier time because things are more clear. Yeah, 

[00:50:01] Michelle: yeah. 

[00:50:03] Amy: But I think, like, the problem is when we decide to... put all of these wonderful different things and put them into hierarchies, which is like what white capitalist religious patriarchy does.

Exactly. You know, this is, this is better than this, and this is better than this, so you should feel that. 

[00:50:19] Michelle: And I've, I've grown up in in conservative circles. I when I, when I was a young teen, and just like, and that's where it brings me to today, and just like. Understanding where that privilege lies and using the privilege that I have to try to lift up and showcase those who have been marginalized within my own family, within, in, everywhere.

That's specifically 

[00:50:48] Amy: related to your own ancestry. 

[00:50:52] Michelle: Exactly. Specifically related to my own ancestry. And this is something I really stepped into into my 20s. And I really felt alone. Like, some, I heard someone tell me that their grandmother referred to mixed kids as ghost walkers. Cause we can walk between both worlds, but we don't.

We don't really belong to both worlds, we don't really stay in both worlds, like, a lot of us feel isolated, and... 

[00:51:20] Amy: Despite having access to both places, we're just like an isolated access. 

[00:51:26] Michelle: And then just like this whole world opened up, like, and especially, you know, coming presenting my work more publicly as well.

I'm just finding all these other great makers who are also mixed and just a lot of it is the same stories and we've all been through the same things and we all hear the same things. And then you become not so long.

So I, I really like blend a lot of that into my work. A lot of my work is my artistic endeavors, which is something that I've been doing forever. I, the birch trail, which is what I do now, was really inspired off of I would save fallen leaves and I put them in wax. Or I would just draw and bark, draw and birch bark.

And keep those. And, like, when you see the leaves trapped in the ice. That's when I connected the two because I was, used to be an illustrator and a painter. And I would use resin to coat my paintings with and make copies and make it into jewelry and stuff. And then I just, it dawned, like, I can combine the two.

This is amazing. So it's just a different way to, like, carry your medicine with you. It's It's just bringing it in, like, I don't, I don't want to say contemporary, and I hate this whole, like, traditional versus, like, what's, like, new, new Native art. It's like, if it's made by a Native person, it is Native art.

[00:52:56] Amy: So, since we're on the subject, Yes. Do you think that if that woman had titled her book Cleansing with Smoke? That it would have made a difference. 

[00:53:08] Michelle: Just cleansing rituals would have been different. Sure. Cause smudging is a very specific ceremony. And I've... The word smudge just has been appropriated and taken to, Okay, I burn this thing, and then now the energy is clear in my house.

When really you're cle... It's just that easy. When really you're cleansing. And you wanna know what... Growing up and reading a lot of the old, like, witch books and that kind of stuff, I didn't see smudging that often. This is something that's, like, really come out recently, at least in my awareness. And it's just, like, And it's really defining the two.

Like cleansing, you're cleansing something. You're cleaning it of its energy. You're cleaning a space. And we 

[00:53:48] Amy: can do that with water or moonlight or smoke or wind. 

[00:53:51] Michelle: Yeah. And any kind of smoke. You can do it with incense. You can do it with herbs. It doesn't have to be sage. It doesn't have to be salopanto. It definitely doesn't have to be white sage.

It doesn't have to be white sage. If it is white sage, please buy it from an indigenous source. 

[00:54:06] Amy: Michelle is going to give us a list. We won't sit here and read it out for you now, but Michelle's gonna give us a list of a ton of resources where you can get stuff, artisans, artists, craftspeople, and ethical places where you can support these people and, and not feel guilty while you're trying to make yourself feel more magical.

I mean, I don't know, that doesn't make sense. 

[00:54:28] Michelle: If 

[00:54:31] Amy: you have to feel bad about your magical tools and where they came from, then you should read. I'm trying to find, like, a way to sort of like, re, re source your 

[00:54:40] Michelle: resources. Yes. Yes. And just seek out your own ancestral teachings. Seek out, what did your ancestors use?

And you might be surprised on how well you connect to that. You might be very surprised. 

[00:54:51] Amy: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I consider myself sort of like, I believe in that oneness. So to me. I mean, and there will be people who disagree with me, but to me, like, Alegba and Hecate, they're both keepers of the crossroads.

To me, there's not that much difference because I, I, in the great oneness of everything, 

[00:55:11] Michelle: Oh no, they're archetypes for a reason. 

[00:55:13] Amy: Yeah. And I, I don't think that The great oneness sees much difference between your skin color or your genitals or your where you were born. The great consciousness doesn't see us that way.

So I strive to do that. But again, you have to be practical. We live in the world. We don't live in like a. Well, I mean, we live in a spiritual realm, okay, okay, we do, but not exclusively, right? So we have to be practical. We have to think about where our tools are coming from if we want them to be 

[00:55:42] Michelle: successful, right?

Yeah, especially with mass consumerism, especially with cap, the rise, like this huge rise of capitalism and, you know, we're not going to get rid of it tomorrow. It's not just going to all crumble down. Like we, I realize that we've. But if any 

[00:55:56] Amy: of our listeners have any, any tips on how we can tumble capitalism in one day, one online course, how to 

[00:56:02] Michelle: tumble capitalism.

I've got a studio we can plan in. So 

[00:56:07] Amy: we'll work together to do this. So again, like, do you have any last thoughts, um, before we wrap it up? We've covered a lot of ground here and it's more vast and ancient than either of 

[00:56:18] Michelle: us. I know, I feel like we could not cover everything. No, 

[00:56:22] Amy: we've only scratched the surface because there is a universe 

[00:56:25] Michelle: of magic.

Just to bring it back to the spiritual bypassing because a lot of people are looking... For fast, quick ways to, you know, reach the fifth dimension. If you believe in that, like, let's... I 

[00:56:40] Amy: believe in the disco act of the fifth dimension. They're amazing. I love a disco act. 

[00:56:45] Michelle: jUst like... A guru should not, should empower you to find your own inner guru, and a healer should empower you to do your own healing, and they shouldn't be looking to be idolized.

They should not be put up on a pedestal, and don't just go to one teaching. You gotta do the groundwork. You gotta like, be committed. You're not gonna, it's not like. McDonald's, Crystal Healer, I'm not going to say your name again. If 

[00:57:17] Amy: you think of it as therapy, you're not going to go to one therapy session and have all of your baggage unpacked and fixed.


[00:57:23] Michelle: doesn't work like that. Different therapists are going to help out with different things and they're going to, you got to find what fits you, but you also have to be So, you to do the work and you also have to be willing to answer those questions that you might get when you go around saying, I'm a shaman.

[00:57:40] Amy: And listen, kids, if your belief system doesn't hold up to being challenged, then you need to challenge your belief system even more. You know, you should, you should want people to challenge you because that's only going to strengthen your resolve if you are in a position where you have to defend your Beliefs.

It's only going to strengthen you, unless somebody asks you a question and it all falls apart. And especially then you should be hoping that somebody asks you that question. 

[00:58:06] Michelle: And it's not just like all good vibes and this toxic positivity often ignores marginalized bodies. Yeah. And it's just like saying, you, you thought it?

Those are your vibes. You totally attracted it. And I'm like, yes. I, indigenous people attracted genocide. Yeah. Definitely. Definitely. Their vibes weren't high frequency. I was not on 5 D.

Let me come back to earth. Okay. So 

[00:58:39] Amy: what's what the, the gospel according to Michelle, the Birch Trail, give us one last. Bit of love and light to pass on to our 

[00:58:48] Michelle: listeners. Oh my gosh. Who, who said this? Do no do no harm, but take 

[00:58:54] Amy: no shit. Do no harm, but take no shit. I'm willing to end on that. And I 

[00:58:57] Michelle: don't know that I did not come up without someone else said this, but.


[00:59:01] Amy: wonderful witch out there, if you know who it was, hit us up. We love you. Thanks for 

[00:59:05] Michelle: listening. No, thank you. We love you. Don't let a big school see niggas do

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