the Empress surrounded by wildcrafted cottonwood buds and cedar
“I wish I had more to tell of my grandmothers. It is terrible how much has been forgotten, which is why, I suppose, remembering seems a holy thing.”
– The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Tomorrow I’m going in for an ultrasound to see the baby (babies?) my partner and I brought into the world for the very first time. Despite the biology between me and my partner not being able to make a tiny human ourselves, we worked some magic and made it happen. A few months ago a sweet ex of mine lent us a hand, so to speak, and here we are, waiting for our very first ultrasound. We were aiming for a sagittarius babe, but it looks like this wee one may be the lone scorpio in our all sag family. Maybe it’s a good thing there’s a little water in there.
We’ll be a big feelings family, to say the least.
It’s a funny thing, this ultrasound business, especially for me.
You might ask, why is this funny? Aren’t you excited? Isn’t this a magical moment?!
Well yes. It is a magical moment. I am very excited to see Artemis inside Kori’s belly for the first time. The baby told me that Artemis is their name when I did magic in the woods behind our house to call them in. I’ve been waiting to meet this baby for some time. I feel like I already know them in some ways.
the alter I made in the woods behind the Homostead when I called Artemis in
The reason it’s a funny thing is because I am usually on the other side of the fertility world. It might sound like a stereotype, but I am literally a gay-herbal-abortionist witch. I provide people with support and care to end pregnancies, not start them.
My partner and I live on a dreamy queer and trans land project called The Homostead. When we decided to move in together, we were 9 hours away from each other and we each did readings to see what the cards held. For me one of the most surprising cards I got in the reading was the Empress. The card’s position in the spread was: what sits on top of everything.
This was interesting, because at the time my partner was adamantly anti-kid. They’d had a miscarriage recently and in their grief had swung from “parenting is my one and only undeniable estrogen fueled path” to “the world is fucked and all the breeders should be ashamed of themselves.” Needless to say it was somewhat of an over compensation, but at the time that was where they were at. Personally I love babies and I have fun with kiddos, but I’m also a driven business person and community organizer. In some ways I feel like I could take it or leave it, being a parent – and still find a way to be happy either way.
And yet, when I read the cards I felt my heart sink. I was having a deep emotional reaction to this card. At the time, I thought it meant I would need to be willing to let go of ever having kids to be with this person who I loved so much. I’d have to really truly be ok with saying good bye to the hetero-normative script of getting married, earning a mortgage and having 2.2 kids. I knew that wasn’t truly what I wanted, but totally ruling it out made me sad none the less.
As time went on and our relationship grew we started to cultivate the energy of the Empress in our lives, home and relationships, in creative and fulfilling ways. We’re both gender-queer femmes, I’m closer to cis-feminine and they are closer to trans-masculine on the spectrum, but we’re both bleeders. We both have fertility and relate to our cycles in intentional and magical ways. We also very much relate to the idea of the maiden-mother-crone phases of life and saw ourselves as moving out of the maiden phase and into the mother phase, even before we decided to have kids. We started businesses, threw queer dance parties, hosted workshops, did emotional labour for people in our lives and community.
We mothered our paths, our creative expression and our home.
We mothered each other and we mothered our community. We still do. Every day.
And so the Empress, sitting above everything, manifested in our focus, our drive and our fierce love and commitment to everything and everyone we love. She grew in our food and steeped in our medicine and cooked slowly in the bone broth I used to heal my achey, grief-ridden guts over this past winter.
herbal blend I made for kori’s pregnancy after miscarriage – order here
For me, one of the most noticeable ways the Empress came into my life is in my herbal medicine practice. I consider myself to be a folk herbalist, meaning I am more present in the art and spiritual practice of medicine making than in the science part of it. Sure, the science part can be useful, but it’s not where my heart lives. It’s not where my ancestors call to me. I know lifetimes ago I lived in a small cabin in a european forest and people came to me to consult a wall of medicines, letting the tinctured roots tell me who they want to lay and dance and cry with.
And I know a big part of my practice was aiding people to work with fertility. When I first moved to the homostead I kept seeing a particular bush of yellow flowers growing everywhere. I’d drive down the windy mountain highway and hear this flower calling, asking to be harvested. Eventually I came across this flower blooming on the land behind the house I live in. It was a funny courtship. The plant was surly and cross with me, but still asking, or rather demanding, that I harvest it. I didn’t know what the plant’s name was, and it didn’t smell particularly edible, but somewhere deep down I knew that I had worked with this plant before. Many life times before.
So I harvested it, and took it home, and I googled it and I discovered that this plant was tansy. And google told me that the main use for this plant was as bug spray.
Bug spray? I didn’t need bug spray. This couldn’t be the answer.
So I kept looking. I kept searching and eventually I discovered, in a book called Eve’s Herb’s that tansy was a prevalent abortifacient in medieval western europe.
And there it was again. The call. Along with the blooming mugwort bush at my home and my work, and the wild ginger across the forest floor, and the pennyroyal tincturing in my apothecary.
Somehow, the card above everything, a card about fertility and a card that is so typically associated with mothering, was witnessing my path to hold space for the shadow side of fertility. It watched me seek out the empowerment and skills that lead so many witches and healers like me to be driven underground generations ago. We were burned and drowned and dressed in high-necked white lace and married off to men who believed themselves to be skilled enough to tame the wild from our spirits.
But miraculously, we lived on.
We grew roots, even as we were uprooted. We practiced in solitary in new moon forest darkness. And now we find ourselves alive today, still practicing, still dreaming, even falling in love and having little witchy scorpio babies with each other. Babies who will learn how to give their blood to the forest and the plants before they ever bleed, if that is something their bodies ever do.
And so I suppose I owe thanks to the Empress, always watching over me. Protecting me as I build my craft, wrangle my goats and watch Artemis grow in the belly of my sweet love.
She has taught me that mothering means many things – that we can be fertile with ideas, that we can grow seedlings in community, and that our medicine is sacred – especially when her lessons arrive in ways that queer and break and resist what is expected from us.