From ancestors

out with the old

Update on the Witch Cabinet – supporting radical witchcraft

hello friends,

i have some much anticipated updates for you on the status of my apothecary.

first of all i want you to know that at this point i am not planning to close the witch cabinet.

since i last wrote and explained to you that my apothecary had been reported to the state i’ve done loads of research and reading, pondering and gathering.

@jona_shoe on instagram

at this point it’s not totally clear to me what will happen to me or my business if i don’t comply to the rules. from what i understand a breech of the rules would be treated on a case by case basis and the majority of herbalists either adhere to the rules or go underground. i’m not sure i want to do either of those things, so i’m still pondering my next steps.

all that being said i’m starting to understand what the rules are and how they work. i’m coming to understand the pieces i disagree with and the pieces i can see myself adhering to.

one piece of the health “canada” regulations is that it becomes easier to share herbal medicine with folks who are under my care. what this means is that if you want to keep (or start) purchasing herbal products from me, it will be a lot easier for you to do that (now and into the future) if you book a consultation with me.


til samhain i’m offering herbal consulations on a pay what you can basis.

a consultation lasts about an hour and can be done in person, on the phone or over skype or google chat.

consultations are 100% confidential.

if you plan to purchase herbal products from me in the future, i’d highly suggest booking a consultation with me.


booking a consultation will give you access to my apothecary at a 10% discount as well as free shipping for whatever i send you, as long as it can be sent in october 2016.

email me at to book today. <3

i look forward to hearing from you.

and as always, i’m deeply grateful for you support.



if you believe in my work and want to support me on a monthly basis for $3 – $20 you can sign up to do so here. you can also book a tarot card reading with me where 50% of the money goes to #blacklivesmatter.



Courting PennyRoyal(3)

courting pennyroyal comes to east van! + online!

You can connect to this workshop on facebook here.

This workshop will take place in person on Sunday July 24th at the Toast Collective from 9 am to 5 pm. This workshop is taking place on unceded Coast Salish territory.

**new online offering!!**
There will be an online offering of this workshop on Saturday August 20th from 9 am to 5 pm PST. Participants from any location can take part in this workshop.

To register for this workshop send an email to with the subject line Courting Pennyroyal East Van/Online. Space in this workshop is limited so I suggested registering early, payment can be arranged after registration if need be.

It is possible to purchase a recording of an earlier and shorter version of this workshop here. To purchase the poster here. And to purchase the tinctures here.


For thousands of years fertile and menstruating people around the world have worked with herbs to affect our moon cycles. Many of our ancestors experienced dire persecution during the rise and imposition of colonial capitalism for holding this sacred knowledge, simply because it is and was so powerful. This violence continues to this day. For generations these skills have been forced deep underground, nestled safely in the dark-dampness of forest tree roots, leaving the present day generations of witches, healers and bleeders without the knowledge so many of us crave.

It is time to dig this knowledge back up from the roots.

Today it is often challenging to find accurate information about herbal contraception. Often the available information is decontextualized or fear mongering, so as to turn people away from the power that lies dormant in our blood, bones and dream life.

This workshop is designed to give people the skills to become more deeply in touch with our moon cycles. Much will be covered in this workshop including cycle charting, myth-busting, safer sex practices, herbal allies and medicine making, ethical wild crafting, harm reduction, and the spiritual/energetic aspects of herbal contraception.

pennyroyal tincture

Access and container:

Access and container:

This workshop will utilize 8 community agreements, which will be reviewed and amended if necessary when we meet.

This workshop will take place on Sunday July 24th 9 am to 5 pm at the Toast Collective on un-ceded coast salish territory. This link will give you info about access details for the space.

If your access needs require accomodation that is not available in the space at present, send me a message and I’ll see what I can arrange to accomodate your needs.

An online version of this workshop will take place on Saturday August 20th from 9 am to 5 pm PST. The workshop will utilize the programs Zoom and Prezi. It would be great if folks can share computers with others taking the course. A 20% discount will be offered to participants to share screens. Please let me know if you plan to share a screen in your registration email.

Its my preference to record the online workshop, with the intention of sharing it with others. If you are *not ok* with me recording this workshop, please let me know in your registration email. I will check in about this on the day of as well.

People of all genders are welcome at this workshop.

This workshop aims to be inclusive of a wide range of lived experiences and in doing so strives to challenge systems of power and oppression such as racism, capitlism, colonization, ableism, classism, sexism, whorephobia, homophobia and transphobia.


Juniper twig with berries
Juniper twig with berries

Registration Details:

The sliding scale for this workshop is $50 to $100. Payment plans are available. Trades for medicine making supplies, outreach for this workshop, or home grown food are also available.

Folks participating online will also pay for shipping for their poster and tincture. A digital copy of the poster is also available, if folks prefer that.

*You must arrange the trade with me over email through the registration process.* Trades that have not been consensually agreed upon by both of us before the workshop will not be honoured.

There is a recording of a three hour version of this workshop available, for folks who would rather learn online or who can’t make it on this date. You can order the recording here.


What participants receive:

All participants will receive access to a prezi that includes a list of resources, as well as a paper copy of my herbal abortion poster and a tincture of either black cohosh, mugwort or pennyroyal – depending on what herbs I have available at the time. If there is one you strongly prefer over the others, let me know in your registration email and I will set a tincture aside for you.

Participants will also receive 10% off everything in my etsy the witch cabinet for up to 1 month after the workshop.

Folks participating online will receive their poster and tincture through the mail.



My background:

Your registration email will give you more information about my background in this work and my teachers. For now if you want to learn more about my work you can read these links:

Herbal Abortions: Questions, concerns and clarity
Pros and Cons of Herbal Abortion
Moontime as Ritual
Empress Sitting Above Everything

I look forward to connecting with you all. ♥

** this workshop is for educational purposes only **


as embers cool across the forest floor

it is terrifyingly humbling to drown in smoke

witness chimneys made of old growth

watch mushroom clouds rise from the canopies

warm our bodies at mountain range hearths

wade through plumes of smouldering incense


you can watch it all from our front stoop

or the passenger seat of our beat up butch toyota

see the sun set neon clementine between the western ranges

watch the gleaming blood moon rise from the eastern cedars


tears are chased burning from our vision

while breath clings hidden deep in the roots of our lungs

begging for lungwort. usnea. cabbage and cottonwood.

every living thing is bent in prayer for rain


i can’t help but wonder, is this our life now?

will we ever see the river from this perch again?

will smoke masks keep arriving in the mail?

is this what breathing has become?


as the smoke clears we bath in the sweet milk of relief

relief that our home still stands, surrounded by sprinklers

relief that we have last minute refuge in every direction,

but we didn’t need to use it

we didn’t pack our goats and chickens and memories

into a pick up truck and drive in any direction where the road is still open

relief that the the rain has washed away the ash from our windshields

relief knowing that “burnt to the ground” happened across a different highway,

than the one in front of our house

relief in the sweet sunbeam of temporary blue sky reprieve


we are dancing cautiously with a fleet footed fever

our backs turned, we’re whispering about her

bouquets of yarrow in our hands


we are praying at a hearth brought to our feet

an altar built of our desire for convenience

we are being smudged clean by lessons we neglected

ancient wisdom we turned away from, called primitive

our path is a trail of spilt blood and gunpowder across the forest floor

we are walking blindfolded, into the end of days

our hearts yearning to be cleansed

palms open, waiting to be kissed by lightning


if you’d like to support my work, you can purchase my poetry chap book 13 months feral. it’s also possible to become a monthly donor to my site, order a tarot card reading, an herbal consultation, or purchase something from my shop the witches cabinet.


Recipe: Nettle Dandelion Pesto

What I love most about spring is the  slowly returning green, bursting forth from beneath the snow. Here the season is wet, surprisingly warm during the day and full of wild flowers, edible shoots and leaves. The season signals the return of abundant wild food harvesting time.

Two of my favourite spring time wild crafted medicinal plants are dandelion and stinging nettle.

Both are very rich with nutrients and vitamins. These powerhouse healers cleanse blood and support the liver as well as the respiratory, urinary and digestive systems. They are also very supportive for early pregnancy.

Dandelion especially is very easy to find and harvest, they grow prolifically and are often feared by gardeners. This is really a shame because dandelions are great food and very supportive of bees. Nettles tend to be found near bodies of water, streams or oceans. Its easy to notice them if you trespass into their space because they’ll sting you. With patience nettles can be harvested and processed by hand. They tend to sting when we are paying the least attention. But the stings not all bad, the acid is quite useful for treatment of arthritis. Some people even sting themselves with nettles on purpose.

One of my favouite ways to prepare both of these greens is making pesto. I’ve been making spring green pesto for years with many different recipes. Last night I made a batch that is so far one of my favorites so i am passing on the recipe to you.

From High Garden on Facebook.
From High Garden on Facebook. you could use any of these greens in a pesto.



1 1/2 cup dandelion greens

1 1/2 cups nettle leaves (you could use three cups of either solo, or any ratio really)

1/2 cup cashews

4 cloves garlic (can be adjusted based on how strong your garlic is and how garlic heavy you like your pesto)

3/4 cups of oil (i used sunflower, you can use what you prefer) + 1 tbsp oil

1/2 cup nutritional yeast (could substitute cheese if you prefer)

salt + pepper

these are nettles I harvested. They were frozen before I added them to the pesto.



put 1 tbsp oil into medium pan. bring pan up to medium heat. add cashews and garlic. heat until both are a warm golden brown. when finished remove mixture from heat and place into separate bowl or food processor.

keeping the remaining oil in the pan and turning the heat off, add greens. keep greens in heat until they wilt and sweat mildly. in the end they will look like this:


remove the greens from heat and add them to a food processor. add nutritional yeast, cashews, garlic, salt and pepper as well as a small amount of the oil.

turn on the food processor and slowly add oil as mixture blends. you don’t need to add all the oil if it feels like too much. if you are using a blender you will want to add all the oil first, otherwise the mixture may not blend.

pesto can be frozen or kept in the fridge. some folks i know like to put it into ice cube trays to have single serving portions. i love eating it on toast with an egg.


ps: if you live in the slocan valley or nelson area, i have a few jars of this pesto for sale or trade. let me know if you’d like some <3


Raffi Kojian /

Workshop: Courting Pennyroyal – herbal allies for contraceptive care

this workshop has come and gone, but you can purchase a recording of it here.

For thousands of years fertile and menstruating people have worked with herbs to affect our moon cycles. Many of our ancestors experienced dire persecution for holding this sacred knowledge, simply because it is and was so powerful. For generations these skills were forced deep underground, nestled safely in the dark-dampness of forest tree roots, leaving the present day generations of witches, healers and bleeders without the knowledge so many of us crave.

It is time to dig this knowledge back up from the roots.

Today it is often challenging to find accurate information about herbal contraception. Often the available information is decontextualized or fear mongering, so as to turn people away from the power that lies dormant in our blood, bones and dream life.

my moontime blend

This workshop is designed to give people the skills to become more deeply in touch with our moon cycles. Much will be covered in this workshop including cycle charting, myth-busting, safer sex practices, herbal allies and medicine making, ethical wildcrafting, harm reduction, and the spiritual/energetic aspects of herbal contraception.

People of all genders are welcome at this workshop.

This workshop is taking place in person at the Nelson Women’s Center (un-ceded Sinixt Territory) on April 16th from 10 am to 4 pm.

It is also taking place online April 24th from 1 pm to 4pm PST.

Both workshops will utilize 8 community agreements, which will be looked at, amended and/or adopted during the workshop.

The sliding scale for the in person workshop is $30 to $100. Sliding scale for the online workshop is $20 to $50. Payment plans are available. Trades for medicine making supplies, or home grown food are also available. You must arrange the trade with me over email through the registration process. Trades that have not been consensually agreed upon by both of us before the workshop will not be honoured.

All participants will receive an online list of resources as well as a paper copy of my herbal abortion poster, which will be mailed to you upon registration, if you are taking the online webinar. Participants will also receive 10% off everything in my witches’ cabinet for up to 1 month after the workshop.

Courting PennyRoyal

The online workshop will take place on google chat + prezi. An email will be sent out prior to the workshop with a link to the meeting room. A follow up email will be sent after the workshop with resources mentioned in the workshop.

The in-person workshop will allow for taste testing herbs as well as interacting with different cycle tracking tools. The online workshop will include references to these tools and where to find them, as well as some tools being sent out online. The three hour online workshop will be a bit more lecture based, but there will be space for discussion and for all participants to interact with eachother as well as ask questions and crowdsource answers.

Your registration email will give you more information about my background in this work and my teachers.

I look forward to connecting with you all. <3


artwork by @jona_shoe


the children sit by the shore line
swallowing shards of broken glass.
broken bottles tossed from boats
by old men remembering each other.
they wish for touch and life jackets.
they wish for adult arms to catch them
as they tumble off broken swing sets.

most of the glass is broken bottles
tossed through storms, whirlpools and drownings
but some are left with messages in tact:
“the way i love you terrifies me”
“you are my compass”
“i need you like breathing”
“i think they saw us”
“one day we’ll be together”

the letters are spotted by ocean blood and tears
aged and faded by sunbeams
begging for the waking breath of sunrise
the tender steady holding of a sea shore.

the children clutch their shredded bellies
their burning cheeks rest against pillows of sand
in their dreams they touch each other
and silently pass tide-smoothed sea glass hand to hand.
they sing the songs of letters sung by mermaids,
soak in ink resting peaceful amongst the bones
of whales left to rest in shallow sunny water
ribcages empty and welcoming of heartbeats.

the children pass each other dandelion roots
rose petals, nettles leaves and fiddleheads
and fresh hand-cupped creek water.
they nurse each other patiently
tend to wounds and salt-water crumbling
lay the dead to rest with elder flowers
and pray the songs sung by mermaids
tucked amongst the haunted whale bones
finally resting peacefully, at the bottom of the sea.

this poem is from my poetry chapbook 13 months feral. i’ve shared it here today in anticipation of our upcoming workshop tour glitter rebellion. in these workshops we will explore using creative process to get in touch with and learn from our ancestors. this poem came to me through a dream and is an exploration of how plant allies and queer ancestry support healing from trauma.

the wonderful art for this poem comes from @jona_shoe. you can check out their work on instagram and on their website.


glitter rebellion workshop tour

workshop details:

Glitter Rebellion is a workshop where participants are invited to connect to the resilience that lives in their bones, blood and spirits. Those of us who fight the patriarchy, glitterbomb homophobia and work tirelessly to free our genders from binaries all carry timeless rebellion in our hearts, whether from our blood ancestors, or from our ancestors of struggle. In this learning space we invite folks of all genders and sexual orientations to gather together, create, play, explore, connect, be consensually vulnerable and tell stories. The work seeks to vision both our histories of rebellion and the gifts we wish to cultivate in offering to those who will call us their ancestors.

This workshop space will prioritize imagination, intuition, visions, dream world escapades, magic, creativity and play as primary learning modalities.

your hosts:

Your hosts will be andi grace and Kori Doty as well as the local space organizers they are partnering with. Neither Kori nor andi consider themselves experts on this topic, but rather see themselves as willing space holders. Both andi and Kori have european ancestral ties and access to white privilege. They also both identify as queer witches and medicinal story tellers. They both use they pronouns and live on a rural queer and trans homesteading project called the homostead, that sits on un-ceded sinixit territory. Like everyone, their identities are more complex than brief social location markers can offer. If you have questions about their identities or approaches feel free to peruse their websites or send them messages through facebook or email.


to help cover our travel costs and make this work our livelihood we are asking $20 to $60 sliding scale from each participant. We are also open to trades for things like food, medicine making supplies and promotion of our work to as-of-yet un-tapped networks. We are committed to access in such a way that we will not turn people away for lack of funds. However we request that other options be pursued before a request for free participation is made, such as asking for support from allies and other workshop participants, looking into local grants (which we are happy to help write), offering trades etc. We don’t want to turn anyone away from the work because of a lack of financial resources, but we also need to be realistic about those expenses coming from our livelihood, when we consider the larger sustainability of our work. Also we believe that our communities are rich with abundance and generosity, even if that abundance is not necessarily cash driven. We want to encourage de-stigmatized and supportive conversations about class, money, access and the value of labour as an aspect of the learning offered here.

dates and locations:


Winlaw Sinixt territory on March 5th.
Bindus 1 – 4 pm.
Details available on Facebook.

East Van Coast Salish territory on March 10th.
Hammock Residency 6 – 9 pm.
and March 20th at The Toast Collective from 1 – 4 pm
Details available on Facebook.
*space at these workshops is limited. please send an email to koridoty[@] to confirm attendance.

Quest University sḵwx̱wú7mesh territory on March 13th.
Details available on Facebook.

Victoria Coast Salish territory on March 17th.
SPARC 6 – 9 pm.Details available on Facebook.
*space at this workshop is limited. please send an email to to confirm attendance.

We are open to bringing this workshop to more places. If you have questions about the existing workshops, or want to book us for another location please send email to andi[@] and to koridoty[@]



Making a Mandrake Flying Ointment

This past winter solstice I made a mandrake flying ointment.

The magic I weaved with this ointment was to call in abundance.

Financial abundance.
Accepting loving touch.
Bravery to speak hard truths.

This was my solstice magic.

The magic and medicine seemed to resonate with folks. The ointments sold out in about one week. I’ve decided that this time around I will show you how I make a mandrake ointment. That way you can make one yourself, or know exactly what you’re getting when you order one from my witch’s cabinet.


The first step is to find mandrake root. I bought the mandrake root for these salves from Self Heal an apothecary in Victoria. Mandrake grows in Southern Europe (though it made it’s way through trade all through-out europe). This means that the climate where I live (an inland canadian mountain valley on unceded sinixt territory) isn’t ideal for growing mandrake. Maybe once our greenhouse is constructed it’ll be a different story, but for now, this source feels good to me. Self Heal can deliver to you through the mail, if you want to source from them.

If you can’t harvest or grow mandrake yourself, look out for wild crafted, sustainably harvested sources. You can smell when a plant is healthy, it’s medicine strong. The colours will be more vibrant. Feel the plant in your hands and notice how it feels in your body.

Trust your intuition as you get to know the plant.

The other ingredient in this salve is cottonwood buds. I harvest cottonwood from a healthy patch near my house. Cottonwood helps soothe the skin and is used in many european witch craft practices to aid in astral travel. It’s a beautiful partner for this salve and can be harvested in many places.

I made the oil for this salve in a 1 liter widemouth mason jar. I added 1/2 cup of lightly dried cottonwood buds and 1 cup of thinly grated mandrake root. Then I covered the root and buds with olive oil (you can also use grapeseed, sunflower etc), put on the lid, labeled it with the date and ingredients and left it to sit for a month, in a cool dark shelf in my apothecary.

I prefer to let the medicines I make to sit for 3 to 6 months, if possible. This means the medicine is strong and well infused. You can also play with astrological influences in your medicine. I try to bottle and make medicine on significant days. New and full moons. Solstices and equinoxes. I also prefer passive or lunar infusion over heat infusion because I feel it is more gentle and maintains more healing properties in the medicine. That being said, the best infusion method depends on what kind of medicine you’re making and how soon you need it.

Lately I’ve been playing with gentle heat infusion in my medicine making, because it helps me make medicine more quickly. For this mandrake salve I added half the jar’s contents into a double boiler (I left the rest to infuse in the jar) and gently heated the medicine til it became fragrant and the herbs looked spent. You want to avoid heating the oil til it bubbles, because that generally means the oil is too hot and that can kill off the nutrients needed for a strong medicine. Gentle heat is better, thats why double boilers are awesome for medicine making.


Once the oil feels ready I strain the herbs out. You can see the cottonwood buds and mandrake root pretty clearly in this picture. For many medicines, especially those that are passively infused, you may want to strain the medicine with cheesecloth or even a press. There is much medicinal content that can come from pressing the last medicine out of the plant matter. I tent to avoid pressing with cottonwood buds because of how sticky they are. Heat infusion can work well for decocting roots, that’s another reason why I use gentle heat for mandrake root oil. Pressing, I have found, works best for petal, leaves and flowers. Or roots that soften a great deal upon being processed.


Then I added the oil back to the double boiler and added beeswax to the mix. I used to make salves with a 1:5 beeswax to oil ratio, but this time I used a ratio of 1:4 because I want to make a slightly harder salve. I like using less beeswax so there is more plant matter in the medicine, but the downside is the salves are not as solid. More thick salves travel better, spread a bit more thick on the skin, and are less likely to melt in someone’s bag or back pocket. I definitely prefer beeswax of emulsifying wax because it is harder so you can use less of it. I also find beeswax feels better on my skin and I love the medicinal properties it carries.

Some other things I have used to thickeners are coconut oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and carnuba wax. I have also found that when I make salves using pig fat (which my ancestors would have done) they stand alone without thickener. I’m lucky cause I can source pig fat from my buddies who lived in the front yard, but you can also source it from a trusted local butcher and it is usually pretty inexpensive. It does take love and time to render fat though.

While I prefer to not make my medicine with vegan ingredients I can do it as a special order. If you’re interested in a vegan (no beeswax) version of this salve feel free to email me with your order at andi(@)andigracewrites(.)com


Once the wax has melted I pour the salves into jars and leave them outside to cool. You can see from these two pictures how much the colour changes as the salve hardens.


And there you have it. That’s how I make a mandrake salve.

Some folks have also asked how I use this salve. I use it on sore muscles primarily and have found it to create great pain relief. I also use it as a massage oil for me and my partner if we’re intending to have sexy times together. We find it makes us giddy, relaxed and more connected to each other. I also use the medicine almost like a solid perfume, particularly when I’m wanting to call something in like loving touch or money. The salve has an earthy smell that I really appreciate and I have found it be an amazing luck charm for abundance of all kinds. It has literally delivered what I’m looking for and often more, every time I use it.

You can order a mandrake salve here and learn more about the magic in this medicine here. The article about the magic of the salve will also direct you to resources to learn more about mandrake as a plant. Mandrake has a rich history and I highly recommend learning more about it.

Check out the product listing for contraindications. As a rule of thumb folks who are pregnant, nursing or allergic to aspirin will want to stay away from this medicine. That being said if you want to get pregnant, but you aren’t yet, this medicine may appeal to you.

If you have additional questions about this medicine, feel free to send me an email (andi(@) or connect with me on facebook.

Best of luck in your medicine making <3


Mandrake Flying Ointment: finding abundance in money, love, food, touch and truth telling.

This year I decided I wanted my winter solstice magic to call in abundance.

Financial abundance, food security, loving touch, self confidence, bravery to tell hard truths. This is what my winter solstice magic was all about.

I wanted to get specific and work with a plant ally to aid the magic.

Mandrake was the absolutely perfect fit.

mandragora mandrake root

Mandrake is perhaps one of the most well know witches’ herbs. Though it grows naturally in southern europe it was used widely through-out Europe because of robust trade relationships. This means that many people of European ancestry will have a connection to this medicine. Personally I find the smell earthy and comforting and I find the medicine very familiar, even though this is one of the first times I’ve worked with it, in this life anyways.

Mandrake has many medicinal and spiritual uses. Medicinally it is a powerful emetic (vomit inducing) and sedative, especially when taken internally. It was even used as an anesthetic by doctors for a brief period before other more predictable medicines became more popular. Many herbalist will caution against using it because of it’s powerful emetic qualities, however I find it quite calming when used as a salve.

Mandrake has properties that are similar to but distinctive from nightshades. This salve’s effects bare a very close resemblance to belladonna, another night shade that I absolutely love. The salve is very relaxing and can be used as a balm for aching muscles or as a sensual massage oil. I’ve also used it as a magical ally at parties where I want to get my flirt on.

I find mandrake makes me feel relaxed, giddy and hopeful.


One of the other widely known qualities of mandrake is its power as an aphrodisiac. The plant was used widely as a fertility medicine and was often credited with assisting in conception. To me it’s pretty obvious how all of these qualities relate to calling in abundance. Plus mandrake was widely used as a good luck charm for calling in money, which I have personally found it to be very helpful with since I started using it.

My experience of using this medicine is that it has helped me to lean more deeply into trust. Trust that I am valid and worthy. Trust that my work will be well received and supported. Trust that I can say both yes and no to my partner and lovers and either will be heard and respected. Trust that the spring will come and with it will come flowers, fiddleheads, seedlings and goats milk.

All my medicines are small personalized batches which means I only have a small amount for sale. If you would like to purchase this salve you can do so here. And if you feel called to this medicine but would rather not exchange money, you can email me at andi[@] and purpose a trade of food or medicine making supplies in exchange for this salve.

To your abundance and mine.


if you want to learn more about mandrake check out these resources:

The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra

Witchcraft Medicine by Muller-Ebeling et al

A Druids Herbal by Hopman

A Modern Herbal


U of O: it’s not about yoga, it’s about white people getting defensive.

This past week a lot of people have been asking me to comment of the U of O “yoga scandal”. The controversy is being framed like this: there was a yoga class at U of O and it got cancelled because of concerns related to “cultural sensitivity”. Basically people are saying it got cancelled because there were concerns that yoga is appropriative.

To be honest, up until today I really had no interest in responding to any of this. I stopped teaching yoga over a year ago and I’m not really interested in weighing in on these issues. I know where I stand and I don’t feel like I need to re-articulate my views.

And then, my article about why I quit teaching was linked to a piece in the globe and mail written by the ever measured and reasonable, Margaret Wente. I could quote her, but I honestly don’t want to subject anyone to her garbage. The point to take home is she made many cheap shots (typical of her style) against me and everyone else who takes issue with appropriation.
After friends and family posted the link to her article on my Facebook I looked at the stats for my old site and realized hundreds of people were reading the piece I wrote about quitting teaching. And then I googled the UofO scandal and saw hundreds of articles written about it. I have to admit I was initially in a bit of shock.

I couldn’t help but wonder – why do people care about this class so much?

But really, the answer is pretty obvious.

The public reaction to this class being cancelled isn’t about yoga at all. It’s about white insecurity.

You see, as my friend Liz (who used to work for the student federation of U of O) points out in her recent blog post, the class was cancelled for a number of reasons. One of the main ones was that no one was coming to the class. U of O actually still has a yoga class, it was the student federation that cancelled their yoga class, not the university. So no, yoga has not been banned from the university. And the class has not been permanently cancelled, it’s just under review til next semester, which starts in a couple weeks. And as Liz rightfully points out, the decision to keep or cancel the class is really about how the student union, and specifically the Center For Students with Disabilities who was hosting the class, seeks to meet student need. From Liz’s perspective It’s not actually anyone’s place to be commenting on the class being cancelled other than disabled students and south asian students.

This seems like a fairly sound and factually reasoned position, no? And yet it’s literally the exact opposite of how the media is treating this issue.

How many yoga classes have been cancelled that have caused this much of a maelstrom?

But here’s the thing. People are not getting upset about this because of yoga. They are getting upset about this yoga class because it is making them think about their whiteness. And more broadly it is making them think about racism.

And thinking about racism makes white people uncomfortable. Like really uncomfortable.

Personally I think reacting to this yoga class being cancelled is acting as a pressure release for white folks. It’s a way for us to scream at the top of our lungs, “I AM NOT RACIST!!!! THESE PEOPLE ARE JUST OVERREACTING!!! THEY NEED TO STOP BEING SO SENSITIVE!!”. Screaming about this class is acting as a way for us to recenter white feelings, white guilt and white fragility and white apologizing – rather than actually dutifully learning about the issues at hand. Let alone actually understanding the facts.

And us white folks feel are motivated to behave like this because thinking about how we are racist is making us feel really awful about ourselves. Realizing that racism exists and that we are complicit in it is like taking the pill from the matrix. You know, the pill that lets you see the matrix exists. It’s not a pleasant experience. And yet – it’s totally necessary to acknowledge our racism. Denying that’s it’s real is rapidly becoming harder and harder to do. Just look at the Syrian Refugee Crisis; the slanted reaction to the Paris bombings that excluded the suffering of many nations of Muslims and folks of colour; the rising violence against Muslim and Black people all over the world – not to mention that all of this is happening over American Thankstaking weekend.

Talk about timing.

Basically we’re all just fetuses covered in goo having no fucking idea what we’re doing and we’d rather be comfortably back in the matrix, thank you very much.

At least, that seems to be how we’re reacting to this yoga class. We’re kicking and screaming and crying and yelling, “I AM NOT RACIST. LOOK AT MY DOWNWARD DOG?! I have a RIGHT to my yoga class!!!!”

But the thing is, we can’t go back to the matrix. It is crumbling all around us.

Racism is real and it is killing people. White supremacy exists and it is killing people. It’s just way easier to deny these things are happening when talking about a lower stakes issues like a yoga class.

And that is why people care so much about this yoga class.

So maybe, just maybe, we all need to take a minute and .. dare I say it: take a deep breath and calm ourselves? Because we won’t be able to attend to the work at hand, of unpacking all this violence and meaningfully and responsibly responding to it, unless we can step away from our defense mechanisms and into our ability to listen and find compassion.

I mean fuck, isn’t that what yoga is supposed to be teaching us to do?

Cause here’s the thing. I’m not into shaming white people. I’m a white person and I’ve done a lot of work to release the shame and guilt I felt about my complicity in racial violence. That complicity is real. I benefit from racism. That is undeniable. If you disagree with me, please, read a book about the history of Turtle Island (North America) from the perspective of an Indigenous Person. Or \ read about the history of the slave trade. Or you know, watch the news and think about it critically for half a second.

The point I’m trying to bring home here is this: feeling guilty and being reactive isn’t going to solve anything. What does begin to address racism is white people taking responsibility and being real about the benefits we have because of our whiteness. So maybe we need to stop complaining about yoga classes and start listening to and meaningfully showing up for folks of colour.

And maybe, just maybe, we need to start turning to our own ancestor for spiritual guidance. Why is that such a scary idea? There’s actually some really rad things we can learn when we start to complicated, contextualize and historicize our European roots. And no, those roots are not all about Christianity and hurting people. So just let that idea go right now.

If you go far back enough we all have, as my friend Mel Bazil has reminded me, “beautiful origins”.

I understand that looking at our racism is scary, trust me I do. But it’s not as scary as actually experiencing it, which is something we white folks will never truly understand. Exploring our own roots and unpacking our whiteness is rich and necessary work if we want to change the tide of violence we have benefited from for generations.

So get a tissue, put down the yoga mat, stop complaining about this yoga class and go read a book or help a refugee.


You’ll feel better for it, trust me.

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