Interview with Liz Migliorelli
As I finish up with designing the Many Moons Workbook 2017 : Vol 1, I want to take the time to highlight the inspiring contributors to this project. It is a major honor to ask people you admire and respect to create something and have them accept and share their knowledge and gifts. This workbook is a million times better by including the expertise of the assorted writers—many who have years, if not decades of experience in healing modalities, the mystical, and self-development.
Liz Migliorelli is a western herbalist and magic maker who believes in affordable, accessible, community-based health care and the healing power of plants. She is the head witch behind Sister Spinster, a line of flower essences and other potions. She teaches ancestral remembrance, folk healing and magic classes across the country. She lives on the Mendocino coast in California where she will soon open an herb school. She enjoys blowing kisses to the whales.
Liz Migliorelli and I have never met in person, though I feel like I know her as I use her tinctures all the time: when I want to feel grounded, when I wish to feel peppy, before I do readings for clients, and when I do my own rituals and spellwork. They are super yummy and they work! For the workbook, Liz contributed a piece about utilizing herbs for support during the May Full Moon.
Liz was kind enough to answer some questions I threw at her. Thanks Liz!
Through your tincture line, your workshops, and your practice as an herbalist the world knows you as Sister Spinster. What does that name mean to you, how did you come to choose it for your product line?
I love this question because every time I answer it I have new answers. Sister Spinster was a DJ name I used to have for a radio show I did in Olympia way back in the day. Then I read a book called Healing Wise by Susun Weed when I was first opening to the plant world, and she refers to Stinging Nettle as Sister Spinster. Nettles were, at the time, a plant that saved my life, my first true plant ally. I owe so much to them. So later when I started making medicine and offering it publicly, it just felt right to continue honoring the lineage of nettles. Since then, I have been really exploring the etymology of the word and just gets juicier the deeper I go. Spinster was a term for unmarried women who were expected to occupy themselves by spinning thread. It was basically a word to describe an old hag, a woman who was by patriarchy's standards "past her prime". For me, I've always seen spinsters as uncompromising women, women who did not want to follow the cultural norm, who chose to spin their own webs and connect their lineage to the mythic-threads of spinner goddesses, such as the Three Fates, Arachne, Athena, Frigg, Holda, Leto, etc. Spinning is an act of dedicated creation, with much intention and magic imbedded within. I use the name Sister Spinster to honor this tangled, ancient & powerfully woven web.
What is something that most people don't know about you, unrelated to anything plant or witch or magic or teacher?
My dad ran a small independent blues record label out of our house when I was growing up. The studio was close to my bedroom, so I would fall asleep listening to really incredible soul and blues singers recording late at night. Because of this, I love blues, gospel and soul music, and it's probably the thing that has been the best medicine in my life, singing. I'm always singing. I sing while I make medicine, while I'm driving, etc. I have a lot of fears in our current world, and when I sing it's like there's no room for those fears to dwell in my body. It's my ultimate form of self-care.
How does learning about your ancestry influence your practice? What is a suggestion or two for people to begin to anchor their spiritual practice to their own background?
Whew, this is a big one! I wasn't grounded in my ancestry when I started on my herbal path, but it's like the ancestors were like "Girl, what the hell are you doing? Don't you know we are the reason you are doing this?" I was humbled, for sure. At this point, learning about my ancestors influences my practice in thousands of ways. Cultural appropriation is pretty rampant in the Western Herbalism world, and I've been turning to my ancestral folk healing ways as a way to ground my plant work in a lineage while attempting to un-spell this hex of colonization that I have inherited from ancestors and inherently participate in by being a person of European-descent living on stolen land. I truly believe that if people learned about their own ancestral healing ways, we wouldn't be so quick to judge and fear others based on our differences.
I always tell students in my Folk Medicine and Magic of Old Europe class to actually do the gritty, nose-to-the-books work and do some research. Make a family tree. If you don't know names, try making a map of symbols and places of where your people have come from. My friend & sister in ancestral remembrance work Erin Langley recommends going to the Mormon Temple because the Mormon's keep great ancestral records for lots of people, whether or not they were Mormon. We need to actually do some research to make sure that we aren't make assumptions about our spiritual backgrounds either. A lot of the work is tedious, but it is so so so worth it. We can't expect an immediate ancestral connection and lineage to just emerge from the shadows without putting some serious work into it.
What would you like to see more of in the "spiritual community"?
I'd like to see more work around decolonization. Not just decolonization as a metaphorical term either, but in an actual physical way. Land reparations. People who are making money from a spiritual practice that is indigenous to a certain land giving money back to the land and the First Nations people there. I'm still trying to figure out what that looks like, and am really open to feedback around this!
What was a seminal book, class, or mentor that influenced little Liz as a spiritual practitioner, an herbalist?
Does the Mists of Avalon count? I first read it when I was nine or ten years old and then again two years ago. When I re-read it I was like, "ohhh, of course I'm doing what I am doing now!" I had no idea how much that book affected my developing subconscious as a child. I feel really influenced by so many books, many fictional, magical tales. I feel like so much of what I do comes back to re-enchantment, finding magic in the world, because of those stories I was reading when I was growing up.
Besides that, in my earlier days I was (and still am) extremely inspired by Myles Horton and the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee. His writings on popular education and social justice are incredible and were foundational in the way I think about offering classes and deconstructing curriculum. He also writes a lot about gardening, which is super cute.
What is your current favorite time of the moonth? What do you do around that that makes it so?
I love when the moon is a thin little sliver in the sky, just a day or two after the dark moon. Recently, the New Moon has been too overpowering for me, almost too dark. The energy dissipates in those few days after and I feel like I can breathe again. It's like a little reminder of the possibility of growth and change that is to come during the next lunar cycle. It feels really exciting & I actually tend to squeal and giggle at it when I see it smiling in the sky. :)
What was your experience writing for the book, what do you hope that readers take away from this project, or your piece?
Ha, well it really showed me that I am a great procrastinator.. got the article in JUST at the deadline. Besides that, my experience was really interesting! In my piece I talk a lot about the way in which our bodies experience the physical stress of our emotions and brought up these issues with my back that I used to have. While I was writing the article, all of the pain came back firsthand, in a really intense way. Just another reminder that these lunar cycles are absolutely non-linear and we continue to spiral in and out of these lessons time after time. I guess that's what I hope readers can take away from reading this project: we have a lot of chances for healing, for magic, for resilience, for strength again and again. It's okay if you don't do your lunar ritual this time around, you can get to it next time. And you'll always gain broader perspective each cycle.
Max Dashu, founder of the Suppressed Histories Archives in the Bay just published her book Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion 700-1100. GET IT!
Pre-order the Many Moons Workbook here.