Best Audience: Herbalists who want to learn more about African Herbalism as seen through the lense of the African American experience and those who long to deepen their own connection to or understanding of African spirituality
I was looking for an herbal reference on the plants of Africa and their uses both as medicine for the body and medicine for the Spirit when I picked up my copy of A Healing Grove: African Tree Remedies and Rituals for the Body and Spirit by Stephanie Rose Bird. I’d read Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones: Hoodoo, Mojo & Conjuring with Herbs, her work on Hoodoo Herbalism and practices, so I expected something similar from A Healing Grove. What I found was instead a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American of African descent in my country.
A Healing Grove is an informative herbal work focused primarily on the trees of Africa and areas settled by peoples of African descent, many of which are available worldwide and most certainly in my country for magical, medicinal, and household uses. Alongside the herbal information, Bird offers a memoir-like approach to her own relationship with each tree, often sharing stories that move beyond the tree in question into deeper aspects of African Spiritually, Hoodoo, and life in general.
Underneath many of Bird’s stories and essays is a current of anger, sorrow, and resentment. Considering what my African-American sisters and brothers face to just live in this country, I expect that shouldn’t be a surprise. For me, it was at times frustrating to encounter worlds like diaspora in my search for a better understanding of the plants. My search for an herbal had led me into a politically-charged territory I hadn’t expected, and I was dismayed both for myself and for all people who face discrimination based on shallow judgements like skin color and racial heritage. Despite the wounds of discrimination, Bird offers up a wealth of healing practices. In working with them, I came to understand that the healing we need most is right there, in the plants.
Bottom Line: A Healing Grove: African Tree Remedies and Rituals for the Body and Spirit by Stephanie Rose Bird has earned a place on my bookshelf.
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