I have the chills after this interview with Dori Midnight, one of my favorite wild-hearted healers! She is an inspiration, with dedication to the health of our communities on every level. Many thanks to Dori for her work and presence in healing, activism and friendship. To find out more about Dori's work please do explore her offerings - including intuitive counseling, charmed honey, rituals/ceremony and many classes & events. I am so happy to offer some of her remedies here at Nightingale Studio as well.
This interview is part of an ongoing 5 Questions interview series I started while with Portland Apothecary, where we explore plants, art and healing.
*Photo credits to Charlie Curtis.
1. What motivates you to do the work that you do?
I am motivated by love! I come to this work by my heart, which is open to, in love with, and sometimes broken by this world. I am moved by all the people I work with, this magnificent earth, the wise plants and stones and animals, and people’s struggles and capacity to heal, and I just want to be in service to what I love.
And of course, like so many of us who hold space for other people’s healing, I also come to this work from my own healing journey, which I’m obviously still on!
2. Do you use plants in your work and if so, how?
I have a teacher who might say the plants use her, which I can relate to! I sometimes feel like I’m doing a dance piece or art project collaboration with plants. (I often romanticize about the lives of my dancer friends; like it must be so amazing to not have to use anything other than your body and other people’s bodies to work!) So I suppose I’ve brought this fantasy to life in my work and often work with the plants through my own body, my hands and breath. Though I’m trained as a clinical herbalist, and many times I’ll send someone home with a bag of dried herbs for tea, or make up a tincture, more often I am working with the plants in a more subtle way. Some people might say I work with plants spiritually or energetically- I like those words too- I like to say I’m collaborating with the plants.
I send people home with little bundles for them to burn or dream with or throw in their baths. I also burn a lot of plants- mugwort, juniper, cedar, sage - for clearing and protection and movement. But most of all, I make and work with essences and use them for hands on healing.
Essences are both gentle and powerful, working in invisible and mysterious ways. I love them because they are low-impact on the land- like you don’t even need to pick the plant to gather the healing properties- and are so affordable and accessible. And I love teaching people how to make their own, which is such good, deep medicine!
3. Is there a certain piece of advice you find yourself giving to your clients often? If so, what is it?
Lately I’ve been leading a lot of guided meditations to meet one’s elder self. So you imagine you are sitting with yourself at 75, 80, maybe 90 years old and you feel their weathered old hand on your back, or in your own hand, lending that kind of sweet, ancient support that some grandmas and grandpas give us. It’s so powerful to connect with that part of ourselves, especially because it evokes a kind of gentleness and compassion (and sometimes fierceness) that is often hard to cultivate for ourselves. If someone wants advice, I encourage them to ask this elder self. Our 85 year old selves give really good advice, like “break up with that good for nothing!” or “quit your job, girl!” or simply, “it’s going to be okay, honey.”
4. What do you turn towards for inspiration? If you include books, artists, other makers, music, etc can you include some links?
I am really inspired by social justice movements and indigenous resistance, people who are reclaiming and sharing ancestral and folk healing traditions, the healing justice work of people like the Kindred collective (http://kindredhealingjustice.org/) in the south, community healing spaces at places like the AMC and community healing clinics farmacy herbs and third root clinic, mutual aid and disability justice movements, and so many other artists, change makers, farmers, dreamers and healers!
I often turn to my dreams for inspiration or clarity, or ask for guidance from my ancestors of blood and spirit, and I also look to the lives of my fierce and wild elders like Juliette de Bairacli Levy and Miss Major Griffin Gracy.
My teacher/mentor/spirit mother is someone I have been working with since I was 22. Cybelementored me in intuitive healing practices and stone medicine- she is a beautiful example of someone who brings an artist/poet’s sensibility to the healing arts, like my dear friend Kristen of Nightingale, who is also a total inspiration!
5. Please include 1 instructional for a quick project someone reading this could incorporate into their own lives.
MAKE A FLOWER ESSENCE!
What you need:
A bowl or vessel (something pretty, preferably)
Spring water (or the water from your tap that you are grateful for)
A small dropper bottle
An open heart
Choose a flower, or rather, let a flower choose you, that seems to be growing abundantly and is calling your name. This could be a plant that you’ve always loved, a plant that visits you in a dream, or a plant that grows right outside your door the day you decide to make an essence. I particularly like making essences on new moons, full moons, or eclipses.
Fill your bowl with water.
Ask for permission: extend gratitude and ask if you can make an essence of this plant. If so, you can pick a couple of flowers and place them in your bowl. Place the bowl in the sunlight or moonlight near the plant or in a special spot for a few hours (or as long as you feel is right) and have a seat.
Notice everything: where this plant grows, what plants it is growing near, the color, shape, smell, and the pollinators who love it. Take note of any words, images, memories, or sensations that arise while you are sitting with this plant. Even if it’s unpleasant, this is good information about what this essence might be for!
When it’s done (approx 3 hours), gently remove the flowers with a stick. The water in this bowl is calledPotentized Water. Fill your jar halfway with brandy and then fill the rest of it with the Potentized Water. This jar now contains your Mother Essence. Label it with the name of the flower and the date.
Pour what is left of the Potentized Water on the ground near the plant with gratitude and/or take a small sip and share the magic water with friends.
To make a stock bottle, fill a dropper bottle with 70% water, 30% brandy and place 3 drops of the Mother Essence into the bottle. Label it!
To take your essence, you can place 3-13 drops under your tongue, in your tea or water bottle, or in your bathwater to help support your healing and bring more magic into your life!
Dori Midnight is a community healer, herbalist, and educator, weaving traditional healing practices and social justice in her work. Drawing on her training as a clinical herbalist and interfaith minister, as well as her heritage of Roma, Ashkenazi, and First Nations (Cherokee and Shawnee) ancestry, Dori's work is grounded in self-determinism, collective liberation, and the belief that healing ourselves is inseparable from healing our communities and the planet. Dori lives in Western Massachusetts, where she maintains a local and distance healing practice and teaches magic and community healing.