Monticue Connally believes in the power of plants. He’s an award-winning songwriter, certified medical herbalist and owner of Jiridon Apothecary in Denver, Colorado; but most importantly, he is a true medicine man. His goal is to draw awareness to earth’s medicine in the urban communities he’s a part of.
“We should be in a position where we try to heal ourselves first,” he says. The narrative of always going back to the doctor in marginalized communities can be financially devastating when the problem could be fixed naturally first, he explains. Yet, many folks in underserved groups dismiss alternative paths to healing being offered by individuals associated with power enforcement and colonization. “When you don’t have a lot to hold onto, you hold onto what you have,” he says of the mindset.
Yet, offering holistic wellness into people’s everyday life can be a preventive measure to diagnose problems before they develop further. For example, using plants to heal the gut can then help people process things better, and that is why he believes the work to be so important. He is a community-oriented man, and people who have been in his presence feel that passion. He knows this from experience and extensive studies at the Artemisia and Rue Community Herbalist Program.
“Nature is my salvation,” he says. “It helped me to be able to live a normal life.”
The Denver-native remembers a time when visions haunted his conscience and he struggled to sleep. He had just moved out of his family home and started to have disturbing dreams in a new house he shared with roommates. With time, he ran into a woman claiming to be an herbalist. The two went on a trip into the Colorado mountains and it was there that Connally learned of a root that cured the fears in his new home, and instead replaced that energy with what he could only describe as love. That’s when his alliance with plant spirits was born.
“It was very eye-opening,” he shares. “The experience showed me the multi-dimensionality of plant medicine — it banishes evil spirits, but also headaches!”
Something just clicked. Connally discovered plant medicine was developed by his ancestors who had the same sensitivity he did. The herbs began to bump into one another, and it offered him a connection to his past.
“Herbal medicine clicks with people. How does that leaf go in my body and negotiate with my body and remind it who it is? It builds our faith that this earth is abundant and we’re not alone,” he says.
As a descendent of slavery, Connally understands how ailments around anxiety have been passed down to his community for a long time. He says to dismantle a history of oppression, we need to look at culture.
“We are so far removed from what we really are,” he says. “Native cultures have animals represent each person, and an animal is never confused on who it is.”
After finding natural remedies for his and other’s spiritual blockages, Connally started studying African American folk magic, where he found an entire tradition of using herbs and earth.
“Africans are spiritually demonized due to colonization,” he says. “I had to decolonize my mind away from the white savior complex that I’d been taught … The great white savior was seen as the only acceptable form of spirituality for a while. If your Gods were dark, there was something wrong with you. You don’t want anything dark. But darkness is a place of great healing, it’s where the seed is before it sprouts. That’s where the fetus finds its comfort.”
“We’ve lost touch with what the earth is — modern man destroyed forests. But it’s racists to even talk like that because it’s not giving credit to natives who upheld these lands. It was managed by people who were in tune with the planet in ways that weren’t harming it,” he adds.
Weeds are known as invasive and just bad. But Connally says every weed has a first name and a last name, a history. “You might be killing your cure,” he advises. “Tap into the ancestors that work close with the land for guidance.”
Tap into the ancestors that work close with the land for guidance.
“When I worked at the Salvation Army camp, we did things with kids to look at their culture. They wrote down cell phone, mall, McDonald’s. All those things involved marketing, profiting, corporations. None of it is sustainable long-term. Lots of waste, a lot of missing, no connection to the ways that your people moved previously or systems that have really deep roots that go beyond a colonial mindset,” he says. “Where did your folks come from? Before they were white? Initiated into whiteness. Racial fabric. There has to be education that says it’s okay to let whiteness go. Gaining more allies, history, regaining old traditions that will feed you and lead you closer to the planet and give you new medicine and new resources.”
Connally believes in the importance of holding space, having one’s back. He says as social beings, we should not be swallowed up by hate. “Words do hurt,” he says. “As my journey continues, my learning never stops, I’m still a student. I bring people along with me. I gave someone a tincture the other day and to remedy their anxiety … those stories keep me going. It changes lives.”
Photos courtesy of Monticue Connally.