Interview and photographs by Alice Wilder
A conversation with Mars Ee who is, in their own words, “a queer femme in the south trying to dig into to their roots” through the formation of Root Sister: a shop selling herbal products such as tea, salves, and other medicines to heal and energize. They are also a birth worker, a support and resource for all aspects of parenthood: the decision, the pregnancy, nesting, the birth and/or greeting of the child, and early parenthood.
Alice Wilder: When did you begin to consider starting Root Sister? When did you make the leap between dreaming about it and deciding to really start that journey?
Mars Ee: I guess the seed has been really growing for about a year now. In the recovery of some deep depression, I started to get a little obsessed with reframing questions around what “normal” meant for my own bodily and mental health needs, what my physical space consisted of, what I was ingesting, and a need to return to an opening, magickal spirituality.
All of those questions eventually led me to a study of herbalism–the relationship between person and plant for healing purposes–which is where I am today. What a beautiful place to be. I started to put some of my book learning into practice by crafting salves for myself and family that upcoming fall, beginning with the Sister’s Hands salve for my anxiety/panic and some firstaid salve. I simultaneously had such good results/ felt such joy in the creating/ got such wonderful reactions from people when they saw them that I had the huge gut feeling to KEEP GOING.
I didn’t quite know what that meant yet as far as Root Sister, but I did know that it felt so good to be creating and giving. I was also beginning to do real work as a birthworker and thinking about what I wanted my path to eventually look like on my own terms. Lots of dreaming and scheming and conversations later, I realized how well herbal medicine, birthwork, and community care worked together, how I had been almost subconsciously developing these skills alongside each other, and how it speaks directly to paths that my ancestors had led before me. It just all fit together so perfectly. It has been slow moving for a lot of reasons, but the summer after graduation–this past summer of 2015–I decided to take the leap into making this something I really put love and attention to and try to support myself with–if only slightly financially, then at least spiritually and emotionally. So this fall is Root Sister’s first “official” debut, but it’s been growing for a bit!
AW: How does Root Sister connect with your experience as a birthworker?
ME: It’s all intertwined learning. I feel I must pay deep homage and love to the grannies who have come before me and I continue to learn from, who were witness to life’s beginnings and endings and tended to all kinds of maladies and experiences in between. I believe that to be my best birthworker, I must be available and honor life as a whole. Continuing to learn from and honor the plant medicine, the seasons, the spirits–it will only make me better equipped and stronger for myself and my work in all its capacities.I try to bring learning from both back home always, where they continue to grow together.
AW: What drew you to the name Root Sister?
ME: It’s a deeply grateful nod to and also reminder to myself to stay dedicated to my magickal practices of ancestral reverence and folk magick, as well as some personal commentary on gender and community relationship. Black root workers were, are, and will be important spiritual and practical roles in community health, particularly in the south. So Root Sister is quite literally me–a queer femme in the south trying to dig into their roots, both personally and in the larger community, gratefully with knowledge that is embedded in these bones and stones. I’m here next to you with my hands open and full.
AW: Why are you pulled towards this kind of work? How does making one of your products make you feel?
ME: I have known for a while I wanted to be involved in some kind of health. I flitted through ideas of social work, physician, etc. but I’ve always felt so far out of the industrial system, haha! Those structures of streamlining healing practices, chunking up our experiences to “relevant” pieces, standardizing certain bodies, dictating my available tools to increasingly invasive technologies…it just doesn’t feel right for me and the kind of work I want to do.
Herbalism just kind of appeared to me. It’s becoming a skill for me to translate my deep love and care for
folks into tangible things in a way that feels right. I tend to make my crafts late at night, alone in my kitchen in silence, typically on the full or new moon…it’s such a blissful, calm time for me. All of my struggles with feeling powerful, creative, autonomous…they dissolve and I am there, stirring oils and light on my feet. The process has become so organic, so much fun in the trial and error, the pages on pages of notebook scribblings for recipe ideas, notes to myself, things to do further research on…I highly recommend making medicines for yourself, ha!
AW: What was the most surprising thing you
learned from starting Root Sister?
ME: That I can do this! How organic and easy this is growing, how much fun and expansive it is. How powerful my own magick is, and my growing intuition. That despite student loans, capitalism, respectability politics around health and post-grad life, I am still in charge of my life and how I want to live it. That I don’t have to
wait until “down the road” to follow my passion. I’m also so wonderfully surprised by the amount of support I have received from my community
across the country! I am so grateful and inspired to continue to serve them better–thank you all deeply!