Diane Bell [00:00:01]:
Hello, gorgeous soul. I'm Diane Bell, and this is the Aim from the Heart podcast, your weekly dose of tips, techniques, strategies, and inspiration to help you live a life beyond your wildest dreams. If you're ready to use the art of intentional manifestation to create more freedom, more joy, more abundance, and more bliss in your life, you are in the right place. S grab a cup of tea, pull up a chair, and let's have some fun. I am so glad you're here today. Let's do this. Hello and welcome to episode 13 of the Aim from the Heart podcast. I just realized it's 13, and that's kind of perfect for the guest that I'm going to be introducing today.
Diane Bell [00:00:42]:
If you didn't know, 13 is actually considered to be the number of the goddess and also the witch, and that's because there are 13 moons of a year, and so women were always very associated with this number. Isn't it funny that the patriarchy twisted it around and made 13 into some sort of evil day when it was not the case? So 13. So here we are in episode 13, and I have a very special episode for you today, a conversation that I had with the herbalist Tonya Rykeley. I came across Tonya in Denver, Colorado, and we met through a workshop that she gave on connecting with the wisdom of trees. And it was really a moving experience. Beautiful workshop, beautiful experience. And since then, I've followed her work and partaken in a lot of it. She sells various teas and also oils through her Etsy platform.
Diane Bell [00:01:38]:
And she also shares some beautiful tools for people who wish to connect with brigid and with Irish Celtic traditions. This conversation is a really special one for me. It's a very deep one. We go to some very personal places and really consider these ideas about traditions, roots, and how to live authentically and in a way that is in alignment with our ancestral traditions. So I hope you enjoy this. Pull up a chair and listen to Tonya Wrightly.
Diane Bell [00:02:10]:
I am so excited to welcome you to the Aim from the Heart podcast. I became familiar with Tanya's work. Actually, in real life, we first intersected in the real world, not through the Internet, as like most people I meet is from the internet, but it was actually an ad for this class that you were sharing in Denver at a park, which was about trees and about tree wisdom. And I picked up a little flyer for it at the Apothecary, this lovely herbal shop in Denver, and I just felt called to it. It was really fascinating. And so I came to that class, and it was a beautiful class and I loved the wisdom you shared of it. And that's when I became introduced to your work. And I then looked you up and found what you shared on Instagram and also on Etsy, the things that you offer there.
Diane Bell [00:03:03]:
How would you describe what it is that you do and what you offer. It's so interesting to me. What do we call this?
Tonja Reichley [00:03:09]:
Right. Exactly. I think first and foremost, I'm a herbalist. That's probably the only title I really like to claim. We're entrepreneurs, we do it our own way, and so we juggle so many different know. I have an MBA, so I'm a herbalist with an MBA, which is an interesting combination. And I've been living part time in Ireland, which is my heritage, for 20 years. I've been very much intrigued in my roots and where I've come from.
Tonja Reichley [00:03:42]:
And so all of my teachings, from my herbal teachings to my mystery school to priestess school, has all been rooted in Irish wisdom tradition.
Diane Bell [00:03:51]:
And so what I love about your work and what I just immediately connected to was this idea of going back to your root and connecting with your root traditions. I was obviously living in America at the time when I connected. I'm Scottish by birth. I was born in Scotland, and all my family are Scottish. We've just discovered some Irish, a little bit of Irish.
Tonja Reichley [00:04:10]:
They're so close. Yes, I have some Scottish, too. I have quite a bit of Scottish, actually, as well.
Diane Bell [00:04:18]:
And I think for many years, I didn't really acknowledge my heritage. This is like you're living in this modern world, and I was like, whatever. But increasingly it's become the question, what are the roots and what I'm interested about with your work. And I'm really curious about your own story as to how you came to reconnect with your Irish roots. Were you brought up very consciously within Irish traditions, or was this something and where are you from in America? Were you born in America?
Tonja Reichley [00:04:46]:
Sure. I grew up in Ohio, in the United States, and I grew up on a farm, so I felt very connected to trees always, especially oak trees, although my family was not like, we did not practice any Irish traditions growing up. And, I mean, I don't even know that they had really talked about our Irish roots. In fact, my maiden name is Klein, which is very German, so if anything, it was more about the German side. And then when you get the DNA test there, I have very little German, so it's almost like from a very young age. And no one else in my family, none of my I have two sisters, they weren't really interested. I would read any novel I could get my hands on about Ireland and just felt a really deep connection, not knowing where it came from, and also just allowing it and honoring it, even at a young age as a teenager. And then when I think back, I'm like, it might have been the trees, like they were calling me, because oak is a very important tree in Ireland and the Irish wisdom tradition.
Tonja Reichley [00:05:53]:
And then Bridget, who is an Irish goddess and a saint, who I'm a devotee of that's a very important tree for her. And so I like to think it was like the trees were literally taking me back to my roots. And then I did not even come to Ireland until I was in my late twenty s or early thirty s. And we were, I was with my partner at the time, and we took a bike tour around the Ring of Cary, which is in the west here in Ireland. And I just remember I had a corporate job that I had quit. And so I felt really disengaged with my spiritual body yet in that, like, it was such an awakening. And I recognized people, and I know these people, even though I'd never been to Ireland before. But there was a deep familiarity with this land and the people here.
Tonja Reichley [00:06:47]:
And then I just needed to come back, and I've pretty much been back ever.
Diane Bell [00:06:53]:
That's amazing. So when you started to come back there, just in terms of connecting with Bridget, for instance, was that something had that already happened?
Tonja Reichley [00:07:05]:
No. Yeah, again, so I came back after that time in Europe. We spent some time in Ireland and then a lot of time in Western Europe in general. And then I came back and thought I was going to get a corporate job again. And after experience like that, I was like, there's no way I can go back into that environment. And so I was going through my mail at the know, piles of mail, because we were gone like three months going through my mail, and I found this brochure from a herb school in Boulder. I was living in Denver at the time, so Boulder is really close to Denver, and I was like, oh, if I could do anything, that would be my dream. That would be my dream to go to herb school, even though I think I had had a cup of chamomile tea.
Tonja Reichley [00:07:50]:
And again, that was very just deep listening on my part. I had grown a herb garden in one of our first houses that we owned. I created a herb garden and loved them, felt like they were talking to me. Even though I didn't grow up with herbs, I grew up on a farm, so I grew up close to the land and nature. We didn't grow up drinking herbs. And then I was like, oh, I can do this. Yes, this is my dream. I can make my dream happen.
Tonja Reichley [00:08:20]:
So I enrolled in herb school in Boulder, and it was beautiful. I feel like I definitely found what I was meant to be doing. And after that year was done, we could have continued. It was like a three year program, although I just knew there was something, another direction I wanted. I didn't want to be a clinical herbalist, and that was very much a clinical program. So I was in a checkout line, what's whole Foods today? So it was called ideal market at the time. So I was in Capitol Hill, which we met very close to there. This was 22 years ago.
Tonja Reichley [00:08:57]:
And I opened the back of this herb magazine as I'm waiting to check out, and I see a tiny little classified ad in the back. And I hadn't even bought this herb magazine. I just saw it. It said, come study herbs in Ireland. I was like, that's it. I want to come study herbs in Ireland. And I emailed her. I don't even think she had a website at the time.
Tonja Reichley [00:09:17]:
Her school was here in Ireland was Bridget's Academy. And it still is Bridget's Academy of Healing Arts. So I came here again on a wing and a prayer, and my partner came, and he was like, are you sure she even exists? So it was all this trust. We came two months, was the school in residence with her, and that's when I got to know Bridget through the school. And, yeah, it was just south of Dublin, so I was really close to Kildare, which Kildare means translated in Irish, means Church of the Oak. So again, that Oak Tree rooted connection, and that's how I became acquainted with Bridget. And then she invited us to stay an additional month. My teacher, her name is Gina McGarry, and she's still a beloved she is my teacher in this life.
Tonja Reichley [00:10:10]:
And so just living in this place that had so much connection to Bridget, it's how my connection with Bridget started. And Bridget was we wouldn't have called, like, Herbalist is a very modern like, even I can still meet people in Ireland, and I'll say, I'm a Herbalist, and they'll be like, what is that? So we were known as, like, gone fascias. Or sometimes people with the cure is what they would have been referred to. And people ask me that often, oh, so you have the cure.
Diane Bell [00:10:42]:
Amazing. What I love in this story, that trusting in your soul and in the callings and then receiving those little confirmations, like, the name of the place that's like, ah, yes, I'm on the right path. I said to Tanya just before we started, and I didn't actually stage manage this. This was not like I put these out because I was about to have this conversation. I have my Bridget cards here, which Tanya made, and these are my favorite oracle cards. I have a lot of different oracle cards, and I can't explain my connection and devotion and absolute love of these, but I take them with me everywhere. And as you know, I've purchased quite a few of them because I usually end up giving them to somebody and then I need another set. So you wrote these yourself, or I imagine channeled the messages on them.
Diane Bell [00:11:33]:
I would just offer to anybody. If you're looking for the most simple but succinct and beautiful cards to anchor in with your daily life, these are the ones. They're brigid cards. And we'll make sure that we've got your links and things that people can find them. I'm tempted to pull a card for us now, out of interest.
Tonja Reichley [00:11:51]:
Diane Bell [00:11:52]:
All the time, literally, like, every day. I tend to pull a card every morning for myself. I'm just going to see what comes for us just now as we are speaking. Goddess of poetry for creative life, ancient Bards of Ireland invoked Bridget to inspire their words. Today, she is amused. For all creative works, where in your life would you like to be more creative? Make a decision. And this is what I love. The little questions, little prompts, and little thoughts really do guide me, like, so much, I can't tell you.
Diane Bell [00:12:27]:
I just love where in your life would you like to be more creative? Make a decision. To start a creative endeavor like journaling spinning wool, making jewelry, or creating art, take time today and every day to nurture the creative aspect of yourself. Call upon Bridget for inspiration. Allow your creative works to ignite the spark of your true self. You're creative, and I love the affirmations at the end of each one. So every single one has an affirmation. When I had a screenwriters retreat here in Spain, I actually offered each of the women to choose a card, and they all chose it, and they kept their cards, and each of them got the card. They just got exactly the right card.
Diane Bell [00:13:10]:
There were so many tears because it was just like that's, speaking right to my heart. That's exactly what needed today. And there's just something in these that's really magic. I also here have the Brigid Oil, which, again, I didn't stage manage this. I use this. I anoint this often, usually when I'm about to teach, usually when I really want to bring in a certain energy into what I'm doing. I don't think it's available right now on your site. No.
Tonja Reichley [00:13:37]:
Diane Bell [00:13:38]:
And the tea as well. So this is just a little request. Oh, my gosh. I love ritual tea and the different seasonal teas.
Tonja Reichley [00:13:45]:
Diane Bell [00:13:46]:
So good. So appreciated. You really are just an incredible harbless. It's interesting because I see you as being a priestess. You might not use that word for yourself. I see you as being a witch. Again, you might not use that word yourself, and you might be like, Why is she saying these things? I see you as a woman on this path connected to land, connected to honoring Mother Earth, the goddess. And I think it's this.
Diane Bell [00:14:18]:
When I met you, I was just so inspired by that. By meeting a woman who was just embodying this path in a way that felt so real, I'm getting tearful. That felt so real. I can feel someone's embodiment that you're living what you're teaching, and there's a lot of performative. I feel like in our world right now, these things, they can be quite instagram fashionable at the moment.
Tonja Reichley [00:14:45]:
Diane Bell [00:14:47]:
And there's a lot of business around it, which I don't think is a bad thing because it feels like, to me, a renaissance of something that's so important or reawakening of something that matters so much. So I'm definitely not saying that's a bad thing, but what I felt when I met you is something you're living this you're walking this walk, and it's deep roots there's. Also, actually, I just like to acknowledge as well your book about Irish roots.
Tonja Reichley [00:15:13]:
Wild Irish, Irish roots.
Diane Bell [00:15:16]:
I have a copy of it. Can you speak of, like, as an American reconnecting with these roots, what that has meant for you and what that has brought out in your life?
Tonja Reichley [00:15:27]:
Yeah, thank you for that. So, yeah, when I was here going back 22 years ago, when I was here spending that time with Gina, it was really fascinating because I felt like I was finally walking into something that was mine. And as far as I'm not Native American, I grew up in this United States of America, in the colony, the colonizer mentality. And this wasn't even really talked about that much 22 years ago. All of these things now, it's so great. Like you said, with priestess and with witch, we're reclaiming these and we're recognizing the damage that we have done and the co opting that we have done, not only damaged, but also taken a lot from the Native American people, both spiritually and claimed it as our own from a herbal perspective. So when I came to Ireland, it was so fascinating because I felt like I was finally able to tap into my own traditions and my own rituals. And, like, I just knew when I met Nettle, I'm like, oh, my.
Tonja Reichley [00:16:43]:
Like, this is a herb. And Gina probably told me this is a herb that has been nourishing your DNA since we were formed. My people had been in the States since they came in famine times. At least my ancestors from Ireland. So 150 years we've been on the soil of the United States of America. But before that, everything was nourished by this land. So the Irish were so into Native American spirituality. I felt like everywhere we went, it was all about the Native American spirituality, which is beautiful because it is a beautiful tradition.
Tonja Reichley [00:17:20]:
And also, I think it was because the Native American tradition, it had been a living tradition for a very long time until we came as colonizers and started co opting it and started suppressing it. Whereas in the Irish tradition, we had been colonized by England for about 900 years. And so there were so many things that had been lost or forgotten or couldn't have been practiced because we would have been put to death or penalized by the British. And so I was so fascinated by that. I'm like, I am here on this land that is so rich with heritage, and they're all into the Native American tradition. So I was very intrigued by that and definitely was even more compelled to really dig deeper into the traditions and rituals, the year, the agricultural year, the astrological year that I know that my ancestors followed to work with the herbs. And then I made the decision. As I grew my herbal practice, I only wanted to deal with herbs of Western Europe, the land where I was nurtured from.
Tonja Reichley [00:18:34]:
A lot of when I was in herb school, we were talking a lot about Chinese herbs, which I always thought was kind of weird. I'm like Chinese herbs. And that, again, is because there was records kept. So it's an amazing traditional Chinese medicine is an amazing healing system, but I'm a white body from the west, and not that they can't be effective. So, yeah, literally, just coming back to what has nourished me and letting that lead the way, it's interesting because after you've been and you've been doing your work for a while, and we get to be a certain age, and all of a sudden, these things, I'm just seeing it come around, even the reclaiming of the witch. And this is something that I'm not doing it because it's trendy. This is something that the land and the herbs and my teachers have shared.
Diane Bell [00:19:23]:
It's beautiful. This is why I value your work so much. And I honor it so much because for me, it's funny. I spent years as a spiritual seeker, and I'm from Scotland. All my family is Scottish, basically. I was born there. I lived there till I was six, and when I was six, we moved to Japan. And then after six years in Japan, we moved to Australia, and then after that, to Germany.
Diane Bell [00:19:43]:
So I grew up really all over the place. And when I came back to Scotland when I was 18, I felt very disconnected from it was very challenging because I said I was Scottish. Everyone would be like, you're not Scottish, right? And I was like, yeah, you're kind of right. I didn't feel connected to it. And there was always a spiritual secret. So then I found my way to Buddhism, and in particular to Tiknat Han, who and yoga as well, became a big part of my life. And I spent time in India studying yoga. But Han became my biggest teacher, and I spent a lot of time at his monasteries.
Diane Bell [00:20:12]:
And Tiknat Han would often say, don't be a Buddhist. Go back to your own roots. Go to your own roots. And it used to really piss me off, because as far as I could understand it, my roots were Scottish Presbyterian Church. And I was like, I just don't feel good. Don't like everything in me for some reason. And I was brought up, my parents part of the church, and no disrespect to the church, but it just, for some reason, never felt like my home. I did not feel like this was it.
Diane Bell [00:20:45]:
So when Tignahan would say, this, I'd be like, no, because I don't want to be I don't want those.
Tonja Reichley [00:20:50]:
Diane Bell [00:20:51]:
Then I also had that thing about Celtic mythology and all the Dungeons and Dragon Squad. Yes, I rejected that. Right. That's what I've got. It's either like Scottish Pesby Church or it's like Dungeon and Dragon Squad. And I'm like, Let me just do my Buddhist thing and my yoga thing. That feels much better to me. And I get to pick and choose the things that I like of those traditions and honor them.
Diane Bell [00:21:20]:
And so I carried on around the world and really, it's just in very recent years, first of all, that I became aware what was meant by my roots. And this is that interesting thing when you said the Irish were disconnected from their traditions 900 years ago. And as a Scottish person, I feel this really powerfully now, too. And I feel like I'm in this process. I feel like I'm at an earlier stage in it than you are of connecting to the roots. And I think that's why I feel so drawn to your work and to what you do, because I think you illustrate a path. A path home.
Tonja Reichley [00:21:55]:
Diane Bell [00:21:56]:
For me, for so many years, I just felt like the roots, I don't know that they weren't mine, but now I understand why. Because they weren't.
Tonja Reichley [00:22:04]:
Diane Bell [00:22:05]:
Tonja Reichley [00:22:06]:
Diane Bell [00:22:07]:
And so I didn't feel at home with them because they're not actually the roots. And going back to the Mother, going to the Goddess, really anchoring in, like you say, to the times of the year. It's a whole other thing, but I still feel fairly new to it. I'm just wondering if anyone is listening to this just now and they are not connected to their roots at all. And I know that we'll have a lot of American listeners. What advice would you give somebody on this journey necessary to actually go to the place or what do you think?
Tonja Reichley [00:22:38]:
No, definitely it's not necessary. In fact, I consider that a lot, that I'm very privileged that I can live. I mean, I'm pretty much living full time in Ireland now. I learn a lot being here, and I think as Irish diaspora, I didn't grow up here. I love that. Han said that a lot of the elder teachers of tradition, native American teachers, have said that you can receive the teachings. And it's not like we don't feel bad. I was way into Buddhism for a while, too, because it just felt really accessible and it was something that was outside the dogman institution of the only spiritual practice that was accessible in the state.
Tonja Reichley [00:23:24]:
So receiving these, they can be like whatever paths you have been on, it's not to reject those, it's to integrate those into what is your own. I think we were so the Scottish and Irish. So the Scottish and Irish? Definitely. They're Celtic. We have Celtic roots. And as Celtic people, we were very connected to the seasons and even before that, so we were connected to the seasons pre Christianity. And then even before that, the stone circles and the Neolithic sites, the sacred sites, which are I've been to many in Scotland, I live around them here. I take people to these places when they are fortunate enough to be able to walk on this land.
Tonja Reichley [00:24:15]:
And you don't need to. My point is just even before the Celtic people, there were pre Celtic traditions that were seasonal and astrological as well. So bringing us back to the Solstices and the Equinoxes and then the seasonal festivals which the Celtic people brought are agricultural because they were farmers. And so we call those sauen, which we're approaching sauen, which is the season of winter, and it's also known as the Irish and Celtic New Year. And it's also a time it's ancestor reverence. We look at the dead and I think a lot of Americans are very intrigued by that and a lot of people in general. It's a beautiful again, a very living tradition and we have our own ancestral reverence and we make traditional foods on this time around this time, and leave a plate for the ancestors. So I would say if anyone is intrigued to start delving deeper into their own roots, you definitely do not need to be able to visit the land.
Tonja Reichley [00:25:24]:
You don't even need to know what your DNA is. Because I knew I had Irish Scottish roots, but I wasn't doing a DNA test, I was just deep listening. And then when you have a Buddhist goddess or god that you're intrigued with, maybe just reach out to a teacher. I don't know if you can Google it. I try to keep my students away from Google, but I know that it's a starting point anyway and ask because if there is a Buddhist god or goddess, there is one in the Irish mythology. So just kind of weaving in and being curious about, oh, well, I love this practice in whatever tradition it might be, even in know, especially in Ireland, just because we used Catholicism as a way to rebel against England. Because England was so Protestant that being Catholic was one way that we could be a rebel. And it did not turn out the greatest.
Tonja Reichley [00:26:29]:
So, for instance, Sam, we have samhain is like the pre Christian festival. But then a lot of the Christian festivals align with our pre Christian festivals.
Diane Bell [00:26:42]:
They hijacked them.
Tonja Reichley [00:26:43]:
They did. So just being curious around the festivals that you like and be like, oh, I wonder what link that might have to the Celtic calendar. Yeah, so I guess curiosity and just remembering. And I've had students take my classes who have been brought up Buddhist in the Buddhist mythology and they were like, I had no idea that we have so many stories and so many goddesses and invocations and as rich as the Buddhist tradition, as rich as and not. I mean, those are all beautiful traditions, the Native American tradition, of course. And it is that digging a little deeper because yeah, I love that you gave that example about, oh, I saw the Scottish Presbyterian Church, which is like one of the cold I don't know. For me, the cold sterile.
Diane Bell [00:27:36]:
It's pretty cold. You go into the Scottish church, it is bare. There's just like, nothing. At least you go into a Catholic church, they've got some incense going, right? Exactly. Candles and incense. A little bit of, like, I don't know, theater and fun going on.
Tonja Reichley [00:27:55]:
Yes. No. Yeah. So it is digging a little deeper, and that's part of the magic, I think, too. There's a Renaissance right now in Ireland and probably in Scotland. I don't know, because I don't live in Scotland, and Ireland is where I learn and study. But there is a Renaissance right now.
Diane Bell [00:28:17]:
I would love to hear about your perspective on this as a woman. And I don't know much about the Irish history, but in Scotland, obviously, the witch trials were a massive, and I grew up totally with that thing. For instance, there was a drive that we took often. I was born in Dumfries, but my parents were really from Edinburgh, so we used to drive all the time from Dumfries to Edinburgh. Dumfries is down in the south, near the Borders, and we used to drive all the time up there. And there was a town that you go through locks, and it's got this very steep cliff there, big sort of rocky cliff face and would always be pointed out. And it's like that's where they used to shove witches off the top of that. And if they died, then they were considered to be a good Christian woman, and they were buried in the church, and otherwise they were burned at the stake.
Diane Bell [00:29:03]:
I grew up with all that thing, like, you always pointed out, these places, that there was, like, this history of witches. Now, as a young girl, this is just our history, this is our world. And it was always the witches. Like, the witches were burned here, witches were burned there. The whole witch thing has become a big thing for me because I really recognize the extent. And I work with a lot of creative women, and I just see again and again that pattern of women being afraid to speak out, wondering why they feel afraid to let their voice be heard, like why they're self sabotaging their work. They're trying to write, but they have a block and all this kind of thing. And I really feel like so much of it is not really just about them and their life, but this heritage that we have.
Diane Bell [00:29:46]:
Because for me, as a Scottish woman, we had over 300 years of this. It's not like five years of this. If we think about us, about how it affected people within the Holocaust and. That was one generation, that was one period of time, but we're talking about like, over 300 years. That's like ten generations of women or something with the life expectancy then, of women living in fear for their lives, of the trauma of that, of their mothers or their sisters or their friends being treated like this. And I just wonder in Ireland what that history is, but if that has shaped or impacted sort of your work or how you see what you're doing now. Because obviously if you were in Scotland back in the day, you would probably have been burned at the stake for what you yeah, yeah, definitely. I don't know what it was like in Ireland, as I say, but think I don't think you would have got.
Tonja Reichley [00:30:38]:
Out alive doing what you exactly. Exactly. Yeah, I totally agree. Like, what we have held in the memory of our bodies, of our DNA, too, it's profound and how it affects us as we are reclaiming our place and our power as women or people who identify as women in this world. And it is interesting. I'll just rewind a little, like, witch is a term again, and you said this, yeah, I'm a witch, although I really wouldn't. And I say very kind of nonchalant, because, again, it's not like a title. I don't need to be like, I'm a witch, because it feels a little performative and it feels also, like, trendy along with the performative.
Tonja Reichley [00:31:35]:
And I think it's powerful to know our history, know where we've come from. So what really turned the point for me in claiming myself as a witch? Because I didn't want to claim it just because it's trendy and even though, yeah, herbalists and women who are connected with the so there's a book we read in my mystery school, and it's by an Irish woman, her name is Mary Condren condron. And she actually is hugely influential. She's still living, but in making Bridget's days. So, Bridget, we've been talking about Bridget, Irish goddess and saint, and it is now a bank holiday. It became a bank holiday in Ireland. Just this again, and this is a big part of reclaiming the feminine as. Like, Bridget was a very powerful figure in her day, although not powerful in a way of hierarchical.
Tonja Reichley [00:32:35]:
It was just like she had audience with bishops and she might have been a bishop. There's stories that she might have been a bishop as well. She was a magic maker. She tended to a sacred flame that was magically kept alt, so she could have been a witch as well. And so Mary Cauldron wrote this book called Serpent And the Goddess, and I was flipping through it and someone wanted me to teach a class with witch in the title and I was so resistant because I'm like, I'm not just going to cave into this trendy thing. And I read this excerpt about what Mary Cauldron, who is an Irish scholar, very connected to Bridget, but also is a nun, so also very connected to the Christian mythology. And she had wrote that a witch is a person I don't know if she said woman, a person who is accountable to her community and listens to the oracles of the plants and the stars and the moon and the rivers. I'm like, oh, okay, I guess I am a witch.
Tonja Reichley [00:33:43]:
I am accountable to my community. And then also in Ireland, Kaliak is a word that is often used to describe a witch. And also it's a wise woman. And the land we refer to as the Kaliak often. And Kaliak is also very that's the same word in Scottish, and I don't know if the mythology is exactly the same. So an elderly woman who is sovereign is the Caliac, and so a sovereign woman. So I think it's all amazing that we're really looking at reclaiming that. And interestingly, this goes back to the Protestant versus the Catholic, because in Ireland, no women were persecuted, no one was burned.
Tonja Reichley [00:34:31]:
There was a woman I just recently yeah, I know. Isn't it amazing? There was someone and I feel like people always want to find a story to be like yes, there was. So there's this gentleman who he's not really a scholar, but he's like maybe he would be an amateur scholar. I really respect him. And he recently named this woman who had been burned at the stake. I had never even heard of her before, and I've done a lot of research around it, but this was even before the witch trials. This was like the twelveTH century, and the witch trials were later. So I feel like people are really trying to find an example.
Tonja Reichley [00:35:07]:
But the catholics had a lot of pre Christian I don't use the word pagan that much, but they knew how important these connections were to the land and the cosmos and the they like they might not have revered. But if there was an old woman that lived and the witches in Ireland, the witches, the caliacs, the hags, the crohn's, we also another word we use for this type of woman or person is bonfacia. So a bonfascia would live on the verges and she would be accountable to her community and also she would be separate from her community. And a really great story in Ireland, and this is from the 19th century of a bonfascia of a witch. And she lived just really close to where I live in County Claire. Her name is Biddy Early, and she had this cure. She was a herbalist, so she used herbs as a cure. And she also had this mystical blue bottle.
Tonja Reichley [00:36:13]:
And it was said that the fairies gave her this blue bottle. And this blue bottle had an elixir of some sort in it that could heal any issue along with the herbs. And so it was said that the priest would preach against Biddy Early. Do not go see bitty early. She works with the devil or whatever they would say. The doctors would be like, she's a quack, she doesn't know. And then the story is that they would be in disguise in the queue to get in to get bitty early's. Healing remedy.
Diane Bell [00:36:50]:
I love that.
Tonja Reichley [00:36:51]:
That's like so much of the Irish.
Diane Bell [00:36:54]:
That's so much of the, like, so fascinating to me. I mean, I'm really surprised because in Scotland, as you know, it was terrific. Terrific. This summer when I was back in North Barrack, which is where my parents live now, it's about 30 minutes outside of Edinburgh on the coast, and they've got all these planters in the town. It's a tiny little town, it's like 20,000 people or something, and it's like toy town. It's so idyllic, it's just so sweet. But they had all these planters and they had this sign up about it explaining why these particular plantings, they had these black petunias in it and then a lot of herbs. And the signs were about the fact that this was to commemorate the 78 women who were executed there around 15, nine in North Barrack.
Diane Bell [00:37:42]:
78. Like, when you hold that for a second, you think, this town today is 20,000 people. And if you killed 78 women in that town today, that would traumatize the whole town for generations. You can't even fathom it. 78 women, take them today and murder them. But back then, I can't imagine the population of the town was more than 1000.
Tonja Reichley [00:38:02]:
Diane Bell [00:38:03]:
Or a couple of thousand. And it was a pilgrimage resting space. And most of these women worked as healers to pilgrims.
Tonja Reichley [00:38:12]:
Oh, my gosh.
Diane Bell [00:38:13]:
Right. They were herbalists and they cared for their community, and this was what happened. And so in these planters, they had planted what they said with the herbs that these women would have grown. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, like, this time that we're living in. I mean, it feels to me like it's a shift.
Tonja Reichley [00:38:33]:
Yeah, just that they're doing that that's like, amazing. I mean, the black petunias and also the herbs and that there were 78 planners. Yeah, it's amazing, for sure. And I feel like with any trauma, cultural trauma, because this was a cultural trauma. The witch trials and executions and for the families, probably for the persecutors, everybody. Yeah. And so that we are now acknowledging that that's such an essential part of the know. Sinead O'Connor, who I think is an amazing prophet.
Tonja Reichley [00:39:17]:
There's a song called The Famine that would have been a huge of course, and still is, and we're talking about it finally. And that's it, too. When I first started coming to Ireland 20 years ago, I'm like, is anyone talking about the famine? I would be out gathering blackberries and I would ask Gina, I'd be like, why am I the only one gathering blackberries? And she was like, Because it was considered a famine food. So 140 years later, people were still not eating the foods and that's all shifted. Foraging is such a great thing here. So, yeah, just the acknowledgment of it. We need to acknowledge it and then that's where the rooted I feel like the rooted healing is going to come from. Thank you for sharing that story.
Tonja Reichley [00:39:59]:
That's as traumatic as it is, this.
Diane Bell [00:40:02]:
Reconnecting with our stories, with our truth, with our lineage, it just feels to me like this is the essential thing that needs to happen. It's one of the things that has to happen in order for us to move forward.
Tonja Reichley [00:40:15]:
Diane Bell [00:40:16]:
In order for us to heal.
Tonja Reichley [00:40:19]:
Yeah, definitely reclaim. And I love that you say story, like story is such a big part of it. And reclaiming the stories that are uncomfortable and that are hard and grieving. That too. Like grieving. Who knows how we were able even to grieve the women who were executed.
Diane Bell [00:40:41]:
I think to disconnect, didn't it? I mean, that's what I was come back to. I'm like basically to survive those times meant to compartmentalize, meant to disconnect, meant to obviously mistrust other women, to keep yourself separate from other people, to keep yourself quiet, to not stand out too much, to reject the old ways, to reject the roots. Because if you were going to survive as a mother, that's what you would teach your daughters.
Tonja Reichley [00:41:07]:
Diane Bell [00:41:09]:
If you want to survive and live a happy life, here's the blueprint. Stay away from the herbs.
Tonja Reichley [00:41:15]:
Diane Bell [00:41:16]:
It's not worth it. And don't get close to those women who are part of that. So for you now, you spend most of your time in Ireland, is that yeah. Yeah. And you still go back to America. Do you still keep a home base there?
Tonja Reichley [00:41:33]:
I do. I still have a home there for now. I'm not really sure why, but again, I'm such a deep listener and I'm just like, it's not time to and part of it is, I think, because my beloveds and students say, we need you in America still. So I think there's still work. We're so lucky that we can live anywhere and do our work where we are. Although and also so much of finding our belonging. So just like again, if claiming a witch helps you feel like you belong to yourself, I think that's so powerful. And not that I can do this.
Tonja Reichley [00:42:20]:
This is very much internal work. Although if I can help people find these traditions and rituals and work with the herbs, that they're inclined to find belonging within themselves, and then the ripple effect that will have, I think, if we find belonging within ourselves and where our feet are. Because Ireland and know in your case, you're not the diaspora you are, but those of us in America and around the world who are the Irish diaspora or whatever diaspora we like, we're not going to be able to come back and I think the land in the States needs us to feel belonging there, too. And if we can find belonging within ourselves through our traditions and herbs and practices, then we can find belonging on that land and weave in. I use this idea of weaving in weaving in our practice, not co opting the Native American practices or wherever we may be, but weaving in to find that belonging.
Diane Bell [00:43:33]:
I love that because I think that's one of the challenges in all this. Obviously, so many of us don't live where we're quote unquote from.
Tonja Reichley [00:43:41]:
Diane Bell [00:43:41]:
And it's like, whether in this day and age, we're like, are we allowed even to embrace traditions that are not ours, or is that some sort of appropriation? But I love your approach. I do feel like there's some sort of meeting the world where it is or meeting people where they are that's not so rigid.
Tonja Reichley [00:44:03]:
Diane Bell [00:44:08]:
We'll wrap this up in a minute. But I just wanted to ask you if you could share a little bit about the teaching that you do and programs that you offer, because besides actually doing the work of Herbalism, I know that you do share some ways, and that's how I first encountered you. And by the way, that was beautiful, that tree thing. And what really sticks to me you mentioned this about finding wisdom from the Google, like, not finding it from the Google. Something really sticks with me about that is we were walking around and there was a tree in this park that nobody really knew what it was. You probably do it. And I was like, Let me get a picture of this out. And you're like, no.
Tonja Reichley [00:44:48]:
Exactly. Let's just plan idea. Yeah, it's all right. And I mean, I'm endeavoring to let that go because I know those apps can be great. I was very blessed to have a teacher, and I want there to be teachers that hold this knowledge that it's not just AI and held in our fucking phones. I want us to be able to go back to the teachers who have remembered this and learned from that. And I think the apps, they're great. They're a great starting point.
Diane Bell [00:45:28]:
So later, when COVID struck, I ended up homeschooling my son, and one of our projects was to name every tree in our little Denver. And so we mapped out and we would go and I would always say, like, plant snappers are our last resort for some of the trees, because we would be trying to identify it by the leaves because we didn't know the trees, I know, kind of figure it all out. And at a certain point, we would say what that is. Should we get the plant snap out?
Tonja Reichley [00:46:03]:
Yeah, definitely. And I mean, that's it if it's not just, like, consuming wise, because I talk to my students about this too. I'm like, okay, we don't have to know the name. You don't have to do that immediately. How about just breathe with them and be with them and they might share a little bit about who they are? Yeah, I think they're totally fine. And I love that you did that with your because you were connecting with the trees. That's amazing. And identifying the trees and naming the trees.
Tonja Reichley [00:46:36]:
That's beautiful. So it can be both. And we use that term a lot. Both. And you did come to a tree class. Yeah. So you were doing both and yeah. And so, going back to the idea of having a teacher, I am very blessed that I have a herbal teacher who I've been with for 22 years, and she'll be my forever teacher.
Tonja Reichley [00:47:00]:
Not just Herbal, but life. So I have been teaching Herbal classes for, gosh, probably 18 years, and I recently changed the name of it to an apprenticeship. So. It's called Ancestral Herbal Apprenticeship. So it's coming from an Irish tradition, and it's an apprenticeship. So it is not just like you're not opening a book and you are out with the plants, and you're co creating with the plants, you're listening to the plants. And there are ways that we need to work with the herbs to become community herbalists. And also it's learning to trust our intuition, learning how to listen again to the more than human realms and the plant realms and learning to validate that.
Tonja Reichley [00:47:51]:
That's something that the witch trials and patriarchy and capitalism, all of it has taken away from us, that unless it's written down or unless you can source it, it's not valid. So helping reclaim that. I have a year long apprenticeship. They're on Zoom, but I also send everyone the care package every month. So they're engaging their senses. Our senses are thresholds to remembering, to learning to deepening. And then they spend a week on the land here with the plants that we've been talking about. And of course, they're working with them where they're living too, because a lot of these plants followed us when we went to America or went other places.
Diane Bell [00:48:36]:
Is that your main offering? Are you doing anything else now, like celebrating holy days or anything like that?
Tonja Reichley [00:48:44]:
Yeah, I do have a program called Way of the Wild Witch back to the Witch. And that I call it Way of the Wild Witch wheel of the Year. And that is an opportunity for us to gather eight times out of the year. Every six weeks, there is a festival that we honor, whether it's astrological like the Equinoxes and Solstices, or agricultural, like beltana salon, imbulk and lunasa, so people can join for that, which is a ritual and tradition experience. And then I have a year long program. It's a mystery school. And we come from the lens of Irish mythology, and we look at mythology, and I think most traditions do, although I never want to speak for other traditions because I don't know, really. So in Ireland, our mythology still lives within us.
Tonja Reichley [00:49:37]:
And so by reading the mythology again, we can reclaim and remember who we are. We can remember our sovereignty outside of all the suppression of modernity. So we work with myth and herbs as well. Work with herbs from more of a spiritual perspective, but still from a very sensory perspective to open those pathways to remembering and reclaiming. And also that the mystery school is very much about coming back into relationship with, belonging with the land. So we're doing a lot of work with the land and the ancestors, the more than human realms, and then they spend a week here as well. Those are three things. Yeah.
Diane Bell [00:50:25]:
Amazing. And if you sign up for your email list, you receive a lovely little daily offering, don't you? I just love those. Yes, it's so special. It's really a lovely and delightful service. You are tending your community. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. So to wrap this up, I always ask people this, but if there's one thing that you could teach everyone in the world, if you could impart something, what would it be?
Tonja Reichley [00:50:59]:
Oh, gosh, right. Yeah. My Ted Talk would be, I am so passionate about this beautiful, humble weed called so. I honestly, I feel like those of us from the west who grew up where I grew up, white people from the west, nettle would change us. Like, the gifts that that herb brings from the vitamins and minerals, the spiritual, the metaphysical, the connecting. And it's a weed. It grows everywhere. And so, yeah, I would just want the world to know about nettle.
Diane Bell [00:51:46]:
That's amazing because I'm like that typical Scotch brother. Like, nettles run the other direction because they grow everywhere.
Tonja Reichley [00:51:53]:
Yeah. And that's like the herbs. And I don't want to be anthropomorphic around this. My teacher has always said that the herbs you need will show up, but the sting even has healing properties. The sting has healing properties. So just this idea, if we could shift our perspective on something that we have not liked or demonized or have looked at, like just a nuisance, the ripple effect that that could have.
Diane Bell [00:52:23]:
I'm going to explore nestle you've given me. This is like, totally firing things up at me. I'm going to explore Nestle. Thank you so much for having us chat with me. I can't tell you how much I appreciate it and how much I appreciate your work. I really love it, and I'm just grateful for you and what you embody and what you share. So thank you so much for being here.
Tonja Reichley [00:52:47]:
Yeah. Thanks, Diane. It was great. It was a pleasure.
Diane Bell [00:52:50]:
Thank you so much for listening to this podcast today. If you enjoyed it, could you do me a favor?
Tonja Reichley [00:52:55]:
Diane Bell [00:52:56]:
Leave it a little review wherever you're listening to it or screenshot it and share it on your social media and tag me so I can see it. I would be so appreciative. Thanks so much. I love you and I'll see you soon.