I’ve known Monticue Connally for years having always been aware of the Hip Hop persona, MontiClevah, that saw him win the International USA Songwriting competition for the Hip Hop Category in 2006, perform with many local bands including Denver’s own, The Flobots, and be featured on various albums with other artists. Behind that persona, though, I felt there was much more to this man than just music. It was in the way he carried himself, spoke of religion and spirituality, and always had healthful tips for the usual ailment we all fall victim to from time to time. So as I sat down to talk with Monticue last week, I realized that yes he’s a genius when it comes to music, but I was oblivious to what he may say is his true gift, being a medicine man.
Alright Monticue, even though we’ve know each other for quite a while, tell me little about yourself. What’s your background?
I grew up in a two parent home with a sister and two brothers. We were always creating music and reading whatever we could get our hands on. I was particularly interested in Holistic healing and African American studies. This interest for my culture was sparked when I found out that my great-great-great grandfather from Africa was forced into slavery and taken to a plantation in Texas. This grandfather begat twins that were sold at birth to two different plantations. One of the twins escaped in the early 1900s and begat a son named Monticue. This man, the man that I was named after, died when I was around five years old. These facts taught me that my ties to both Africa and slavery weren’t as far away as people told me they were.
What in particular, if anything, from that history pushed you into the direction of herbs, natural remedies, and ultimately being a medicine man?
After learning about my great-great grandfather, I began to study the African captives and learned that these people often called “slaves” were experts and healers. They would often keep their ailments hidden from their captors due to the western reliance on bloodletting and forced vomiting as primary methods of care. The Africans on the plantations survived illness with a heavy reliance on herbal remedies. I am from that history. Times haven’t changed much. Many western drugs are poisons that should have never been considered as first resorts to healing. I come from that people that needed to stay rooted in plant knowledge to survive a brutal captivity.
Tell me a little bit more about your background when it comes to natural remedy healing.
As a natural plant mystic, I have an unorthodox knowledge of the nature of plants and I work with them on many levels. Herbs, the spirit world, and alternative healing methods have been a lifelong interest for me due to sensitivities I have to the “other side.”
I also received my community herbalism training through the Artemisia and Rue Western Herbal Medicine and Earth Centered Healing Traditions Herbal program. I also learned through taking up full apprenticeships with local healers and working in various herb shops. My first herb shop job was at Artemisia and Rue under the guidance of Shelley Torgove. I currently work for Ye Olde Magic Shoppe and Artisan’s Apothecary when I’m not selling products, seeing clients, doing readings or teaching classes for my own apothecary, Jiridon Apothecary.
Besides the deep family history, was there anything else that got you interested in this line of work?
I’ve always been into cures. I’d pick up herbal books as a teenager and try to memorize them but my first breakthrough was at the age of 15 when I burned myself at the oven. I read in a vague description of remedies that onion was good for burns. I ran to the cabinet and pulled out the onion powder. I mixed a little water with it and instinctively used the water to turn the powder to an onion paste. I smeared the paste into the burn and within minutes was relieved of all pain. I’ve been using the remedy ever since! I like results and the plants always delivered. It didn’t matter whether I was dealing with depression, a virus, or an evil free floating entity. My salvation always came through the plants.
You mentioned you now have your own apothecary called Jiridon Apothecary. What is the meaning behind the name?
Jiridon is a method of speaking to trees that was practiced by Africans and later African Americans in the Americas. People who practiced Jiridon were also known as tree whisperers. I am this; I’ve been speaking to trees my entire life. They can speak directly to the intuition or throw their voice on to the wind. I sleep with various tree branches above my bed often so that I can speak to the trees on an even deeper level than I can do in the light. It’s very powerful to dream in the presence of of strong trees and healing plants. The medicines from the trees are also very effective in healing the human body, mind, and spirit which ties into my work as an herbalist. This Jiridon practice is the root of my existence and will be my primary focus until the day that I die.
Is it just you at Jiridon?
Actually no. My partner Aishah Muhammad, an amazing jeweler, was creating beautiful necklaces from stones that reminded me of images of Orisha and art from the African diaspora. She called her business “Spiders and Bumblebees.” I really liked her work and told her about my “Bad Vibe” repellent and other herbal products that I’d been selling as part of my own business “Urban Shaman.” We ended up fusing our two businesses into what we know now as Jiridon Apothecary.
Let’s talk about herbal remedies and what it all means in today’s world. What do you see as both the major differences and benefits of herbal remedies as opposed to “Western” medicine?
“Western” medical theory has the tendency to treat the body like a fragmented machine instead of a working whole. We are not robots waiting for someone to forcefully push our health buttons. Our body is made up of great intelligence and decides what is best for it while greatly taking into consideration the way we treat it. The body is a community of body systems that work together to do what’s best for the whole. There is a ton of communication, compromise, and purpose behind each action. You can’t just throw a pill in the body and force a certain response without awful repercussions. These repercussions are often called “side effects”. Herbs used in the proper way are much more graceful in function.
Why do you think the modern world has gotten away from the more natural ways of healing?
The modern world doesn’t respect Earth nor true diversity. It’s reflected in the way women are taught not to be happy but to fit the mold of one slim type woman. People are often taught that there is one perfect god and that all other paths are false; and we are taught to do away with the tales of old in honor of the advancements of science. This is reflected in the medicine. We are discouraged from going back to earth, our source and beseech the aid of the true healers: the various plants. They tell us that we should do away with those dirty and dangerous plants and instead go for the one great pill. The great white savior that will do away with all your ailments if you’d just believe and swallow. This is a terrible mental disease. To think that one should have to turn to science before the thousands of years that support the healthy use of herbs. We have been brainwashed into worshiping the power of brands and plastic. We believe that things that have huge companies backing them can be trusted. We are taught that if medicine is sealed tight in a plastic bottle that it came from heaven. We love the idea of robot love. That robot made a pure thing for us; something that never touched the dirt or a human hand. This is what is killing us. Health is our birthright. There is no reason that money or big companies should keep us away from medicine. We should be able to walk outside and see medicine all over. Instead we are trained to see weeds. Police are trained to see thugs when they look at people of color. They are taught to fear them so they see them as disposable. If they could see them as people, as kindred spirits, they could receive love from those people. If we could see the weeds, the plants as kindred souls with names and purpose, that relationship can grow as well! We should go outside and see the flowers in the weed and hear it speak. We should be able to go down to the local healer and ask for advice from someone that is not tied to big business. We should be able to go to someone that touches plants with his or her hands and understands the language of plants. We have been trained to see the earth as alien and devoid of love when it is in fact the opposite. This earth is here for us.
What do you say to those who are skeptics and might stay away from such methods because they may see it as “hippyish” or “hoodoo?” Do you run into people with such feelings?
When people try the medicine, they are rarely disappointed. The medicine speaks for itself. I don’t have to sell or coerce my clients who are usually people that are fed up with awful side effects of medicines that don’t work. There are times where I’ll run into someone really religious. I’m able to help them to ease into it by bringing up God and how he created the earth. I ask them why He’d create an earth that didn’t give to the people He created? Were Adam and Eve healing themselves with the use of a Walgreens Pharmacy? Probably not! For people that see herbs as dangerous, I let them know several things. First of all they already use herbs to some capacity! Garlic, onion, and many other excellent seasonings are medicinal herbs! I also let them know that herbs are incredibly forgiving and even more safe when working with an experienced practitioner. I’ll also let them know that statistically 1 in 333 people die from properly prescribed western pharmaceuticals. In comparison the number of deaths related to herbs in a year is one in a million. Science knows very little about why certain herbs are so effective and that is because they think you can understand everything by breaking it down and analyzing it’s parts. The plants don’t work that way. The magic behind why the plant works is way too complex for popular science.
To answer the second part of your question, I do on occasion run into people that associate herbs and old cures with hoodoo or witchcraft and that’s fine with me. I let them know that I’m here for them when they are ready. As a Shaman, Reiki Healer and Tarot reader, I can’t really be the one to break the herb or witchcraft stigma! Witches and Shamans were and are often herbalists, too. I’m not too quick to share this part of myself when working with hesitant or fearful types.
As you continue with your work, are you seeing more people finally gravitating to natural ways of healing?
People are going through a time where they are slowly finding value in rawness. They want the raw cure. They don’t want things doctored up and bleached by men. They don’t want “chemicals” or fragmented cures. They want something whole, something with color, culture and taste!
Why do you believe there is a connection between herbs and their healing nature within the human body?
I believe that plants are the intermediary between man and complete health. They are “the reminders.” When the body is forced to begin a cycle that isn’t sustainable, the herbs come into the body and say, “Hey body, do you remember when we used to do things in this more balanced way?” The body remembers the herbs and says “I think I do remember.” Every dosage is like another knock on the knock. Eventually the herbs ask the same question, “Do you remember when we used to do things in this more balanced way? And the body says, “I do. I remember.” That is when the client is cured of the disease. These plants aren’t like the pills. The medicinal herbs, the plants with high affinity for humans followed us throughout history and evolved alongside of us. The pills aren’t gentle, they don’t ask the body if it remembers. The pills force the body to do things that it doesn’t understand. Since the body can’t understand, it becomes reliant on the pill to force. These herbs are masters of their environments and carry great wisdom for our bodies. They go into the body and begin to spread the good news. Osha is one of the masters of the high places. It grows 10,000 feet high in a dry climate in thin air. Guess what could help the mountain jogger feeling fatigued due to the thin air? Osha root! Chewing on that root teaches the lungs how they should respond to thin air! The qualities and lessons of the the plant become one with the human body in a way that brings peace.
Do certain herbs help only certain ailments?
Herbs usually affect many body systems at once. That means that one herb can be lung strengthening, high mineral, and antihistaminic at the same time. This can be confusing for beginners because some sources don’t give much explanation. I used to read the vague books and be boggled that one herb popped up under so many ailments. It makes you start to think that any herb will due if they are just going to all have a million uses. The problem is that books that are like this don’t explain the underlying “why” or the fact that there are varying strengths and times when you would choose one herb over another. For example when an herb is placed with “cough” in a text, that is not enough information to produce satisfactory results. The healer needs to know when the cough started, what caused the cough and if the cough is “wet” or “dry” to name a few details needed. Herbs are often super effective in combinations with supporting herbs that can really help drive the purpose of the primary herb. Effective herbalism doesn’t focus on placing one herb to a specific ailment. Effective herbalism focuses on gearing teams of herbs to help create a condition where the body can heal on its own.
You’ve thrown a lot of knowledge at me today. Do you host any classes or workshops for people who are interested to learn more?
Yes! I host a wide range of classes that range from Herbal Basics to Male Herbs to classes on Blessing and Banishing. I’m also known for taking large groups on long walks where we stop at each medicinal herb along the way. In February I am usually invited to teach a Medicines of the African American captives course at one of the local Denver libraries. We usually announce the locations, dates and times of classes on our website or on the Jiridon Apothecary Facebook page.
Where can people buy your products or request you help?
For Herbal Consultations, House Blessings, Tarot Readings, teas or jewelry, we can be reached either on our Facebook page, JiridonApothecary.com or we can be emailed at JiridonApothecary@gmail.com