Q & A Health Feature: Monticue Connally of Jiridon Apothecary
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
The holiday season of pies, cookies, and those little tasty chocolates is over folks and chances are you’ve set a goal to be more active and lose weight in 2018, right? In fact, I saw a few of you at the gym today; some with a confused look when walking around all the equipment, some with a halfhearted effort with the weights or on the treadmill, and some digging right in like they were a regular gym rat the whole time. Well in the last ten years of being in one gym or another as a personal trainer or just training myself, I’ve seen a lot of people come and go within two weeks of that New Year’s resolution they set. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. I guarantee it. Just be smart about your goals and how you go about achieving them.
ARE YOU READY? If you have major health issues it’s important to speak with your doctor before starting a training program. If ‘Doc’ gives you the go ahead, that’s the first step. Next is make sure you are ready. And by that I mean mentally. It’s not always easy stepping into the gym, hitting the track, or even going out on nightly walks at first. Be motivated. Be confident.
WHAT’S THE PLAN? It’s really important to make yourself a plan that’s easy to follow and manageable with your daily schedule. How much time do you have during the day/week for a workout.? I recommend 20-30 minutes. What days are best for you? Choose days that you know will work and that can be routine during the week. And finally, what type of exercise are you looking for? Cycling, walking, weightlifting, swimming, or jogging? You can mix and match but do what you’re comfortable with.
TAKE YOUR TIME. Your desire to be healthy should last the rest of your life so it’s important to think of your fitness goals as long term rather than short term. So don’t go into beast mode right away because you’re either going to burn yourself out or get an injury. Try this. Start with three days a week, low-to-moderate intensity workouts that includes a good pace walk and some low weight strength training. (For advice, find a personal trainer at the gym or look for more tips over the course of this health series.)
GOT A FRIEND? Music definitely helps a workout but it’s also nice to have someone around with the same goals, someone there to lean on for support, and someone to push you a little further when you need it. Put a workout plan together with a partner, stick to it, and motivate each other as you push toward your goals.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS. Goals are important but when you set them, start with a solid foundation, move forward slowly, and be realistic. Don’t try to lose 40 pounds in a month. Aim for five to ten pounds. Don’t go out and run two miles on the first day. Walk for 20-30 minutes three times a week for a month and eventually build up to a point you feel comfortable jogging a 1/2 or full mile. Just be honest with yourself and put in the effort and I guarantee you’ll be on your way to a new you in 2018.
The usually less outspoken Governor of Colorado, John W. Hickenlooper is taking a stand on the latest healthcare reform effort. Following the release of the U.S. Senate’s attempt at repeal and replace, Hickenlooper has joined former presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich to admonish various elements of the proposal.
Setting aside political theater, the two both pleaded for the everyday Americans that will ultimately feel the negative impacts if this passes while calling out the those who crafted the bill in secret and are exempt due to their tax bracket. The Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017’ would completely phase out the Medicaid expansion after four years, defund Planned Parenthood and establish a $2 billion fund to fight our nation’s opioid addiction crisis. In a nutshell, Hickenlooper noted that rolling back coverage for those who need it the most is “immoral” and urged his political colleagues not to support this bill.
To read through the proposed plan and all its glory for yourself: Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.
One’s death is an inevitable destiny; however, there are some that choose to take the time of this fate into their own hands. This choice is called suicide, and sadly, it is becoming more commonplace in the Black community, specifically among Black youth. While suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, for Black Americans between the ages of 15 and 24, its 3rd.
According to a 2015 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate for Black children between the ages of 5 and 11 have nearly tripled in the last 25 years. Most are suicide by hanging. On the other hand, the rate among white children has declined.
Why is this? What is being done about it? How can the sudden increase be reversed?
Sadly, there is an abysmal shortage of Black doctors to address Black communities and to help build trust between them and the healthcare system so that they take advantage of health services. Black Americans have a daunting history with health professionals, including the deplorable Tuskegee study which began in the 1930s that used Black men with untreated syphilis for research under the guise of free healthcare. This travesty went on for four decades.
Then there is Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cancer cells were taken from her unbeknownst to her family. These cells ultimately became the HeLa cell line, which is arguably the most essential cell line in medical research. Unfortunately, the list goes on and on.
Fast-forward to present time, and there are numerous reports regarding unconscious racism among doctors. Black doctors are sorely needed to improve comfort levels within the Black community and their ability to be receptive to the many resources that are indeed available.
But the lack of Black doctors is just one hurdle, there are more. Another is finances. Say that a Black family can get past the concerning history of Blacks being taken advantage of by the American healthcare system. What about the steep costs? In most cases, they cannot be ignored. The rate of uninsured Black Americans in comparison to that of White Americans is atrocious.
What’s more is well over half of Blacks live in southern states which have failed to expand their Medicaid programs in a way that allows for those who are below the poverty line to take advantage of them. So, the problem is not getting parents to want the recommended medication for their child, but rather getting parents in the position to pay for it? If a parent is forced to choose between medication for a mental condition or putting food on the table, in most cases the former is ignored.
Church and recreation centers can be bases for medical health professionals to provide free training and services, but they will not solve all the problems. The first line of defense against the Black Youth suicide epidemic will have to be, you guessed it: Black parents.
There are several things Black parents can do, including forming good, healthy relationships with their children, which require time—quality time. Providing a safe home environment, that is comforting for children and helps them feel stable, and well taken care of is of extreme importance.
Listen, listen, listen. Teenage years can be trying for some parents, and it seems quite often like teenagers may say a lot, but are severely lacking substance. Take a deeper listen. Hear those covert messages, and do not let them go unchecked. And when they are checked, aim to be supportive, not intrusive. Sure, there might be a little backlash for being a good parent. No deed goes unpunished, right? But if there is some resistance, be sure that the children understand the healthiest way to express their emotions. Tell them it’s not good to hide and bottle them up. Encourage them to show their feelings of happiness or sadness. The expression of positive and negative emotions is only human. At the same time, encourage them to be mindful of their emotions, and do not allow them so much power that control is lost which is ultimately not good for anyone.
Other things parents can do is educate themselves on suicidal behaviors which will help with early detection. Behaviors such as a persistent depressive mood or obsessive patterns that may involve cleanliness or their eating; things that are negatively affecting their everyday life, must be addressed. Being vigilant about changes in behavior can make all the difference.
Then of course, when in doubt, consult with a healthcare professional. Sure, there are stigmas in the Black community around behavioral and mental health. No one wants to be called “crazy.” However, being called crazy is a small price to pay in exchange for life. Whoever is using the term crazy probably has behavioral and mental issues needing to be addressed themselves so totally ignore it. Improving the state of our minds is something that we should all aspire to. This must be the goal for the Black community, especially because the very fate of Black youth depends on it.