Atava Garcia Swiecicki, MA, RH (AHG)
Clinical Herbalist, Oakland, CA, San Francisco Bay Area
Inspired and guided by the healing traditions of her ancestors, Atava is the founder of Ancestral Apothecary in Oakland, where she teaches, sees clients and manufactures and sells herbal products.
Atava is a well loved teacher and the founder of the Ancestral Apothecary school of herbal, folk and indigenous medicine. She is a clinical herbalist, flower essence practitioner, curandera, and dreamworker; and is also certified in acupressure and Jin Shin Jyutsu.
Atava's quest to understand the true nature of healing began as a student at Stanford University. She looked for the essence of healing in her psychology classes, but failed to find what she was looking for in academia. She became interested in hands-on healing when she took her first shiatsu class in 1988. After graduating with a degree in Feminist Studies from Stanford in 1990, Atava received both basic and advanced certifications in acupressure from the Acupressure Institute in Berkeley.
Atava fell in love with herbal medicine in 1995, after attending the Northern California Women's Herbal Symposium. After studying several years with her first herbal mentor, she began to wonder about the healing traditions of her own ancestors. Her curiosity about her ancestral healing traditions led her to Mexico in 2000, where she began to work with Mexican curanderas Estela Roman and Dona Enriqueta Contreras and became a dedicated student of curanderismo. Later, Atava finished her training as a western clinical herbalist and became a professional member of The American Herbalist Guild in 2008.
In 2003, Atava continued her journey to reclaim ancestral medicine and received her Master's degree in Indigenous Mind from Naropa University Oakland. Her master's thesis was an in depth exploration of the earth-based spiritual roots of her Polish Slavic ancestors. As a student in the Indigenous Mind Master's program, Atava was mentored by Dr. Apela Colorado, founder of the Worldwide Indigenous Science network, as well as traditional elders and healers from around the world, including Hawaiian kahunas Auntie Mahi Poe Poe and Mr. Hale Makua.
Later, Atava co-founded the Polish Ancestral Healing Project with her friend and colleague, Maura Singer Williams. Atava's professional work has expanded to include teaching people how to remember and reconnect with their own indigenous roots. She also continues to research, travel and teach to build upon the body of work of helping people to reconnect to their ancestral medicine.
Musings on Healing
Atava Garcia Swiecicki, MA
"Healing is the restoration of the balance of all the forces that impact human life- the physical, emotional, biophysical, psychic, spiritual, natural and cosmic."
Charles Finch, MD, Author of The African Origin of Science & Mathematics
What does health look like? What causes illness? What is healing? These are questions I have pondered during the years in my healing practice. Often I see that a person's health is a composite of many factors: their diet, lifestyle, relationships, family, community, history, ancestors, work, race, class, gender, and spirituality. When one or more of these factors is out of balance, often one's physical health suffers.
When a person suffers from illness and seeks allopathic medical care, the focus is on treating the symptoms, which often are not the underlying cause of illness. Western medicine does not encourage people to take personal responsibility for their own health. Instead, allopathic medicine fosters people's dependence on chemical based pharmaceuticals to help "cure" their illness. Frequently, a "cure" is often only a suppression of symptoms. Silencing symptoms without listening to them can often delay healing. In holistic healing, symptoms are important because they help reveal the root cause of an illness. In my work, I encourage my clients to pay careful attention to the messages from their bodies. This practice of listening to and understanding symptoms empowers each person to reclaim responsibility for their own health.
In my practice, I help my clients understand the factors that make up their current state of health. This often takes time, investigation and reflection. Next, I help facilitate my client's connection to their sources of healing. These healing resources could be medicinal herbs, flower essences, or organic food. Meditation, prayer and spiritual practice can bring a sense well being to many people. Healing can also come from nature, friends, play, laughter, and creative expression such as art, writing, music and dance.
In people's lives, many times the onset of an illness heralds a cycle of transformation and self-discovery. The journey of healing, of returning to balance is a complex and multifaceted journey. My role is to guide and support people on this journey.
Central to my practice is working with the healing power of plants. Human beings' relationship to plants is ancient and instinctual. Since time immemorial, the lives of humans and plants have been intricately intertwined. Human beings breathe oxygen that comes from plants; plants survive on the carbon dioxide that humans exhale. Plants are our healing allies, conduits of the healing and spiritual power of Mother Earth. All ancient cultures across the world understood this and many traditional and indigenous cultures still practice this kind of plant based healing today. In working with herbal medicine, I offer my clients the opportunity to remember and reconnect with the plant world. I encourage my clients to develop relationships with the plants that are their medicine.
My calling in this life time is to remember and resurrect the ancient healing traditions of my ancestors. The earth's living wisdom keepers inspire me: the indigenous healers and elders who have kept alive their language, stories, ceremonies, plant lore and healing traditions. Many of these practices have endured in spite of thousands of years of colonization, re-location, enslavement and genocide. I believe that this knowledge, the knowledge of the indigenous, earth-based people holds the key to our survival as a planet. I honor the spiritual and healing knowledge of my ancestors: the Magyars of Hungary, the Dine' of Turtle Island, the Otomi from Central Mexico, and the Polish Slavs. The memory of their knowledge lives in my bones.
In 2008, Atava was accepted as a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild (AHG). She was admitted as a registered herbalist (RH) to the Guild after a lengthy application process in which her work and knowledge was evaluated by a panel of renowned and expert herbalists. She is honored to be part of the AHG and to share in their goal to promote the education and practice of herbal medicine.
I dedicate the merit of my work to the benefit of all living beings. May we walk again in beauty on our beloved Mother Earth in harmony with one another and with the plants, animals, elements of nature and with All My Relations.