Whether in Seoul or Barbados, The Grenada National Museum or The Whitney, interdisciplinary artist and educator Damali Abrams has traveled the world making and sharing her creative work. From a lineage of healers, herbal medicine has always been part of her private life, but in Abrams’ current incarnation as Glitter Priestess, she is finally offering her services to the public. Inspired to action by the brutality and chaos of our current cultural climate, the Glitter Priestess concocts bespoke natural remedies to help folks dealing with everything from anxiety and insomnia to sadness and burnout. We spoke with the healing artist about her practice, the goddesses she works with, and tips for sexual clearing.
What inspired you to finally open up your private healing work that you have done for years to the public?
Ugh, it’s that old quote attributed to Anaïs Nin about remaining tight in a bud. I’ve been wanting to do this forever but talking myself out of it forever. This is part of what I know I’m meant to do, but the logistics of monetizing the things that I make feels big and scary and daunting.
I feel a real sense of urgency in the current times. As we move further into the New Paradigm of healing, light and love and the Divine Feminine, the old paradigm seems to be flaring up quite strongly with violence and hatred.
I’ve taken so many courses and classes and seminars. I’ve read countless books. I feel a responsibility to share what I’ve learned about healing.
But I have also been sharing my healing work in other ways over the years. In the early 2000’s my cousin started a magazine called Mahogany Blues, and I had an herbal column in it called Herb Grrl. In grad school when I began making video art, I created a fictional television network called Self-Help TV, with a series of Herb Grrl videos where I shared herbal remedies. I also have tons of videos on YouTube where I share information on healing. In truth, my work has always been about healing. The only difference is that now I am offering remedies I make to the general public.
Because, as you write on your site, there is such an urgency right now for healing around the world, do you notice more people seeking alternative methods for self-care?
Yes! I am meeting so many people facing a number of illnesses who are seeking alternatives to mainstream medicine for themselves and their families. And I am also meeting more and more healers. It’s really exciting.
Since we are a sex positive site, I have to ask: What are some of your favorite remedies for opening up your sacral chakra or creating space for sexual energy?
Since the sacral chakra is associated with the color orange, orange foods and crystals, fruits and vegetables can be used for opening this chakra. My absolute favorite fruit is mango, and mangos are associated with the sacral chakra. I also love carrot juice. Cinnamon is also associated with the sacral chakra, and is lovely in teas, oils and baked desserts.
I recently made an infusion of mango and cinnamon in red wine for the first time. I’m realizing while answering this question that I made a sacral chakra remedy without even realizing it!
Also, oatstraw increases sensitivity to pleasure, and jasmine is very sensual.
How has your own background as a Guyanese-American impacted your spiritual practice?
The way I grew up, working with home remedies was not strange. Senna for cleaning out your system, lemon juice and honey for a cold, etc. Trusting intuition was also normal. Many family members have prophetic dreams letting us know when someone is pregnant or dying or even just shady — LOL. A lot of times deceased family members communicate with people in my family through dreams. Some people see spirits. The idea of the supernatural or miraculous is not strange to me at all.
Also, as my sister Abiola often says, my grandfathers on both sides were farmers, and my mother’s grandmother was a local healer who used bush medicine to help people in the community, which we call herbal medicine now. It’s in my blood.
Which goddesses do you work with, who particularly inspires your art and/or your spiritual practice?
Oshun and Yemaya are Yoruba orishas (deities) who show up in a lot of Afro-Caribbean religions and spiritual practices. They are the two representatives of the Divine Feminine who show up most in my spiritual, artistic and healing practices. Oshun is the orisha of rivers, lakes and sweet waters. Yemaya is an orisha of the ocean and the full moon, often depicted as a mermaid. I have always been drawn to mermaids, and in the past year I created a huge collage installation covered with mermaids, and then a series of individual collage mermaids.
Cancer is my sun sign and moon sign, and I have venus in Cancer on my astrological chart, and Scorpio rising. So it is no wonder that I am drawn to water Goddesses and imagery.
Do you identify as a witch? If so, when did you first realize you were one, and when did you become open about it?
I call myself Glitter Priestess but it’s really the same thing. I work with nature and intention to create infusions and potions and enchantments and remedies and spells. I learn from many spiritual and religious practices.
I have always been drawn to magic, and began thinking of myself this way in college, I think. It is not something I have really been open about until now.
Do you have any upcoming performances/workshops/
I am performing at an opening for an exhibition called ¿Qué Pasa, USA? curated by the fabulous Lynette Miranda in Kansas City, MO on November 18, 2016 at La Esquina Gallery. It is a performance called “Glitter Priestess Mad Tea Party” where I share herbal remedies for anger and anxiety. Visitors can come to my altar and create their own lavender-infused honey to take home, as well as enjoy some herbal tea I’ll be making on site. I recently performed this piece for the first time at Arts Westchester Gallery and the response was overwhelmingly positive. I can smell the lavender just remembering it.
I will also be facilitating two free healing workshops at the Laundromat Project’s Kelly Street Initiative in the Bronx on November 12th and December 17th.
On February 17, 2017 I will be performing at From The Belly of The Beast, a night of performance art on Intersectionality, Feminisms and Indigeneity from across turtle island at Grace Performance Space, co-curated by Maria Hupfield and Katya Grokhovsky.
Photo Credits: Adana Collins of LovableTreasures.com (photo & body art); Maya Krinsky (That Old Black Magic (Happiness Spell #1))