Kismet: A Journey of Ancestry and Herbs

Kismet: A Journey of Ancestry and Herbs

Growing up, I was one of those girls who spent time exploring outside with bugs and plants, climbing the cherry and plum trees, and going on grand, imaginative adventures. I made potions, soups, medicines, and mudpies in my pretend cottage under the lilacs. I was the village healer and lead explorer. Nature and nurturing called to me. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I could never decide. I wanted to help people. Be a midwife, a photographer, have a farm, be a gardener, be a mom, make all my own things, be an artist, a poet, a potter, a psychologist, a healer, a creator, and a nurturer of some sort. 

Throughout my life, I have been influenced by plants, whether it be the dandelion soup I made as a child, the first time I used Tea Tree oil for a burn, or all the plants I found on my hikes that I just innately knew what they were without knowing how or why. Herbs and plants have always felt like they were part of me, and there has also been something else, or someone, who has been guiding me.

While touring a massage school, I came across a photograph in the administration office. It was a picture of a milk thistle that looked similar to a photograph I had taken. They are one of my favorite flowers. This was my sign that I was where I was supposed to be. Ultimately, going through massage school led me to my position at RidgeCrest Herbals. 

I didn’t grow up knowing much about my family members, and we have been removed from our traditions and culture for some generations. For the last several years, I have really been diving into my family tree, ancestry & genealogy. Through DNA testing and a genealogy website, I have been able to learn so much about some of my ancestors from all over the world. I have even found some journal entries about family members who happened to own one of the first farms in the county I moved to in 2020. It has been really fun to learn about. 

My family has always known that we came from a Native American tribe somewhere along our line, but over the years, it has gotten lost, and no one really knew exactly what tribe we belonged to. In my search, I found one ancestor in particular who stood out to me, Maria De Jesus Valdez, or Jesusita. I went on the hunt to find out more information about her. My aunt and I tried reaching out to many family members, and have only gotten tidbits of information here and there, but mostly found dead ends and missed opportunities. A professional picture was found by my aunt, and we reached out to the photographer. While she didn’t have much information on her, what she told us was enlightening. Jesusita was a skilled micaceous potter who mentored and shared secrets with a famous potter, Felipe Ortega. His work can still be seen today and is even taught at his pottery studio. She was also a curandera, and part of the Jicarilla Apache nation.


Jesusita, Maria De Jesus Valdez Martinez
Lynn Adler Photography | © Lynn Adler Photography  

A curandera is a traditional native healer or shaman. Curanderismo is a holistic and spiritual healing practice founded on faith, experience, and plants, that has been accumulated over the course of over four centuries. It includes four specialties, yerbera (herbalist), patera (midwife), sobadora (folk chiropractor & massage), and curandera espiritual (spiritual healer). Practitioners usually specialized in only one area, but all used herbal remedies. Surviving the Spanish conquests, the roots of the practice can be traced back to the Aztec empire in the 1400s. Over time, the practice has transformed and been divided by other cultures and has been influenced by a blend of Native American, Aztec, Spanish, Judeo-Christian, Greek Humoral, Arabic, African, Spiritualism, and scientific practices.

Today the practice relies heavily on knowing the herbs, reciting the prayers, massaging, and simple, tender love and care. It is mainly practiced in Mexico and New Mexico surrounding. It requires dedication and many years of study and apprenticeship and was typically passed down from grandmother healer to daughter, although now, some men are able to practice. It has been practiced as an essential alternative medicine, especially for isolated and rural regions where other medicine was hard to come by or too expensive. 

You could imagine my excitement as I learned about this practice and continued to learn about Jesusita. I feel connected to her in so many ways. I have felt pulled to pottery, midwifery, massage, and herbs, and I don’t think that is a coincidence. Her picture hangs in my office and I call to her in my own spiritual and healing practices. 

I can’t help but wonder how many of us in the world today have been cut off from our cultures, traditions, and healing medicine. I wonder what knowledge, wisdom, skills, and secrets have been lost in a few short generations. I wonder if they can be saved, rediscovered, and revived. I will continue learning and searching.


About the Author 

Shae Brackett is our Customer Service Director and Social Media Manager and has been with RidgeCrest since 2016. Shae is the mastermind behind our exceptional customer experience, ensuring every call, email, and customer experience is handled with love and care. She guides the customer care team, is our culture caretaker, helping to facilitate our employee experience, and our online creative oracle for our Facebook, Instagram, blog, and meditations. She describes herself as creative, thoughtful, nature-loving, compassionate, and nurturing. Her favorite herbs are Ginger and Lavender, and she proudly recommends SereniZen® (formerly Anxiety Free), PhysiQOL™, SinusClear®, and Belly Be Happy®

Learn more about our team here


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These and other stories like them can be found in our Herbal Almanacs. Check them out here.


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