Clinical Herbalist & Former Registered Nurse
With a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and 13 years of experience as a Registered Nurse at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center - Harvard's Teaching Hospital in Boston, Donna's adult life has always been deeply rooted in healing.
Shortly after starting her Herbalism training, Donna embarked on an artist residency in Ireland, the land of her ancestors, where she discovered that she is the descendant of two prominent Hereditary Herbalism Families both on her father's and mother's side. There are records of her father's family practicing Herbalism as far back as 1100. They also established an Herbal Medical School that flourished from 1400 to 1700. Her mother's maiden name, a derivative of the Irish word for "Physician" and "Medicine," alludes to that side also being a Heredity Herbalism Family as well. They practiced for centuries and were responsible for a major publication of Herbalism knowledge in the 1500s. Astoundingly, no one in her immediate family had been aware of this legacy.
Donna reclaims a forgotten, rich history and knowledge base, grounded in traditional healing practices and mixed with the language and insights of the 21st century. Keep scrolling to learn more...
More about Donna...
Irish Herbalism was outlawed in 1695 under strict Penal Laws imposed by the British who occupied Ireland for 800 years and treated Native Irish as subhuman. It became illegal to have a profession, practice medicine, be educated, own land or livestock, speak Irish, practice their religion, and much more. These laws ended the legacy of Herbalism for both sides of her family. Donna's mother was an intuitive healer while she was growing up and she believes that was the genesis of her healing endeavors.
In Continental Europe, Herbalism also ended in the Middle Ages, when autonomous women, operating outside of the Patriarchy were labeled "witches" and methodically killed. It is thought that up to a million (some texts say 9 million) women were burned at the stake, drowned, or hung. A large percentage of these women were Herbalists. Herbalists were the heart of the community and a threat. These practitioners worshipped deities in the landscape and were able to heal without the aid of priests. They were also organizing protests against wealthy landowners who were systematically claiming common land for their livestock. The landlords and church joined forces and created a law called Malleus Maleficarum. This law served as a tool for insecure men and disgruntled neighbors to oppress the embodiment of divine feminine energy in human form. Becoming an herbalist is a radical feminist act and Donna has reclaimed a revered role in the community.
Donna honors and is grateful to the cultures that preserved these traditions, especially to her Afro-Guyanese teacher Karen Rose, of Sacred Vibes Apothecary, for sharing her broad depth of knowledge.
Donna inhabits this tradition at a crucial time in our history when Big Pharma's focus has shifted toward profit. She still believes in science and that pharmaceuticals serve an important role under certain circumstances. However, she now knows that herbs offer a gentle, effective alternative when there is time.
Located at 810 Washington Ave, Brooklyn, the shop is open daily from 12-7pm and is closed Tuesdays so Donna can make all of her tinctures and salves.
Herbalism is Social Practice for Donna. As an artist, she also creates sculptures that embody her diverse past, merging care-based activities, organic forms, and the body. To see more of her art, visit donnacleary.net