Heart Medicine

I dreamt of Rose last night. Not of her specifically but of a gun she used to use. A rusted .22 rifle with chipped wood, I found it in the brambles boarding the edge of the woods.

Someone had buried it beneath thorny thickets so sharp they tore the flesh of my hands, but I managed to dig it out of the earth. And after a thorough examination of me admiring the dark cherry stalk, the dinted barrel and the trigger that still worked, I set it in my lap and wept.

Health is more than the food you consume and the calories you expend through exercise. Health encompasses everything, from the physical to the emotional, the mental, and the spiritual. In my culture, we believe that everything is tied together. Our language is rooted in our spirituality. Our spirituality is linked to the earth. You cannot have one without the other. And it is the same with our medicines.

Wild rose is heart medicine. It’s also protection medicine with its prickly spines. It can be used for various ailments, including an eye wash, but often it aids in grief.


Grief and growth go hand in hand, and it was through rose I received my first teaching.

I vaguely remember her, but I recall her essence and feel her now and then. The smell of tobacco mingled with pine from days she spent trapping lines my nose when I meander through the thickets. The image of her with two rabbits in hand, her gun in the other as clear as mountain waters. She made tinctures when I was young—mouthwashes of yarrow and golden rod when my throat needed it. But what I loved about her craft the most was her rose oils.

Beautiful curving vials lined our bathroom shelves with oil that bubbled each time I tipped the glass upside down. I’d sit for what could have been hours, observing with innocent eyes, watching the trails those bubbles would take, slipping beneath and through pink rose buds and soft translucent petals.

Rose passed when I was seven, precisely six months before my father, taking our teachings, our language, and our roots with her.

For a long time, bitterness I didn’t know was there clogged my heart. Turning from grief to anger and eventually despair. It wasn’t till I met Blue, my first Elder and a powerful knowledge carrier, that I learned the most important lesson I would ever carry and teach to those who needed it.

Resentment consumes and eats away at the mind and soul until it eventually manifests within the body. And it had with the people he worked with, including Joan, my mother’s mother. “Because you asked for my help,” he said, “it will be you who heals her.” And so, my journey with Blue began.

Healing requires growth, and growth requires you to face your grief. And so I did because you cannot pour from an empty cup.

I cried until I had nothing left while making space for my grandmother. Putting on a strong face while caring for another is one of the hardest things you can do, but it was there, somewhere in the midst of compassion and hope, where you find the strength you didn’t know you had. My grandmother sensed it and told me that Nancy, Rose’s mother, my great grandmother, healed her first when she had trouble bearing children decades prior.

“To change the world, you must start with you,” Blue said in our final lesson. “And from there, it will ripple out.”

Janet taught me something similar in another lesson years later. In a class, I took with Lucy, my mother in law. Our souls come into the world through a water-filled womb. And water is the element our emotions travel upon. Like a current of electricity, it has the power to flow into another, including our children, and that’s why it’s so important to watch what we say and how we say it because little minds soak up experiences like a sponge and tiny hearts bruise easily, just as mine had.

Electricity needs grounding, just as we as people do. Our bodies are made up of anywhere between 60-85% water, depending on who you ask. If water carries emotion and emotion has nowhere to go, it becomes stagnant like an algae-covered pond, sitting until it’s teeming with cancerous bacteria.

It needs to flow with exercise, detox with good words, and nourish with foods and teas. I recommend a hearty dose of dandelion root or rose hip to aid in the lungs and liver, but the choice is yours.

For years I turned to affirmation bandaids and empowerment slings, hoping to remain ignorant to the infectious rot I hid beneath. But if you don’t work on the root cause, the infection will eventually spread, and a bandaid will do nothing where a tourniquet is required.

Sometimes tender reminders of an aching wound will nudge us, like last night when I dreamt of rose. Of her gun buried beneath the earth for me to find. But it’s in the message that we learn our lesson. It’s how we take things that will determine our course.

Rose never really took our teachings. It was up to me to unearth them. To dig through the darker parts of myself and find the strength to heal, so my journey might inspire others and ripple it out into the world. And so shall yours should you choose to face the dark and take a bit of roses wisdom to guide and protect. My advice: be the change you wish to see.


Disclaimer: Please do not consume any medicines on your own without consulting a doctor first. Always be sure to conduct your own research.

About the author

Author Profile
Dene Plews

Dene Plews is an agented Indigenous storyteller. She writes everything from contemporary romance to horror stories inspired by folklore specific to her Cree heritage.

In 2022, Dene’s article ‘Heart Medicine’ was published in Your McMurray Magazine. She was later asked to adapt one of her short stories to film for the Connection to the Land series. THE WIDOWMAKER premiered at the Buffy’s Award Show in October 2022.

Dene draws inspiration from her life experience as an Indigenous woman, her studies at the University of Alberta and pieces of her Norwegian-English ancestry. Dene is obsessed with music, and when she’s not writing, she can be found gallivanting about the woods with a camera in hand, mind-mapping her next big fantasy adventure.

Her debut novel, Queen of Thieves, is currently on submission. She is a member of the Fort McMurray No. 468 First Nation though she currently resides with her husband and their two children in Janvier on the Chipewyan Prairie First Nation.

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