WOLVES, WEEDS, AND WILD WOMEN
interview with Vanessa Chakour of Sacred Warrior
Vol lll of RAVENOUS ZINE
RAVENOUS ZINE: What experiences, especially as an activist, led you to found Sacred Warrior? Where does the name Sacred Warrior come from and what does it mean to you? Do you identify as a Sacred Warrior?
VANESSA CHAKOUR: Sacred Warrior evolved through my journey of healing and work in fields of wellness, the arts, social and environmental justice. I often felt burnt out and frustrated having to compartmentalize my work, and though I was fighting for the earth, what I really needed was to rekindle my relationship with the land. As I explored my connection through herbalism and other practices, I realized I was surrounded by plants with rich history, folklore and medicine. It felt like a deep remembering. I began to notice more, fall more deeply in love with the earth, and feel less and less alone. Separating people from their rich histories and cultures of earth-based wisdom and traditions has been a method of disempowerment that’s led to deep trauma and ecological devastation. I created Sacred Warrior to help us heal and restore this connection. I share practices that have helped me heal and offer experiences that deepen intimacy with the natural world. When we love something, we take better care of it and often become fierce defenders. As a martial artist and activist, I identify with the warrior archetype; in particular the goddess Artemis, fierce defender of the wild. I believe a true warrior has courage to go within, look at oneself and heal. A Sacred Warrior listens to the strength in their sensitivity to stand up for what is most precious in life and will peel back layers of conditioning to come home to who they are. I want to inspire others to claim their innate power while deepening relationship with mother earth. Staying strong ￼is vital when working toward the well-being of others and our environment.
RZ: Your bond with the earth is prevalent in your practices and work. How did you develop this relationship? In what ways can we authentically deepen our own connection to the earth?
VC: I’ve had a deep relationship to the land since I was a child. I was fortunate to grow up in Western Massachusetts where I played in the woods all the time. I’ve also had an emotional connection to plants and animals ever since I can remember. It’s been a profound joy and deep sorrow. I believe our connection to the land is innate and something we all long for. There are plants and animals each of us are drawn to. Learning more about them and their role in the ecosystem can be a good place to start. I also encourage people to connect with plants where they live. To learn about the wild ones growing through cracks in the sidewalk, in the forest or in vacant lots. To look at them as though for the first time. Notice their shapes, textures and colors. Spend time with the ones they’re most attracted to. Meditate with them and learn who they are. We all have access to the language of nature if we can slow ourselves down enough to listen. Medicinal plants are everywhere and can be a bridge to a deeper connection with ourselves and the earth. When we work intentionally with plants, they see us for who we are.
RZ: You’ve mentioned difficult past experiences related to your health. How has your journey helped you to develop personal wellness practices and a more holistic way of living? You’re also a boxer and developed your own movement practice. How did you come to your current understanding of your practice? What does boxing allow you to unleash?
VC: Yes, my journey has forced me to dig deep. It started with severe asthma and allergies from the age of two that landed me in the hospital many times. I experienced the trauma of sexual abuse that led to an eating disorder as a teenager. Then, I fractured my back and neck in a car accident at age 16. It was the car accident that served as my initiation to the path of healing that continues today. The experience broke everything open. I was in stillness for months so couldn’t avoid myself or the trauma I’d locked inside. The floodgates opened and all I could do was focus on healing. I journaled incessantly and began to understand the connection between belief systems and healing. When I started to rehabilitate my body, I questioned my perceived limitations, learned about the body-mind connection and worked hard to become stronger than I’d ever imagined I could be. My curiosity and desire to perform at my peak led to a formal meditation ￼practice and eventually to the field of herbalism. Everything became a spiritual practice for me and I knew deep down in my bones that everything is interconnected. It wasn’t just a concept. So, exploring a regenerative way of life was the natural evolution of it all. When I moved to New York in the mid 90’s, I found boxing. It was an obvious next step for me. A way to push boundaries and in a way I never had before. Training as a competitive fighter led me to release intense anger I’d held from sexual abuse and to claim innate power. I was able to confront fears and explore sides of myself I’d never met. The Sacred Warrior movement practice I created with boxing at its base, integrates principles found in nature and holistic healing traditions. The earth is our source of power as is our sensitivity. Martial arts can help cultivate the internal strength needed to embrace the power of our sensitivity. This in turn, allows us be more attuned, aware and to communicate more directly with nature. I’ll also be certified to teach archery soon. I look forward to incorporating this into my offerings so women can channel their inner Artemis.
RZ: A great deal of your work focuses on teaching. When did you begin to see yourself as an educator? What is your educational philosophy and how do you incorporate that into your offerings?
VC: The role of an educator came naturally to me. I love to share what has helped me grow. I bring people into experiences that awaken their instincts, intuition and innate strength. I want to give people tools to heal themselves and uncover their unique gifts in relationship with the land. Education and recovery of instinct is also vital because of the miseducation and colonized conditioning that’s led to much of the destruction we face now. I try to make all my offerings as immersive and multi-sensory as possible. In many ways, I feel that I facilitate a deep remembering; helping people uncover what they know in their bones to be true.