*From the Archives* Moon Over Tamrha Richardson

Tamrha is a New York native who, in 2011 relocated with her family to the Indianapolis area. She is a Priestess of Hekate, ordained in 2013, and a Daughter of Aset. In 2012, as High Priestess, she began to facilitate Novices of the Old Ways – Midwest, a Progressive Witchcraft community that serves the Indianapolis area (with family branches in the NY Tri-State area). As a volunteer with the Indianapolis Pagan Prison Ministry (IPPM), she facilities circles in two prisons within the Indiana Department of Corrections. Tamrha has been trained in Norse Seidh by Freya Aswynn, and has received in-depth training in Trance Prophesy Regression with Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone. A Certified Birth Doula and Doula trainer with Childbirth International, she works with Indy Doula Associates and is also a Placenta Encapsulation Specialist.  Back on Long Island, she was a co-founder of the Long Island BirthNetwork and worked with the Long Island Doula Association. Tamrha considers her work in the birth world and within the Dept. of Corrections as Hekate’s work.

 Mother of two boys who are gifts of the Faeries of St Kieran’s Well in Kells, Ireland, she is also a mama to a brood of felines. She loves music, art, photography, writing, food, nature and witchcraft, is passionate about Reproductive Rights, Marriage Equality and Environmental causes. The sharing of chocolate and NY Pizza are always welcome. She can be reached through her Facebook Account  https://www.facebook.com/Tamrha.Gatti.Richardson or by emailing her at tamrha.richardson@gmail.com

1)      What is the work you do?

There are various aspects to the work I do! Professionally, I'm a certified Birth Doula and Childbirth Educator. More and more, people have heard of this term 'Doula' but for those who haven't, a Doula is a trained birth companion who offers informational, physical, and emotional support for the expectant woman and her partner. This relationship starts whenever the couple/mother hires her Doula and continues throughout the duration of her pregnancy and the birth of her baby. Once she goes into labor, a Doula attends to the mothers needs throughout the birth process assisting in comfort measures, positioning, and emotional support. Normally, a Doula stays a few hours postpartum to assist the new family with things like recovery, breastfeeding and newborn care.

As a Priestess of Hekate, and High Priestess within Novices of the Old Ways~ IN, I serve the Pagan community with 8 public sabbats a year, including a large ritual at Indianapolis Pagan Pride Day. This past year we offered a Gaia ritual and had a lovely write up! With this community is the Coven of the Alchemical Crossroads that I priestess, and so much of my services goes to this work. I also service two prison facilities (one men's, one women's) providing  circles and educational services for Wiccan and Pagan inmates.

2)      How were you called to become a Doula?

The birth of my first son was not what I planned. I wasn't fully educated about labor and birth, and while I wanted a natural birth, I didn't have the tools to achieve this. Getting an epidural caused some issues and while starting to push, my baby's heart rate dropped very low. My midwife didn't even discuss anything with me (she felt as if there was no time) and before I knew it, I was on a operating room table, screaming in pain because of the surgery, and was promptly put under general anesthesia. The first time I saw my baby, I saw two of him because the drugs were so powerful.

In doing research after his birth, I came across the word Doula. It was a light bulb moment. Not only did I think I would have greatly benefited from the services of a Doula, I knew that this was something I would be good at. I spent more time reading and researching, and finally chose to certify with Childbirth International.

During my studies, I got pregnant with my second child and this time hired a Doula. Her support was so valuable, not only for me but for my boys' father. He was much more relaxed knowing that he too had someone there to support him in caring for me.

Unfortunately, this birth was derailed as well and I was back in the OR. My heart was broken, and I knew that as I continued my studies and began working with women, I would help them, as best as I could, to have the births they desired, with as much education as they wanted, and support even through a post-OP (my Doula left shortly after I was in recovery). I didn't want my clients to suffer the traumas that I did. While I may never experience normal, physiological childbirth, I've successfully assisted over 100 women in achieving their goals.

3)      I know that you offer services to prepare placentas for women after they give birth, can you elaborate on the service and why it is important?

Placentaphagia, or consumption of ones placenta, is something most all mammals do. While there are few studies on the subject, the ones that do exist show placentaphagia to be very beneficial to new mothers.

In the services I offer, there are various ways to prepare the placenta. Most clients want their placentas encapsulated, so they have two options here – Raw prep or Traditional Chinese Medicine methods. Both methods start out with the placenta being gently washed in order to cleanse the leftover blood from the organ. In the Raw Prep method, it is then sliced as thin as possible and dehydrated for a minimum of 18 hours until snap dry. In the TCM method, the placenta is steamed with lemon (an astringent to the body), ginger root and jalapeno pepper (both warming to the body). This steaming creates a broth which the client can be given if they so choose, in order to use in soups, cooking or to simply feed houseplants. After the steam is complete, it is thinly sliced and dehydrated for about 12 hours until snap dry.

The placenta is then ground into a fine powder and encapsulated into gelatin or b=vegetarian capsules for the new mother to take with meals. Sometimes, a client simply wants me to cut her placenta into cubes about an inch or so long and freeze them so she can add then to smoothies!

Other additional add-ons to this service are placenta prints on art paper, umbilical cord keepsakes, placenta tinctures and even placenta chocolates!

Women who have their placentas encapsulated (or consumed in smoothies) find that they have increased breastmilk production, less postpartum bleeding, more energy and yet sleep better, easier postpartum transition and most importantly, less postpartum depression.

4)      Can you explain your involvement and approach to the Red Tent collective?

In offering Red Tents in my community, I have found that my approach is quiet ritualistic. In my opinion, most women in our society lack ritual in their lives, especially ritual in which they are the center, where their voices are not only heard but important and where they are safe to say whatever needs saying, to feel whatever they need to feel. We need these spaces of healing and strength, and in my service to the Tent, and to the women who attend, is to simply provide that space, or that container. The magick of the Red Tent then does its work. Because women are magick.

Recently, I crafted a Red Tent ceremony for a womyn who is transitioning. Along with cutting a Maiden into her first Tent, cutting this beautiful soul into the Circle and honoring her blood was a highlight in my time spent working with this movement.

5)      I know that your worshipping divine feminine is at the center of much of the work you do, how to you describe your spiritual beliefs, practices??

I would describe myself as a Progressive Wiccan Priestess. Being Progressive isn't a tradition, but a way of approaching Wicca itself. As a relatively new spiritual path, Wicca looks to the past to create itself, to take from what our ancestors might have been doing and create an experiential, Mystery Tradition for the modern age.

At the same time, there is something important to being willing to adapt and change as we evolve and grow as individuals and a community. Being progressive utilizes the 'if it works, use it' approach. That said, understanding cultural misappropriation is very important. It's not a system of simply taking and using without acknowledgment of origins, tradition and meaning. It's quite the opposite. I don't pull from Voudon or Espiritimo or even Italian witchcraft because 'it's cool or interesting'. I pull selectively if it would serve the community for a good reason. I do this always looking to the history, paying due respect and honoring the Gods first and foremost through everything.

Deity connection is central to the Novices way of practice, as well as looking to service our communities. There is reason for closed door, insular work, but as Witches and Pagans we live in this world too, and we need to use our strengths to work on the challenges our world has and 'fight the good fight'. Participating in the Red Tent movement is one of my ways of fighting the fights.

6)      Do you consider yourself a feminist? If so, how does that integrate into your work?

Sure, I would definitely call my self a Feminist... but I'm a Feminist who loves men! Just as my witchcraft is balanced between God and Goddess energy, I like my feminism to have balance too. Men and their Mysteries are magical, and in having two sons and no daughters I love their energy. When it comes to the Red Tent, I once read about the idea of having a Pink Tent in front of the Red Tent to serve as a place where men could learn, be with their partners and experience the movement without stepping too far into a Womyn only space.

7)      How do you feel about the current political environment we exist in as women?

I find it infuriating that in 2015, we are still needing to fight for Planned Parenthood not to be defunded, fight for our reproductive rights, to still be paid less then men. It's still a WASPy white boys club out there, but in order to keep making strides we have to do the work.

8)      As warrior woman what advice would you give to women to make change in the world?

Find the areas in which you are passionate, and get to work. Find others passionate aboutthe same things and band together to create the changes we need. Try to not become overwhelmed with all the problems out there. If we each concentrate on areas of need, using our strengths and talents, we create a wave of social, political, environmental change together.

9)      Can you elaborate on some of the workshops you currently teach? Why are they important to you?

One of the classes I teach is called Calm Birth. It's been awhile since I've taught this series, but I really love it. It's mindful awareness meditation for childbirth. There is also a Calm Healing series that can be used for anyone or any issue, and that's really powerful as well.

10)   Who are the heroines in your life and why?

Dirty Mother! Definitely! You, lady are an Avatar of the Goddess in my eyes. You are magick, inspiration, a warrior, artist, visionary. Knowing you, watching you work has been so inspiring. I look forward to seeing you every year and walking away with new ideas, thoughts and direction.

Courtney Weber, my High Priestess. Watching her work, having been a part of her Coven back in New York, and her being there for me through my Votary-Priestess training taught me more than I can describe. She's a wonderful Priestess and someone I look to when I have trouble, frustration, or whatever problems come up in my Priestess path. I have learned so much from her.

Tori Amos. The woman is amazing. An incredible artist and songwriter. She's my girl crush. And a Faery.



11)   What are your plans for this upcoming year? What is brewing in the pot?

I hope to schedule a bunch more Red Tents in my community, as well Calm Birth classes. In a few days I'll finish my Childbirth Ed certification, and hope to get those on the books as well. Then I plan on digging into my Breastfeeding Counselor Course, and would like to take an Herbalism course as well.

I hope to get my coven and community more involved in environmental issues and projects in the Indy area, and this coming Saturday, I plan on attending the Greening the Statehouse event in Indianapolis. I would like to see a Pagan Environmental Council develop in Indianapolis, because as I mentioned above, we can get the work done when we work together.

I want to do more art! With as busy as I've been the last few years, my art has suffered.However, now that I'm back to being self – employed, I hope to concentrate more on this aspect of my life. I always feel good when I create things. Getting my boys involved always makes things even more fun.

Denise Cumor