Interview With Energetic practitioner Chanelle Bergeron
The internet is a vast and magical thing; it brings people together in a way that may not have been possible not so long ago. While Chanelle and I have yet to meet in person, we have formed a friendship through words, medicines and many shared interests. Chanelle's warmth and strength of spirit is easily translated through her words, both in this interview and through the many projects she has worked on. Chanelle owns Moon By Moon Apothecary , a shop that resides in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina and her online offerings are -almost- enough to satisfy those who cannot make it to her brick and mortar location.
I'm so excited to share these words with you. And as always, thank you for stopping by.
How do you describe your practice to people and how did you start it?
To put it simply, I say my practice is with essence work, with energetic & intuitive medicine. I don’t know if I have a single name for it yet, I feel it is still forming as I grow into a deeper understanding of my work & maybe when I am a crone I will have a better, more compact name for it! Everything I work with is like a tapestry or a collage & I can call upon different elements of that for different people, so it may look very different from one person to the next. To capture an essence or to cradle energy or to call upon instinct, one must be present, grounded, know where their root is; one must listen. So, it is really important for me to bring people into the moment, & to hold space for that moment—for the energy & the story each person brings whether that is in the flesh or over the phone. In that same vein, it is really important for me to allow that moment to unfurl organically, so being tethered or grounded becomes even more important for me, because then I am able to help guide the orchestra of that person’s moment. At the end of it all, I want people to feel they are empowered by our time together, that they can trust themselves to access their instinct & build a relationship with that part of themselves. I think essences do a great job in assisting that process.
I work with a pendulum more often than not, & I feel that it helps to call energy into a space, especially if the person is not physically there with me. Most people will, for lack of a better word, arrive when I call them in with my pendulum—it feels like shivers on the back or a wiggle in my bones or sometimes I get misty-eyed & my breath changes. My pendulum is like my familiar & it allows me to pull together the threads or ideas, both abstract & concrete, which I encourage people to give me so I can concoct a formula for them. I also intimately work with water, with stones, with astrology & tarot, sound & poetry. I listen to the day & pay attention to synchronicities within it, especially if they lead up to a session with someone. I follow & sit within the pillars of midwifery, which I studied for some time in rural Maine & which I still study & practice in my own ways. I cannot separate the work of a midwife from anything I do, I often see that my work is as a midwife with people even if I am not assisting someone in a literal childbirth. Perhaps, then, being a midwife is the closest word I can use to describe what I do.
I also offer an array of learning opportunities, & feel I am really coming into a deeper understanding of my abilities as a guide for people along their path of learning. Passing along the knowledge is so important to me & again it reinforces every individual’s process in trusting themselves, being able to access their own unique medicine, & in following their own path. It was really hard for me to find anyone to learn from about essences, mostly everything I know I have taught myself & even developed my own language around. This is really exciting territory for me because I want people to know about essences, to make & use essences...in many ways, I believe essences are the most sustainable form of herbal & stone medicine, & that as a collective we are moving towards using more energetic forms & remedies to heal. So it feels really special that I am able to offer this out to those who are interested or seeking to deepen a connection to these beautiful medicines.
I suppose that I started this work as far back as I can recall…it is hard to parse out, because everything I have ever done has coalesced into what I am doing now: everything has informed everything else, like a snowball effect. Some of my first memories involved me going about the yard, picking petals & leaves, muddling them in little cups to give to my toy animals & dolls; or helping those dolls give birth through their belly buttons (I was not as well versed in anatomy & physiology when I was 5)…my mother gave me my first deck of tarot cards when I was 7, my mother gave me many things; astrology was always around me, magic was always around me—it felt like a normal part of my days. I was a competitive swimmer for most of my life—so I was given a really intimate & fully immersed lesson in the ways water works, the intricacies of that element. I have always been a poet, & so the written word is also part of my work & oftentimes I am told that my descriptions allow people to feel the remedy without even taking it. I had been studying & using plants all my life, but I didn’t have a context for it all until I went to herb school in 2010, when I was trained as a clinical herbalist with 7song at the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine in western New York---that is when things really took off. A winding road has led me to right here, writing this to you!
You own your own shop. Is there anything that you find essential in creating a welcoming and safe space for yourself and your customers?
The form of my shop has been changing quite a bit—it is definitely not a typical boutique & I have weird hours & don’t play music or have a window decal. But to answer your question, I try to make this space as homey as possible. I approach everyone with an open heart & my feet on the ground. I want all people to walk in & find joy in what they are seeing while also feeling comfortable. It is important for me that people feel they can ask me questions, & chat for a little while. This space is & always will be a safe space for any who enter it. If I know someone is coming in ahead of time, I will make us tea that they can sip on as they look around. When people come in for sessions with me, I always have them pick out the herbs we will have in our tea together, & really encourage them to use their intuition or follow their instinct. You can make a beautiful & truly constitutional tea blend by picking things out that you are simply attracted to based upon color or shape or name.
It is also important for me to have clear boundaries. Having such a public interface like this one has really pushed mine as much as it has helped me to define those boundaries. So I love that I can close the door here, literally & metaphorically. I really feel the need to recharge. Ever since I had to abruptly move from my original location at the end of June, I have been realizing that I am much more a practitioner than I am a shop-keep, so again I am envisioning how to reconfigure the ways in which I am offering my time & services. I want people to have access to the bulk herbs I carry when they need them, but I also want to solely be making custom blends for people. Making customized formulas is one of my greatest joys. Even now I am trying to find a good balance, I am trying to figure out how it all will look, what parts to cut away & which to keep. But that is all part of it—we are not static creatures, so while I love this time of melding, I am also looking forward to a time when I can more clearly be the form.
What do you find most challenging about being a business owner?
First of all, there are many many hats to wear! Some of the hats are the beautiful & fun & creative ones, then there are the bookkeeping ones & so on. I am doing all of it on my own, & am learning so many news skills on top of it all, like how to do my monthly sales & use taxes! It is a lot to keep up with. Not to mention that in my personal life I have been in the midst of some serious transitions which I am still landing from (namely that there was so much movement happening this summer & I am still landing from it—in addition to the shop relocating, my partner & I moved from our old apartment into our new home which was still unfinished until just about two weeks ago!). I also had to drop a ton of money really quickly when I moved out the of the old location then into a new one… so I have definitely been struggling to make ends meet at times & recently had to take on a little gig watching a very sweet 8 month old two days out of the week. On another note, as I kind of touched upon, I feel like having a vision for what my business is has been shifting so much… there is just so much to think about & manage as a business owner so it is crucial to have a clear idea of what you are managing, you know?
Which brings me to, how do you practice self care? Do you have a daily ritual?
Mmm well, Summer really ruffled up my self care practices & my daily rituals (which, when I honestly think about it, always happens to me in the summer). However, now that we are well into the autumn, I do find that I am sinking back into things & also learning new things about what I want my days to look like, to feel like. If anything, I believe transitions & change teach us this: they help us to shake out our old patterns so we can be in line with wherever we are in our forms, in our stories. Some things have always stuck with me, some rituals which have always kept me feeling the earth under my feet, so I will share those!
I feel like the most important thing I can do is to set the tone for the day every morning. So, each day, I take my time waking up if I can. I will take a few drops of whatever essence I am working with (recently it has been echinacea flower essence) before I get up. I love a sip of fresh water followed by piping hot black coffee or lapsang souchong before I make toast. I love toast. Maybe it is from growing up in England or what, but toast with “grandma butter” is my very favorite morning food. I will light some copal as an offering to my day & to the spirits, ancestors both living & passed, the faeries, & guides around me. I love washing myself, I love washing my face---so if I don’t have enough time for a full shower, I will splash warm water on my face & some wash followed by my friend Atlanta’s honeysuckle hydrosol. Adornment is so important, so I always put a single earring on my right ear either my Manat Duster that my friend Corrie made for me or this special one my friend Mindy gave me on my birthday a few years ago & a ring on the middle finger of my left hand, a long necklace, my scarf when it is chilly out, & a dash of some perfume before I leave the house. Once I am out in the world, I let the day direct me & upon returning home there is nothing I like more than making dinner, kissing Minori, letting the night fold us in.
Making tea is one of the most caring things I can do for myself & for others. In the colder months, I love decoctions & sometimes will decoct things all day like with Chaga. I find that both the act of making & drinking infusions or decoctions are truly settling, recalibrating. I make at least one pot of tea per day, sometimes I make the same blend for weeks, sometimes I switch it up more often. I go through phases. I am just coming out of my marshmallow leaf & agrimony phase. Also tinctures are place-holders for me. I will usually have a blend that I made for myself or one that someone has made for me & will take drop doses or full droppers of it three times or so per day. Right now my blend is really aromatic & rooty & I love it so much. It has the extracts of aralia & elecampane roots with a few drops of emerald gem essence in it. I find that tinctures help to bring you back into your own secret world, even if it is just for an instant, so I love them for that.
Other practices dear to me are swimming when I can—nothing knows me like the water does; stretching on the living room floor—I love feeling elongated; reading, making time to write, doing a crossword puzzle; listening to music has always been crucial but so has having silence, there is nothing like a little silence every so often, so I truly cherish times when I can let my voice rest as well; traveling somewhere familiar or brand new; playing the harp or making my weirdo sound-collage; having a candle or a few lit at night; washing my hair with a strong tea blend once per week; oh & taking baths, of course.
What is inspiring you at the moment?
Mmm… I feel so lucky to have really inspiring people around me, so I will try to keep this at a minimum! I finally received a copy of a book written by my dear, dear friend Adrian Shirk. It is called And Your Daughters Shall Prophesy—I have been hearing little snippets of it here & there, but my preordered copy got lost in the mail when I was in the midst of moving this summer! Anyhow, now I have it & I am savoring it though I want to devour it entirely.
I have also been so inspired by my wonderful friend & collaborator, Caitlyn Swett. She is an intuitive movement maker & will at times perform alongside me. Her dance is her magic, it is her joy. She has taught me so much about movement, about using the body as a vessel for ritual & expression. Sometimes we perform with a bigger collective, four-five of us who make sound or move. We are all doing a huge show in Greensboro, NC on the 9th of November as part of the North Carolina Dance Festival. But working solo with her has been the most engaging & inspiring for me, such a beautiful & quiet experience, it is like we are sharing secrets. She & I are working upon something special which I am so excited about because I will be making a recording for her & maybe including my harp (I normally keep the harp as a secret with myself), so we shall see what comes out!
Another good friend Ryan Martin just released a cassette & digital compilation of local sound-makers as a token for the 9th anniversary of his record label, Hot Releases. We just had an amazing two day show as celebration in Chapel Hill & everyone really blew my mind. I find that I am mostly inspired by the people making music around me, many of them are really playing with sound & expanding it beyond the forms we normally associate with “music”. It is a very humbling community to be part of. Anyhow, you can find the digital version & order a hard copy of the cassette by following this link, I highly recommend it! Minori & I have a piece on there, too. We go by de_Plata:
Oh & I have been having an Herbal Highway resurgence lately—both Karyn Sanders & Sarah Holmes totally inspire me so much. I just love listening to them it is like I am hearing about herbs & essences & medicine for the first time. Plus, they both have such distinct personalities that clearly come through in their subject matter & that just fills me right up. Another podcast series I have been tuning into lately is Dream Freedom Beauty. I am actually going to be a guest on the Self-Care Club in late November, the 28th to be exact, so you’ll have to tune in! Natalie has interviewed some incredible people on her show & I love how she begins each session by inviting her guest to lead the listeners in an invocation right off the bat. There is this one invocation lead by a woman in Asheville who does stone work, & wow I have never been so immediately dropped into a guided meditation before. It really stuck with me.
Do you have a recipe, remedy or ritual you feel like sharing for people to make or do at home?
Okay, yes, I have three things! One is for making a simple altar space, because altars are really special & extra potent during the autumn & winter times, when things slow down & we have more time to drop in to visit with them. Another is for a warming, rooting, deeply nourishing decoction to brew as we trod into these colder months. The last is for an Autumn mixtape or playlist to listen to in the bath, on a slow day, or whenever you’d like, really.
.:. An Altar a Day .:.
Take a few deep breaths & clear your mind, you are about to walk around your home & allow a space to make itself known to you. Take your time going from room to room, allow yourself to really take in each space, let yourself guide yourself to where you will build a little altar. This could happen in a number of ways: you could immediately feel drawn to a spot, you may feel a tingling or a shiver when you get to a certain area, you may feel you have spaced out when staring into a particular corner, maybe you just know you want to have your altar right here… all of these are little nudges that you are giving yourself, listen to them!
Once you find your spot, clear it out if there is clutter, give it a good sweep. You can burn some cedar or sage too if that feels right. You are now ready to place a table, a stool, a crate, a shelf, or whatever kind of surface you may have in this special place.
Having placed your surface down, you are now free to start laying it with various, meaningful objects. Perhaps you have a lovely piece of cloth you’d like to set down first, perhaps is it better to have a bare surface. Your altar can have a theme, or you can allow the theme to take form in front of you, as you spend time with it. Some commonly used & special objects you may want to include are: a candle, incense, tobacco, gemstones, dried roots, an anointing oil, flower essences, photographs, honey, a bell, special knick knacks… it all counts! If an object or herb or scent feels potent & magical to you, then it is potent & magical.
Once you have set your space up, take a small moment to sit with it, breathe yourself into the space & likewise the space into you. Let yourself have that moment. Know that you can come back here whenever you’d like. That you can pray here, wish here, dream here. You can offer your tears here or your secrets. You can also just simply sit. Keep a notebook to write special things inside of that may come up when you visit this place. This is your special spot, think of it as a room you walk into that is both part of the world & a world unto itself.
One last thing: remember to keep your altar clean, move it around, switch out objects, bring in new scents, dust it off here & there. This is a living space, & so often when we let them go unused, they just become a decoration in the room.
.:: The Root, The Seed, The Fruiting Body ::.
You’ll need: angelica root, cardamom pods or seeds, & reishi. If you’d like, you can also have: honey or maple syrup & the milk of your choice (I like oat, especially). This will make about 5 cups of decoction
::: Bring 6 cups of water to a boil
::: Add in a heaping cup of combined angelica root & reishi
::: Toss in a nice dash or more of cardamon pods/seeds
::: Cover right away with a lid & bring to a simmer for about 20 minutes, the water should noticeably have changed color & be quite aromatic (the longer you let it go for, the stronger it will be, but most likely you will need to add some more water along the way as it will steam off!)
::: Add a nice amount of honey or maple syrup in the bottom of a teacup
::: Strain your decoction & pour into your sweetened cup
::: Add some milk, if desired, enjoy!
:: Autumnal Listening ::
Rosemary by Virusse
Poplar Moon by Fursaxa
All the Way Down by Kelela
Rat Balsam by Kuupuu
Nothing New by Diaspoura
When It’s Time by Chucha
Rose Hip November by Vashti Bunyan
Lue Kartalta by Lau Nau
Know What I Want by Kali Uchis
There Is Blood In My Body by LOOM
Last but not least, I wanted to give some links to my other projects! I have a bandcamp page for my sound-work & will link my most recently published poems as well. I am actually in the midst of working on some recordings which my friend Phil, who plays as Lack, is going to be releasing for me on vinyl (!) as well as a collection of new poems I am going to send out in the hopes of getting a chapbook published. Lots of exciting wonders are in the works.
By myself, I make improvised & environmental sound-collage as mille. You can pronounce it however you’d like. My process with making sound is very similar to my process making flower essences, & I almost always use my essences during my performances. I play pretty often in Chapel Hill, but have been on a little break from performing because so much has been happening in the other areas of my life lately. Here is a link to some older recordings: www.mille.bandcamp.com + a link to the most recent performance that Caitlyn & I did together in May with a special cameo from my darling Widow who is burning moxa & using a singing bowl: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CcgMEGThgPo
Last fall I was able to travel to Canada & read from my collection of poems that were published in the 5th edition of this really great biannual poetry magazine based out of Toronto. It is called The 4poets. Everyone they publish is so special & unique… it is really heartening to be surrounded by people who love language & I definitely found a strong base of that in Toronto. Anyhow, here is the link to that issue: http://www.the4poets.com/issue-5/
Moon By Moon Apothecary has a brick and mortar location in Raleigh, North Carolina.