Pleasure as Ancestral Healing
by Yayi Joyce


I was taught Rootwork & Hoodoo by my Great-Aunt, Iola Willa Mae, a midwife and caretaker. She passed down stories that the women in our family have long been caretakers of other women. She taught me that pleasure is a part of Hoodoo & Rootwork because many women were oppressed in her times. My mom carried her torch and lit my light- the lighted torch of “do not allow oppression to steal your joy; no one can steal your pleasure away.”

Historically, enslaved people were oppressed and denied pleasure. So, pleasure as a practice in times they communed together was essential. 

Pleasure in our food, dance, music, the way we speak to each other, and how we dress and walk the soul in our blackness is intertwined with embracing the pleasure of our blackness. She taught me that pleasure is a natural state, not a luxury. We should teach our bodies to move toward the safety of feeling pleasure since society doesn't want us to feel that way.

So I ask you, what does pleasure mean to you? Do you feel safe, healthy, and nourished in your mind, body, and soul to feel pleasure in your life daily? It is widespread for us to experience guilt and shame around our pleasure. With some of my clients, I have noticed that even platonic forms of pleasure can often feel taboo for them.

Have you ever heard of "guilty pleasure"? In Hoodoo & Rootwork, words are powerful, and I aim to help women unlearn that you do not need to feel guilty about your pleasure.


I asked the people in my Hoodoo Healing Circle for women what pleasure means to them. And often the word pleasure was only associated with sex, gluttony, vacations in exotic places, chocolate overindulgence, untidiness, and even laziness. Sacrificing our joy, pleasure, rest, playtime, and happiness has been taught to us as the honorable thing to do. 

The blessings that our collective ancestors bring exist within each of us right alongside their excruciating patterns. Is it the gift of change? One of the beautiful things about life is that there are many ways we can honor and change our unhealthy ancestral patterns. The first step is changing the stories of our lives by living differently. 

We can rewrite intergenerational injury and recover through genealogical healing by embracing our pleasure, rest, and joy. And the beautiful thing about us owning our pleasure and fun is that it doesn't just apply to Black folks. Pleasure as healing applies to all groups and ethnic cultures of people who have experienced severe difficulties, oppression, silencing, displacement through genocide, or war. 

Owning our pleasure applies to all who have been discriminated against, faced challenges, or experienced land displacement.

Our ancestors' historical patterns give abundant wisdom and knowledge to produce the change that we want to see. Still, it starts with us owning our pleasure and joy and believing that we have enough ancestral technology to make a better future for those coming after us. 

Here are some journal prompts for you to explore your pleasure:

How can I give to myself more fully and care-take for myself?

How can I create sustainable productivity and task orientation in my life?

What gives me the greatest pleasures in mind, body & soul?

As we bask in the summer season of fire energy, use this fire energy to burn away pleasure-sacrificing behavior. No more breeding resentment, fatigue, health issues, frustration, and living life to depletion. This season is about prioritizing your sense of pleasure. By giving more fully to yourself, you not only honor yourself, but you honor your ancestors as well, and you start to create the energy of sustainable success.

So this summer, honor yourself by not burning the candle on both ends; honor yourself and your ancestor by not growing resentful and exhausted; honor yourself by taking time to celebrate all of your mind, body, and spirit.

You've heard the saying, "you can't give from an empty cup.”

Our affirmative statement this summer is," pleasure fills my mind, body, and soul so heavenly."

I wanted to share with you all some of the ways we can give our bodies and minds permission to enter a state of positive ease, play, rest, and of course, pleasure with some simple ways to cultivate more pleasure in your everyday life. 

Here are four rootworker self-care practices we use to bring healing to our bodies for clients and ourselves:

1) Greet the rising sun in the morning and take time to welcome it by going outside and feeling the "first sun," as my elders would call it, on your face. Take moments to close your eyes and listen to the sounds of nature and be one with the rising sun and the increasing joy of awakening in the morning.
2) Rootworkers will sometimes prescribe a spiritual “splashing” for a cold shower or a cold spiritual bath during the summer months instead of a warm one all the time. So grab some of your favorite herbs & roots for a spiritual bath and make it a cold one. 
3) I wouldn't be due to the South Carolina Way if I didn't share a tea recipe. Make the Fiyah Mi Up Tea or Fiyah Mi Up Cocktail using this special Herbal Simple Syrup. Kick up your feet and relax some. Anytime women would come with an issue of overgiving, relationship problems, or feel beaten down, my Aunt would reach for the - Fiyah Mi Up tea to pour her glass and let her vent her woes before prescribing her a root working prescription.
4) Humming! My great aunt would start humming as she prepared the tea and asked the women to join along. New research shows that humming helps your vagus nerve, and our ancestors were using that technology way before science approved its healing, so try some humming during this season as well.

Remember to own your pleasure is beyond sex, and to develop your self-adoration practice as ancestral healing for yourself and the collective, join me in my series: Reclaiming Sexual Pleasure Through Ancestral Insight.