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Magpie Alchemy Founder Honors Their Ancestral Heritage of Medicinal Practices and Weaving

Jamie Cardenas and Liberty Rapada present as Adult Allies at Buong Loob Filipinx Youth Internship at Balboa High School. Photo: Jamie Cardenas

In response to the hardships and aches experienced by the Filipino community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Jamie Pesquiza Cardenas founded Magpie Alchemy as a labor of love, creating products that incorporate plant medicine and reflect the cultural identity of her/their Filipino heritage. What started as a handmade soap business soon evolved into an apothecary offering natural remedies and ancestral knowledge to soothe and heal the mind, body, and spirit.

“I learned through dealing with my own chronic illness that the way we consume products ties to our health and managing what’s called a chemical load,” Cardenas said. “It was a passion project to get people to be more intentional about how they’re taking care of themselves, even something as small as soap. But really what that evolved to was a full-blown apothecary.”

Cardenas, an Ilokana potions maker, alchemist, and founder of Magpie Alchemy’s newest iteration, the Ayat Project, created the business following the birth of her/their daughter Maggie, also known as Magpie. Having struggled with endometriosis and infertility, Cardenas knew she/they wanted to explore what it means to heal using ancestral practices and products of the Philippines. She/they designed Magpie’s logo, a triangle symbolizing the earth, sky, and humanity combined with a blue feather of transcendence and spiritual evolution, to represent her/their family and company as a unit.

With a desire to prioritize the safety of immunocompromised customers during the pandemic, Magpie Alchemy transitioned from a retail store in Sacramento to a San Francisco-based lab space that houses a weaving studio and primarily focuses on online sales and pop-up events. Cardenas describes Magpie Alchemy as a “love letter to the community” and a means for Filipinos in the diaspora to connect to the Philippines.

“Introducing our community to Filipino ancestral plants is a small way that we can bring that part of home here, especially when many of us just don’t have access to go there, and the connection is lost,” Cardenas said. “As a cultural worker from the South Sacramento, Valley High neighborhood, I have a deep love for my city, and although the urge to move to the Bay Area is real, I believe it’s important for me to stay and be a resource.”

Liberty Rapada, who began an apprenticeship at Magpie Alchemy in 2021, discovered the apothecary during the pandemic, grateful for the products that brought solace and relief to them and their family during times of emotional dysregulation.

“I gifted my dad a Panda Balm to encourage him to rest and take care of his body. It reminded him to slow down and create a self-care ritual through aromatherapy and muscle rubs,” Rapada said.

Rapada and Cardenas formed a connection through their shared journey of exploring their Filipino culture and family histories. Together, they learned how to hold space for the layers of grief that arise while crafting medicinal products, from bath bombs and soaps to massage and body oils.

“Sharing the plant medicine with my friends and family has been a powerful experience. It brings back memories of loved ones lost, especially during the pandemic,” Liberty said. “It’s a holistic experience that involves not just the mind, but also the body, as touch and safety are important.”

Film Portrait of Jamie Cardenas by Liberty Rapada, who views film as a powerful way of capturing the energy of Kapwa. Follow #FilmTellsTheTruth to see more of their work.

Amongst her/their products of balms and hydrosols, Cardenas aims to destigmatize cannabis through antiinflammatory items focused on gut health like their cannabigerol (CBG) tincture.

“CBD in a topical balm is a great way to do that and help others recognize the anti-inflammatory benefits,” Cardenas said. “With the CBG Tincture, people have told me that they don’t have racing thoughts anymore, or they don’t have 24/7 stomach aches, or they feel like they can have conversations because they’re not so anxious. That’s powerful.”

Over the years, Cardenas has gained more profound insight into her/their ancestral heritage of medicinal practices and weaving and the movement of deep remembering to reclaim what it means to be Filipino.

“We were caretakers of the land, medicine makers, and weavers. I see weaving as a form of resistance, a way to leave something for our future ancestors. Creating blankets, for example, is a powerful act because I can hold my grandmother’s blankets and feel her embrace, even after she has passed. The most loving act is to be embraced,” Cardenas said.

As Magpie Alchemy continues to celebrate the healing power of plants and honor the ancestral practices of the Philippines, it is redefining what it means to live a healthy life rooted in community and self-care.

“One of the biggest lessons I’m learning is there’s power in being together and answering the call to community,” Cardenas said. “We’ve been told to heal and live in an individualistic way, but biologically, we need each other to survive.”

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