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The Moth Queen opens shop doors in River Arts District

Sierra Gray
An image of the Moth Queen Botanica.

Sierra Gray, a local black indigenous witch and small business owner, unlocked doors to the grand opening of “The Moth Queen Botanica” the weekend of September 23 in The Canopy at Art Garden AVL.

The Moth Queen Botanica is a black indigenous botanica owned by Sierra Gray. The Hoodoo and Magick Botanica is stocked with oils, candles, divination and ritual salts as well as offering custom tea leaf readings.

“Almost everything I make I made because there was an instance where I needed it,” Gray said. “It’s so funny. All of the oils I’ve made there were different situations where I was like ‘Oh this would be a good oil to have for that’’’.

The medicine woman said the reason for opening Moth Queen Botanica is so everyone has room at the table. It is for people who look like her, who unfortunately get flooded out of the market and for people who don’t look like her seeing there is someone out there practicing. 

Gray said she wants her store to be accessible and approachable. 

“My biggest thing is the representation of the people who look like me and practice like me is just not out there,” the magic practitioner said. “As being the token black girl, I hate that terminology, but being the token black girl in a lot of these metaphysical spaces out here is just not helpful when the same people in the space are perpetuating a lot of the colonizer things in the community.”

A portrait photo of Sierra Gray. (Sunahtah Jones)

The small business owner said people who are not educated on where certain practices come from and what cultures, but continue to profit off of it is incredibly unfair, frustrating and shows a lack of integrity. 

Gray said many crystals, herbs and other magical items are imported from places like Africa or Brazil, yet rarely get the credit. 

“My mentor always says ‘If you want to talk about the goddess, and there’s no room at the table for black women then you’re missing out on a big part of it,” Gray said. “There’s the dark divine and there’s the light divine but all of us exist. Everyone has got to have a space at the table to speak, and if you’re going to hush certain people and take their knowledge that’s just fair. It’s not fair.”

The business owner said they ask their mentor for advice when feeling frustrated about things both related and unrelated to magic work. 

“I talk with my mentor about this because I believe we are all divine and have magic in us. Some people express it differently than others. Some people find God through church. Some people find God through whatever I am doing,” Gray said.

Gray said one day she asked her mentor how she maintains her divinity as a black woman in a market dealing with erasure, and operates as a woman in general.

Gray said she asked “How do you maintain operating in your divinity?” and her mentor’s response was: “Three things: compassion, integrity and grace.” 

“Ever since she said that it really resonated with me that I do the same thing,” Gray said.

Gray said she grew up in Atlanta and her mother was a witch. She said as an adult moving from Charlotte to Asheville made them grow in their craft through many spiritual encounters and callings. 

“I was raised with some sort of craft, but it was more of a remembering. It was like remembering my own magic and doing my own crafts,” the Moth Queen said. “I was a solitary practitioner, so it was just me and my guides. For me to get to the level and depth of craft I had to resolve a lot of trauma on my own. I had learned what worked and what didn’t on my own.” 

Gray said through understanding their heritage and what pertains to them formed their craft and what magic specifically worked for them. 

“If you do your craft in those practices it’s going to be easier. It’s going to be more potent,” the medicine woman said. “I wish people would understand and if you do that inner depth work that it wouldn’t be so hard.”

Gray shares background on their work and explores their background in order to connect with their craft. 

“The African diaspora traditions that fuse with the indigenous practices – that’s where I am from. I am not just straight from Africa, and I’m not straight indigenous. I am literally a combination of both, and so that’s the practice that my people are from. That’s the practice in me ancestrally and is expressed so effortlessly because of that.”

Gray said they find after working in Asheville for a while many people are not fully educated on closed practices, what to use and what not to use. The medicine woman referenced white sage, palo santo and closed practices to indigenous people. 

The small business owner said in their opinion the spiritual community in Asheville is not small, but flat, meaning it is spread out but does not run very deep. 

“I am an indigenous person, and I do not even use white sage,” the moth queen said. “Outside of the cultural context it is going endangered.”

An image of Gray doing a tarot spread. (Sunahtah Jones)

The small business owner said they incorporate herbs that speak to them in the work and store. These herbs are introduced into their work through their lineage and what can be applied to what is going on in their life. 

“I make a smoking blend for creativity and inspiration. Mullen medicinally is really good for getting mucus out of the lungs. Energetically for creativity it also is a blockage clearer,” Gray said, comparing the clearage to aid in writer’s block. 

The medicine woman said they incorporate a lot of mountain magic into their work as well as their lineage magic. She said when she transferred from UNC Charlotte to UNC Asheville for the women and gender studies major she could feel the mountain magic. 

“I moved out here to finish school, but then I ended up at a different kind of school(Chestnut). These mountains are so old. There’s old magic out here. They were like ‘Nope, we have got a different plan for you,’” the practitioner said.

The store owner said they have indigenous ancestry. Their family has three different tribes traced back to Cherokke, Creek and Choctaw between two sides. 

“A lot of Asheville witches that write a lot of books on Appalachian magic and folk magic and I am like ‘Cherokee magic?’ because a lot of plants that you’re using were historically used in indigenous practice and how your ancestors only really know that information because of colonization.”

Gray said a lot of voices that should not be writing these books are and those who should be writing the books aren’t. 

Some examples the store owner said they recalled of this was seeing a book on conjuring Harriett Tubman written by someone who was not black and High John the Conqueror root being used without recognition of it pertaining to hoodoo, voodoo and no inclusion of the symbol he represents. 

“And so when I see people around me profiting off of it it’s just really stressful to put it lightly. It’s really unfair, is the truth. Not only do you have the resources to profit as a business already because you are a white person, but you are using stories and sentiments that you’ll never even truly understand,” Gray said. 

The store owner said they need people to give credit where credit is due, and put in the work to what you practice. They hope people who want to enrich their understanding of themselves, the world around them and/or their practice will stop by their store. 

The Moth Queen Botanica is located at 191 Lyman St. in Asheville, North Carolina. To shop and support digitally, visit Ritual Herb Items | The Moth Queen.

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