The Story of the Festival
As Told By Emilee Saldaya, The Founder of MRF
The festival is located on very special private land in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The moment I stepped foot on the land that would later be known as “The Magic Place” by the beloved festival participants — I knew.
It’s really quite remarkable how the whole thing came to be:
My family and I were looking for a rural place to settle. We were ready to find our forever home–the place to grow roots and make all our dreams come true. I knew wherever we landed had to include my vision of this festival.
I didn’t know yet how it would all come together, but I knew if I followed my heart’s calling, the land would find me.
In our pursuit of the perfect place, we stumbled upon this piece of raw land with the smallest for sale sign. It was love at first…walk.
It’s an unspoiled rural hideaway at the end of a dirt road, just five minutes from town, with acres and acres of green space, rolling hills, wooded areas with lots of trees, and a beautiful small lake. There’s a fruitful spring that now waters our entire event, from the bathhouse, to the kitchen, to the many sprinklers the children play in. My favorite part is that when you’re on the land, you can’t see any other houses, driveways, cars, or buildings. It’s just….well…magic.
At the time, we didn’t have the resources to buy the land because we’d just spent every dollar we had on our own place. So I told the sweet old man who had owned it for the past 30 years that I wanted it, needed it, and to please keep me in mind. And within just a few short months, he called me and said, “Make me an offer because I'm retiring, I don't want to own this property anymore - and I want your family to have it.”
Call it fate, manifestation, or pure magic, but in June 2021, just months after I first set my eyes on this beautiful piece of land, I made it happen and we closed on the property just a few days short of hosting our first Matriarch Rising Festival.
It’s very emotional for me each year to see all the women, the mothers, the friends, the grandmothers, and the little girls descend on this land that my family and I pour our hearts and souls into, month after month, year after year. It is my greatest joy to share this event with you, this land with you, and to see the women and children seek such refuge in the place I call home.
A Love Note to the Land
The Blue Ridge Mountain area is a mystical mountain range that is dense with grass, shrubs, hemlock, and mixed-oak pine forests.
It’s common during the festival to see women running barefooted and free, talking to plants, and foraging for plant medicine. And it’s our mission to leave the land raw to protect and celebrate the flora and fauna. In our annual opening circle, we take our shoes off, say hello the the nature around us, and take in the beauty that this region has to offer us.
The plant life is diverse in the area, with native ferns, American Pokeweed, Virginia creeper, red-dead nettle, mosses, wildflowers, and a vast array of fungi, including the turkey-tail mushroom and indigo milk cap.
The area also has many animals, reptiles, fish species, and amphibians, including the Eastern Gray Squirrel, Eastern Cottontail Rabbit, common snapping turtle, Caroline Wren, Carolina Chickadee, American black bear, wild boar and turkey, whitetail deer, moose, elk, and red and gray fox.
Each year, our community herbalist Arielle de Martinez does an annual Summer Solstice Herb Walk through our gorgeous festival grounds. You’ll learn about medicinal herbs and plant allies that grow close to us, wildcrafting ethics, and plant identification tips. This walk is for all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned herbalists, and is a great way to get to know the land we call “the Magic Place.”