By The Post Collective

“If the concept of diaspora, idealistic and romantic, is supported by a return of memories, real or fantasmatic, from the fact of remembering a lost origin, that of metaspora seeks to make becoming present. It is a set of acts making the events to come legible and current .”

Joël Des Rosiers, Métaspora. Essai sur les patries intimes, 2013

In biology, spore (σπόρος) is the seed of every plant. With a gesture of scattering, spores are randomly spread to create diasporic communities of a plant species. As diasporic communities (of people), we remain in the binary, here and there, us and them. Metaspora (in Greek: to re-plant) means to create new ecologies of multispecies togetherness, with care. Different but in synergy, this project chooses to create and cultivate an environment (a mythical garden as you see on the map), and re-root together.

Metacπora is an artistic research project that questions how people inhabit the landscape they are part of (or that they find themselves in) and their right to flourish in a place that is not their birth land. In this research group, members of the Post Collective (Sawsan Maher, Elli Vassalou, Mirra Markhaëva) and the artist in kinship Anna Housiada, women with different diasporic backgrounds (West Asia, Siberia and the Balkans) and diverse spiritual cultures (Christian Orthodox and Muslim religious traditions, Buddhist and shamanic practices, ancient Greek mythology), are experimenting with ways to connect with the — foreign to them — land of Belgium. They are seeking to restore their relationship with their body and each other, through self and collective care, developing bonds with the earth, the local human and non-human communities and create new collective, hybrid localities that enable them to re-root their spiritual and transindividual selves (their ancestors, their kin, their children).

Migrant identities are often deprived of connection with the land of their host country. Migrant life in the city is usually one of waiting and withholding or denying connection with what surrounds it in and beyond the city’s predesigned neoliberal lifestyle. That feeling of exclusion often results in enclosed diasporic communities as the only opportunity for people to connect with what is lost. In Metaspora, four migrant women, two children, and a dog are trying to break these boundaries of separate communities and distinguished practices of culture; to find their own ways as an open community; to redefine belonging and dream of a common future in Belgium; and as Joël Des Rosiers would say, to write “their own mythology, and forge post-national spaces, within the general movement of peoples”.1


map of Zarlardinge farm with re-planted stories of Metacποra, October 2022.

re-planting stories

“Myths were the maps of communities intimately dialoguing with their environment. Just as mycorrhizal fungi map the relationships in a forest, so do myths map the specific relationships of a community rooted in place.”

Sophie Strand, Rewilding Mythology

Over a full year of gatherings in the countryside of Zarlardinge (Geraardsbergen) in the Flemish Ardennes, the group celebrated diverse commoning rituals of life and land cycles (ex. the Buddhist New Year, the Greek Orthodox Easter, the Ramadan, May Day, Surharban, Samhain). They developed ways to braid together field observations, personal memories, distant geographies, folklore, myths, recipes and practices, finding common threads between them. Their storytelling found a place and time to be replanted on the Zarlardinge farm. As fungi connect different plants to each other, their stories enabled them to connect with each other and be nourished by the land itself.

Bad weeds and the Turkish seeds

During their summer meeting, the Metaspora team examined the notion of ‘bad weeds’: herbs that travel and grow ‘uninvited’ and ‘wild’ in the margins of agriculture. A term often used to dehumanize newcomers or speak about people who don’t follow societal norms. Μεγαλωσες σαν αγριόχορτο — “You grew up as a bad weed”, Elli’s father used to tell her to make her feel like less of a person. The Metasporas explored their relationship with this notion and shared stories and medicinal recipes in an attempt to reappropriate it.

Turkish seeds

During the Smyrna catastrophe in September 1922, the Greek Orthodox Christian populations of Anatolia2 (much like the Syriac and Armenian Christians before them) were brutally uprooted from their native land where they had co-existed for thousands of years. A lot of cities and villages were burned and many people were killed by the army of the neo-Turkish nationalists. The village Kato Panagia, where the great grandparents of Elli are from, and also the village of Sozaki, were burned to the ground. Sozaki village (where the thistle seeds were harvested) have since stayed uninhabited. In 1923, a Greek-Turkish population exchange which resulted from the signing of the “Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations” in Lausanne, Switzerland on January 30, 1923 was imposed by both the Greek and Turkish governments. The event forcibly relocated one and a half million people: Greek Muslims were relocated to Turkey, and Greek Orthodox Christians of Anatolia were forced to become refugees in Greece, some of them not even speaking the respective languages of their new nationality. This landmark event set a legal precedent for population management on the basis of religious or ethnic difference.3 Similar segregative policies, such as creating walls, partitions, and apartheids, have followed in its wake, offering the narrative that this is the only way to bring peace between multi-ethnic populations. The people who survived the violent events of 1922 quickly boarded ships and crossed the Aegean Sea, firstly to the Greek islands and later to mainland Greece, a refugee passage which has become active once again these last 20 years. In one of these ships, the paternal grandparents of Elli escaped the pogroms. After being rejected by their Greek relatives, they eventually settled in a refugee camp; a tin town in the centre of Athens (Prosfygika area). They were discriminated and hated by the mainland Greeks, blamed for the already bankrupt Greek state’s situation. Especially the women refugees were looked down upon as too flamboyant and opinionated, a hallmark of the higher position in society they enjoyed in their previous life (women of Anatolia were educated and were present in the public sphere during the late Ottoman era, a status they lost when becoming refugees). They were called many names, one of them was “Turkish seeds” τουρκόσποροι. Likewise, the incoming Muslims in Turkey were called Yunan dölü “Greek seeds”. In both cases, these names were used as an insult based on geographic origins, attributed to a genealogical connection with the soil through the body.

With the gesture of replanting the milk thistle seeds in September 2022 in Zarlardinge – 100 years after the aforementioned historical events – the Metaspora team is replanting Elli’s ancestral story, in Belgium, by evoking the thistle spirit, an iconic ‘bad weed’, unwanted visitor and survivor that “sprouts where it is not planted” (Greek saying: φυτρωνει εκεί που δεν τo σπερνουν). Elli and Sawsan recreated an ancient detox remedy still in use today, first mentioned in De materia medica (Περὶ ὕλης ἰατρικῆς) somewhere between 50-70 AD by Dioscorides, the so-called father of pharmacognosy from Asia Minor (Anatolia). By concocting this potion, the group attempts to decompose the toxic narratives of nationalism, reclaiming the bad weeds and the refugee identities by reconstituting their regenerating qualities in society, ecology and health in an embodied way.

Healing powers and origins of milk thistle

Carduus marianus or Silybum marianum is a species of thistle. It has various common names including milk thistle, blessed milk thistle, Saint Mary’s thistle, wild artichoke. This species is an annual or biennial plant of the family Asteraceae. It has purple flowers and shiny pale green leaves with white veins and spikes. It grows 60 to 150 cm high and blossoms from June to September. Like many thorny plants, it has become a Christian symbol. According to legend, Maria dripped a few drops of milk onto the leaves of the thistle while breastfeeding, which is said to have caused the white leaf spots and gave it the name “milk thistle”.

Silybum marianum is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe including Greece and expanding into Asia Minor and into Iran and Afghanistan to the east. Today, it has also spread around the world, a consequence of field cultivation, as its seeds travel together with wheat seeds in wheat bags, linking the human and non-human metacπora worlds.

The milk thistle is a very significant old medicinal plant. It contains the active ingredient silymarin which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substance that shows excellent results in the treatment of liver and gallbladder infections (hepatitis, cirrhosis, and more). It scientifically verifiably awakens enormously regenerative powers and can prevent severe liver damage in case of symptoms resulting from poisoning by the death cap (Amanita phalloides) – if the silymarin is administered early enough. A cure containing the seeds of the milk thistle can support liver regeneration after an abundance of alcohol or other substances. It can also maintain balanced cholesterol levels. It is effective in curing nausea accompanied by vomiting and loss of appetite. It is effective in curing burning sensations in the stomach. It helps in relieving symptoms of gallstones and associated ailments. It also establishes a healthy flow of bile and prevents the formation of gallstone colic. It cures burning sensations in the urethra and retention of urine is relieved. It helps against haemorrhoids and associated issues.

External use: astringent, suitable for wounds.

Milk thistle preparations must be avoided in any form by people who have existing allergies to milk thistle. Do not use it without consulting a doctor.


1,2 - Wild milk thistle harvest in the abandoned Greco-Turkish village of Sozaki, Erythrae Peninsula, Asia Minor, (TU), Summer 2022, (Chios Island (GR) is visible on the horizon). 3,4 - Elli and Sawsan make milk thistle tincture in Zarlardinge (BE), Summer 2022.

Milk thistle tincture recipe


Time, milk thistle seeds, alcohol: raki, white rum or vodka will do — Vinegar can be a good replacement solvent for those who do not want to use alcohol. Either way, if you use the tincture in warm water or tea, the alcohol evaporates immediately.


Carrier bag, garden gloves, plant cutter, 500ml jars, mortar, big tea colander, coffee filters, amber glass bottles with eye droppers (30-50 ml), small funnel (that fits the opening of the glass bottles), labels and pen.


Find already opened thistle flowers in summer/autumn, preferably during full-moon days. The fruits/seeds are black achenes with a simple long white pappus. A long pappus acts as a ‘parachute’, supporting seed dispersal by wind. The flower should easily release the seeds. Pinch the flower pappus with your hand to remove the parachute with seed. Remove the pappus and keep the seeds. If you want to gather a large quantity of thistles, then you can cut the flower heads with a plant cutter and put them in a large carrier bag or basket. Shake the bag so more seeds get released. Gather the seeds from the bag and flower heads and store them in a dry, dark space.


Ground the seeds gradually with a mortar or blender. Put small quantities of seeds into the mortar, so you can pulverize them more easily.

Put the pulverized seeds in a jar until full and dunk them in alcohol at a 1:1 volume ratio. Put the jars in a dry place, away from the sun.

Take time

Every day and for 40 days, shake the mixture in the jars. Let them settle untill the next day.


Empty the jars in a larger container using a big tea colander and press the seeds to remove all liquid.

Pass the liquid through a coffee filter a second time, so all small particles are removed. Have patience, let it drip drip drip.

Put the clear liquid into the dropper bottles with the help of the funnel. Your tincture is ready!


Mark the name and ingredients of the tincture, and the month and year of production. Tinctures can be kept for up to two years if they are stored in a dark and dry place.


Everyday detox use

If you feel defeated and toxified by borders, waiting, paperlessness, bureaucracy, nationalism, poverty, discrimination, patriarchy, racism, depression, stress or any other shit caused by neoliberal politics and lifestyle, take 10-20 drops of milk thistle tincture in tea or water in the morning, preferably on an empty stomach. Thistle will help your liver to boost happy neurotransmitter production in the gut, supporting both serotonin and melatonin: you will feel rested and joyful and ready to show up and fight for a better world another day.


Increase the intake to 2-3 doses of 20 drops per day.

For other uses, please ask your therapist

  1. “Métaspora. Essai sur les patries intimes”, Joël Des Rosiers, Montréal, Tryptique, 2013 

  2. Today’s Türkiye, also called Asia Minor. 

  3. “Humanism in Ruins. Entangled Legacies of the Greek-Turkish Population Exchange”, Asli Iğsiz, Stanford University press, 2018 

  4. Vinegar can be a good replacement solvent for those who do not want to use alcohol. Either way, if you use the tincture in warm water or tea, the alcohol evaporates immediately.