Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Permaculture and Earth Based Spirituality

I feel I have always had a connection with the Natural world around me. Although I grew up in a suburban town, white walled with manicured lawns, I sought out the magickal places. Places where trees grew tall and creeks bubbled, where rabbits bounded away from my footsteps and birds carried their song through the blue skies of summer.
Even though I could still hear the hum of traffic in the distance, and would pluck at the litter left by the banks, these places did something to my soul.


I started practicing Earth based spirituality quite young, when I was about 11 or so I brought my first book on Witchcraft. It stirred something in me, and I realized that I had been practicing this instinctively anyway.

Now that I am a Permaculturist, the two seem to go hand in hand. First of all, let me mention that Permaculture has no religious or spiritual connotation, it is a Design Science based on Systems Ecology.
There are many ways to define Permaculture, and I do not think one definition is 'right'. Permaculture is many things, and has now been taken and adapted by many different cultures and people. My definition of Permaculture is "Careful Research, Planning and Design of Social, Building or Landscape Systems which mimic Nature for Maximum Efficiency".
Permaculture considers each element and its relationship to all other elements within that system, aiming to create a multi-functional, closed loop system.
To me, Permaculture is common sense.

So it may be a shock to some saying that Earth based spirituality and Permaculture are elements which combine fluidly in my life. Sometimes talking spirituality (and having dreadlocks) somehow means you are taken less seriously.
I do not believe science and spirituality are mutually exclusive, and if Permaculture looks to many ancient cultures for its inspiration, we are truly missing the myth, story, culture and spirituality that often accompany these ways of life.
We have lost our sense of ritual in many aspects. Now we have other rituals, whether it is our morning ritual of brushing our teeth or making our coffee... but these do not necessarily connect us to the land.

When I was younger and I first read about Witchcraft and Paganism, it sang to the depths of my soul. It was all about seasonal festivals that tied into our food, celebrating the harvest by making corn dollies, or caring for ourselves in the depths of winter during Yule (Christmas) by using the vegetation available at the time; Oranges, cloves, pine needles. These festivals celebrated the longest and shortest night of the year, and gave rituals to focus on what this meant internally as well as externally.
Samhain (Halloween) was celebrated as a Pagan festival, Pumpkins being ripe during October in the Northern Hemisphere. Now, in Australia, we follow this trend, but instead of following the seasons, we take the calendar date and ship pumpkins in from the North. You will find Pumpkins in supermarkets in Australia during the month of October, which removes us even further from our connection to the seasons and our food.
Although Paganism spoke of a 'God' and a 'Goddess', I always saw this as duality, balance, and the harmonious forces of homeostasis which makes life on Earth possible.
The sea and the land, the sun and the moon, rain and fire, air and earth... I grew up with an awe and appreciation for everything which makes life possible; the tilt of the Earth responsible for the seasons, the way wind moves along the equator meaning that it does not suffer radiation burn, the thermal mass of the oceans that creates variations in climate, how each thing has evolved to have its own niche, nothing is wasted, everything is used by nature in a self cycling system.
To me, all these things were 'God' and 'Goddess'. The fact that the Earth provided us with all we needed for survival was enough to leave me in absolute reverence for each breeze, seed and leaf.

When I discovered Permaculture, the science only seemed to back up my awe and inspiration. I started to connect my rituals with collecting herbs, tending to the garden and even working on my designs. Working with Nature is a very sacred act to me.
Celebrating fertility during the months of spring, when all things are being pollinated and mating, and having an understanding within myself that my own ideas will be germinating, ready for the full bloom and busyness of Summer, helps me to align myself with what is going on in the world around me.
We are not separate from Nature, and these practices show me this each day.

Witches, or anyone thought to use magick or practice Herbalism or Earth based spirituality, were burnt at the stake or drowned. The Spanish Inquisition tried to wipe out this form of 'worship', and women were mostly targeted. Now when I think of this, I understand how we have come so far from understanding our place within Nature. Much knowledge was lost during this time, and not just knowledge, but understanding.
It was made illegal to have a relationship with Nature, and I truly believe we are still suffering the repercussions of this time.
Women used to sing, tell stories and practice ritual during gathering and preparing food, and men used to do the same when hunting. The pulse of the planet was felt with each grain plucked from the field, with each arrow that hit its mark, with each mouthful chewed for survival and nourishment.
I think just living is spiritual, if we only take the time to remember, be grateful, and form a relationship with what sustains us.


I wish to ground myself deeper in Nature, using practical Permaculture, Earth Science and Earth Spirituality to understand my place within this chaotic equilibrium of life.
Using Permaculture design to take action, and a connection to the breathe of life, I feel we can really move forward into a regenerative way of living.
Once an understanding of the seasons takes place, and there is a feeling as if each living thing is responsible for the survival of our species, we start to feel a sense of respect for the world around us.
If we were to love each element within an ecosystem and treat it as family, I doubt there would be as much mindless abuse of resources, vegetation and wildlife.

There is no one form of spirituality, nor is there any one right answer to 'save the world'. However, having an understanding of climate and the seasons, whether on a practical or spiritual level, helps keep us in tune with what sustains us.
Practicing this kind of awareness is important to reconnect us to not only the Earths rhythms, but our own.

I recommend starting with Observation. x





If you would like to learn more about Permaculture, Primitive Living and Ritual, and gain a deeper awareness of yourself and the Natural world, please have a look at the 'Sacred Ecology' Course commencing in June 2015, Melbourne Australia.