Why do modern people yearn for a return to the land and feel as if they are missing something spiritually from their connection with food? Perhaps because they have lost touch with their natural selves, their ancestral stories, and their roots in ancient myth and ritual.
The yearning that so many of us feel for a “return to the earth” can be seen as acknowledgment that something is lacking in our daily lives, and the fact that crucial elements of life are missing from mainstream culture.
There are no utopias to be found in the past, however, the spiritual values around which some ancient societies were structured seem much more sane than our own. True, ancient traditions and rituals may have been engendered by fear of angry goddesses wreaking havoc through natural disasters, a way to appease fickle Nature, but they seem also to have sprung from a deep connection to Earth and all beings.
Living in Balanced Societies Tied to the Seasons & Respect for All
For tens of thousands of years, all across the globe, humankind lived in balanced societies that were tied to the seasons, with respect for elders, male and female equally, and belief systems that recognized and honored Spirit in all aspects of life, but especially in food.
When the temples were the centers of life, they were surrounded by villages and small farms. But when the warrior culture from the Caucasian Mountains and the Russian steppes spread across the Middle East, Europe, and India, the conquerors—Aryans, Indo-Europeans, and Kurgans—transformed these small agrarian societies.
Rival kings created palaces instead of temples. Male relatives formed aristocracies based on fear and war. And landowners now found themselves to be tenants and slaves.
The Celts' Central Way of Life: Agriculture and Respect for All
Called Keltoi and Galatatae by the Greeks, and Celtae or Gaii by the Romans, the peoples considered Celtic (who shared a common language) extended to northern Italy from central Europe and into the British Isles. Prior to Caesar’s conquest of Gaul (France) in the AD 50s, there was extensive trade with Rome. It’s believed that Rome’s thirst for gold prompted the invasion.
Until the Romans invaded the British Isles starting in 55 BCE, the Celtic people lived in small villages, with agriculture the central way of life, filled with festivals and respect for goddesses and fertility of the soil. The Great Mother was known by many names around the Mediterranean, including Rehe, Cybele, Demeter, Astarte, Aphrodite, Isis, and Ma. The Celtic goddess Brigit was associated with grain, the very soul of agriculture and food. The making of bread itself, from grain to flour to dough to bread, was considered an alchemy and blessing, emblematic of transformation.
Roman occupation and influence lasted just under 400 years, until about AD 410. Tacitus writes that the Celts made no distinction in the gender of their leaders and were used to women commanders in war. The most famous were Cartimandua, queen of the Brigantes, and Boudica, queen of the Iceni. Women may also have had greater rights pertaining to marriage, divorce, property ownership, and the right to rule, similar to Native American societies.
Western Culture & Society: Classical Greek and Roman Dominance
When we talk of Western culture and history, we are usually generally referring to Classical Greek and Roman times. It’s not because the British Isles and European countries didn’t have their own histories—they did; but the ancient Celtic peoples had their religion destroyed, their places of worship dismantled, their religious and cultural leaders killed, and their children taught the ways of Rome.
The minimizing of the value of agriculture and its historically intrinsic connection with Spirit goes hand in hand with the subjugation of women. It’s no coincidence that agriculture, food, Spirit, and the role of women and elders are all marginalized in Western society. Indeed, they are of one piece: the divinity of land, food, and women has been “conquered” and relegated to lesser status. Moreover, when Europeans came to the Americas, they sought (and largely accomplished) the same annihilation of culture in their dealings with indigenous peoples that had occurred to them in the homelands they had left behind.
Starting Anew: Rewriting Stories of Agriculture & Lifestyle
Ironically, this monoculture may today be a way of salvation. In some Native American societies, among medicine people, it was sometimes necessary for one to forget everything to be taught anew. Among the Cherokee, for example, certain herbs were used to “erase” memory, so that the person could be taught medicine ways. The mental slate was effectively “wiped clean.”
While this could be disastrous if literally carried out in modern society, nevertheless, it’s a useful allegory. When it comes to infusing agriculture with Spirit and forging a better way of approaching food and eating, a little amnesia might be a good thing, just as selective memory—such as recalling the Divine feminine and religious connections noted here from the past—can provide an historical grounding for the future.
Now it seems, things are beginning to change all over. Communities that work together to create new dynamics of social progress and self-sufficiency that were ignored as oddball phenomena are now gaining serious media attention. Young people are going into farming and beginning to revitalize moribund rural areas. And the urban farming movement has taken off in many major cities. The stories of agriculture are being rewritten, in inclusive ways—with regard for gender equality, sustainability, and provision for elders and generations to come.
By returning Spirit to food, we create edible prayers that are healing for ourselves and our planet.
©2012 by Jim PathFinder Ewing. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Findhorn Press. www.findhornpress.com.
Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating
by Jim PathFinder Ewing.
The book outlines how modern people can avoid being victims of bio-cultural evolution and the resultant entropy of declining global and personal health — and instead contribute to the movement toward mindful food choices and better world health, both physically and spiritually. The author discusses how society can nurture the unseen Spirit world that permeates plants through adopting nondenominational spiritual understandings, and includes how-to examples for growing organic food and fostering a supportive community and urban agriculture, as well as notes for expanded resources.
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About the Author
Jim PathFinder Ewing is an award-winning journalist, author, and organic farmer. When not teaching farmers and would-be farmers how to grow sustainably using organic growing methods, Jim is a workshop leader, inspirational speaker and author in the fields of mind-body medicine and eco-spirituality. He is the author of six books (Findhorn Press) on mindfulness and alternative health, published in English, French, German, Russian and Japanese. He lives in Lena, Mississippi, where he also runs a commercial organic farm with his wife. For more, see his website: blueskywaters.com