As we move from Spring through to the onset of Summer, we traditionally celebrate Beltane. At this time of year as the vitality, power and strength of father sun merges with the creative, enabling life force of mother earth, we witness the alchemical union of these primal energies in our outer world. As acknowledged in previous articles, the divine masculine and feminine energies that we all embody within, when harmoniously in balance are often referred to esoterically as Sacred Union. We can also apply these energetic blueprints to permaculture design in practice.
The ‘masculine’ principle can be associated with active, rational, linear thinking processes which we would commonly attribute to thematic observation when engaging with site analysis during the early stages of the permaculture design process. In the ‘masculine’ state of mind, we examine and “look” to consider what we may need to ‘do’ to maximise the potential of the site, viewing the land from a more practical and objective standpoint. We review the functions that we need the site to fulfil, which elements are present and how we can ensure that they are placed appropriately so as to obtain productive yields. We hypothesise about how we can reduce the effort and energy spent working on the land.
Certain processes require more in-depth investigations, for example in analysing soils to obtain a more scientific understanding of which planting schemes are appropriate, viable and realistic. Questioning and challenging our initial assumptions about a site are important as well as following through and committing to ensure that all necessary action is taken. Masculine energy aids us in having the courage to initiate change whilst honouring and protecting the lifeforms that we are working with.
The ‘feminine’ on the other hand would be related to a non-thematic form of observation whereby we “see” the various natural delights that are around us. We are fully present, simply being in the moment, immersed in the experience, passively engaging with what ‘is’. We are emotionally and physically engaged with our surroundings and receptive; supportive of the natural growth processes, sights, sounds and smells encountered. We might find ourselves imagining which creative aspects of life, be they flowers, plants, bees, fruits or berries may come into fruition; holding space for what could be…
We may find that we are energised by our own creativity and connection with life as aesthetic visions, hopes and dreams seem to just come, offering inspiration and promise. We hold a deep reverence and demonstrate our love for the wonderful creatures and forms we see all around; the rabbits with their young; playful leaping lambs and dazzling daffodils which enchant and delight, each in their own ways. We gently nurture and perhaps intuitively water a parched looking plant, tending the needs of those who are in our presence. Here we blossom in the fullness of our relationships with life and the other beings that live with us. This embodied understanding of our inter-existence with all other living things always informs our practice and any decisions that we make.
This beautiful interplay and dance between both energies is pivotal in the initiation and conception of any permaculture design project. As the active, warming and potent force of the sun warms up the creative potential of our loving earth we may consider with rapture what kind of world we can generate and bring in to being together. Acknowledging that we need both of these sacred energies in union to bring about the world that we desire.
"As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that’s the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves”
I hope you and your family are all keeping well and happy.
Sometimes if takes a sudden unexpected event like the one we are all going through now to appreciate what is really important in our lives. I know that I have been more aware of the wonderful wildlife all around me. From my back garden which, I am lucky to say, overlooks some woodland, I have seen wild deer, canadian geese, birds, pigeons, rabbits. I have noticed that once again this year we have two blackbirds making a nest in our rambling wood shed. Life is going on all around me and I cannot help but think this is how it should be for everyone on earth, living close to nature and seeing the stars clearly in the sky at night.
Because of the current world health crisis I have decided to look at some of our beliefs about "germ theory" of disease. We might have been going in the wrong direction by placing our health into the hands of a medical system which is a monoculture, based on the pharmaceutical industry. It follows “germ theory” which is now under question.
As we say in permaculture, it is best to ‘work with nature’, with all of life’s biological systems. We want to follow the path that promotes our health and well-being through natural processes, and we have much to learn as we begin to understand the emerging ‘new’ biology. The knowledge is out there, it is up to us to find it and make the connections.
Up until now modern medicine has followed the germ theory set out by Louis Pasteur (1822 -1895) – that we become sick when our bodies are invaded by foreign organisms such as, bacteria, molds, fungi, and viruses.
At this time we are more aware of how quickly things can change. Overnight, our way of life has been changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. There has been much confusion and much fear. Alongside this, we have been given precious time to stop what we have been doing and to reflect deeply on our way of life.
Just like in the soil, we all carry minute life forms within us which support our physical and mental health. provided that our ‘internal milieu’ or “terrain” is supportive.
Over 150 years ago scientists working in the same field as Pasteur developed another theory known as the “ terrain theory”, which has much relevance today as we struggle to maintain a strong immune system. This theory "works with nature", it considers the importance of our own internal ecostysem – "the terrain within us".
Terrain theory says that the most important factor that determines whether or not a person becomes ill is not the presence of a germ, but rather the preparedness of the body’s internal environment (the "soil" or terrain) to repel or destroy the germ.
We are all unique and carry within us our very own ‘pattern of microbes’ , which reflects our ancestry and our way of life. What we put into our mouths, what we breathe in from our external environment and what we inadvertently get from the culture we live in; all affect the populations of microbes within us.
We know that our current world culture produces many chemicals, pollutants and hazards harmful to our health and well-being. But we can change our lifestyle practices to help keep our intestinal flora healthy and vibrant.
It is known that between 70 - 80 per cent of the body’s immune cells are located in the digestive tract and how these cells function depends on whether the 100 trillion bacteria living within our intestines are of the healthy or unhealthy type. The intestinal flora feed on the nutrition they receive, so if we provide food that supports the healthy ones, they help us to create our own health.
Like building up the diversity of life within the soil, we can mulch and nurture our own inner garden, growing and producing healthy people who understand and respect the living systems of the earth, including the living systems within us.
In a recent article Merlin Hanbury – Tenison says “Scientists are investigating the influence of the ecosystem of bacteria and organisms which live in our digestive system (the gut biome), which may have a role in our ability to fight disease, our physical health and even our moods. Our bodies are literally riddled with life". Harnessing this power could be a more sustainable way to combat pandemics, rather than creating new chemicals and drugs – particularly when antibiotic resistance is such a growing problem.”
For those of you who may be interested in studying further, here is my selection, concentrating on Vitamin C.
Patrick Holford talking on Immunity - interviewed on Irish television -April 2020
A fascinating interview, with new information about Vitamin C levels in patients seriously ill with Covid 19, also the role of the adrenal glands and Vitamin C
Listen to podcast No 5 with Dr Thomas Levy
Some light relief: What we all should be doing right now
"What is the most fundamental way to restore natural immunity? Our blood, including the immune cells, is made from what we eat. By changing our food, we change the plasma or liquid portion of the blood, and also the red cells,and lymphocytes, including T–Cells and B–Cells."
This spring we have been eating a lot of wild garlic (ramsons) they grow in abundance at this time of year in the front of our garden. They are a perennial plant, native to Europe. We eat the raw leaves, and later the flowers, chopped finely, added to our food. Wild garlic is well known for its many ‘anti’ qualities, including antifungal, anti – inflammatory, antiseptic, antimicrobial and antioxidant. It is both an antibiotic and antibacterial, aids in digestion, and it is known for reducing blood pressure as it is a vasodilator.
Good sources of vitamin C include Greens - leafy greens, broccoli, kale, cabbage, parsley, chives and Berries – blueberries, strawberries
You can study another important article