At the time of the harvests the heart easily turns to thinking of our food, remembering the ancient covenants on this planet between beings who feed each other or are food for each other. Even though some of our food is now damaged by the gene splicers and irradiators our bones and spirits remember the long, ancient history of harvesting and eating grain; of breaking bread in community; of fireside councils sealed, and love shared around food. Sharing food together is still the core of communal moments. Those times still call to us, and at harvest especially it is easy to feel such gratitude for the earth upon which we live, and for the bacteria, plants and animals who are part of the web of life outside of us, and within us, as we gather to celebrate gifts of all these to each other.
Humans are beings of light, and ultimately we draw our energy from the sun. But we are also the latecomers, and for us empowerment from sunlight is many layers removed. The firstborn of the planet — the bacteria— evolved greedy for the light of our mother star. Animals, including ourselves, never did quite master the art of using light as a single, primary power source, unless it happened in a time now lost to our knowing. In the long history of earth the sun empowers us all, but it was the predecessors of plants, the algae and mosses, who learned to use it directly. In their earliest form, it appears that single celled ancestors of animals ate first bacteria then plants, and some of us moved onto land.
In the long time of walking on this earth, the voices of creatures less like ourselves have faded from our hearing, as a story of dominion and supremacy replaced the knowing of connected life. Many, many among human kind have forgotten the ancient relationships between kingdoms of beings here, and no longer hear their voices; seeing animals as lower creatures, incapable of thought or emotion. Disconnected and numb to the heart that flows within and around themselves, those same people ascribe little conscious thought at all to their household animals, much less to the ones who are their food. We grieve for the forgotten ones, and those who have forgotten.
In a similar vein to the ones who deny the sentience of animals, are those who believe it does exist in animals, but who deny the consciousness of plants. In their compassion for the abuse of beings who are penned and raised for food, they seem to compartmentalize consciousness beyond our own to only the animal kingdom, while somehow awareness of the voices of plants is dimmed and muted for them. So now it is “safe” to eat plants because they are not beings with awareness or souls.
But you know different. Sit for a moment near a quickly growing plant such as a mint or dandelion, whose voices are lighter and easier to sense. Open your heart and breathe, sharing life giving carbon dioxide to the plant with your out breath, while it breathes out oxygen for you, for all of us. Offer your love, just as you would to a dear child or an animal friend in your home, caressing the sweet spirit of this living creature with your thoughts and your heart. Acknowledge that it shows every sign of sentience. It drinks and eats. It rests or is active. It responds to stimuli. It makes decisions when it chooses to communicate through chemical signals with beings not of it’s own species, whether through the air, or the mycorrhizae that connect it to other plants.
The Sacred Circle
We are all life seeking life, and connected through agreements to sustain each other. The bacteria within ourselves and other animals depend on us for food, and in return they create hormones and mediate communications in our endocrine and nervous systems. We literally could not live without them. The plants as individuals and as a kingdom have agreed to absorb sunlight, and share its energy stored within themselves to sustain the animal kingdom. They tell us how to benefit from their life, when we remember the old language between us. We have partnered with animals too and some have consented to share their lives to sustain us. It is no accident that our energy needs and digestion are uniquely matched to taking in both plants and animals as food. But our bodies are evolving, always; in time perhaps we will remember how to create from light what we need for food and energy. Even now it seems that some people can absorb more of what they need from plants, and need to ask for the lives of animals less and less.
Whether we understand it or not, we are all inextricably connected. We are all beings of light, fed by the sun directly or through plant allies, and in the end, liberated when we change form. We are all food for each other, yes even we are; though it may not be glamorous to say so. In time we too will be compost; energy freed to live again in a new form, and feeding again those smallest of beings, the firstborn, the bacteria; and the plants who bring the energy of the sun to us.
The lives of other beings, including plants and animals, are meaningful to them. One of the greatest things connecting us is our gratitude; our knowing that we are asking for the life of another being to sustain our own, not because we are better or more worthy, but because this is the ancient agreement on this planet, where we live. Our gratitude is an expression of our love, and our awareness that all beings have worth, and our energy shared in this way unites us.
The next time you harvest from your garden or land or sit down to a dish of meat prepared with love, let it be an act of joy and gratitude, knowing that we share with each other the molecules of life. What is us was once in animals was once in plants was once in stars; and there is a resonance that carries from one being to the next, to the next … We are all more connected than we know.
Ancientsong is an herbalist, culture shifter and teacher. Holding a vision of the earth as sentient and sacred, she weaves intuitive practices with the art and science of herbalism. Her vision of healing with herbs is both personal and planetary: A way to intimately reconnect with our wild inner nature and to the magical life-web of the planet in a dance of reciprocity that can heal both. Her website is www.brightcircleherbcraft.com.
One thought on “Food Covenants”
It’s nice to see this thought-provoking piece on Canadian Thanksgiving Day, when many come together to prepare and share food.
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