35 years of seeding earth wisdom
35 years of seeding earth wisdom
After passing from my body when I was 19 I saw what my life purpose was, and that I had fallen well short. I was given back my body to fulfill a very specific purpose in this life. Since that time forty some years ago I have spent my life spreading the green gospel and bringing people back to be healed by our Great Mother Earth. I spent many years teaching traditional plant use and many more de-programing colonial thinking, opening peoples minds and hearts to a sacred relationship with land, and specifically with the plant people. I practice and teach forms of sacred agriculture and “wildculturing” that our ancestors have practiced since the Paleocene, that generate such abundance the land easily feeds our family, school and friends.
My days are anchored in ways that honour and feed an animistic way of life. I love sharing this with others, human and otherwise. I love creative process, whether it be visual art, alchemy in the kitchen, or raising children. I honour deeply my role in the School, as one who supports our guest’s nourishment through foods gathered from the land here, both wild and cultivated, knowing this to be vital in building deep connection and healing. I love supporting people wherever they’re at in the world, whomever they are.
M.A. (traditional plant use), B.F.A. honours, artist, farmer, wildcrafter, builder, teacher, writer, visionary.
Steven has more than thirty years experience living co-creatively with the Earth, practicing traditional living skills of growing food, building and healing. Steven created Livingstone & Greenbloom in 1986, Toronto’s first green landscaping company.
In 1996, he created the Algonquin Tea Company, North America’s premiere bioregional tea company. He has given talks and run workshops internationally for more than twenty years and taught plant identification and wilderness skills at Algonquin college for 11 years, and at the Orphan Wisdom School for eight years. In 2014, Megan and Steven started the Sacred Gardener Earth Wisdom School. Steven released his first book The Story of the Madawaska Forest Garden in 2016, his second, Sacred Gardening in June 2017 and The Roundhouse in 2022.
Megan is the co-creator of The Sacred Gardener where she shares her divine food creations, made from wildcrafted and cultivated herbs and vegetables. She is a visual artist that works in the local community, the chair of Green Burial Ottawa Valley and a lover of stories, ideas and wild people. She is passionate about sharing how to preserve food through fermentation and integrating herbs and wild plants in our daily lives.
Check out Megan’s work at meganspencer.ca.
The Sacred Gardener
The Sacred Gardener was chosen for our farm/school’s name because it conveys something that we feel is unique in our approach to both growing and teaching here on the farm. While there are many places, books and ways to learn about gardening or working with the Earth, there are very few that put the needs of the Earth first. This means not just thinking about production and convenience for ourselves but making the effort to step forward gently with real ecological/spiritual integrity.
In everything we do we try to honor the ancient agreements with Nature. These agreements, which enabled our ancestors to survive and us to be here now, have long since been ignored and forgotten by western culture. Even radical forms of “environmental” action like organic gardening, permaculture and wilderness skills such as hunting and foraging are done with little or no thought as to the consequences of what we’re taking. We are always in the center of our thoughts and move forward with unflinching entitlement to what we take.
Long ago before these agreements were forgotten it was clearly understood that we survived through the gifts and grace of the land. While all animals must take to survive we are designed to work within the cycles of abundance that the Earth provides. But humans are born takers, just look at our hands; we can reach outside the gifts of abundance causing imbalance and harm. As hunters and foragers, we did not just have respect but had deep reverence for that which gave us life. This reverence and the need to heal what is out of balance is the origin of art. When we took anything, even what we now think of as “dead matter” like stones and sticks, we keenly felt the hole that was created. In reverential thankfulness we prayed, danced and made images and stories, not to fill the hole – because this is not possible – but to feed that which we have taken from.
When humans first began to garden it was a ritual to feed that which gave us life. Gardening is a literal metaphor of reverence. When our ancestors dug up roots we would create a rift or hole in the ground. We would respond by seeding the ground with prayers and the offspring of the plants (the seeds) then pat our offering gently into the wound. Through this beautiful procreative act we were rewarded with more food and so we made more seed offering and grew more with each passing year. We married our families to the plant families and gave ritual payment each year. The agreements proceeded well for everyone because as we took more land to grow we also took less from Her, from the rest of the Wild that gave us the plants and land to grow. To honor the contract of more land and keeping seeds of the Wild we created altars in and around our gardens to feed the deities of the plants and growth. Not one action of planting, harvesting or tending passed without a prayer for She who gave us life. This is the basis of Sacred Gardening.
In Steven’s Words
In the early 1980s, I learned how to forage before I learned how to garden and I think this changed my view of what gardening could be. My vision was of a co-created area of intensive polycultural foraging that honored the Wildness in and around the garden, as opposed to the fascist dictatorship of Nature that we see even in most organic gardens. As I was working with co-creating this form of garden I traveled to the highlands around Chiapas Mexico and found people (the Lacadonian Maya) who had been practicing gardening this way for millennia.
When I came home after six months I started an M.A. at Trent U. on the topic of “Native Plant Use and Gardening in the Southern Algonquin Bioregion.” From this research I fully realized what I had stumbled into – the original form of gardening – I’d stumbled into Eden. I realized that European Gardening – the standard by which we judge and categorize other “more primitive” forms of gardening, however efficient, was, in fact, a historical anomaly. And that even what we call the Neolithic period and the start of agriculture is skewed because of our backward view of what we think agriculture is – a large monocultural field. Forms of human agriculture started at least a hundred thousand years before when we think it did.
Agriculture is not just something we invented it is practiced by many animals and is, in fact, part of the continuum of evolution here on Earth.
In this hour long documentary you will learn how to mound plant corn, beans and squash using a heavy hoe, and a good deal more. From Steven’s perspective we are given a rare insight into the prehistoric foundations of agriculture. Perhaps most importantly this video claims back…
An hour long talk recorded at Ignatius Jesuit Centre, April 2017 in Guelph, Ontario. Steven reveals hidden meanings and history behind Western culture’s primary myth, the garden of Eden story. These insights offer hope for resolving our four thousand year exile, giving us a key to re-enter…
Create your own incense cones! Our blends contain simple, real ingredients, harvested from the land. What you get: -12 minute video that outlines the steps of making your own incense from plants, and how to make cones that will burn well. -Access to a 10 page PDF that outlines in detail the steps in making…
Woven amongst practical lessons about gardening, supporting the soil microbiome, and the medicine of wild native plants, we were bathed in crucial and life altering teachings about our relationship to the Earth, each other, and ourselves. This was not just a workshop but a healing journey to reclaim my capacities to praise the beauty of life, honor the various griefs that come with having a heart that loves what must one day die, and discover what it means to walk with gentleness, power, and love. – Michael
The impact of the Sacred Gardener School on one’s life is hard to describe. It starts with a large amount of hands on learning and teachings that bring you closer to all the beings in our midst. Soon, the wisdom you have absorbed permeates throughout your life. The food we are served throughout the course is full of warmth, love and wild creative beauty. All I can say is that something draws me back over and over again so I can be reminded of what is important. Empty your cup and let the learning begin. -Olga
The Sacred Gardener School is for those inspired to move into a deeper level of being;
to live in a connected, sustainable and soulfully present way with the Earth.
The school will foster your growth over time, enabling you to embody the living skills
and ceremony needed to engage the larger spirit and ecology of the Earth,
so She may bless and redirect our collective and personal path.
Seeding earth wisdom since 1989.
Home of The Sacred Gardener School.
Wildculturing ~ Co-create ~ Wildcrafting
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