When I found out that Starhawk, famed Earth Activist, spiritual feminist, Witch and permaculturist, had written a children's book, I bought it before I knew I was ever going to be pregnant. The pictures, done by artist Lindy Kehoe, are beautiful paintings. The story centers on an herbalist (or witch), and introduces children to a woman healer making healing decoctions with herbs, emphasizing how important it is to keep wilderness, healthy plants, and wild spirits within alive, as well as being appreciative of the women (and men) who take care of the natural world. The herbalist witch in the book knows the natural world intimately, and knows how to respectfully and ethically use plants to make strong teas, brews and "soups." She not only uses the natural world, she is part of it, intertwined seamlessly in its tree branches, helping give health to it just as it gives it back to her.
To me, witches are the quintessential ecofeminists.
"Witch" is a word that was sullied by various groups of long ago, but it's been reclaimed by herbalists like me. Witches and the word "witch" have many meanings in many cultures, but for the purposes of this post, I will touch on just one context, one dark moment of history: The suppression of witches—or healers who were mainly women—in medieval Europe that went on for centuries, and the themes behind those witch hunts that still appear in society today.
Blame it on Laura Ingalls Wilder: Deep down, I always wanted to be a pioneer. I wasn't raised on a farm, and when and if we did have a yard depending on where we moved, it was always pretty small. I remember reading one of the Little House books, perched by my window, where Laura and her sister Mary harvested potatoes and turnips to be stored for the winter. I looked out the window of where we lived then, a townhouse my parents were renting, just to see a long row of sidewalk and the window of the replica townhouse across the way. We didn't have a yard then, but I fantasized about planting potatoes and turnips in the flower boxes down below.
A recent article in TIME magazine reveals a study that says kids are not getting outside enough. It is the girls who are neglected the most—they're 16% less likely than boys to be taken outdoors. Really?
Who am I, and why am I talking about this? For starters, I live and work as an organic farmer. I initially became interested in organic farming as I become interested in many things—wanting a tangible way to create some good in the world. I help plants grow and thrive, and I do it in the name of growing healthy food for people. We (my husband and I) get to take care and nourish of a bit of earth, using it to grow plants in the most natural way possible, saving it from being used to build a subdivision or parking lot. (Right now we actually rent land that is protected, but you get the idea.) Farmland and forested areas are hacked, clear-cut and smoothed over with layers of fog-colored concrete every day. Instead of vibrant trees and flowers, pale houses bloom right before our eyes to expand never-ending suburbia, as if keeping the oxygen-exhaling, chlorophyll-filed life forms around don't matter. (They're just a bunch of pesky weeds, taking up all that space! Really, the nerve!) Truthfully, our planet is sick. A major principle of permaculture is to "reforest the earth" in order to aid its healing. It doesn't seem to be happening as urgently as it should, but, at the same time, there are positive things happening that give me hope.
This week's douchebag decree goes out to all of the douchebags who are responsible for the BP oil spill. Because there are so many filthy rich BP Oil Execs who have repeatedly displayed their lack of concern about how the spill is affecting the environment and its inhabitants, I've decided to honor a couple of them with this week's decree.