This Earth Day, to honor the Earth, I’m making a small ceremony in the garden. I am taking this opportunity to go out to the green and growing Spring and speak a promise aloud to the unfolding white atamasco lilies, to the wood thrush singing lustily in the maple tree, to the earthworms quietly turning the soil and to the tadpoles flicking their tails in the pond. And I am making a dedication of these gardens as sanctuary for the earthy beings, human and non-human, who live and visit here.
Arriving at this oath-making was the culmination of a two year course of study with the gifted teacher R.J. Stewart* on forming relationships to the fairy beings and nature spirits of the land, both the larger lands that enfold us and the particular land that is our homeplace on Earth. We made our OATh by Oak, Ash, and Thorn, as was traditional in northern lands, to offer our unique form of service, speaking it aloud to our fellow participants.
By coincidence of timing this April also marks the end of my multi-year course of study with Daniel Foor on Ancestral Medicine** healing. The work has involved making contact with the healthy elder guides of our indigenous ancestral lineages, letting them heal the pain and the burdens passed down through the generations, and, finally, embracing and embodying the special strengths and wisdom that are our legacy from them. The goal of the course, for me, was to bring forward the blessings of my ancestral lineages through incorporating their ancient, mutually beneficial relationships to the Earth. In my case these are Northern European Irish, Scottish, English, German and Dutch ancestors.
We westerners have gone way off course in separating the science and economy of the Earth from the spirituality of the Earth. It is my belief that it is necessary for us to connect with the pre-colonial, pre-Christian indigenous wisdom of our deep-time ancestors in order to appeal to them to make contact with the ancestors and elders of other indigenous peoples of this Earth, asking them to bring to us the wisdom we need in these dark times, so that we may work together to heal our disconnection from each other and from the sacred land. So that we may take our rightful place as co-creators in partnership with the creative energies of life.
This is my OATh; please imagine me speaking it aloud to you:
I commit to bringing forth the gifts, blessings, and medicines of my deeply Earth-Spirit connected ancestors. I accept the joyous responsibility to carry on their work of holding together the community of people with the community of plants and animals of the Spirit-filled land in a great circle of love and belonging.
I dedicate my life’s work, in devotion to the Divine Mother, to creating beauty in the form of gardens, stories, and ceremonies to inspire and instill hope of reweaving ourselves back into the tapestry of life.
Temenos is a Greek word meaning a piece of land or holy grove dedicated to a god. My favorite Wiki definition is a field of divinity. Temenos was used frequently by Jung, metaphorically, to name or point towards the act of creating a sacred space, a safe place or magic circle, by the self or within the self into which the divine Self can appear. He created his Tower at Bollingen on Lake Zurich, a temenos for his soul to commune with nature and spirit. He worked the stone, cut the wood himself, made the fire in the woodstove upon which to cook, with no electricity, no running water. He said, “Nature, psyche, and life appear to me like divinity unfolded–what more could I ask for?”
Temenos seems to me to be similar to the Hawaiian word heiau, meaning sacred place, sacred land, holy ground, temple, as in e malama ika heiau (let us nurture this sacred land). So, Temenos carries both meanings, of sacred space inside and sacred space outside. Creating Temenos, to me, signifies honoring the Holy Ground of the Embodied Soul, the Holy Ground of the Inspirited Earth, and walking, sitting, standing, dancing, in the space where they overlap, join, are One.
This is my Dedication of Temenos Garden Sanctuary:
We offer these gardens as a community space for friends and neighbors to gather and as a sacred place to make ceremonies of healing.
To provide restored, healthy habitat for the plants and animals of this small Bottomland Forest.
To provide calm, green peace in the glowing Moss Garden.
To provide nourishment of body and soul in the Herb Garden Medicine Wheel.
To provide sustenance for butterflies and birds in the Pollinator Garden.
To make watery homes for amphibians, dragonflies, and wetland plants to thrive in the Pond Gardens.
We each have our individual gifts and talents, according to our interests, to offer as service to life. May I encourage you to think about some day making a dedication or commitment of your own unique form of service. I would be happy to listen to yours as you have listened to mine. If you would like the plants and animals of Temenos Garden Sanctuary to witness your vow, the Garden is available for personal, co-created or guided healing and ceremony.
Addendum: Amazingly, last night I wrote and posted this “dedication of these gardens as sanctuary for the earthy beings, human and non-human, who live and visit here”, and this morning, while tending the moss garden in preparation for human visitors, a new visitor arrives, never before seen here, climbing the moss straight up to the Altar of the Earth Mother. Welcome to Temenos, little one.
Red Eft of the Red-Spotted Newt
Text (c) Betty Lou Chaika Photos (c) Betty Lou and David Chaika