Earth Day: Temenos Garden Sanctuary

posted in: Garden Sanctuaries | 20

Garden Path Temenos Earth Sanctuaries

This Earth Day, to honor the Earth, I’m making a small ceremony to dedicate Temenos 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 in Temenos Garden:

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.

women singing at Temenos Garden

To provide restored, healthy habitat for the plants and animals of this small Bottomland Forest. Our Inventory of Native Plants and Animals

Dutchman' Britches at Temenos Garden

To provide calm, green peace in the glowing Moss Garden.

Moss Garden

To provide nourishment of body and soul in the Herb Garden Medicine Wheel.

Medicine Wheel at Temenos

To provide sustenance for butterflies and birds in the Pollinator Garden.

Joe-pye and tiger swallowtail

To make watery homes for amphibians, dragonflies, and wetland plants to thrive in the Pond Gardens.

cardinal flowers at pond

frog pond waterfall

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 in green moss

Red Eft of the Red-Spotted Newt


Text (c) Betty Lou Chaika Photos (c) Betty Lou and David Chaika

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20 Responses

  1. Laurie Lindgren

    Beautifully conceived and written, as usual! As I hear your dedication, I am moved to inquire about my own from the spirit of nature as a continuum from within to without.

    I can see the Garden now as your canvas and the infinite gradations of color of the earth as your palette.

    I wonder about the meaning of Temenos. And it occurred to me that there may be a way to dedicate part of your land as a sacred place to sprinkle cremation ashes and to hold ceremonies of passings. Blessed be!


    • Betty Lou Chaika

      Laurie, thank you. Your speaking of the continuum from within to without and the meaning of Temenos, makes me realize that I should and will add an explanation of the fullness of this especially evocative word.

  2. Suz Robinson

    Betty Lou,
    I strolled through your gardens greeting all who were there. Pausing to sit, lay down and breathe in our Earth, her lusciousness and warmth, I then prayed in gratitude for that which is with us all the time … Seen and Unseen.

    Thank you for offering this to us.

    • Betty Lou Chaika

      Suz, I would be honored if you would come for tea and saunter (a la sante terre) though the garden, blessing the beings here with your exquisitely attuned spiritual awareness. I sense them perking up at the mention of this possibility!

  3. Mariah Wheeler

    As usual your words and actions move me, sweetly to tears. Your dedication is inspiring as well as all you have done on your land. I hope to visit soon. Moss is calling me especially this day. Love you to and to all beings in your life.

    Peace, Mariah

    • Betty Lou Chaika

      Mariah, please do come visit. Yes, the moss is calling you to come. It’s especially beautiful right now with its Springy new growth. Speaking of moss, did you see the part I added today about the red eft I happened to come upon climbing up the moss to the Mother Earth Altar?

  4. RIverdave Owen

    bl, thank you for sharing your love. what size property do you and david own, just so i can put this in context? rd

  5. Don Kauber

    What a joy to receive this Earth Day message, Betty Lou!

    For me this message holds a lot of meaning and power…I spent
    a number of years at “Temenos” in Pennsylvania, where Perry
    used to live and work.

    I knew the word was Greek, but had forgotten (or maybe never
    fully realized the meaning as a “field of divinity”

    Nor had I connected the word “Temenos” with Jung’s personal
    artifacts and creations at his home in Bollingen.

    And, finally, as if that is not sufficient, I lived next to a heiou on
    Oahu for more than year…a source of very profound influence on
    my life.

    My gratitude for sharing this writing; I hope to visit your Temenos
    some day, preferably at this time of year! Thank you so much!


    • Betty Lou Chaika

      Don, how lovely to hear from you! I’m glad that this story has been so personally meaningful. Since the early ’90’s my inner guidance has been to create a temenos, and this inner and outer landscape has been Temenos for me ever since. I remember when you visited dear Perry, I was delighted to hear about your/her Temenos work in PA. What a sense of connection! I would love to see you again and hope you will come to visit us in this field of divinity, where your ability to sense and work with energies will be very welcome to us humans and other-than-humans.

  6. Dorothy Tom

    I would love to come.e see your Garden. I know your website thru DUP. May I have your location?

    I would also like to explore Plant Shamanism. It sounds like you might be able to point me in the right direction to learn this mystery.

    • Betty Lou Chaika

      Hi Dorothy! Please do come to visit. I’ll email you about a good time for us to meet. We can explore plant shamanism a bit and, hopefully, find you a teacher.

  7. Laurel

    Hi Betty Lou,
    Lovely to meet you and see what lovely work you are doing! Your garden is soulful and joyful !
    I lok forward to getting to know you in chorus,

  8. Ann Loomis

    Betty Lou, it’s always a pleasure to read your posts. This one reminded me of the OATH I also took at the R.J. Stewart workshop: “I swear by Oak, Ash, and Thorn to reclaim the memory of the Sidhe (Shee), or the faery realm, in order to restore balance, beauty, mystery, and wonder.” When we cooperate with the Sidhe, together we can reclaim the Soul of the Earth. In the name of the Mother, I ask Her forgiveness in our forgetfulness.

    • Betty Lou Chaika

      Ann, your OATh brings tears to my eyes. In cooperation with the Sidhe, restoring “balance, beauty, mystery, and wonder,” “in the name of the Mother.” So lovingly and passionately spoken and so needed. Amen, sister.

    • Betty Lou Chaika

      Brian, seeing your stacked-stone sculptures set within mosses, herbs, and wildflowers has enchanted me, too. I am trying to remember to speak to rather than about plant-and critter-beings, so thank you for your new word “enchatment!” It has entered my vocabulary of relationship-making with a smile.

  9. Jill Over

    Betty Lou,
    I am always in awe of your creations that keep on coming and growing out of the Earth and Soul! Reading your posts is a wonderful reminder of our connections with each other and the natural world.
    Thank you, jill

    • Betty Lou Chaika

      Jill, if I have one over-arching desire it is to connect the community of people with the community of Life native to our Place on Earth. Once again your encouraging comment comes at a time when it is helpful for me to hear that connections are being made.

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