I am all about eating healthy and organic food, and I shop fairly frequently at my local Whole Foods market. About a year ago, I had a slight chuckle and concern as I noticed a jar of some sort of sauce being sold that said on its side, proudly, “Certified Biodynamic.” I told my friend who was shopping with me, “Check it out – biodynamic! Doesn’t that sound all healthy and scientific? But do you know what it really is about?” My friend nodded no, and waited for the punchline. Normally organic food doesn’t have a “punchline” but this one does: the crux of biodynamic farming is: “Faeries and Gnomes.”
Really?? Huh?? Yeah – a few years back, a Christian friend introduced me to another Christian friend who had a farm in Colorado. As we sat and talked about their farm, they started explaining to us all about how they would set out offerings like things in animal horns and so forth in their fields on certain occasions like full moons, and prepare the soil in certain ways with one goal in mind: getting faeries and gnomes to tend to their crops. They explained how faeries and gnomes were part of what God created in the garden of Eden and how the earth was meant to flourish under their care – and learning how to work with these elemental spirits was key to good farming. On and on the conversation went as our friends explained their whole philosophy – taking a turn to the philosophies of Waldorf schooling, which apparently is all about keeping kids’ brains sensitive enough to the spirit realm so that they can be aware of things such as faeries and gnomes, to Rudolph Steiner who came up with some of these philosophies. And apparently this is all connected to the themes of “Biodynamic farming.”
So I got this newsletter thing in my email today from Whole Foods, entitled, “The Cutting-Edge Farming Trend You Need to Know.” I opened it read about the wonders of Biodynamic farming – strangely without any mention of faeries and gnomes, but talking about Biodynamic farming’s certification agency, an organization called, creepily enough, “Demeter.” Demeter is a Greek mythological figure, a goddess of agriculture. You can read about her here.
On Demeter’s website there is currently a page explaining the “preparations” of animal horns that my Biodynamic friend had told me were about attracting gnomes to one’s field. (For instance, the one called preparation 500 on Demeter’s website.) Demeter’s website doesn’t come out and talk about the importance of gnomes in all this, but they admit that there is such little organic matter being used on a field from these preparations that the preparation’s value to the field can only be likened to homeopathy (which is about substances too tiny to even measure being used in medicinals):
” It is the later phenomenon with which preparation 500 works. While some like to poke fun at a Biodynamic practitioner’s use of preparations made in cow horns, the material that results is uber-biological, teeming with beneficial soil-based flora and fauna. If understanding the 500 only from a mechanical cause and effect point of view it can be understood as a soil inoculant. But anyone with a background or understanding of homeopathy can see a more holistic reality and view it as homeopathic medicine for the earth. The 500 and all the Biodynamic preparations medicinally treat the Earth as a living organism much like naturopathic medicines treat us. In fact it is a principle of homeopathy that very small amounts of material, when rhythmically potentized, are much more potent than large amounts of material. While a strange new world for some, it is an intrinsic element of Biodynamic agriculture.”
“Before applying, the 500 is rhythmically stirred in the appropriate amount of water creating a vortex in one direction, then abruptly stopped (which will cause obvious chaos to the fluid dynamics) and stirred in the opposite direction, reordering the liquid into an opposing vortex. This process continues for 1 hour.
Once stirred the resulting liquid is placed into a spray rig or similar equipment dedicated for use for the Biodynamic field sprays only. On small acreages and gardens folks sometimes will use just a bucket and a hand broom and apply by hand by placing the broom in the 500 and flinging droplets in both directions. Either way the goal is to apply droplets of the stirred 500 to the Earth in the evening when the Earth herself is breathing inward. Best done during the descending phase of the moon.”
I am wondering why they left out the connection of these preparations to their understandings of the roles of faeries and gnomes in their farming philosophy? I say that tongue in cheek, actually – I am not wondering at all. These things are not for public knowledge. But they’re there. Here’s a definition of biodynamic farming from the Biodynamic Association:
Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition.Biodynamics was first developed in the early 1920s based on the spiritual insights and practical suggestions of the Austrian writer, educator and social activist Dr. Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), whose philosophy is called “anthroposophy.” Today, the biodynamic movement encompasses thousands of successful gardens, farms, vineyards and agricultural operations of all kinds and sizes on all continents, in a wide variety of ecological and economic settings.
Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.”
And, this is so hard to believe that no doubt people will think I’ve blown this out of proportion, but wording such as “subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant, and animal health” refers in large part to the role of faeries and gnomes. The biodynamic webpage does talk about it if you dig deep enough, such as their page here on Nature Spirits.
Nature Spirits: How Can We Help Them?
By Beth Wieting
This article will be published in the upcoming Winter 2009 issue of Biodynamics.
Copyright 2008, Beth Wieting.
The nature spirits are offspring of the angelic hierarchies, but they have been here a very long time, working at the manifestation of everything visible. They are now at risk of coming under the sway of the dying forces of the universe “the dead or rotten ethers” which we know as electricity, magnetism, and radiation. (Rudolf Steiner spoke about electricity in the discussion after lecture eight in the Agriculture Course.) We have, in a way, been living in a garden of Eden, where whatever we needed was given to us. Now, we need to be able to help. Once upon a time, human beings would have asked for help magically. Now, however, the good forces that could have helped are part of the other aspects of existence, and what is needed is human work and understanding.
There are four main types of nature spirits:
- Elemental beings who work in solids, in plants especially in relation to the roots (gnomes);
- Those who work with the fluids and in moisture permeated air, in plants in connection with leaves and sprouting (undines);
- Those who work through air and light, at the flowering stage of plants (sylphs);
- Those who work with warmth, as seeds develop and fruits ripen (fire spirits).
Hey, Biodynamic farming IS yielding food that is grown in extremely organic ways – there are definitely no pesticides involved. But I fear the public is being decieved into thinking that “biodynamic” is some sort of scientific practice, when actually, it really is based on some really “spiritual” stuff. That might not matter to most folks – who cares if a faery or gnome was invoked in the planting and care of this field? But for others, this might clearly cross the “food offered to idols” sort of line that was an issue to the early Christians, and that is written about in the Bible in places like Acts 15:29, and 1 Corinthians 8 and Revelation 2:14. For others, this will seem incredibly attractive – the “getting back to the Earth” thing by being in touch with the “nature spirits” will be trendy and seem extremely holistic and wonderful. Your mileage may vary, but I just think it’s uber-weird that this is Whole Foods’ new thing, which they are pawning off as some great new type of farming. It’s been around for decades, and while I’m sure the food is great, it’s just not science. In fact, it’s actually some pretty strange stuff – debunking weird things is not usually what my blog is about, but…
Just thought people (and Whole Foods) ought to know.
PS – great photo essay of people planting the horns for the gnomes found here: http://www.rawfair.com/blog/photo-blog-creating-biodynamic-preparation-500
PSS – I’m not the only one talking about this: Cult of Biodynamics: Future of Farming or Agrarian Witchcraft? Also, don’t miss this great explanation of the importance of Nature Spirits in Rudolf Steiner’s understanding of farming in this peice by the Oregon Biodynamic association. http://oregonbd.org/nature-spirits/