The season has come to spring. The birds have returned to nest in the woods and fields. The pussy willow and forsythia buds unfurl. The bulbs feel the earth worms wiggle and reach to the surface to smile up to the sun. The garden beckons us outside to turn the soil and plant seeds. So let’s make friends with the earth and sky, seeking blessings for growth and protection.
The early spring is the time to prepare the garden beds for flowers and vegetables. Perennials, shrubs, berry bushes, fruit trees, and lawns come awake. The spring rains and stronger sun bring both the promise of renewal and the threat of the elements to our precious home and garden. The shift in seasons can bring strong weather fronts with dramatic clashes in the skies above us. There is no threat more alarming than the wail of a tornado siren. Whether it is a flower box on the balcony or a full field of crops, as the soil is tilled let’s pause and ask for blessings from the earth and sky with a cornmeal blessing.
Native Americans revered corn as the staff of life. Corn was placed in the mouth of the dead before burial. The golden kernels are a sacred grain that provided a yearlong food source. Mesoamerican creation myths often depict the Corn Mother bringing the grain to the people. The Three Sisters, by Jackie Traverse, portrays the sacred trio of corn, beans and squash. The corn grows tall. The beans wrap themselves around the corn stalk and find support. The squash shades the footing providing coolness. The prickly leaves of the squash plant offer insect protection. Each grows with the support of the other.
The soil and homestead can be blessed at the start of the growing season. The blessing can be given by the homeowner. The best time to ask for support is before turning the soil. A gentle encounter with the spirits helps ground the gardener to the land and the energy of the elements. The seeds are planted to be cultivated for the eventual harvest. The activity of growing food to provide for the table is a primal human activity. A garden prospers with good soil, gentle rains, warm temperatures and plentiful sunlight. It depends on pollinators and daily care to keep away the critters and insects that want to share the bounty. By making a connection to the land, sky and spirit, a communion of positive energy binds the gardener to the land. Its prosperity is our prosperity. The chores become a refuge from the demands of the day. The interaction with earth and sky returns balance to our nature and gladness to our hearts.
Items suggested for the blessing are a bag of cornmeal from the local grocery store, a bowl to hold the grain and an offering to the spirits. As with any blessing or ritual, the person needs to prepare themselves to further enhance the spirituality of the moment. Here are a few suggestions on what to consider in preparation of this moment with the spirits:
- Prepare the body by fasting during the day and concentrating on the importance of food. The act of fasting will remind us of what it feels like to be hungry.
- Make the offering a platter of hush-puppies or corn bread. Have some firewater on hand such as corn whiskey or corn vodka. If this is not available substitute mead, a wine made from honey.
- Bathe and put on soft clean garments of a natural fiber such as cotton, silk or flax.
- Create something to say to the earth and sky as you ask for blessings of growth and protection.
Example: O Great Spirits of the earth and sky. O Great Spirits of the water and wind. O Great Spirits of the ancestors who walked this land in a distant day. O Great Moon above. O Great Sun. O Great Winds. Welcome to this humble home and garden. Welcome back to this place. I ask for your protection for this house. I ask for all that dwell in the house be safe. I ask for your protection of this garden. I ask for your protection of all the trees that are above and creatures that dwell below the earth. Protect us against strong winds, strong sun and strong rains. Protect us against pests and diseases. Send us sweet sun, sweet rains and sweet breezes. Send us your blessing for an abundant crop. Help us cultivate our garden every day. Help us find joy in our care taking. Help us rise with the sun. Help us to see the shadows under the moon. Bless this earth. Bless us who are here. Bless you for remembering us.
- To lighten the mood, perhaps listen to the “Corn Song”, by Sharon Burch from the CD: Touch the Sweet Earth. The words are sung in Sharon’s native Navajo and set a beautiful mood of fun and positive energy. As Sharon wrote, “This song…expresses the joy of seeing, feeling and being immersed in the growth of the corn plant” The lyrics in English: I planted my corn. I planted it. I planted it. My white corn. My yellow corn. My corn of various colors. I planted my corn. I planted it. I planted it. Now the corn pollen will sprinkle on me. Now the corn pollen has covered me. I planted my corn. I planted it. I planted it. Click on the link to hear the Corn Song.
- Step outside with the grains, offering and prayers.
- In traditional Native American ceremonies, participants would smudge their bodies with the smoke of tobacco, sage and/or cedar. This action can be taken before the ceremony begins. The dried leaves can be obtained from an herbal supply shop. This is not necessary but something to consider. The smoke would be spread over the offerings and all around the space clearing away bad vibes and balancing energies.
- Dust the entire yard and house with corn meal. Imagine the grains being scattered are small rays of sun bringing abundance and warmth to the land. Move in the direction of the sun from left to right in a circle around the space. Walk around and scatter the grains everywhere. A light layer is sufficient, but make an effort to touch the entire area that needs protection. Especially dust the garden space for planting. Remember to cast upward as well to the sky. I would not play music while scattering the grains. Focus on the activity and notice any signs from the earth and sky that might be sent in return.
- Notice the winds, hopefully, a light wind will rise and will help blow the grain into the garden. Better yet, a light rain comes up and soaks the grain into the earth. Even more amazing would be the visit from birds taking up the grains for feeding their chicks. I would strongly advise not performing this activity if a storm is approaching. While we want to appease the Thunder-beings, if a storm is imminent, we don’t want to attract them at this moment. Wait for another time and approach the outdoors when the weather is calm.
- After the grain is cast. Or, as you are casting the grains, recite the prayer. Come back to the platter and pick it up. Show it to the four directions as well as the earth and sky. Enjoy a sip and bite of the offering. Pour the firewater or wine into the earth. Leave the food for the critters. Be humble and pray for blessings. This activity creates sacred space literally on the earth. But, also connects us to our task of caretakers to our homes and gardens.
Endings and Beginnings
After completing this blessing of the earth and home, get ready for some serious gardening. As soon as the soil is warm enough, take out the seeds, set out the rows and plant away. Use the remaining corn meal to run a line along the borders of the flower and vegetable beds. The gardener might even scatter more corn meal over the earth of freshly planted seeds. The corn will attract birds and help with pest maintenance. Many birds enjoy eating bugs, beetles and other insects that can damage tender plants.
As the sun grows stronger in the sky, the atmosphere will heat up and create threatening weather. While we cannot control the elements, there can be some inner sense of security that we reached out to the spirits and made a peace offering. Perhaps they will return the kindness and abate the storms and dangers in the coming summer months. By remembering the elements and our kinship to them, we recognize our place in the order of things. We are of the earth and sky.