I’m an avid gardener. I must, need, long to have my hands in the soil. The sweet smell and feel of the earth connects me to something greater, to a sense of ‘other’; a source divine. I am interwoven, connected, at one and in reverence of a greater mystery. When I think about my connection to the earth and its origins, I find it is a connection I have had my entire life. As a young girl I spent many hours, days, in fact years, exploring the Australian bush – it was my backyard. Some of my most prominent memories are the smell of Eucalypt and the crescendo of cicada song that would permeate my entire surroundings throughout summer. As a teen, time and time again, I bushwalked our families property that backed onto mountainous National forest. I often sensed the indigenous ancestral spirits of our land watching attentively.
It is this deep connection that I have to the earth that not only leaves me feeling exultant, it leaves me troubled. I am troubled by the continuing problems caused to the environment. I admit to feeling quite disturbed recently when I read a number of reports about the persisting problems with the Fukushima Nuclear plant – radiated water still leaking into the ocean. Birdlife and ocean animals found suffering from radiation burns. Should we even be eating fish from the pacific? I can’t begin to fathom the enormity of the repercussions from this disaster that will be seen for many generations to come. My inner activist wants to be out there on the frontline, riding the waves on the Rainbow Warrior, tied to an ancient tree in protest of lopping; but I know my place is here, nurturing my little ones. So what can I do with these troubled feelings, with the frustration and with the love I have for Mother earth and all her beings? Action starts from home. So I let it fuel my fire and I get creative. I paint, I write, I garden; with intention. My intention is to play a role, no matter how small, that aids in the healing of the planet. I hold hope that it inspires other to do the same.
Last month I was asked to give a brief talk at our local Organic Gardener’s club about ‘Living with Bugs’. This is a subject very close to my heart because I am a firm believer that the overuse of chemicals in agriculture, our homes and the reliance on monoculture has caused significant interruptions in the biology of eco-systems. The determination to ‘kill’ bugs, animals and plants that pose a threat sees not only the inconvenient or ‘pest’ species eradicated, but also the species that can be of benefit. The result is a vicious cycle of chemical use that harms more than what the labels on the products advise. Our soils have become depleted of all nutrients, our food and surrounds are laced with chemicals and the ill health of the earth body is being reflected in the health of our own bodies. I recently listened to a TED talk by Eve Ensler, and she speaks of this candidly. She believes that her disconnection from her body and her battle with cancer, was a reflection of the disconnection from, and the diseased state of the greater earth body. You can listen to her here.
I have a large garden and grow what food I can organically. Not using chemicals and supporting farmers that do the same is one way I can make a difference. Much of what I grow is selected to attract or repel pests and predators. Good gardening and earth care is all about maintaining a healthy balance. It’s not about control; it’s about working with, rather than against nature. One of my priorities is attracting Bees, for it is the bee colonies that are suffering detrimentally due to the overuse of pesticides, herbicides, artificial fertilisers and GM crops. The importance and sacredness of not only the bee, but also the honey and the hive dates back many, many thousands of years. The bee has been held sacred in numerous ancient cultures and appears in the myths, creations stories and cosmologies of African, South American, Australian, European, and Hindu-Indian traditions. The bee and the hive were powerful symbols of community, continuance and regeneration. Their ability to make honey was considered magical or divine and was used for its medicinal and soothing qualities. It was also used as a food source, in drinks and as a ritual libation. Honey was a symbol of abundance, sweetness and life.
Bees are often associated with females, particularly goddesses. In Norse legend the tears of Freya were said to be made of bees of gold, while in Hindu traditions Siva is represented by a triangle triumphed by a bee. In ancient Egypt the bee represented both royalty through the goddess Neith and the sun god Ra. The Minoan culture of ancient Crete depicted many goddesses with bee like stripes, wings and antennae. Marija Gimbutas provides ample evidence of bee goddesses in her book “The Goddesses and Gods of Old Europe”. A prominent Greek goddess associated with the bee is Artemis, goddess of nature and the hunt. She was said to have overseen the territory of the wild bees. Her great temple at Ephesus has been translated as meaning “place of bees” and the priestesses of Ephesus were called ‘Melissae’, or ‘bees’. The site of Delphi was believed to have been constructed by bees. The Pythia, chief priestess, was called the “Delphic Bee”. In ancient Greece, the divine description of the bee was not only reserved for priestesses, prophetesses or goddesses, it was also bestowed upon musicians, poets artists and philosophers.
It is no wonder that ancient cultures revered the bee. Their importance in the eco-system cannot be underestimated. When I wander around my garden I am often overwhelmed with the volume of buzzing. Some mornings I can hear the bees from my bedroom. I love to watch them dancing gracefully from the nasturtiums, to the salvia, Queen Anne’s Lace, lavender, and then onto the cheery faces of the cosmos. Bees in my garden, always puts a smile on my face and brings me immense satisfaction. This is one small difference for the better I have made.
My latest painting, ‘TalisFairy’ while intricate in its meaning and symbology, is relevant to this discussion because the bee held in the prism was intentionally painted to symbolise the healing that needs to occur, not only in our environment so that bee colonies survive, but for our spiritual connection to all living things. Bees are members of the ‘hymenopteran’ class of insects; this means ‘veil-winged’. The Fairy, who is an embodiment of me, also has a set of veiled wings, symbolic of the inter-connectedness of all life. Let us learn from the ancients and treat bees, and nature for that matter, with the reverence and respect deserved. Blessed Bee.
I’d like to give mention here that Carol Christ’s blog on the Labrys as wings was part inspiration for this piece, so too was a piece I wrote on bees and honey in July for my local Organic Garden club .
Jassy Watson, who lives on the sub-tropical coast of Queensland Australia, is a mother of four, a passionate organic gardener, an artist, and a student of ancient history and religion at Macquarie University, Sydney. She runs a small business Goddesses Garden and Studio to keep women’s sacred circles, art, music and gardening practices alive. Jassy will be teaching regular painting workshops and retreats using the Colour of Woman Method from October 2013. Visit her website www.goddessesgardenandstudio.com for dates.