Who or What is The Sacred Gardener?

| By Steven Martyn |

It’s happened a few times that folks have thought that I am the Sacred Gardener. Well, maybe on a good day the Sacred Gardener might be you or me. But for sure it’s someone we’re all striving to be.

Many of us have come to a place of understanding that we must live in harmony with the Earth. We come to this truth like pilgrims to a holy relic, from all walks of life, following many pathways to get there.

To realize this truth of living well with the Earth, we need the traditional knowledge of the land and of our ancestors. We can’t live in the past but we need to go back to find something we lost.

It’s a long journey to apprentice in the land arts, and at some point on the way, usually as we begin to become proficient, we realize that the journey doesn’t end with the skills, it only begins with them.

The truth of living in harmony with the Earth, and each other, is that the skills, while being essential, won’t get us all the way there. What our journey’s outcome depends on is the condition of our soul.

If we act like hungry ghosts, always taking, the condition of our life will be poverty-stricken, we will always be lacking, and our search for happiness will only bring more discord. When we begin to feed the life around us and feed the mythic forces that put our bodies together and gave us life, when we start to fatten the starving spirits of our ancestors and of the land, then we will know richness and harmony.

If we don’t deeply acknowledge, and give of ourselves to the mythic dimension, then learning skills is just another way of ‘taking’, another commodification of tradition, another badge for our ego. We may have good intentions, but our habitual taking scares away the spirits that gave birth to the skills, who could give us back our life!

But if we adopt practices within a living mythical context, then the skills are born into our whole consciousness, and can live again. They can find a home in our passion.

To most of us, it seems, there is an inner and outer ecology, but in truth we know there is only one ecology, and we are part of it. This is also true of our soul and the natural environment. They are directly linked. They’re part of the same spirit, one an extension of the other. If you don’t agree, just think about when you’ve encountered nature in Her primordial form, like a wild animal, a huge river, an ancient forest or ocean. Our soul comes back to us, and we feel fully alive, complete. And while what this should teach us is clear, our rationalist education has made us blind to the fact that abusing or caring for the environment is abusing or caring for our own soul.

Our life and how we live with the Earth, form a gateway to tend the garden of the soul. This is what we’re here to do, and it is the only gateway accessible to us. Not coincidentally, we have collectively also come to a place in our human history where the only way we will survive is if we learn to take care of the environment. What an opportunity! Save the world and our soul!

These days, using religious terms, like soul, might be seen as antiquated or even deluded, but with the loss of those last castings (vestiges) of western spirituality, we are completely losing sight of what used to be ‘a spiritual world’ for everyone, always. A world, that while we may not believe in, we are desperately missing. The new age movement, yoga, harry potter, vampires… these are all ways to reconnect with the spiritual world we lost when we killed the last of our Gods.

The reason we’re missing the mythical/spiritual world, that we don’t believe in, is because for three hundred thousand years humans have lived in a mysterious world filled with spirits, where life is a perilous journey for the soul with deadly traps and treasures waiting around each corner for us. We are still traveling through this mine field but fooled ourselves into thinking life is predictable and safe. Now, for the first time in history, with our scientific rationalizing, we have explained the world of spirit away, as ‘just stories’, and wiped the trail clean with bows of reason.

But the spirit in us is wild and can sniff out its own kind, drawing us back to one of a thousand trailheads. And the trail leads into the wilderness, where She lives; or at least to the garden or some wild hedgerow.

The wilderness is a living relic of the mythical realm we are from. This is why it’s so important to care for Her, to feed Her with our prayers and learn to live in a good way. Not just “for the environment” but for our soul. The Gods and Goddesses that created this world, define not just how we live on this side of the ground but how it will go for us on the underside as well.

And while the trail heads, while mystery is everywhere, you don’t necessarily want to meet Her where we’ve trashed Her home. From there She looks terrifying, like a flood, fire or black out. In the wilderness where She’s at home, we have a chance to sense Her dancing creation into being; radiating love.

In learning to live well with Her, we come to live in a mythic way. Where everything we do, think and perceive matters, echoes out in time, creating futures.

Inside of nature, inside of culture, inside of us, there lives a mythic storyline that our life is hanging on. A story that is unfolding in each moment like a flower slowly opening. The Sacred Gardener lives inside the flower of time, in the mythic realm at the heart of creation, where there is no birth and no death. There is only tending to the garden in the moment; feeling the cool earth underfoot, listening to the orchestra of birds and insects, smelling the beauty of life, seeing flowers open, set seed and wither as “one”. Like watching waves on the beach, we see everything being born, growing, dying and going home, as one wave.

And then from tending to the glory of each moment in the garden, watching Her ecstatic dance, another miracle happens. We are gifted with Manna, food directly from the Gods for both our body and soul.

If you have any doubt about this I will show you.

Deep in the forest or in my gardens, there are altars that lead directly to the Elemental world, where we can feed the Gods and Goddesses of Death, who build the body of the world.

  • The Sacred Gardener School