All of the potential and possibility of the world is present in a single seed. That seed has the ability to grow, to flourish, to produce fruit and flowers, to offer nutrition, magic, and strength. Seed starting offers us a chance to connect deeply with the seeds we plant, and to , from the very beginning, establish and maintain sacred relationships with our plant allies. Seed starting is a truely magical druidic practice, and in today’s post, I want to talk a bit about the magic of seed staring and share a simple ritual that you can do to bless your seeds as you plant them. Some of my earlier posts on seed starting can be found here (a general philosophy of seeds from a druidic perspective) and here (recycled materials for seed starting).
One of the most important parts of a druid practice, in my opinion, is integrating sacred activities into everyday life. I think working to live our regular lives in a sacred manner is one of the ways we can stay balanced, happy, and connected in an otherwise unbalanced world. But I also think that this is part of what living druidry is all about–finding sacred moments, sharing them, understanding that each moment can have its own kind of sacredness. This is important in each aspect of our lives, but certainly, in activities that tie us directly to other kinds of life and allow us to interact with other cycles of life. To me, there is nothing more sacred than starting seeds. And while this may be considered a “mundane” activity to some, to me, it is an incredibly sacred one. Because the seeds we will start are such a blessing to so many, and are part of the sacred cycle of nature, I think its critical to honor them and support them on the journey that they will take from seed to harvest.
Connection, Nourishment, and Relationships: What Seeds Offer
This is the time of year for starting seeds. Right now, we are just over 14 weeks out from our last frost date, and the first of our seeds are being started this upcoming week on the full moon, these include our greenhouse seeds (kale, lettuce, spinach, arugula), our alliums, and some slow-growing herbs (rosemary, lavender, white sage). These seeds will feed us, nourish us, and in the case of the white sage, rosemary, and lavender, also be used for sacred offering blends, smudge stick making, rituals here on our land, and other sacred activities surrounding our druid practices.
Last year, the white sage and lavender we grew from seed ended up being shared with members of the grove and other friends, mostly in the form of incenses and smudges. It continues to be offered in our rituals, both individual and grove. Last year, the vegetables we grew ended up with over 10 families, as well as in our bellies and the bellies of our animals here on the land. So part of the magic of starting these particular seeds is the magic of community, togetherness, and sharing. I think that happens a lot when we grow things–we end up sharing the abundance. The plants give and give to us, and it is only right that we give back to them. One of the ways we can give back is do rituals that offer them the same thing they offer us: physical nourishment and metaphysical energy.
But there’s another piece of this too–seed starting is about relationships: establishing relationship with new lines of seeds, or, maintaining relationships with saved seed over a period of time. Some of these seeds we are starting this week are brand new to me and have entered my life for the first time. That is, we purchased them from organic seed companies or small sellers. These seeds should be welcomed and honored as friends. But some of these seeds have been with me for a long time. One of the alliums I am planing, a Long Red Florence onion, has been with me quite a while. In fact, if you are a long-term reader of this blog, this isn’t the first time I’ve shown the photo to the right. I began planting this seed in 2012, and I am planting the seeds of this particular onion’s offspring today. A seed planting ritual, then, should also connect you deeply with the plants–both those who are brand new, and those who you have cultivated relationships with over time. And so, a good seed starting ritual should be about establishing and maintaining relationships.
Relationships with perennials and annuals are a bit different, and I want to talk about that difference briefly here, as it has very direct relevance on the rituals I’ll share today. Annuals, in a lot of cases, particularly in cultivated varieties that are not native or naturalized to your region, depend on you for continuing to grow. It is rare for a lot of plants to come back (or they will come back at the wrong time, like a rotted tomato that dropped to the ground and then starts sending up babies from the sprouts 2 weeks before frost!) These plants, due to their long cultivation by humans, need us. Perennials need us too, but in that case, its more to visit, to honor them, to continue to make sure they have what they need to grow. In either case though, we are talking about interdependency.
So from the above, we have four key pieces to a good seed starting ritual: physical nourishment, energy, relationship, and interdependency. Let’s now take a look at some options for how you can build this into an existing seed starting practice.
Seed Starting Rituals
With most rituals, particularly in the druid context (where we don’t have hardly any ancient traditions to go back to), the intentions are what matter most. You can do a lot of different things to get at the four points above, and you can do different things that go from very simple to fairly elaborate in terms of ritual. I’m going to offer a few options, but these are by no means the only options you have before you! But I think the key thing is to think about the principles above: nourishment, relationship, energy, and interdependency. Here’s what I like to do:
Assemble all of your supplies. Before you start, assemble your supplies: potting soil, pots, seeds, a work area, and so on. Put your potting soil or any other nutrients (like coffee grounds, great for seed starting) in your work area. Have a bucket or potting tray ready to mix. Also have labels available and anything else you will need, like a small hand shovel, etc.
The Elemental Seed Starting Ritual.
For this ritual, you’ll need something to offer the seeds from each of the five core elements: earth, fire, water, air, and spirit.
- For earth, you can offer a good potting mix rich with nutrients, the most obvious thing for planting seeds. If you can, grab a little bit of the soil that last year’s plants were grown in. As part of the ritual, you will mix the soil with nutrients and your own energy, so don’t fill up your pots in advance.
- For Air, you have your own breath, which is better than anything else. You can have incense, feathers, or other air-focused elements to supplement, of course.
- For water, you can offer standard pure water, or, if you are particularly ambitious and want to build tremendous relationship and interdependency, offer a 90% water and 10% of your own urine in a mix. I know this sounds crazy, but read my blog post here. Its pretty simple–your urine is very high in nitrogen, which is one of the core building blocks for all plant life. Your waste product is their life–just as their waste product, oxygen, is yours. Using your own urine puts you in a direct interdependent relationship that frankly, few other things, can do. I usually have a pot of pure water for mixing and then the urine/water dilution for watering afterward.
- For fire, you may use any representation of fire; if the sun is shining, I like to bring the seeds into the sun. If not, I like to have candles available.
- For spirit, I prefer to use an herbal offering that I grew or some other spiritual offering. Anything you’d typically use as an offering will do.
A few notes before I describe the ritual: You can start your seeds all at once, or you can start each different seed type one at a time, using the appropriate elements as needed. What I’ve offered is just a suggestion of what you can do for the seeds; please feel free to adjust and add your own creativity into this ritual!
Establish a Sacred Grove or Sacred Space. Many druid traditions, including OBOD and AODA, offer clear instructions for how to establish a sacred grove. (I described one version of a sacred grove in a recent post on herbalism). I like to start my seeds in a sacred grove, as a sacred grove in my tradition sets intentions for sacred work. This helps with both energy and relationship. And so, before beginning to plant, I will establish a sacred grove. While you don’t have to do this, I recommend it.
The Work of Earth: Mix your potting soil. Begin by putting your potting soil, nutrients, coffee grounds, peat moss, whatever you are using as your typical seed starting mix in a potting tray or bucket. Even if you are using a completely store bought mix, go ahead and put it in the bucket. Begin mixing the materials together, and as you do, envision some of your own energy going into the soil.
As you mix, you might want to chant or sing. I prefer to chant the ogham for Oak (strength, stability): Duir (doo-er). So I will mix and chant. It is much easier to seed start with wet soil, so after I chant, I will add some pure water to my mix and mix it all well before putting my soil in the trays.
Put your soil in the trays. As you do so, continue to chant.
Establishing and Maintaining Relationship through Planting Your Seeds. Hold your seeds in your hand for a moment, and connect with the spirit of the seed. Welcome any new seeds. For those who you already have a relationship with, tell them you are glad to see them. Pause for a moment to see if the seeds have anything to share with you. Then, plant each one. As you plant, sing or chant. I like to chant the Ogham for birch here (Beith) for new beginnings. Once you are finished, say “My energy supports you, as you will support me. May the great soil web of life bring you strength.”
The Work of Air. Label your seeds. As you label, continue to chant Beith or offer other air blessings. When you are done labeling, blow softly over each of the pots of seeds. Say, “My outbreath is your inbreath, your breath is my life. May the blessings of the air sustain you.”
The Work of Water. Take your pure water or urine dilution, and sing or chant as you water each plant. I like to chant the ogham Willow here (Sallie) while I am watering. After watering say, “My nutrients feed you, as you will feed me. May the power of the water nourish you.”
The Work of Fire. Sing or chant the ogham for Fir/Pine (Alim) (Aye-lim) and hold up the pots to the sunlight. Alternatively, move a candle around the pots. Say, “May the fire of the sun let you grow.”
The Work of Spirit. Sing or chant the ogham for Apple (Quert) (or another ogham as you choose). As you do this, sprinkle an offering lightly over the pots. When you are finished say, “My offering today, for your offering tomorrow. May the Nwyfre flow through you.”
Additions: Singing and Drumming. At this point, feel free to do anything else you like. I like to drum or play my panflute a little for the seeds in a welcome and to raise good energy for them.
Close the space. When you are finished, thank the spirits and close out your sacred grove.
While it seems like a lot above, the ritual is actually quite simple. I’ve used the energy of the Ogham, of sacred trees, and of sacred chanting to do the work of connecting to each of the elements. But you could connect with them in any way you want, or replace what I’ve done with other sources of power that you work with (such as deity, etc).
If you have any other ideas for sacred seed starting, or if you have things you’ve done in the past, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! Thank you for reading and blessings of the seeds!