An Introduction to Earth Altar
One of the ways the ancient Chinese tended to the forces of Change was to establish altars in places where the veil between the worlds was gossamer thin. Here, people made offerings to the spirits of Change and to the overarching Mystery. These and other spirits were fed and celebrated, and, in exchange, kept humans informed of the energetic influences that were coming or going on the waters of time.
The Earth Altar was a place to mark the ebb and flow of the seasons and the phases of the moon; the times for sowing and harvest; for marriage, celebration, battle and mourning; and, often, to know when to patiently observe while waiting for the right moment to act. The purpose of this elaborate exchange was to align human activity with natural rhythms in order to make the world as beautiful and balanced as the Source from which all things arise. The relationship with place and to the spirits was intimate - shaped by close observation, reciprocity, reflection and, inevitably, therefore, gratitude, awe, and humility. It was a beautiful way to live. It still is.
These spirits are hungry now, and who can blame them? Our relationship with the natural world is in tatters. We ignore those that came before us along with those that will come in the future we are destroying. Since humans are the only species with no discernible ecological function, it seems obvious that our one unique contribution to the continuance of Life is to actively express our appreciation through language. We can lift our voices and tap our toes, yes, as other species do. We can tell stories and sing praises – as other species do. We are not the only ones whose languages are complex. But human language is, well, uniquely human, and that’s the point. It’s time we remember what language is for, beyond bluster, business and accusation.
In the beginning, the multiple tongues of the great, fecund Mother uttered us alive, en-chanting the soil with the Myriad Beings who fed us their names and showed us our place in the holographic essence of Life. Words were the original rhythms of reverence, the incantations by which the Earth recognized herself in the exactitude of human speech. Language was a basket of word-gifts filled with place names and hummingbirds, and syllables sculpted by lightning. It was the sacred vessel into which sounds were poured that, when spoken aloud, reassured the Earth and the Ancestors that we heard them, and that we were aware that they were listening to us.
This blog is, above all, an expression of wonder. It is an ongoing, intricate, ever-changing love letter to the Natural World, the Ancestors, and the Future. It is an invitation to us all to fall in love with the Earth again so that we may hear Her above the din of human activity and remember how to live.