Good Grief


By Nala Walla

Ask modern people about the word grief and we will usually mention sorrow, depression, death, and anguish—something we have developed all sorts of medications to “treat,” something we pray won’t happen to us.   And when we are unavoidably visited by grief, we commonly consider it to be a private matter that we don’t burden others with. Grieving is something mostly done (or avoided) behind closed doors.

Standard dictionaries list the word grief as a synonym for depression, for nervous breakdown, for misery and trouble. Consider this definition from Merriam Webster:

1-deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death.
2-keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss
3-trouble or annoyance.

Synonyms: sorrow, misery, sadness, anguish, pain, distress, heartache, heartbreak, agony, torment, affliction, suffering, woe, desolation, dejection, despair.

But what if grief is not any of these things? Is there such a thing as Good Grief?


A look beyond conventional definitions of “grief as affliction” reveals some radically different views.   When we consider traditional cultural practices, we find grief holds a position of great importance and, at the same time, of striking ordinariness. And a variety of rituals, customs, and village-scale ceremonies are regularly held to support—not suppress—the grieving process.   Such rituals reflect acceptance of the naturalness and inevitability of traumatic human events such as deaths, disasters, betrayals, and failures of all kinds.  Grief is not viewed as a personal shortcoming or pathology, nor a problem to be solved. On the contrary, the power of grief is harnessed to transform people into more mature human beings.

In his beautiful little book Grief and Praise, Mayan elder Martin Prechtel reminds us that grief is a necessary part of life, without which, we remain armored and stunted, and “in some way dead.”

It is true that grief is an interruption into normal life like the necessary swelling and opening of a seed for it to sprout and grow to full flower. Whether we know it or not, human beings are relegated to the fact that without grief, we can never grow ourselves into real people…When grief does as it is meant to, it turns sorrow into an ecstatic, out-of-time, inebriated symphony at the very direction of the divine…

This more holistic view of grief recognizes the paradoxical association of grief with gratitude, with joy, with spiritual growth and aliveness. When we understand grief in this expanded way, we see that our culture has it backwards: depression is not grief, but the repudiation of grief. To avoid grief is to disconnect ourselves from one of the deepest sources of our vitality, and thus be turned into zombies. Grief is the medicine, not the toxin.


“Grief is not a feeling. Grief is a skill. And the twin of grief is the skill of being able to praise, or love, life. Which means, wherever you find one authentically done, the other is very close at hand. Grief, and the praise of life, side by side.”

–Stephen Jenkinson, from the film Griefwalker.

These days the word technology is typically used in reference to mechanical devices such as computers, and to advances in the programs that run them. But the meaning of the Greek root word techne is, “skill.” And in our modern societies, our grieving skills have fallen by the wayside, resulting in unfathomable illness—physical, emotional and spiritual.

Rituals for grief are truly valuable social-cultural technologies that enable us to turn the inevitable stresses and traumas of human lives into vibrant growth and spiritual connection, instead of becoming isolated in a mire of resentment or victimhood. What if we were to spend as much effort developing these “soft technologies” as we do silicon-based “hard tech”?   To recover the transformational power of grief to transmute potentially crippling experiences would be nothing short of revolutionary for our culture.

With so many distressing current events on the world stage—from natural disasters, to war, genocide, political turmoil, climate change, systematic impoverishment, and ecocide— the need to revise our relationship to grief is becoming more and more urgent. And because the above list is already layered atop of generations of ungrieved exploitation and abuse, we now stand facing a tidal wave of emotions demanding our immediate attention.

The technologies of grief can help us to allow these strong emotions to have their necessary affect on us, to carve us into our new shapes as deeper, more ripened human beings and human cultures. Instead of becoming paralyzed by rage and despair, we can learn to renew our capacity to love our world and take decisive actions to safeguard what we love. In this sense, griefwork is an essential practice for activists or anyone hoping to make this world a better place.


Around the time my mom was diagnosed with cancer, I started experiencing an intensely sleepless period usually referred to as “insomnia.” I had recently become a mother myself, and felt the enormous strain of caring for a toddler while simultaneously navigating an unfamiliar landscape of big city hospitals, multiple crosscountry flights, and a flood of feelings and memories that had come unbound. Few would be surprised that the pressure I was under would create a state of hypervigilance or anxiety. And few would hesitate to recommend every manner of pills and potions to “cure” me.

In hindsight, however, I can see how the diagnoses of PTSD and insomnia created a problem out of my natural impulse to grieve. As a new mama, I had very little time during the day to reflect, to write, to cry or wail, and my body was plainly demanding that I spend some time processing the powerful experiences I was going through.   But the prevailing view of insomnia as pathological now heaped midnight panic on top of an already-large pile of sorrows and mourning—whenever I woke at night, I would instantly spin off into judgement “Oh no! Not again! There is something really wrong with me!”

I have since come to understand my “insomnia” as a soulful call for a deeply quiet space beyond the busy-ness of the daylight world. My nighttime waking has become a profoundly healing and connective time for me, as I am learning to trust my body as a faithful herald, calling me towards what is right, not what is wrong.


Death is only one of many commonplace events that can initiate a grieving process: divorce, loss of a job, estrangement, betrayal, abuse, retirement, empty nest, fire and flood, moving to another house or town, the cutting of a beloved patch of woods, and countless others.   Even experiences generally considered joyous such as marriages or births are usually mingled with sadness and loss.  Yet, because our culture amplifies the cheerful and minimizes the painful parts of life, we become badly lopsided and alienated from the rich complexity of our experience.

Each of us can start the process of re-definition by recognizing that grief is not equivalent to sorrow, sadness or despair. Grief is not an emotion at all, but rather a powerful skill and human technology. Normalizing grief gives us permission to seek and offer support so we can once again experience the alchemical potential of powerful emotions such as sorrow, despair and rage. If loss is part and parcel of human life, then instead of fearing and despising grief, we are wise to restore griefwork to its noble position as necessary and beautiful skill, smartly woven into the fabric of life.

I saw grief drinking a cup of sorrow
And called out
It tastes sweet, does is not?
You have caught me, grief answered
And you have ruined my business
How can I sell sorrow
When you know it’s a blessing?
–Jalal au-Din Rumi

Nala Walla, MS, NTP, CGRS
Integrative Wellness |  Ancestral Nutrition | Somatic Griefwork

Nala Walla is a wellness educator, homesteader and performer known for her creative crosspollination between body-based healing arts and ecology. She holds a masters degree in Ecosomatics, and is founding member of the BCollective: an organization dedicated to the evolution of sustainable and humane culture. She currently co-hosts the Grief and Gratitude Lodge with Laurence Cole on Marrowstone Island, and maintains a private practice integrating Nutritional Therapy, Somatics and Griefwork. More info, including published writing, is available at and



Sour Oat Hotcakes

And my fermented-grain adventures continue with SOUR OAT HOT CAKES!!

I made these little tasties for breakfast today using fermented oats, duck eggs and raw milk. They are FLOURLESS, GLUTEN-FREE, WHEAT-FREE and 100% LOCAL and ORGANIC. (By the way, we always knew it was important to eat organic, but this latest Wise Traditions article about glyphosate contamination of collagen is the real clincher.)

I always keep a mason jar of whole oats (thanks to local farm Nash’s Organic) bubbling away on my countertop. The fermentation process is a type of “cooking” which softens them, and basically makes them ready to serve anytime, as convenient as instant oats, except waaaaay more nutritious and digestible. Even easier is making oatmeal. Just grind with some water, heat, and serve this simple porridge (with plenty of butter.)

For this recipe, I take a few scoops of oats from the jar and grind them in the food processor with pastured duck eggs and raw milk.  Kids love them (yay!) and they are pretty simple to make even on a busy morning.  And BONUS: the fermentation reduces the glycemic load, deactivates anti-nutrients like phytic acid, and basically predigests the grain for you, making these cakes a nutritional win-win-win.


•2 cups fermented whole oats (drained and rinsed)

•2 large (duck) eggs

•1/3 cup (raw) milk

•2 Tbsp olive oil (or other favorite fat: melted coconut oil, ghee, etc. 

•1/2 tsp baking soda

•1/2 tsp salt

Grind ingredients in a food processor, cook on a hot buttered griddle and serve with any of your favorite pancake toppings. I like melted butter, yogurt and cooked fruit on top. This recipe makes enough cakes to have extra–great as a snack in my son’s lunchbox.

NOTE: These cakes work better when kept small. Larger hotcakes have a hard time holding together because they have no gluten.

Enjoy, and B Well—>>>Nala Walla
BWell Nutrition and Somatics
Integrative Wellness Coaching





Holy Sh**t-sicles

I know this isn’t a very marketable name for a food, but I don’t care: these Popsicles are the shiznit! No added sweetener. Just sunripe goodness coupled with nutrient-dense all-stars like coconut oil and grassfed butter. A treat you can be confident will actually nourish your kids, instead of the typical sugar-bombsicles that will rot the teeth out of their heads.

The color and texture is pretty close to poop, but ya just gotta grin, and then admit that some sh**t really is holy.


1 cup ripe raspberries
2 TB grassfed butter
2 TB coconut oil
3/4 cup sour cream (I use organic, lactose-free version)
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
2 TB unsweetened cacao powder
[Options: add a splash of raw honey, or substitute coconut creme/milk for the butter and yogurt if you want a dairy-free version.]

Blend everything in food processor, add to Popsicle molds and freeze! Makes 8 Popsicles. You’re welcome, kids.


Bone Broth Gazpacho

I’m a soup gal. I like to eat it everyday, sometimes several times a day. Lately, however, it’s been so hot, I haven’t been drawn to soup.

But I don’t like missing my daily dose of bone broth! So, dutifully made the creamy cauliflower purée that is normally one of my favorites, but it sat there uneaten.

UNTIL!–I decided to turn it into GAZPACHO! I pulsed tomato and zucchini chunks along with lime juice, chopped parsley, and sea salt, in the food processor, then mixed in the cauliflower purée (which already had quite a bit of butter in it, by the way).

VOILA! A tangy, mouth-watering bone broth gazpacho to drink over ice at the beach. It’s perfect–bone broth, butter, raw veggies, and electrolytes all in one meal.

Super yummm!


Lard Mayonnaise–NOT RUNNY!

I’ve never been able to find a store-bought mayo that doesn’t contain the evil canola oil. Even the ones that claim to be made of “olive oil” still have canola in them.Years ago, I’d tried the recipe for homemade olive-oil mayo in Nourishing Traditions, but it always came out runny.  I tried subbing out coconut oil to make it more solid, but I found the coconutty flavor didn’t really work for mayo, so I kinda gave up on it.

But today, I was making potato salad, and a lightbulb went off to substitute good ole fashioned LARD for the olive oil, and PRESTO!!!  Perfect mayo!!!  It’s so good, in fact, that I wonder if LARD was actually the original base for mayo before it was demonized.   Well, now we know better, don’t we?

Here’s the recipe:  ENJOY!


1 egg

1 egg yolk

1 tsp. prepared mustard

2 or 3 tsp. lemon juice

1 TBsp whey or other lacto-starter (OPTIONAL: the purpose is to make the mayo last much longer.  2 months or more, as opposed to 2 weeks without it.)

generous pinch of salt

3/4 cup lard (melted)

Put all ingredients except lard in food processor.  Mix well for about 20 seconds.  Then turn processor on and drizzle in melted lard slowly.

Super nutrient dense with Essential Fatty Acids — use it on everything!


Halloween Switch Witch to the Rescue!

Grandmother Witch

Around Halloween, health-conscious moms around the country are faced with the challenge of how to avoid all the HFCS and GMO-laden candy that surrounds us this time of year.

I want my son to be able to participate in Halloween Festivities, to dress up in costumes, to Trick or Treat, and to bob for apples with the best of ’em, but I don’t want him subjected to the metabolic havoc of gorging on Snickers Bars, Smarties, and Candy Corn.

So, we have struck a bargain with the “Switch Witch.”

I tell my son that he can collect all the candy he wants on Halloween, and then give it to “The Switch Witch,”  who will exchange it for his favorite foods.  This year I asked him what those foods were and he replied, “French Fries” “Chocolate Chips” and “Bananas.”  So, we gave the the Switch Witch the candy, and she gave Mama the raw ingredients.  The next day, I created the following recipe for “Banana Chocolate Chip Cupcakes” (being primarily comprised of of eggs, almond butter and sweet potato, these are much more like nutrient dense, grain-free muffins than cakes.)

And, as a bonus, it gave us a super-educational and fun activity to do all morning, as my three-year old got to measure everything out, press the button on the food processor, and, of course, lick the spoon!

Next activity is making gourmet french fries from our garden potatoes and local, home rendered tallow (lard works great too!)

Voila:  some (not so) naughty homemade treats to replace the typcial nasty Halloween fare.  THANKS, SWITCH WITCH!

RECIPE:  Grain-Free Banana Chocolate Chip Cake 

•4 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes (cooled, or else the chocolate chips will melt, which is just as yummy….)

•1 1/2 cups homemade almond butter (made from soaked & dehydrated unpasteurized almonds–buzzed in food processor about 2 minutes)

•4 eggs (100% local & pastured with deep, rich golden yolks!)

•1/3 cup raw honey (or to taste)

•2 organic bananas (overripe ones work great)

•2 Tbsp. powdered gelatin (Great Lakes)

•couple handfuls of fair trade, organic, dark chocolate chips

•1 1/2 tsp. sea salt

•1 tsp. baking soda (optional)

Grease cake pan with coconut oil, butter, or other yummy saturated fat.

Process almonds in food processor or blender til it turns into almond butter.  Add remaining ingredients except chocolate chips and mix together.  Consistency should be like a cake batter. If it needs more liquid, you can add milk, cream, or cooking water from sweet potatoes. Stir in chocolate chips before folding into cake pan or lined muffin tins.

Bake at a low temp–250 degrees for about 1 hour.  This cake comes out pretty dense, almost pudding-like in the center, so we are basically dehydrating it a bit in the oven, and allowing the batter to “gel” rather than “rise.”  If you want fluffy cupcakes, add baking powder to batter, increase oven temp to 350, and reduce baking time to 20-30 minutes.

(Need I mention that these go great with homemade lard frosting?  Just pulse lard with maple syrup and spread it on!)

Bee Well this Halloween!

Nala Walla, MS, FIMCA, NTP (June 2015)
Ecosomatic Wellness Coaching

Ugly Ducklings and Suckers

When I hear the word “sucker,” I think of the plum tree in my garden, which sends out little shoots and leaves in a circle around itself, pushing up dozens of baby sprouts everywhere in an effort to reproduce. Many-a plant species uses this suckering strategy, especially when under stress, often cramping up in a tangle of itself so dense that it can choke out its own sunlight and compete with itself for soil resources, making it difficult for any individual in the thicket to thrive.

Sound familiar?

This behavior reminds me of the frenzied and almost automated reproduction of the human race in the last few thousand—and especially the last few hundred—years. Despite our rapidly declining physical, mental, and spiritual health, we just keep on multiplying.
Or maybe it’s really because of our rapidly declining health that our population is exploding?

There’s a sucker born every minute.

Perhaps we (accurately or inaccurately) sense an impending doom and we whirl around in some preset breeding fit that only increases the pressure on the family, the community, the larger ecology. This downward spiral then involves even more suckers to respond to the stress, along with decreasing regard for the vigor or sanity of our offspring.

And then, of course, there is the other sense of the word sucker, which also happens to line up quite well with modern behaviors: someone desperate, someone gullible, someone willing to accept almost any imitation as reality. Confronted with the firepower of an increasingly exploitative and and pathetically fake society, our habitual response is to paddle around our polluted little pond faster and faster with our brood. As the big guns take aim, the chemicals rot our feathers, and we become the proverbial sitting ducks.

But there are other responses to stress besides suckering.   Like the fabled Ugly Duckling, it is time for us to find the place where we truly belong, a beautiful place that involves real sustenance for people and planet both. Not to mention that human beings are (supposedly) a heckuvalot smarter than ducks. It is possible to slow our pace and actually give our children what they need, even if its something we never got ourselves. We can insert some creativity into our tired old procreative fantasies.

Like all other life on Earth, humans do have to reproduce if we are to continue here. Strict abstinence strategies amount to little more than suicide.

The real question is:  reproduce what?

It seems less and less wise to invest the future of humanity in a generation of record-breakingly sick, traumatized and bullied children. Plus a growing epidemic of fertility problems is rapidly chopping away at the colossal numbers we are capable of replicating.

Can we make an attempt to tune-out the roaring industrial propaganda—including brainwashing and guilt-trips about over-population, food pyramids, material success, academic achievement, obedience, manners, and discipline–and listen for the instinctual voice that still knows the root of what our children need? Nourishing food, loving arms, clean air, water & soil, strong family and community ties. These have always been the basis of what humans need to thrive. Maybe if we took care of these basics, we would naturally figure out how to keep our numbers in the range that our ecosystems can support, a homeostasis we achieved for 99% of human existence and lost only a blink ago.

If we can focus on raising a few truly healthy children, maybe when they grow up, they won’t be such suckers.

What Blacklist?

It’s not a Blacklist. And you don’t know who is on it.

It’s not a public list. But those who know, know. And those that don’t, don’t even know it exists, because it doesn’t. They might suspect, but they can’t confirm.

There is a Blacklist, but we don’t call it that.  So there isn’t one.  A Blacklist cannot exist in our pretty little community.  We are too mature, too enlightened for a Blacklist.

Hug the woman who doesn’t know. She thinks you are her friend. She reaches out her puny arms to you. Just smile and hug her quickly back. Have pity on her. Have compassion for her blindness. For her self-defeating refusal to join the ones who know. For her sad and unevolved rejection of universal abundance.

Just smile and hug. Make small-talk. Envision a big black B on her forehead as you take a step towards the door. Do not be swayed by her doubts. Remember, she is blocked, even if she has been your friend for years. Let her story fade into the B.

Listen but do not hear as she wonders why she hasn’t seen you in awhile.  She has chosen her own exile.  Listen but do not hear as she tells you her mother is ill. Poor thing. She must have manifested the misfortune. Pat her head and walk away. Don’t look back.

And don’t be tempted. All those who wear the black B are a threat to Us, even if they don’t know who We are. Say hello. Give a quick kiss. But be sure your connection ends there, or else you might reveal your knowledge of the List. Make and maintain appearances. Then leave the room.

Lie if necessary. Just a tiny white one. Small sacrifice to keep the privacy of the hygienic black B.

The B will protect you because you’re not on it. And you’ll do everything to stay off it. Because you know. And they don’t.  Poor things. They should have joined us when they had the chance.

Maintain the Blacklist, and you will be protected.  Betray it and suffer the wrath of your former sisters.  Membership has its rewards.

Yes, that is a threat.  But no one threatened you.  We love you.  We are here to help you, remember?  To empower you.

There is a Blacklist, but we don’t call it that.  So there isn’t one.  A Blacklist cannot exist in our pretty little community.  We are too mature, too enlightened for a Blacklist, so don’t fret.

The Blacklist doesn’t exist. And it musn’t. So it don’t. And you don’t know about it. Until you do. And believe me, you don’t.

(inspired by Derrick Jensen’s “The Man Box”)

Seeking the Sacred in Women’s Gifting Circles

Recently there has been much debate about the groups calling themselves “Women’s Wisdom Circles,”  “Women’s Gifting Circles,” and “Vision Sisters” (among other titles), which claim to be examples of an emerging Sacred Economy.

The criticisms of “Circle” are wide-ranging, including social, ethical and personal levels. In this post, however, I am focusing specifically on a deeper look at the underlying structure of Circle: does it actually represent a sacred economy? Is it fundamentally sustainable?

I am a woman attempting here to communicate a balanced feminine/masculine view based on my research into sacred and living systems. I write these words in hopes of shedding some light on a goal that many of us hold dear: the creation of a sustainable and truly sacred economic model that embodies the concept of “The Gift.” I hope it will be received by Circle** Women.

**(I use the word Circle here as a matter of convenience in this post, even though I do not agree that the structure resembles a circle.)

When confronted with the basic mathematics that seem to prove that Circles** are destined to collapse, defenders of Circle often accuse their critics of being stuck in a “masculine” way of thinking that is far too linear to understand the “feminine” dynamics of Circle, which purportedly go deeper than surface math might predict.

Supporters claim that the Circle is an exciting and promising evolution beyond our larger growth-based economy where the deck is stacked against women’s success, generally speaking. They claim that it contrasts the larger economy by operating on spiritual principles, supporting life and empowerment of its members.

If this were true, it is reasonable to expect that Circle structure would function in alignment with natural and universal energy systems, where the male and female principles are in balance. An inquiry into Circle dynamics would ostensibly reveal fundamental harmony with fields such as Sacred Geometry, Unified Field Theory, and Living Systems Theory, which are examples not of “masculine” or “linear” thinking, but rather the basic principles by which all systems—living, energetic, cosmic, social—function.

By comparing Circle to these most Sacred of disciplines, I am hoping we can steer clear of knee-jerk dismissals (“too masculine!”) and arrive at an accurate assessment of Circle structures.

Let’s look at one chart commonly used by Circle participants to envision the structure. It is pictured as a flower. Simply beautiful! Who wouldn’t want to join?


But a closer look reveals a strangeness. I know of no flower that actually looks like this, with a rather squarish format, and two petals beside the core. Flowers in the real world generally follow a Sacred geometry called the “Golden Mean” or “Fibonnaci Sequence,” which is a complex spiralling pattern, not a simple doubling: one, then two, then four, then eight.

And even more importantly, flowers unfurl. The flow of this Circle flower is inward, as the “appetizers” give their cash “gifts” into the center. There is no flower in the world that has a continuous inward flow. Even flowers that close up at night furl and unfurl in a diurnal rhythm that is balanced. And they all end up feeding the larger ecosystem by design, as petals drop. Quite unlike Circle dynamics, where the core “dessert” position is the one that drops out.

This concept of an imploding bloom is not only innaccurate (more like a black hole than a flower), it is inappropriate at best, and at worst, deliberately misleading. The only structure that is even remotely comparable to this “eight-four-two-one” sequence is a pyramid. There ARE INDEED pyramids present in sacred geometry, but they have balancing features associated with them, as I will discuss later in this post.

For now, let’s follow this flower analogy even further. Say you have a field of annual flowers, in which the plant grows, flowers, all the while shedding leaves, petals and seeds to the earth. Eventually the whole plant, stem and all, decomposes, adding nutrients to the soil in which the next generation of seeds can now sprout.

In previous posts, I have used the example of a forest, in which mature trees drops leaves, branches, etc. to nurture the growing saplings. This is the way of nature: The current generation gives the “gifts” of its own body to feed the next.

Our growth-based economy does the opposite, cannibalizing the ecological inheritance of future generations to feed an increasingly voracious present. In effect, our paedophageous society has got it backwards: eating its children, instead of feeding them.

The structure of Circle is similar, as the new entrants are required to feed the elders of the scheme, with material gifts flowing effectively from the youth to the elder. This aspect of Circle Culture would need some drastic revisioning to truly qualify as Gift Culture.

HOW DO PYRAMIDS FIT INTO SACRED GEOMETRY?–The work of Physicist Nassim Haramein

As I mentioned above, pyramids do indeed occur in nature. A congregation of pyramids alternating directions comprises the sacred geometric figure the Star Tetrahedron. star_tetrahedron_manifestation_largeIn fact, the Star Tetrahedron has played a central role in the work of physicist Nassim Haramein in furthering Unified Field Theory.

It is quite significant to this discussion that Haramein arrived at some of his most important contributions to Einstein’s work by including movement (spin, or torque) to equations modelling the space-time continuum, instead of Einstein’s more static conception of space-time.

The addition of this audacious and curvy, “feminine” element to the (“masculine”) field of mathematics proved to be a key insight in resolving some of the previous roadblocks in Unified Field Theory.

Haramein’s amazing work shows that the underlying structures of all magnetic and gravitational fields— including the Earth’s—occur in star (double) tetrahedron shapes. These pyramids are clustered together so that they are pointing both upwards AND downwards, in a balance of gravitational and electro-magnetic forces that creates overall stability and ultimate sustainability.

This balance is represented in a more basic form by the ancient symbols of the Star of David, comprised of a triangle pointing up, and a triangle pointing down, and the Yin-Yang, indicating the continual flow between expansion and contraction.

Star of David Yin-Yang

We can see the Star of David and Yin Yang in action in another important figure in Sacred Geometry, the Double Torus, which is essentially a Star Tetrahedron set in motion. According to Haramein’s Unified Field Theory, the Double Torus illustrates the underlying structure and movement of everything in the Universe, from the smallest subatomic structures to the largest black holes (renamed “Black Wholes”) and everything in-between, including human energy fields and social/economic structures. Please have a look at the 3D (or is it 4D?) illustration at the following link:

Here is another view of the double torus, the result of two opposing forces reaching equilibrium, thereby forming a recursive feedback loop. In contrast, pyramid schemes are an example of a vicious circle (positive feedback loop), which moves towards collapse if unchecked.

There is something strikingly out-of-sync with sacred geometry & cosmometry about the current structure of the Women’s “Circle”: the constant funneling of money from the appetizers to dessert, with no equalizing flow back outwards of this money. Remember that the toroidal flow of the Yin-Yang does not merely travel inwards. It necessarily and holistically moves outwards as well.

Case in point: Even if every single woman in “dessert” reinvested 100%—all $40,000—of their “gift” money back into “appetizer,” it fails to offset the exponentially-widening base of the pyramid. For one woman to get to dessert, 32 women must be recruited. Which means even a $40,000 reinvestment offsets only 8 (of 32) women.

The result is a continual cash flow from the many to the few, which is impossible to maintain over time. For this structure to be sustainable, the concentration of funds into the “dessert” position must be stabilized by an appropriate “pay it forward” style-redistribution.

Because they are not balanced by an opposing downward or outward flow, ALL pyramid schemes as we know them ultimately fail, as their base of support is drained and the whole structure implodes upon itself.

Importantly, the Sacred Geometries the Double Torus and Star Tetrahedron reach equilibrium by balancing the opposing forces of implosion and expansion, of gravity and electromagnetism. “Women’s Gifting Circle” structures exhibit no such stability. If we are going to compare the dynamics of “Circle” to sacred structures, it is crucial to understand this discrepancy.

To put it simply, the financial structure of “Circle” is an upward pointing triangle, which needs a corresponding downward pointing triangle to complete the Star of David, to ground the gifts which have been flowing to the top, and bring it into alignment with Sacred Geometry. To survive long enough to truly empower women, and to develop a real Gift Culture, These Women’s “Circles” must evolve into biomimicry and cosmomimicry.

If Circle is truly aiming to create a gift culture, it seems that it would be wise to understand the way that Nature—inlcuding indigeneous human cultures—accomplish gifting. In his visionary book Sacred Economics (which expressly warns against pyramid schemes, by the way), author Charles Eisenstein outlines four essential qualities of gift culture. The following excerpts come from Chapter 18: “Relearning Gift Culture“:

1. Over time, giving and receiving must be in balance.

2. The source of a gift is to be acknowledged.

3. Gifts circulate rather than accumulate.

4. Gifts flow toward the greatest need.

Eisenstein notes that indigenous gifting cultures comprise a thick weave of social bonds that result from giving, with status and esteem accruing to those who the most generous, not those who possess the most material goods or money. Those who are considered “wealthy elders” are citizens with the deepest understanding of their ability and cultural responsibility to support those in need.

In Circle Culture, women enter for the first time seeking empowerment, mentorship, abundance training–all of which the Circle offers them. However, they are asked to pay the “senior sisters” for the opportunity to learn these skills. This “pay upfront” model is merely one more example of our tired-ole standard economics, and is in opposition to the way that True Gift Culture functions. Instead, how about a total paradigm shift, where the more established “desserts” pay the “appetizers” to enter? If we could figure out a sustainable arrangement for this to happen, then we would truly be in the realm of Sacred Economics.

Circle women often claim that “appetizers” can liken their participation to paying for an education, similar to a school program, workshop or apprenticeship. However comparing to our current educational system in the USA is certainly not does not gain Circle any Gift Culture clout. Quite the opposite , it only strengthens the analogy to a pyramid, as the high cost of education ensures that that all but the wealthiest students are effectively required to become indentured servants to the system. Most of our students are obligated to a lifetime of student loan payments. Is this a sacred gifting system? Sadly, the answer is no–our current educational model is also shaped like a pyramid.

A truly empowering Women’s Gifting Circle is entirely possible. However it is clear that It would NOT be based on exponential growth–where 32 recruits are required for each woman to receive their “gift”–but rather on a natural flowing from those who have gifts to give–of financial support, of mentorship, of leadership, to those who need these gifts.

Although some the above mentioned gifts are flowing both ways within Circle Culture, the flow of material gifts is always one-way. Ultimately, all of the flows in pyramid schemes such as these will cease–the “Circle” will fail–unless the basic flaws mentioned in this post are properly addressed.

Supportive organizations that mentor women can and are being created as we speak. Circle women would be wise to lend their support towards the evolution of these endeavors. Writing this article has inspired me to meeting with a group of people in my own town who are playing with these ideas, dreaming up structures that are based on Sacred Geometry, Cosmometry, and Economics.

I hope to write another post in the future to report the results of these experiments with designing a Gifting cirlce that truly mirrors the gifting of nature and living systems.

Recently I attended a workshop with Buddhist scholar and Living Systems theorist Joanna Macy. Macy emphasizes that the perils of positive feedback loops–also called vicious circles, or “runaway” systems–result when the system closes itself off from input that something is awry.

She notes that this “apatheia” poses the greatest danger to our current culture, as we simply shut out information that indicate a need for change or course correction. Whether from overwhelm, from stubborness, or fear of change, or whatever, any positive feedback loop eventually results in systemic collapse.

Unification and harmonization… this is the threshold of evolution we find ourselves at now at a new level of global dynamics and complexity. We have built systems of technologies, economies, governance, education, etc, that do not properly account for the features of healthy living systems. As such, they are reaching the end of their viability and are either going to collapse or become balanced and whole at a higher level or organization and coherence. The choice we have now — perhaps the only viable option — is to align these systems with what we now understand is the way the cosmos creates healthy and sustainable systems… cosmomimicry. (From the Cosmometry Website)

As the quote above reminds us, all of our structures, personal, social, cultural–must come into alignment with the Natural principles.


Since I have many dear friends involved in Circle, this writing is a plea to remain open to the feedback coming your way. Communication among all parts of our system is essential.  So is a thorough and honest evaluation of what works well and what doesn’t.

Sisters: Please open your ears to the testimony of women and men about the divisive effects this is having on our communities, creating in-group/out-group distress and allowing suspicions to fester behind closed-doors and secrect society.

Please understand that many women who try and leave the groups or speak out against them are often targeted for shame and rage by their circle sisters.

Please hear that the risks of never reaching dessert are NOT being fully disclosed to new recruits. Neither is the basic illegality of the Circle structure according to current State and Federal Law (irregardless of whether you agree personally with those laws!)

Invitees are generally NOT being told that Circle Women are being prosecuted, paying fines and even doing jail time.

Are you willing to understand that many of us (even those of us you may consider your “opposition”) actually share the nobler intentions of your involvement in circle: to empower and mentor women, to support women’s entrepreneurism, to create and facilitate a sacred economy?

You are experimenting with something new. Great! You are taking steps to develop alternatives to our current economic models. Wonderful! But please get past the machisto (machista?!) concept that you have gotten the model 100% right on your first try.

Please recognize your participation in an unbalanced, growth-based economic structure, which closely mimics the larger (masculine!) economy in which you are embedded, rather than challenging it. Please see the contradiction inherent in discrediting your critics by accusing them of “linear thinking” when your very system funnels wealth unilaterally upwards.

Do you not believe it is significant that so many people—including people you respect—are trying to share with you deep misgivings about Circle? Do not simply write our criticisms off because you claim we are “stuck in fear and scarcity” mentality. Lets work together to develop a Gift Culture that is truly sustainable and truly Sacred.

If you are still with me, perhaps you will be willing to read more about the principles of Healthy Living Systems, and use them to assess the functioning of Circle Culture? I have included below some useful links, quotes and excerpts on Living Systems, Sacred Geometry and Cosmometry to get you started.

Come out of your closed door discussions and engage in conversations with your concerned community members. Let’s collaborate on a model which incorporates a reciprocating flow from the few to the many, a giving-back of the gifts which have enriched those who come first. Let’s create a flow of gifts from the elders to the youth, from those enriched, to those in need, from those who blaze the trail, to those who follow. From the ancestors to the children.

Please Remember: We are all working together towards the same goal—a shift towards Sustainable and Sacred Cultures.

Yours, in friendship and respect—>>>>Nala Walla | 28 July 2013


LINKS and RESOURCES (updated 1 Aug 2016)

•Resources on Circle by Amber Bieg
Slideshow on Circle Basics by Amber Bieg
Creating Alternatives to Gifting Circles by Amber Bieg
How to transform the “Gifting Circle” into a true Giving Circle

•Gifting Circles and the Monetization of Everything — Charles Eisenstein’s perspective on “Circle”

•”Extracting Yourself from a Gifting Circle with Integrity and Grace”– Post by Sondra Rose

•”Addressing the Womens Wisdom Circle Pyramid”–whistleblower post by former “Circler” Lindsey Vona

Sacred Economics online and in-print book by Charles Eisenstein

•The Regenerative Enterprise Institute — The 8 Forms of Capital
8 Forms of Capital–Summary
8 Forms of Capital– Video

“But, My Circle is Special”–Comment 29July2016–I am including the link directly to my response to this comment from Marian Venini because it addresses a common defense  of Circle.  Namely, “I’m sorry some women have bad experiences, but my circle is respectful and honorable.  My Circle is special!”  If you are interested in the problem with this defense, please read this thread.

The Biomimicry Institute

•Nassim Haramein, The Hawaii Institute for Unified Physics, and The Resonance Project

• Cosmometry WebPage. Please note especially the characteristics of balanced living systems.

1. Self-creation (autopoiesis)
2. Complexity (diversity of parts)
3. Embeddedness in larger holons and dependence on them (holarchy)
4. Self-reflexivity (autognosis/self-knowledge)
5. Self-regulation/maintenance (autonomics)
6. Response-ability to internal and external stress or other change
7. Input/output exchange of matter/energy/information with other holons
8. Transformation of matter/energy/information
9. Empowerment/employment of all component parts
10. Communications among all parts
11. Coordination of parts and functions
12. Balance of Interests negotiated among parts, whole, and embedding holarchy
13. Reciprocity of parts in mutual contribution and assistance
14. Efficiency balanced by Resilience
15. Conservation of what works well
16. Creative change of what does not work well

The “Fractal-Holographic Universe” WordPress Blog

The Farmer and the Witch: Reclaiming the Seeds of Indigeneity

:::The following essay is a version of the essay that was published in the Routledge Volume, “Emergent Possibities for Global Sustainability:Intersections of Race, Class and Gender”:::


The Farmer and the Witch:
Reclaiming the Seeds of Indigeneity

by Nala Walla

The world is populated with people who have lost their seeds.
They are not bad or useless people, but they are not real until they refind their seeds…
In some small, never-looked-at-place in the forgotten wilderness of their souls,
their indigenous seeds of culture and lifeways live…

–Martin Prechtel[1]


Just as every Red Delicious Apple contains seeds which will revert to a unique wild variety when planted,[2] so I hope to remind us that every person on this globe—even the most domesticated among us—contains the seeds of our indigenous origin. Our ability to respond creatively and decisively to rising sea levels, to civil wars, to nuclear meltdowns, is directly dependent upon our ability to recognize this inner Wildness and tap into its rich wisdom.

The patient seeds of our indigeneity are lying somewhere within our bodies, waiting for us to simply step outside our double-insulated, climate-controlled routines, into the nourishing rain and soil so our seeds can sprout once again.


As I write, the colorful Halloween holiday is approaching, with straw-stuffed scarecrows and spooky lil’ ghosts parading across homes and storefronts all over the Northern Hemisphere. It’s my favorite time of year.

Crooked-toothed icons of witches on their brooms are plastered everywhere, and I can’t help but marvel at how, even after centuries of efforts to hunt and exterminate her, “The Witch” nevertheless continues to capture our imaginations. It’s as if somehow, even through the thick synthetic cloak of modern culture, our subconscious selves dimly recognize the Witch—that earthy woman stirring her pot of herbs and flying through a magical nighttime sky—to be our ancestor. Despite pervasive miseducation, and rampant dilution of her cultural history, the Witch endures.

The means by which the long and rich history of Witch Culture was erased include all the typical mechanisms of exploitation that we are familiar with today: terrorism, colonialism, genocide, propaganda. In the middle ages in Europe, Church, State and Media combined forces to develop massive violent campaigns whose purpose was to sever the connection of the peasantry to the land.[3] Only slightly different in scope and style today, these are still the favored techniques of belligerent governments and corporations around the globe who want to remove any resistance to exploitation.

Current cartoonish portrayals of witches—virtually devoid of any real meaning—are a testament to the “success” of these terror and slander campaigns, which have destroyed most of the detail about how ancestral European pagan cultures actually functioned, and the extensive knowledge they contained. In just a few hundred years, common representations of the Witch shifted from a revered, medicine woman embodying a living, European culinary, shamanic, and healing tradition, to a warty, cackling buffoon in a pointy hat who exists only in picture books.

A similar fate has befallen another figure who, in the public view, once possessed extensive knowledge about the land: The Farmer. The infantilized image of the witch is reminiscent of current North American depictions of farmers, ranchers, herders, etc. as clumsy “hicks” who are, at best, unsophisticated and out of touch with the slick urban “reality” of modern life, and at worst, stupid and irrelevant to the river of progress. As with Witch Culture, the details of rural culture have been glossed over in the creation of the current degrading stereotypes. I was ashamed to find on Wikipedia a whole list of pejorative slang used to refer to farmers and rural people—the very people who live in closest relationship to the land and are responsible for our sustenance:


These slurs wound on several levels, translating to not only to a philosophical disrespect, but an actual biting of the hand that feeds us, as well. Even worse, they demonstrate the thoroughness with which we modern people have internalized our own oppression, colluding with the severing of our original connection with the land, slashing at the lineages of our own Indigeneity. Both the Farmer and the Witch–with their millenia-long roots, filled with knowledge of food, animals, herbs, handicrafts–are symbols of our indigenous ancestors.

Yet, currently, any familiarity between the average modern, industrial citizen and the farmer has been cauterized, allowing for a dangerous stereotyping to spread.


After our harvest feast, we are headed to the ice cream shop in our little town. My son is giddy with excitement, and as I put my hand on the door, I can’t help but notice the illuminated witch-in-silhouette, flying by night across the face of the waning moon. As I consider that he will likely pass through this door many times throughout his childhood, I wonder what he is learning about his own ancestors as he views this image?

For all its tiring over-generalizations, it can at least be said that this long-nosed, green-faced portrait is an accurate representation of how desperately little knowledge remains about my son’s own indigenous heritage. And, it is an image eerily well-suited to the bland palate of modern industrial society in general, which is in such poor health that it can hardly stomach anything more than fluff, even as it starves for meaning and connection.

Sadly, it may come as a surprise to many readers that people of European ancestry were (and arguably still are) subjected to the same processes of pauperization, industrialization and commodification which are occurring right now in so-called “developing” countries. In fact, we are so accustomed to seeing “white” people in a privileged, oppressor role, we assume it must have always been this way. We forget to ask, how did Europeans get so disconnected from the land? Is it possible that people of European descent have indigenous roots?

Like indigenous peoples all over the globe, pre-conquest Europeans were Earth-centered, pagan peoples (a term derived from Latin paganus, meaning “not cultivated” or “wild”) intimately connected to a living, breathing land which they revered as the source of all life. Similar to tribal people worldwide, ancient European tribes had no formal money systems, and had no need for them, as they inhabited a gift culture based on careful stewardship of the commons—that great interlocking web of physical, cultural, and spiritual relationships. Lo and behold! Europeans once displayed the same connective qualities and behaviors we attribute to indigenous people.

Please allow me to wager upon an act of kinship and solidarity with a larger family of pagan cultures: if the old European clans practice of “wicca” or “witchcraft” (a more modern term) was similar to that of tribes worldwide, then we can reclaim and revalorize the term “witch” as a loose description of any intact, nature-centered culture.

Surely, the witch-hunting authorities themselves did not limit the label “Witch” to European pagans. Snared in that same net—a net cast broadly enough to encompass almost any subversive activity, as “conveniently and strategically vague” [4] as the word terrorist is today–were colonial subjects from Africa to the Americas, at whom were hurled the same accusations of flesh-eating, fornication with the devil, and infant-stealing, and who suffered the very same torture rooms, pyres and gallows which so efficiently broke the communities of their European counterparts overseas. Previously just a description of European pagan culture, the brand “Witch” was appropriated and used as a four-letter-word to describe anyone viewed a threat to authoritarian control. Just a handful of generations ago, then, before mechanization, before colonization, before Christianization—we were all witches.

Amazingly, even after centuries of terrorism heaped upon The Witch on at least four continents–despite her constant demonization, degradation, minstrelization, and Disneyfication–her image continues to haunt the collective soul, even penetrating the bubbliest halls of pop culture. The sheer persistence of The Witch to this day is, to me, indicative of an archetype not easily forgotten. The Witch is everywhere, because she is our Grandmother.


As my son and I slurp our creamy treats, and I overhear a woman describing an argument with her friend, exclaiming “Geez, what a witch!” I cringe at this stark revelation of internalized oppression, as she not only denigrates a fellow woman in this small community, but also slanders her honorary Grandmother. One of the main symptoms by which people in advanced stages of colonization can be recognized is that they have been recruited to participate in their own degradation and destruction, mostly unwittingly.

Using a marginalized person or group (such as “witches,” “terrorists,” or “jews,” for example) as a scapegoat upon which to blame virtually anything is an all-too-common human response to stress. And it is one that elite classes have long encouraged, since it successfully diverts attention away from the real source of the stress: the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the very few. And because scapegoating is but a mere temporary release-valve for tensions, it eventually backfires, as the original problem boomerangs back upon the thrower. Today the “isms” are being hurled on a massive scale in the form of rampant racism, classism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anthropocentrism, etc., destroying relationships, families, communities and ecologies.

Indeed, the breaking of the power of communities to resist subjugation and appropriation of their resources is the original and primary goal of all the “isms.” The campaign of terror against witches was designed with this exact intention in mind—to attack the women who were the foundations of pagan, peasant communities, as well as the backbone of the resistance to the “Enclosures”—the medieval version of the Privatization of the Commons that continues to this day. As women presently form the core of leadership in the Occupy Movement, we see them again forming a similar “backbone of resistance” pattern,[5] and we might thus be wise to keep our eyes out for attempts to target them.

In her book Caliban and the Witch, scholar Silvia Federici reveals how persecutions of witches during the Middle Ages in Europe were overwhelmingly aimed at poor, working-class women. Old women in particular were targeted, since they were the most likely to embody the cultural knowledge and heritage of the ancient ways that preserved the health and independence of the peasantry—raising crops and animals, herbal remedies and healing, midwifery, community building, etc. This is why, even today, the stereotypical Witch is still represented as an old, wrinkled woman dressed in tattered clothes. And for the same reasons, why people who work with the land, such as farmers, herders and ranchers, are represented by degrading stereotypes that belittle their extensive knowledge.[6]

Because of their age-old abilities to independently feed, clothe and generally sustain themselves, European peasants (again, like indigenous peoples the world over) had no need for wage-labor. This self-sufficiency was extremely threatening to merchants and elites in the Middle Ages who wanted laborers for growing mills, mines, and factories. Thus Land Privatization served not only to separate peasants from the actual land which had been commonly held, land but also to create a dispossessed population who would have no other option than to take these jobs.[7]

Today, the mechanization of industrial agriculture ensures that a minimum of people know how to grow food or medicine, and the rest are completely dependent upon service and high-tech for their work and their sustenance. During any current election year, we can hear how thoroughly modern people have been disciplined to accept our roles as “workers:” Note how common it is for people to clamor for “More Jobs!” whereas in the early sixteenth century, a peasant would rather risk the gallows than submit to wage labor. The wristwatch–once a symbol of slavery and an artificially imposed time disconnected from the natural rhythms of the land–has today become a status symbol.[8]

The horror of separation from the land—the original source of sustenance–created the stressful conditions ripe for scapegoating. As mistrust was sown within pagan communities, peasants began accusing each other and cooperating with their own marginalization. This is the terrorized and disturbed ground in which the –isms took root, and continue to “flourish” today. In modern, industrialized peoples for whom a subsistent, nature-connected life is already long gone, these –isms have become perhaps the preferred method of social control: an internalized, instead of overt, oppressor with whom we cooperate in the effective policing of ourselves. Much tidier, and a lot cheaper than inquisitions and bombing, we become, as Brazilian activist Augusto Boal describes in his Theater of the Oppressed,[9] our own “cop in the head.”

During the harvest season where I live in the Northwest USA, I see examples of this self-inflicted oppression everywhere, as people routinely consume and propagate over-simplified, ‘pin-up’ versions of witches and bucktoothed, smiling farmers holding baskets of corn. In an astonishing ignorance of our own pagan and agrarian past (and future!), we cooperate in the turning of witches and farmers both into cackling, guffawing minstrels.

And yet, we are beginning to understand that large-scale human estrangement from the land is threatening the extinction of our species and many others. Instead of taking boorish potshots at Farmers or Witches, perhaps it is wiser for those of us who have lost our connection to the land to actually seek out the people who have been safeguarding it against all odds, for centuries? Perhaps we might recuperate this wisdom–preserved within each of our indigenous lineages–and do our best to enact it, learning more about our food systems, our ancient healing remedies, about working with animals and the cycles of the moon?

In the shallow images of the Farmer and the Witch lie the remnants of our ancestral cultures and lifeways that deserve some much deeper attention. And as we approach them with an attitude of openness and curiosity, these lifeways may even reveal the solutions to some serious cultural and ecological problems. Could our heritages, in fact, contain the key to reversing climate change?


Perhaps this is the first time that you’ve seen the words, “Farmers, Animals and Climate Change” in one sentence, but I hope it won’t be the last. What follows is just one example of how stunningly straightforward reversing climate change could well be.

The research of Allan Savory[10] has not yet made it into breakfast-table conversation in modern, industrial society, as we gorge ourselves instead on pop culture and trivia, but he and his colleagues in the field of Range Management have discovered something of extreme importance for anyone interested in the climate change: a method for swiftly and drastically reducing atmospheric carbon levels that uses no technologies other than livestock.[11]

Livestock? How could ranchers and cowpokes—those backwards, lazy, know-nothings—actually reverse climate change?

All Grasslands–prairies, savannahs, steppes, etc.–originally coevolved with dense herds of grazing animals whose natural ranging behaviors provided the mowing, mulching, fertilizing, soil aeration, seed dispersal, essential to the health of these ecosystems. For decades, in a misguided attempt to stop “overgrazing,” land-management policies worldwide have been to remove herds—and the herding peoples whose life was intertwined with them–from these lands. And the result has been a drastic acceleration of desertification and therefore, of climate change.

Why does desertification have to do with climate change? As enormous amounts of carbon previously contained in the grasses and soils is released into the atmosphere, Savory emphasizes that desertification is as big or bigger of a contributor to global warming as burning fossil fuels. So, he and his colleagues have been assisting people on 40 million acres in Africa, Australia, Europe and the USA to bring back the herds, recreating, out of barren desert, both healthy grassland ecologies and right livelihood for pastoral peoples. Simply by returning the animals to desertified landscapes, and using Holistic Management techniques to ensure their natural movement patterns in the landscape, the Savory Institute estimates that we could store so much carbon in grassland soils, that we would again achieve preindustrial levels of atmospheric carbon.[12]

Amazingly, scientists are now revealing pastoral skills to be an integral part of reversing climate change, as carbon moves out of the atmosphere back into grassland soils. It seems that a restoration of respect for these skills is as important as restoration of the land itself! If we are serious about reversing climate change, herding animals will have to become, again, a respectable occupation. Imagine shepherding as the preferred profession for the hip and fashionable, the next “cool” thing to do!

As more and more people embrace the instinctual impulse towards respect of the land that is the source of all sustenance, reestablishing holistic and sustainable relationship to it, all kinds of resolutions to ecological impasses like the example above will arise. And we can start at anytime by recognizing the stereotypes we hold for what they are: examples of internalized oppression, a disrespecting of our own ancestors, the Witches and the Farmers. It is time for every citizen of this precious planet to identify as a creature indigenous to Earth, and begin to behave as such. Can we imagine a world where each one of us is able to participate in the simple pleasures of growing food, and where we actually encourage our children to cultivate “careers” in things like ranching, dairying and herbalism?


Since moving to a rural island over fifteen years ago, my own experience with farmers—especially small farmsteaders seeking to steward their lands organically and sustainably—has consistently contradicted the stereotypes I grew up with in suburbia. Far from naïve simpletons, most farmers and ranchers I know are astoundingly savvy and resourceful, in addition to being some of the most politically conscious people I have ever met. And, as fellow citizens of the Information Age, farmers are now required not only to become expert in all things having to do with raising plants and animals, but also are expected to maintain a website, intern programs, community outreach calendars, as well as possess enough shrewdness to navigate impossible health and food regulations, cutthroat subsidies and marketing climates. One local farmer in our valley got an MBA before starting his farm, and our local butcher is also working surgeon. So much for the stereotype of the dumb farmer!

And I have still more good news to report. Against all odds, the rural county I live in has recently seen an encouraging reversal of the demographic trend that has been in place since the beginning of land privatization and the industrial revolution. Swimming upstream against the torrents of refugees fleeing the countryside to seek the wage in cities, a steady flow of young people are returning to our neglected farms, fields and forests. Having seen through the thin gruel which our materialist society tries to pass for sustenance, they are rejecting the dominant cultural memes of our time that denigrate working with ones’ hands. After observing a generation of parents growing hunched and pale in front of their computer screens, they are choosing to buck the technological tide by embracing traditional skills—starting small dairies, organic farms, natural building co-ops, wildcrafting herbal medicines, and relearning vital skills like tanning, smithing, orcharding, shepherding, masonry, and boat building.

Importantly, in revaluing these age-old skills, these young folk are growing real roots into their communities, and into the soil, gaining a visceral understanding how the fate of the trees, the animals, the plants, the waters are bound up with our own. In working with hands, wood, and soil, they are making it possible for the seeds of indigeneity that have been dormant within their bodies since their culture was uprooted (perhaps hundreds, or even thousands of years ago) to tumble out and sprout once again. And, as we instinctively know, people connected in a tangible way with the Earth are much more likely to act in reverence and stewardship of it. As Wendell Berry explains:

In [a] state of total consumerism – which is to say a state of helpless dependence on things and services and ideas and motives that we have forgotten how to provide ourselves – all meaningful contact between ourselves and the earth is broken. We do not understand the earth in terms either of what it offers us or of what it requires of us, and …people inevitably destroy what they do not understand.[13]

Only when we risk rekindling a messy love-affair with our estranged beloved Earth will we gain the inspiration and the courage required to act resolutely when confronted with challenges such as melting sea ice, species extinction, massive pollution and “permanent” war. Thus, a human race moving robustly into a healthy, ongoing future, is destined to be a life which involves a reclaiming of our Indigenous Heritage—the basic right, and the basic pleasure of working with Earth. For more and more people, a healthy life will be determined by how much dirt we have under our fingernails.


Sometimes, on a windy October night like this one, I can actually catch a glimpse of the ghostly forebodings of my immigrant forefathers wafting around “Gotta get into a good school. You don’t wanna end up a ditch-digger, or grease-monkey, like your father!” “You’re smart enough to be a doctor or a lawyer!“ In these voices, which are threaded deep into the fabric of my personality, I can hear the echoes of a long history of exile from the land. Even after over a decades of living knee-deep in the forest, I can still perceive the cop in my head trying to convince me that working with the land is despiccable, suitable only for “peasants,” or, more accurately in Racist America these days, for “Mexicans.”

In response, I heft my wheelbarrow full of leaves and manure into our garden, and ready the beds for their winter slumber. I laugh with my toddler as he calls the pile “big poop!” and help him learn to use a shovel. I thank the cleansing winds as those voices catch an updraft and blow out to sea, and replace them with gratitude for the chance to work with Earth–a privilege for which our ancestors sacrificed their lives, and which people everywhere are still fighting for—from Indian farmers resisting the exploits of Monsanto, to Amish farmers battling for their right to drink fresh, raw milk from their own cows, to modern herbalists preserving their grandmother’s healing recipes despite increasing regulatory pressure from Big Pharma.

Like the green leaves that can always be found pushing their weedy heads through cracks in the sidewalk (no matter how many times they are torched, weedwhacked, herbicided, or pulled up by the roots!), the unceasing sprouting of human creativity and wild ingenuity consistently thwarts every authoritarian attempt to pave it over. Instead, the twisting vines of Indigeneity will climb even the boot of the tyrant if he stands still for too long. For modern people to recognize and resist the severing of our connection to Earth is perhaps the pivotal task of our generation. It is for this reason that I stand in solidarity with Farmers and Witches all over the globe, and reclaim them as titles of distinction and pride. I am a Farmer, and I am a Witch.


The preceding words are my attempt to piece back together what Martin Prechtel calls the “tribal shards of the original magic of human culture.”[14] I write because I truly believe these shards can yet provide the blueprint for a sturdy cooking vessel, a pot we can use to simmer up a response to the rowdy ecological and social crises currently seated at our dining table. Only the healthiest, and most delectable cultural stew imaginable will be sufficient to please these demanding, if uninvited, guests. Each of us can recover the shards that we hold in our possession. Each of us can reach out to the Farmer and Witch exiled within, and welcome them home. When we do this, we will recover the magic we need to digest and transform catastrophes into a beautiful a world worth leaving for our children.

[1] Prechtel, Martin (2012) The Unlikely Peace At Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People As Plants: Keeping the Seeds Alive, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.

[2] Thanks to Michael Pollan for this revealing observation in his seminal work, The Botany of Desire (2001) Random House.

[3] Federici, Silvia (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, Autonomedia, Brooklyn, New York.

[4] Silvia Federici, Audio Lecture (2004) Fusion Arts, NYC

[5] See article, “Where Are the Women at Occupy Wall Street? Everywhere—and They’re Not Going Away” in The Nation (26 Oct 2011)

[6] Federici, Silvia (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, Autonomedia, New York.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Federici, Silvia (2004) Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, Autonomedia, New York.

[9] Boal, Augusto, Theatre of the Oppressed (1993) Theater Communications Group.

[11] Malmberg, A. (2013) “Restoring the Climate Through Capture and Storage of Soil Carbon Through Holistic Planned Grazing” The Savory Institute, Boulder, CO.

[12] Savory, Allan, 2013. “How To Green the Worlds Deserts and Reverse Climate Change” TEDx Talk, Somerville, MA. Retrieved from

[13] Berry, Wendell, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays, (2003) Counterpoint

[14] From Martin Prechtel, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic: The Parallel Lives of People As Plants (2012) North Atlantic Books.