“I have found that it is the small everyday deed of ordinary folks that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” – Gandalf, J. R. R. Tolkein, The Hobbit
‘The Druid Garden’, a phrase not too commonly heard of but nonetheless has been brought to life by longtime Druid writer and horticulturist Luke Eastwood. This is certainly a very relevant topic in the modern Celtic paganism and Druidry communities and one that is commonly discussed but yet not completely addressed or expanded upon. It somewhat goes without saying that most people in the community are both involved in environmentalism as well as gardening on some scale. The way that Eastwood weaves and combines so many relevant and important topics, really allows for a completely immersive and inspiring yet practical guide on both topics. This is an invaluable book for anyone that is interested in both modern Druidry as well as gardening and specifically, gardening to save the environment and one’s self through organic methods and permaculture.
Firstly, Eastwood gives a wonderful timeline and explanation of why we need a ‘Druid garden’ and how the world’s agricultural systems evolved during not just Europe’s first agricultural developments but across the world to the ancient Mayans. From that, we can speculate the Druids were undoubtedly involved in some manner of plant cultivation and herbalism especially given their community role as healers. Eastwood didn’t pull any punches when addressing colonialism of the area in Ireland, Scotland and Britain and how this drastically and negatively effected the landscape and its natural ecology. Much of Ireland and Scotland’s old tree growth were cut down in the Elizabethan and subsequent eras to build ships to aid in expanding British imperial trade and exploration. The reverberations of this are still massively felt in the landscape as only approximately 10% of Ireland is covered in substantial tree growth and much less than that are native trees. Often the first cultivated ‘gardens’ in Ireland were maintained by the wealthy British land owners who were assigned stolen land where they often planted cultivated and invasive species. Of course, this damaging mindset of the wealthy aristocracy in Britain and Europe effected Britain and Scotland nearly just as equally. The implications of this went even farther as having the well manicured and wasteland of a yard became the popular standard in America, and still unfortunately remains. Thankfully, there has been a quiet but steady movement over the last 30 years to re-wild our lawns, grow our own herbs and food using permaculture methods and use as little chemicals as possible.
Eastwood goes on to address pesticides and unsustainable farming methods as well as the drastic negative effects of industrialization in general. While the first part of the book may feel dismal, there is a huge sense and understanding that these issues need to be discussed simply so that we can address and fix them. Only when we confront the deepest of our issues and past can we heal and move forward, not just for ourselves but future generations. It’s a critical time in our world where there really is a sense we need to be genuinely putting in the work to create a better future. The environmental movement in general has somewhat floundered in many parts of the world due to political gridlock. It’s often only when everyday citizens band together, each making small but meaningful actions, that genuine change is made. Gardening, permaculture and re-wilding our yards aligns with our spirituality and gives us a practical, easy and meaningful way to move forward in the present moment.
With a wonderful historical foundation in place, the book moves on to discuss the idea of sacred soil and using compost to create abundance in our home yard, how to design garden spaces, various natural environments and how they may have been utilized by the Druids, seeing plants as living beings and connecting with them as well as various important trees, herbs, fruits and vegetables, how they were used and how to cultivate them. My favorite part of this book is the seamless blending of practical and spiritual knowledge and the ways in which this manifests when designing and growing our gardens. For example, he suggests using ritual, prayers, invocations and blessings as a way to feel connected and in reciprocity with the land. There is a real understanding and love expressed for the soil, the trees, and of other plant and animal life around us. There is a deep truth in understanding that our yards should be as much of a haven for other plants and animals as for ourselves. That is, at least to the highest extent possible, if we truly wish to be living in ‘right’ relationship with the land as the Druids did.
Using books such as the ‘Druid Garden’ and inspiration from the past can lead us to create a much more bountiful present and future not just for ourselves but for future generations, the local ecological environments we call home and ultimately, the world. This book offers a wonderful blend of historical information, connections to the past and what Druids may have done, as well as practical applications in the modern world and is a must have for any pagan gardener. You can purchase his book here.