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Reverence and Awe

June 7, 2017

By Karen Davis-Brown

Reprinted from the newsletter of the Biodynamic Association of Northern California 


You know that biodynamic agriculture lives in you, when you see or smell manure — particularly cow manure — and a deep appreciation and joy wells up within you. I sometimes refer to it as having the value of “gold” for a farm; I am not the only one.

Rudolf Steiner talks about the importance of manure throughout the Agriculture lectures, as an important source of regeneration for the soils from which we extract nutrients for our crops and livestock. But he takes his indications far beyond the recommendation of regular spreading of manure and application of slurries. He presents the possibility of transforming this already valuable resource — with the collaboration of all four kingdoms, the planets, and stars — for the life and health of the farm organism and all the beings who live and work there.

bc lm

Barrel compost (by Laurie McGregor)

It only takes one time of stuffing a cow horn with manure and burying it in the autumn, then digging it up and knocking it out in the spring, to know what transformation means. It only takes one time of creating a large pile of manure, applying compost preps, monitoring temperature and moisture, then sticking your hand deep into that pile a few months later, to experience the power of earthly and cosmic forces working together. With any luck, you learn about these miracles as part of a community the includes experienced practitioners, to help you understand with your mind and develop your powers of perception from these entirely visceral and heartfelt experiences.

Somewhere along the line, we realize that the manure is not the only thing being transformed. Taking our place as members of the human kingdom in these processes, has transformed us as well. This transformation never ends until our life in this body does, and awakening to this possibility opens infinite doors of joy and service every spring and throughout the year. We are then blessed with the possibility of supporting others in their own transformation.

Dandelion pillows 2

Dandelion pillows (by Barbara Westfall)

And it is no accident, I don’t think, that we dig up horn manure and many of the compost preps in spring. The sun has made its solstice turn, and the Earth has begun her slow exhalation that only reverses at St. John’s tide in June. The water, soil, and air are warming, the days are lengthening, and slowly we also expand from the physical and spiritual contraction with which winter blesses us.

In this work with manure and the preparations, perhaps, we also come to understand the cosmic role of Easter as an act of resurrection and renewal from what we thought was a cold and dead creation. And, in reverence and awe, we are overcome with gratitude, hope, and a feeling of devotion.

Yarrow in bladder

Yarrow preparation (by Barbara Westfall)

In How to Know Higher Worlds, Steiner states unequivocally that “[i]f we wish to become esoteric students, we must train ourselves vigorously in the mood of devotion…. We advance even more quickly if…we fill our consciousness with admiration, respect, and reverence for the world and life.”

If you are reading this, you are already on the way to transformation. And it is spring. Seize this time with this living and loving community, to take a lesson from manure.


Karen Davis-Brown is the Biodynamics Journal Editor for the Biodynamic Association. Since her initial training in biodynamics in 1999, she has worked in organic and biodynamic agriculture as a grower, trainer, writer, marketer, editor, newsletter/website designer, inspector, and consultant, in most regions of the North American continent. In addition, she is the Midwest Coordinator for the North American Biodynamic Apprentice Program (NABDAP).

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