Standing on the verge of change

May 29, 2022

In his book Green Mass - the ecological theology of St. Hildegard of Bingen, Michael Marder asks the question, "How far are we from the verge?". He ponders Hildegard's ideas of viriditas, the greening greenness, that beautiful , compulsive spirit of life and thought, and her vocal  works that are the inbreath before change from the spoken word to the sung one. But he also describes this verge as the moment we stand at here on the edge of ecological destruction, the movement from the lush vegetal state of viriditas, to the burning arid landscape of ariditas, that Hildegard warned of us creating from our own greed and for being out of balance with the natural world.

These thoughts have occupied my own mind and professional life for many years and I weep at the world we have created with its ever diminishing diversity.

I worry about how long I will be able to make my love letters to nature through my Atelier Signatum project and the Archeus Apothecary. While many of the ingredients I use are grown and harvested from my own garden, it like the rest of the world, is not immune to the changing climate. And as for other exquisite essential oils, absolutes, the aromatics and spirit of resin, leaf, flower and root - time will only tell.

Our world is changing and we are to blame. We seem to be at war with everything: each other, the environment, the natural process of ageing, space, the seas. There is nowhere that we have not touched and left a stain of our own short-sightedness and greed. But we also have the power to change this. We need to be the change.

Sometimes though, when it gets to much I find I can build my own resilience by turning my attention to The Atelier Signatum collection, which is my creative refuge from the madness around me. Here I meditate on the words of my three guiding lights and I use my own deep understanding of the medicinal, symbolic, ecological and spiritual aspects of plants to create these unguents and perfumes so that you can have the influences of Hildegard, Ficino and Paracelsus rendered in a form that can literally be absorbed into your very being and breathed in, that inspiros, that taking in of connected world views.

When I was working for the United Nations Environment Programme and Kew Gardens a decade ago we could see the signs writ large in the data of ecological degradation that poured over our desks but language was still abstract. Now, I see green shoots of a rewilded connection with nature and this gives me some hope. If we reconnect with the Archeus, the vital force that flows through all things, if we recognise the signatum of plants, rock, landscape, planet, then maybe, in seeing our connections, ourselves mirrored and described in the natural world around us we may care more deeply and do more to be the change we need in the world right now.

So now as I craft these vegetal forms of artistic expression I pray that there is someone five hundred years from now living in the lush, greening world I hope for and that I place in the shamanic threads of future time.

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