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It’s early evening, and I’m cutting up vegetables for dinner. Beside me on the counter is a ceramic compost pot into which I toss celery leaves, garlic skins, avocado pits, where they mingle with the copious amounts of coffee grounds, a few orange peels, and other assorted organic debris already in there. The pot is getting full, so when I’m done chopping, I deposit the last of the scraps into it and set it aside.
After dinner, I step outside into my backyard with the ceramic pot. The moon is rising, crickets are chattering away, and there’s already a dampness to the grass. I walk to the back of the yard where a large black tumbling bin sits inside a metal frame, open the bin, and pour the contents of the pot inside. Then I close it and give it several spins, allowing what’s inside to mix and meld together.
Inside my house I keep a small metal cauldron that I use to safely burn spell ingredients – but my real cauldron, I’ve always felt, is my compost tumbler. This is the vessel in which I place the castoffs of my everyday life and transform them into something magickal, something that I can present as a thank-you gift to the Earth who gives me so much.
Compost or Black Gold
I learned composting from my mother, who started her own compost pile in our backyard when I was growing up. I was always fascinated by it, and she laughed at my interest in what she called “a pile of rotting garbage.” I never saw it as garbage, though – I saw it as magick, and she was just fine with that since it spurred me to tend the pile, turning it with a pitchfork and studying the worms that writhed around in the soft black soil at the bottom.
That black soil was like a treasure, and avid gardeners have even referred to it as “black gold.” Even as an adult, I find it amazing that a disparate jumble of fruit and vegetable scraps, cardboard, pet hair, etc. can melt together to form such a unified and useful substance. Yes, I know the science behind decomposition, but that doesn’t make it any less wondrous to me.
Just as wonderful is actually using the finished compost. Whenever I plant something new, I deposit a bit of the black gold into the bottom of the hole and whisper a small blessing over the seedling, praying that my transformed scraps of food will return to life through this new plant, giving it nourishment and strength.
If an established plant is looking a bit sickly, I add compost around its base, watering it into the soil as a dose of medicine. Later, I may harvest and eat some of those plants, which then stoke the flame of my own life force. The Circle of Life, and so on.
Many of us humans do a terrible job of caring for and showing our appreciation for the life-giving resources provided by the Earth. We take and take and give nothing back, but my composting practice is one of the ways I try to mitigate my impact, to fill any holes I make in the Earth through my need for sustenance. Sometimes, however, what I return to the Earth is more for my own benefit.
Composting Negative Energy
Raised Catholic, I was always told to offer my burdens up to Jesus. As a pagan, I send my burdens downward instead, into the Earth. I use several different methods of spiritual cleansing, but they all involve my pain, my exhaustion, my stress going downwards.
I may sit on the ground and place my hands against it, imagining all the darkness in me seeping out through my palms and my tailbone and into the soil, or I’ll rest my back against a tree and visualize it as a conduit carrying my sorrow down through its roots. Sometimes all it takes is a simple shower, maybe with a few amplifying crystals or essential oils, to wash what I no longer need into the waterways.
Whichever way you do it, this is a form of composting, in my opinion – sending the detritus of life back into the Earth where it can be transformed into new energy. Just as carrot peelings and apple cores can become a brand new flower, our suffering can be reborn into something beautiful. We may not always know what it is, but by returning to the Earth what we don’t need, we are enabling new creation.
Happy composting, and please visit the rest of Solitary Farmhouse Witch while you're here.