Agriculture Lecture 5 – Yarrow

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Yarrow – Preparation 502

With Lecture 4, we reviewed the plant, the ABC of the plant and began with the two preparations 500 and 501. Lecture 5 is a continuation of the preparations. These preparations Rudolf Steiner has given while pointing out that man is continually exploiting the earth, the land. Through the use of preparations, we return something to the land, to the earth to keep it alive, to keep it fruitious so that it can sustain plants. He points out that the import of the preparations is to bring about an essential change in the working of the soil. The idea is not to inoculate the soil with animal life, which has been tried. External inoculation does not sustain itself. What is needed is an essential change in working with the soil-earth. The life of the soil we have only begun to speak of. The life of the soil – the earth – can be spoken of in terms of the four elements: the solid, the watery, the airy, the warmth. The soil-earth can also be spoken of in terms of life processes. These seven life processes we will take up as we go along. To enumerate them: warming, breathing, nutrition, secretion/excretion, maintaining, growing and reproducing.

Rudolf Steiner points to the impact of bacteria in the soil. He suggests that the way to bring about changes in the soil, so that bacteria can work properly, is by bringing manure to the soil, bringing dung to the soil. In order to have dung, animal life is needed on the farm. A balance between soil-earth and animal life is a need. The farm must contain the animal. It is the animal that in turn produces the dung that has to be treated, which in turn then is given over to the earth to influence the life of the earth.

If we look at the earth, its makeup, we can consider these types of soil – the sandy, the loamy, and the clay soil. Into this we must bring an important life element. This life element I would summarize by speaking to humus. Humus is actually very much of the makeup of the loamy soil. It is a living metabolic substance that is so important for our soil. Humus has a lively metabolic life that makes it difficult to analyze. Humic acid is one identifying marker in humus. However, humus is largely a chemically active living soil process. Many compounds would have to be identified including nitrogen substances. Humus is a carrier of the liquid and controls the relation between plant and earth. It constitutes approximately 4%-5% of many soils. It forms the culture media – stimulant for bacteria as well as the insect and nematode life of the earth. Thus we care for the earth in order to care for the animal life. The animals in turn produce manure substances that are crucial for the plant. As noted, humus is also known as a substance that helps to regulate the relationship between the mineral element of the earth and the plant. Thus the humus acts as what is known as a chelating agent.

Rudolf Steiner indicates that this work with manure, with the evolution of humus, the adding of humus to the soil, is something that is the responsibility of the farmer. By this means, the farmer has to deal with the essentials spoken of in science. The essentials have often been referred to as NPK, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. The heavens, Rudolf Steiner indicates, take care of the other elements, trace elements. He notes these to be lead, arsenic, mercury, and even small amounts of sodium. Thus our weather takes care of certain mineral elements. The mineral elements that have to be attended to with our work with the soil are those that are spoken to in the usual “Justus von Liebig” science. These, however, are not handled as pure mineral substances, but by regulating the activities of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus through the cultivating of the soil via manuring, via the use of preparations.

Rudolf Steiner’s point is that if we do not tend the soil, then it will be impossible for the earth to sustain its fertility. We will be unable to sustain healthy plant life and thereby the nutrition of animals and man will become an increasing problem. As noted, he points in particular to the inability of plants to handle and take up mineral elements from the earth and soil unless there is an adequate soil management, adequate soil practice. Rudolf Steiner points out that the plants suck up mercury, arsenic and silicic acid.

If we now turn to the yarrow preparation, let us begin by recapitulating something about the stag. Then we can go on to consider the yarrow plant, itself. Yarrow we place in a stag bladder and therefore are concerned with the stag. The stuffed bladder we hang in the summer’s warmth in the air and then bury in the warmth of the earth in winter. The whole process is one of a rather grand laboratory process, a laboratory process involving animal, plant, earth and cosmos. It is a grand alchemic undertaking.

We have already indicated that the stag is of the deer family. The deer family is typified by an animal that walks on his toes. The stag that we are considering here produces antlers. When a stag produces antlers, the female deer does not produce a fetus. Between the male and female, there is an alteration of life processes which either brings forth the antlers or the offspring. The process is very much governed by the seasons. In a way, we can say that the antlered deer family is very much related to the wild, the season, to the changes in the earthly cosmic circumstance of our earth. This sensitivity we have indicated can be seen in the makeup of the deer’s antlers.

We have noted that these antlers are extensions of the skin. The skin is drawn out into the periphery. The rush of the blood follows this. There follows a precipitation of cartilaginous and bone substance. Bone is laid down to give the supportive structure for the antlers. The antlers develop between spring and fall. They are first covered with skin. Gradually the skin is lost and only the antlered bone excrement remains. The antlers are then excreted from the head. The doe that is fecundated in the fall gives birth to the offspring in the spring. The excretion of the antler in the fall by the deer, by the stag, is followed by the excretion of a living fawn in the spring.

Thus we see that these animals not only are cosmically earthly sensitive, but they follow the course of the sun. They have such a lively excretion, the antler excretion and then fetal or fawn excretion is possible.

We have indicated in our considerations that the sensitivity of the deer family is connected with the antler formation. The antlers in turn are associated with the kidney radiational process, an etheric-astral process that meets what comes to the deer via the sensitive life that lives in the antlers and is expressed in the gaze of the animal.

Further we noted that the stag is a ruminant. This means that the stomach has four ventricles. Something of the four ventricular process of the rhythmic system, the heart drops, into the digestion to penetrate the digestion with the pulse of the animal. This brings a very intense activity to the inner life of the animal. This intense inner life enters the metabolic processes that are connected with the transformation of earth substance into the flesh of the animal. Here again it is the kidney radiational process that is very important. Here the radiations, the astral radiations are stimulated because of the substances consumed. The dung produced by the deer is not as lively as that of the cow because of the intense sensitivity of the animal. Life forces are taken from the dung for this sensitivity. This contrasts with the cow where the cow is turned inward and the inner radiations can be used to further the life of the intestine, the life that grows in the manure, the micro-life that is. For us it is the bladder with the radiant activity – sentient radiations – that is of import.

As already indicated, the deer stands in contrast to the cow. The deer is a beast of the wild. The deer is a beast of the steep, the mountain. The deer is not so much an animal of the plain. The cow on the other hand is a beast more of the pasture, somewhat of the plain. The cow belongs to the culture of man. The cow is a mammal, that is, it has mammary glands and furnishes nourishment for the human. It is a domesticated animal. The deer for the most part is not a domesticated animal, though slowly now man begins to domesticate the deer for the production of meat. Deer do not produce the flow of milk for man, as does the cow. The contrast of the deer can be appreciated if one sees that the sensitivity, the environmental cosmic sensitivity, the earth sensitivity of the deer takes life forces so that not only are the female forces needed for offspring production, but the male as well. The voluminous production of milk is not there for mankind because the life forces are used in the sensitivity of the deer. It is this sensitivity, this sentientness or sentient body-ness that is important and needs to be brought to the preparation and thereby to the earth.

If we now turn to the bladder of the deer, we can recollect that this is a vesicled organ, a hollowed organ. It carries a negative pressure, which means it has a suction activity within it. There is an etheric suction process within the bladder. This etheric suction process in the bladder is what then meets the cosmic light ether stream that comes towards the animal. This suction process also stands within the sphere of the earth forces. The bladder and the kidneys of this animal, as with man, stand outside the coelomic cavity, outside the heavenly space. The kidney and bladder are both, therefore, influenced by the gravitational force. In the case of the human being, the bladder and kidney are more influenced by gravitation than this animal because this animal exists somewhat raised above the earth. The relationship of the bladder to gravity, as well as levitation, the etheric negative process in the bladder is extremely important because we not only want a cosmic sensitivity, but an earthly one as well. We want this process brought to the preparation so that cosmic sensitivity, earth sensitivity can be brought to the earth for the incarnation of the plant.

This two-fold sensitivity of the deer, particularly the earthly sensitivity of the stag, is important to consider in the process of cosmic and earthly nutritional processes that are the basis for human nutrition.

The discussion of the stag would not be complete without returning to the digestion – to rumination. This beast lives on plant substances. The ruminant quality of the deer family is not as marked as a cow. Notable is that when the cow has had a good meal it lies with its abdomen approximating the earth. The deer, however, is much more inclined to remain on its feet and digest as it were, away from the earth. As we have noted in our previous discussion, the four ventricled stomach of the ruminant suggests that something of the heart process has dipped into the digestive process so that the circulatory process is very closely connected with the metabolic processes of an animal. Thus we have to consider that this animal belongs into the animal grouping where the metabolism predominates and radiates throughout the entire animal. Thus the bladder of this animal is exposed to these metabolic predominance’s. It seems to me, that the metabolic has to be taken very seriously as we want to influence metabolism, the preparations, the earth and the plant. When we look at these metabolic processes, we have to consider how the earth flows into the plant, the plant into man and animal and brings about a continual streaming and transformation of substance process within the organism. This streaming, transformation, we describe as metabolism. I would thereby point to the life processes of maintenance. Metabolism is closely related to maintenance. Thus it is important to link our deer, the stag, with the ruminant and with the predominance of metabolism, which is so closely connected with the bladder.

Going on to the yarrow now, Rudolf Steiner has then said that we should pick yarrow blossoms. We make use of the composite umbiliform inflorescence and stuff it into the bladder. Note can be made that fresh yarrow does not have to be used. Dried yarrow can be wetted with the juices of fresh yarrow or even a good rainwater.

Notable is that yarrow can be found in the wild. It does not have to be cultivated. We can, of course, cultivate it, but we can find uncultivated specimens in pastures, fields, and along forest edges. It usually accompanies cultivated lands, the lands that are transformed by man. It starts out as a rosette in spring, forms a very tough, straight stalk with a visible darkish green fiber. The leaves are somewhat refined. Substance is retained in the leaf in contrast to chamomile. In the chamomile leaf, a great deal of substance is excreted. This is not so with yarrow, but we can observe structure in the leaf.

The leaves are formed but soft and slightly watery. The plant grows quite rapidly often to a height of two-three feet. It begins to bloom at the middle of July or the beginning of August. The blossoms are whitish with a compact center and delicate little white leaflets. A greenish or pinkish tint can be noted in the blossom. It is a plant that in its blossom coloring tends to approach from green to the color of the human skin with a hint of faint pink. This is a perennial. There is a tendency for duration to live in this herb. Many herbs are annuals. Not this one. The durational, the non-evanescent is something that lives in this plant in relationship to time.

It is noted by Rudolf Steiner that it contains sulphur. Others, namely the Kolisko’s, have noted that the sulphur is contained in the roots of this plant. The roots are well developed, reticulate, reminding us of an earth-formed structure. When one pulls up the plant by the root, a clump of earth is attached. The root form points to earth relatedness and as well gives a sense of duration – permanence. The plant rises, shoots up 2-3 feet in a short period of time to culminate in an inflorescence that is like the heavens that have descended onto the rising stem. This inflorescence looks like a sulphury dispersion. The sulphur process culminates in the formation of a number of oils. Alcohols are also formed so that a fermentation-like process is a normal working in this plant.

When Rudolf Steiner speaks of the plant, he speaks about its radiant nature. He points to the fact that the plant is a good example for radiantness (radiance – editor). This theme I have taken up in relationship to the deer, which also lives in the radiations of the world, and radiates, as well. (The astral is expressed here.) This plant rises from the earth, is anchored in the earth, is well structured and at the same time brings radiance into its inflorescence.

For me, a very notable remark is made by Rudolf Steiner in relation to yarrow. It is a single comment, but I think highly interesting. He points out that not only the sulphury element is important in this plant, but also potash is extremely important. This is one of the few instances where he mentions this substance – potash. I would very much like to think this is a key to the plant, as well as the entire preparation.

If we look at potash, potassium, we find that it is concentrated in the animals of the waters, that is fresh water or salt water. These animals, of course, are fish. All animals contain potassium, not only fish. Oceans contain salt. We can say that in the animal kingdom, fish or various animals that find their living habitat in the oceans are in a way permitted to define themselves as animals because of potassium. The oceans permit them to live in the ether hydrosphere of the earth. The salt brings them somewhat to earth, but the potassium nature of the animals is the mineral constituent that permits the birthing of the kingdom, I would like to say. Potassium permits animal and human kingdom birth.

If we turn to the earth and to plants, we can note that potassium is also important to the plant. Some plants concentrate potassium more than others. Without potassium, plants do not grow. I would like to suggest again that it is the potassium element of the earth, either carried into the plant or radiated into the plant, which permits the kingdom of the plant to incarnate on the earth. The lithosphere of the earth, made up very much of silica and calcium, becomes the base for plant and human life. Animal life on earth is also permitted by the lithospheric makeup. I would suggest that we consider potash as the element that permits the birth of the kingdom to the earth mother and from the cosmos father. It is because of this potassium element that I like to consider the preparation as the son element, as a son principle activity in the makeup of the preparations – it permits earthly incarnation.

Potassium within the human being is also crucial. It is the essential intracellular mineral makeup. As we know, the extracellular makeup is salt. The extracellular fluids resemble the oceans with salt – sodium. The intracellular fluids resemble the makeup of the fish in the oceans or other water bodies. Potassium is essential for kingdom incarnation into a given body or organism. In the case of man, potassium is very highly concentrated in pancreatic secretions and is most concentrated in the endolymph of the semi-circular canals in the human ear. My thesis would be that without potassium, the kingdoms would not be able to incarnate into either the hydrosphere or the lithosphere. For this reason I like to consider that we describe potassium as the great incarnator. By this view, potassium belongs very much to the baptismal process permitting the incarnation of the individual quality that makes up either man or the kingdoms of nature. By this means we can also consider how important potash and potassium is for plant life.

From this foregoing, then, we can contemplate how extremely important the dynamic of this preparation is for the earth in which one is trying to birth something of an individual quality. This has to be carried into the plant and then make this dynamic possible in the human being. Something of the unique kingdom element is permitted to be active and incarnate where potash is active.

If we discuss a sibling nature of potash, we can say this is an earth son. We have already suggested that antimony is kind of a cosmic son principle, permitting cosmic individuation to express itself in the configuration of man in the processes of metabolism. By this line of reasoning, potash becomes the vehicle for earth son nature in the cosmos and antimony the cosmic son nature in the universe.

To complete our view of this preparation, we have to add that the stuffed bladder is hung outdoors in the summer and placed in the earth in winter. The elementals of summer, the earth radiations rising into the cosmos, in a way, are drawn into this preparation. The earth crystalline force systems are drawn into the substances as they are planted into the earth in winter. The element inherent in the deer, that is its relationship to the environment and cosmic rhythms, the yarrow’s perennial nature permits these summer-winter rhythms of the earth and atmosphere to penetrate the bladder and yarrow. The preparation has to become sensitive and pass this onto the plant. We need these summer-winter rhythms in us as we carry them as a biorhythm of sleep and wake. As often is said, the summer rhythm is our sleep, the winter rhythm is our wake. Another perspective is to say that in our thinking, the crystalline winter becomes evident. The summer sulphur-ness becomes evident in our will, and our feeling life swings between the summer and winter in the fall and Easter seasons of the year. All seasons are needed in man. The makeup of the deer, the makeup of the yarrow, the preparation being subjected to winter and summer, all this brings about an earthly cosmic relatedness which is carried through the course of time, through the rhythm of the seasons, through the summer and winter of the year. Man carries these seasons in his daily round.

Thus in considering yarrow, we are looking to the time element, but we are also looking to a marked metabolic process in a plant that is carried over to soulness-sleep-wake (thinking-feeling-willing). Through the rhythm of breathing, the soul enters the physical-potassium and makes the incarnation possible.