Spiritual sustenance, naturally.

Ethnobotany: the study of culturally important species of plants.

Ethnoecology: the study of culturally important ecosystems.

Ned Phillips-Jones offered the above definitions at a workshop my daughter and I attended today on the Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology of Wales. First we gathered for a power-point presentation about the process of using one’s own ethnic background to research and imaginatively explore what plants and animals might have been important to our ancestors. There are close relationships between plants from Wales and plants here in New England: the Welsh rowan and the American mountain ash, for example. My father (whose mother came to this country from Wales) planted mountain ash trees around our home when I was a child – and now I have planted mountain ash at my home. Many plants (rowan, oak, hazel, mistletoe) were considered sacred by ancient Celts. Ned also spoke about coppicing, creating hedges, carved and standing stones, and building cairns. He has been incorporating these methods into his garden project.

The Forest Garden

After the indoor presentation, we proceeded outdoors to the wonderful forest garden that Ned has created on the Hampshire College campus. There we saw hawthorn, blackthorn, elderberry, sloe plum plants, nettle, tiny Welsh daffodils, and many other plants, beautifully arranged in beds with stepping stone paths. We ceremonially planted a holly bush in the garden (the berries on it in the photo below were not real but were there for effect! 🙂 ). It’s a beautiful, peaceful sanctuary of edible delight!

Planting the Holly

Welsh Daffodil

On the social network Americymru, Ned wrote: “A long term goal of mine is to teach Permaculture through the medium of Welsh. I want to help create forest gardens (and teach about them) in order to help struggling communities produce a diversity of foods and useful goods which require little maintenance to produce for years. A number of traditional perennial Welsh wild food crops are promising as contributions to forest garden ecosystems (hazel, gooseberry, wild leek, sea kale and sorrel).
There are strong connections between language, culture, communities, and locally produced food. I believe there is great potential to reinvigorate communities and local economies by investing in perennial agriculture and designed ecosystems. The opportunity for ‘green’ job creation gives the concept added relevance to current policy discussions.”

To finish our time together we enjoyed Herbal Mead, Black Currant Juice, Laver (sea vegetables), and Cawl Mamgu Tregaron (soup).

Gardd bendigedig, Ned! Diolch yn fawr!

Ned Phillips-Jones

Comments on: "Welsh Ethnobotany and Ethnoecology" (7)

  1. Theadora Davitt-Cornyn said:

    Love the tiny daffodils ~ immediately began to think of The Green Man when I saw all this, Katharine… and then noticed he’s here. Thanks for the fresh, green loveliness!


  2. Really enjoyed this and learned some new things (always good). Also, do you know how to speak Gaelic? It’s pretty cool. Nun Tuck (also Katherine)


    • It seems to me that exploration and contemplation of our relationships with our “ancestors” – (including not only humans, but other life forms, Earth herself and our cosmic history) – is a valuable spiritual practice. It has the possibility of opening and expanding our awareness of who we are and how we are not separate from one another and all that is.
      As for Gaelic, I chant in Gaelic as a Ceile De member, but do not speak it. The other-than-English language in this post is Welsh. I do speak a tiny bit of Welsh.
      Thank you for your comment!


  3. […] We came across this report on the Katharine Houk’s blog about the workshop entitled Our Welsh Ethnoecology which was held in Greenwich Forest Garden in April 2010. Sanctuary Without Walls Report […]


  4. Thanks for coming to the workshop, Katharine- and also for writing up this report!

    Cofion Gorau,


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: