Who Run the World?: The Historically Female Nurturance of the Earth

By Ciana Alessi

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I often find myself mystified by the power of women. As I was recently looking into the Indigenous spirituality that “modern witchery” is based in, I found myself quite entangled in the idea that oneness with the earth is a quality that is intrinsically part of womanhood. Such an idea is quite beautiful, intoxicating, and simple (my favorite). But, as we all unfortunately know, few things in this world are entirely that simple. For one, this idea that womanhood and earthly oneness have an inherent link has an air of biological essentialism that can quite easily make trans women or gender non-conforming people who feel at home with nature feel ostracized and othered; this may act as yet another example of tying a binary gender expression to something deemed “inherent.” This idea also brings up the question of responsibility. Women are responsible for oh-so-much already, without receiving any of the praise for their work. Too often have we seen images of women as caretakers with no appreciation, as community leaders and farmers dethroned by colonialism, as healers called witches and burned at the stake. Yet all of these roles women have historically taken on have aided in nurturing the earth: whether it be through caring for the youth that will eventually shape the world, helping people understand their place on this fragile earth, or utilizing nature’s bounty to ensure the community is healthy and happy, a nurturance precedent seems necessary for the existence of all earth-bound people. The aspect of healing especially — in a local, individual sense and a communal sense — holds great resonance today as an interestingly feminist issue that I’d like to (and will now) investigate.

As previously mentioned, women have historically been healers. Although most of the interest in this subject has centered toward the very European start of contemporary homeopathy and midwifery, there is sparse research on the world’s first healers. Those healer have been, namely, indigenous women who were once central in healing were subsequently rejected from modern medicine. According to research on Ojibwa and Cree healers, for example, “of all indigenous American roles, none is as omnipotent as the medicine woman/traditional healer … these women have a special connection to the spirit world that empowers them to heal.” The tasks and ideas of these healers — caring for the ailments of people via plants, herbs, and means of the earth — are in line with what we now call holistic care or homeopathy. Furthermore, the authors of the above study conclude that nurses are, in fact, close modern equivalents to traditional indigenous healers (and roughly 90% of nurses are women in the United States, might I add).

I think this all warrants questioning, is there some link between women — writ large — and some spiritual connection to the earth and universe, lending us toward their care? Or is this another result of the socialization of women into a state of constant hyper-awareness toward any responsibility? In 2019, however, I’m not sure the distinction necessarily matters. We’re all painfully aware of how much the earth needs us after the endless destruction we continue to put it through. So even though there is a precedent of women in nearly all cultures taking care of our families and communities, the earth and universe itself, as per true post-post modern style, it really doesn’t matter what your gender expression, we all must love Our Mother. Here are a few other ways you can love Our Mother, and yours, on and after Mother’s Day:

  1. Shop Sustainable! My favorite brands are Arq, Hara, Knickey, Los Angeles Apparel, Everlane, Reformation, and the ultimate — Depop!

  2. Keep your reusable shopping bags by the door or in your car for groceries (or quick snacks, no judgement)

  3. Meatless Mondays! (See: the scary effects of animal agriculture on our planet)

  4. Go to local flea markets and farmers markets whenever possible! Living in Buffalo, NY I know this is a very seasonal recommendation, but it’s finally springtime so go out and enjoy it!

  5. Invest in big ass mason jars for: a) drinking lots of water b) smoothies(!!) and c) use for bulk items like granola, nuts, and seeds, or to store items that usually come in plastic packaging