The Dog's Tale
Bunnies, bones, & birthdays

Veriditas and the vegetable soul

Bean Longpod by Charles Jones

"The word vegetable comes from the root that means the very opposite of immobile, passive, dull, or uneventful. Vegere means to animate, enliven, invigorate, arouse. Vegete means to grow, to be refreshing, to vivify, animate. From these roots come words such as vigil, vigilant, and vigor, with all their connotations of being wide-awake, alert, of keeping watch. 'The understanding...was vagete, quick, and lively," observed one critic in 1662. Ben Jonson described what he saw as desirable characteristics in woman, 'faire, young, and vegetous.' Such respect for the vegetable soul was not confined merely to a robust sensual life, but extended into the religious dimension. 'Man is righteous in his Vegetated Spectre,' proclaimed Blake when commenting about the beliefs of the ancient Druids. Elsewhere it was insisted that 'A vegetous faith is able to say unto a mountain, Be moved into the sea.'

"The downward pull of vegetables, of the vegetable soul, has also provided exemplary images of being placed, of being grounded, of having roots. For example, Jung said, 'I am fully committed to the idea that human existence should be rooted in the earth.' He bemoaned modern culture's lack of earth-based ancestral connections. As Henry Corbin put it, the past is not behind us, but beneath our feet. What better way to touch the ground than through cabbages, which the poet Robert Bly says 'love the earth.' The word root comes from the Indo-European root ra, meaning to derive, to grow out of. To be 'radical' is get back to the roots. Radish stems from the same etymological roots."

- Peter Bishop (The Greening of Psychology: The Vegetable World in Myth, Dream, and Healing)

Cabbages (Larry's Perfection) by Charles Jones

Good People, most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun, you shine with radiant light.

Hildegard of Bingen (''Original Blessing'')

Potatoes by Charles Jones

"A cornerstone of Hildegard of Bingen's spirituality was Viriditas, or greening power, her revelation of the animating life force manifest in the natural world that infuses all creation with moisture and vitality. To her, the divine was manifest in every leaf and blade of grass. Just as a ray of sunlight is the sun, Hildegard believed that a flower or a stone was God, though not the whole of God. Creation revealed the face of the invisible creator. Hildegard celebrated the sacred in nature, something highly relevant for us in this age of climate change and the destruction of natural habitats.''

- Mary Sharratt ("Eight Reasons Why Hildegard Matters Now")

Peas by Charles Jones

"I'm a champion of subtley. The subtler something is, the more you have to pay attention, and that's a good thing. Remember, it's not always the big, loud species that are the best teachers. Sometimes it's the little, quiet, humble ones.

"Plants have the ability to transmit energy. Plants draw in and transform earth and water and nutrients and light and make their bodies out of them. Plants are a manifestation of these forces being woven together, and we humans have relied on them to sustain us since the beginning of our evolution. In cultures that are close to the earth I see a recognition of the power of plants to hold and draw energy and to move it along, thereby changing in a healing way. The plant world is constantly whispering to us, if we can hear it."

- Kathleen Harrison ("Women, Plants, and Culture," Moonwise)

Turnips by Charles Jones

Onions by Charles Jones

" 'Eating is an agricultural act,' as Wendell Berry famously said. It is also an ecological act, and a political act, too. Though much has been done to obscure this simple fact, how and what we eat determines to a great extent the use we make of the world -- and what is to become of it."

- Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals)

Plums by Charles Jones

The photographs in this post are by Charles Jones, a Victorian gardener and photographer born in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire in 1866. His work was largely unknown (even to his family) until hundreds of his images were discovered in a suitcase at an antiques market in south London in 1982; since then his beautiful images of vegetables and flowers have appeared in major museum exhibitions and been published in a book, The Plant Kingdoms Of Charles Jones (1998).

More information on the artist can be found here, and additional photographs can be seen here.

McGreedy's Scarlet by Charles JonesA post related to the "roots" quotes in the picture captions: "Writing without roots" (Sept. 2014)


such a sense of substance in these pictures, of the old rich spirit of the earth from which the vegetables come. i hope you are doing well.

Greening Power

I sit here vegetating poems,
You look at me and do not see
the animation in my mind,
as green curls of vines
give up their secret lines,
the slant of their truths.

You do not know how shafts
of new stories push out
renew, revive, revolt,
grow upward, push through
the crust of despond
into the greening air.

I am well-rooted for this business,
grounded in it, luxuriant below
as above, my mind always busy i
in its radical growth.
Do not confuse inaction
with vacation. I am at work.

©2014 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

It's interesting to me that we use the words vegetable and vegetative to mean immobile and non-communicative. I've been thinking about why. Perhaps because, for most of us, our only contact with vegetables is after they've already been harvested? We see them lying in clumps in the grocery store, watch them wither in our kitchens over time, or encounter them already processed somehow in restaurants and packaged goods. How many of us regularly observe an edible plant growing from seed, twining up a trellis, plumping from flower to fruit? How many of us stop to touch the dirt, offer water, or notice the sun? Now that I think of it, it's sad. Also, those who DO interact with and appreciate the magic of living vegetation are sort of like shamans or priests/priestesses, entering into mystery on others' behalf. We get the limited benefit of the fruits of their labor, but miss out on the most important blessings. Maybe if we all entered into natural mysteries more often, we'd steward our world very differently.

I love the whole concept of "vegetating poems" -- seeds planted, nourished, pushing upward. That's certainly how writing feels....

when my old friend Peter Webb (plant guru extraordinaire) was working in the glass houses as a seed collector for the Botanic Gardens in Melbourne his hair grew into springy wild tendrils! He is working with permaculture, healing plants and light in Brazil these days with his partner Bel Cesar

I am printing out this poem that describes the creative process so viscerally. I'll post it near my writing desk, beside the garden window. Thank you!

Tasty wisdom.

Really fascinating, and the photos are exquisite.

I am printing this post out. The pictures, the quotes, oh, it all speaks to me.

A very interesting use of black and white photography.

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