*Note: I am honoured to share author, Clea Danaan’s post today. She writes about the ceremonial experience she shared with her daughter by planting the placenta shed from her daughter’s birth with an apple tree. The sacred ceremony of the planting the placenta was practised by various cultures across the Earth in the old days. Clea Danaan sheds some light on the subject through sharing her own experience:
<<<Sacred Tree: A Prayer to the Land – A Guest Post by Clea Danaan>>>
Just before my daughter’s second birthday we finally went to a local nursery to choose just the right apple tree. She toddled among the five-foot-tall treelings, collecting fallen fruits the size of her fist. We chose a seedling that would grow four varieties of apples on one tree, cross pollinating itself. My little girl fell asleep in her car seat as we loaded the little tree on top of the car. A half-eaten apple dangled from one of her sticky hands.
Apples are sacred to the Goddess, a pentacle shape nestled in their core. Eve gained knowledge of her selfhood from an apple; she then shared this wisdom and life with her partner. Apples are said to grant eternal life, and are sacred to Eve, Kore, Hera, and Pomona, the apple goddess. I wanted my daughter to have an apple tree to remind her of her connection with me, the earth, and the Goddess. And under this tree we would bury her placenta.
When we got home, I pulled the placenta out of the freezer and set it in the sun to thaw. We gathered shovels, compost, buckets, the hose. The sun shone down and there was a soft breeze, a perfect day to plant a tree. I had waited two years to plant this tree because it felt like it was not only the tree’s roots I was literally putting down, but my own as well. I wasn’t sure I was ready to make that promise to the land, that I would stay here and steward my daughter’s tree. But it was a promise to my daughter, that the blood and flesh we once shared would beget new life. It was a promise to the earth that I and my children were dedicated to living in connection with the land.
As I dug, I thought back to the night my daughter was born. As I tried to nurse this new being, my midwife showed my mother the placenta, turning it over in the metal pan to show her the splayed branches of the blood-and-flesh Tree of Life, the shape on the back of every human placenta. The umbilical cord hung slack, no longer needed by my baby, no longer attached to me. Mom had never seen a placenta, nor witnessed a birth. She peered into the shiny metal pan, her eyes bright and her mouth slightly open. This glistening organ had once been a part of her daughter and of her granddaughter. Thirty years earlier, she and I had been attached by our own shared placenta as I formed inside her womb. Inside foetus me, like the tiniest Russian nesting doll, was the egg that would one day become my daughter. The cells she saw before her in this strange, red organ were of her daughter and of her granddaughter, and therefore, of her.
Now we would give this life-giving organ back to Grandmother Earth in thanks and dedication.
My daughter helped me dig the hole. I stood on a spade in my hiking boots and sliced into the clay soil while she scraped at the dirt with her sandbox shovel. She didn’t talk much yet, but knew the signs for “apple” and “tree” and “garden,” and she babbled on about our new baby tree in the garbled language of toddlers. Finally the hole was big enough. I pulled the lid off the mostly thawed placenta and took off my garden glove. At first I squeamishly feared to touch the shed organ, but realized my placenta would be no different than my moon blood, about which I am not at all squeamish. I poked at the bloody flesh. Much of the amniotic sack was still attached, a thin film of tissue that once protected my little girl. The thawing cord, thick and greyish white, curled inside the pan in a pool of dark blood.
I gently rested the placenta deep in the earth, surrounded by the silty clay soil of my child’s birthplace. I covered it with compost made in our garden. Then we carefully lifted the young tree into the hole. My daughter held the long green hose as the hole filled with water. Then with a spade and hands and a sandbox shovel we filled the space around the tree’s roots with soil and compost, tucking it in to its new home. I gave the tree a little prayer of welcome, thanks, and blessing.
I closed my eyes. The sun shone red through my lids, light through the pulse of blood. My feet pressed into the packed clay beneath me. A breeze shifted around me, lazy, then still. I imagined how the tree would grow. Its roots, seeking water in this dry land east of the Rockies, would reach out around it, into the earth, into the hidden placenta beneath. Its branches will reach up and outward toward the Universe: the Yoni-verse. Its fruit will bear traces of me, of my daughter, of my mom. It will bear witness to the life giving cycles of blood and fruit as it grows, following the archetypal shape of the tree imprinted on one side of the placenta. This tree then became more than a tree; this tree became a prayer, a sacred promise of life, a dedication to all that is sacred, from my mother to my daughter to the land.
To learn more about planting a placenta under a tree and other traditions, see http://www.birthtoearth.com/FAQs/Placenta+Traditions.html.
Clea Danaan is the author of Living Earth Devotional (Llewellyn, 2013), Zen and the Art of Raising Chickens (Ivy, 2010), Voices of the Earth (Llewellyn 2009) and Sacred Land (Llewellyn 2007). She lives in Colorado, USA, where she homeschools her two children. When not writing, she can be found in the garden, or buried in books. Visit her at: http://www.cleadanaan.com