The Creator, present in soil and seed

Photo: Gabriel Jimenez, Unsplash.

In may, a delegation from the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery went to Hopelchén, Campeche, Mexico, for a seed festival hosted by Colectivo In Laak Le Ixiimó. CILLI is a group of Maya seed savers organized to improve the health of Yook’ol Kab, the land-water interrelationship that sustains the world.

Colectivo In Laak Le Ixiimó can be understood in English as “our sibling, corn collective.” 

At the festival, the delegation and the Maya community celebrated life itself and a precious ingredient that makes life possible: seeds, the source of food security year after year. 

CILLI is a partner with the Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery. Each year the coalition selects a partner to receive a grant for its work of self-determination and dismantling systems of oppression. 

We call the recipient a repair partner. With Indigenous partners, we seek to repair vital relationships harmed by colonization — human relationships and our relationship with creation. 

We have worked with Maya siblings for many years, learning from their leadership as seed guardians and water protectors. Seed guardians gather and preserve seeds. They struggle to retain food sovereignty where forces of economic development encroach on the right to food security. 

One form of encroachment is large-scale agriculture, which perpetrates deforestation. Another is the introduction of genetically modified seeds that threaten traditional seeds. 

The work of CILLI brings to mind the cosmology of Indigenous peoples: The Creator is present with us in creation. Romans 1:20 puts it this way: “Ever since the creation of the world [God’s] eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.”

What is the eternal power and divine nature of the Creator that is evident in creation? 

I see mutual dependence. I see interdependent life-support systems: the four-legged ones, the winged ones, insects, pollinators, the standing green nation of plants, the microbes in the soil — all do their part to enable germination. 

I see faithfulness. Life returns to the soil each spring, though we do nothing to earn it. The water cycle replenishes itself from generation to generation. The forests provide shade, the oceans respond to currents, all without our supplications. 

Wati Longchar, an Indigenous theologian from Nagaland, India, explains how the Creator is present with us in creation. Without the land, Wati told me, God ceases to work. God is a co-parent with the Earth. 

In Nagaland, Wati says, there are 23 festivals related to the soil, two per month. There are multiple names of God related to the soil. Li-jaba means “soil-real.” Li-zaba means “soil-enter” — the one who enters the soil with the seed and rises in the shoot. The one who enters the soil is God. 

No seed can germinate without the presence of the Creator. This means every bite of food contains the presence of God. The essence of God is present in our very bodies.

The Maya tell us that seeds are culture and spirituality, life and death. Seeds are memory, medicine and resistance. Seeds, like land and water, are not property nor commodities but a sacred community to which the Maya belong.

This is true not just for the Maya but for all of us. We are part of creation, not separate from it. We are part of sacred community. 

Yet often we see ourselves as separate. We feel isolated and lonely. In 2023, one in three adults in the United States reported having been diagnosed with depression at some point. Perhaps our individualism allows us to see ourselves as separate when we are actually part of a sacred community.

The psalmist says, “I lift up my eyes to the hills — from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (121:1).

The Creator is present in the Earth, in the very soil. Not far away, not abstract, but with us, in soil and seed.

Across the United States, a dozen or so congregations joined with us in celebrating seed parties in solidarity with the Maya. I was blessed to be part of one of these parties. It is wonderful to find hope in each other and in the one who brings life, season after season.  

Sarah Augustine

Sarah Augustine, a Pueblo (Tewa) woman, lives with her family in White Swan, Washington. She is the Executive Director of Read More

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