These people, without todays technology, knew the soil in an intimate way that we can only guess at. And, of course, it was a necessary knowledge because their very lives depended on it ! This ritual has a special meaning to me because my ancestors farmed in this country from 1633, when Hans Hansen Bergen farmed in Brookland, in New Amsterdam, until 1809, when Jacob Isaac Bergen turned in his plow to run a mill in what would become known, at first as the town of Bergen's Mill, and later as simply Milltown, New Jersey. Their lives were a "ritual", dedicated from the rising of the sun to the setting of the sun, of honoring Mother Earth with their talents of tilling the soil, and growing a variety of crops in Her rich earth. Though they were Christians and would not have honored Mother Earth ritually, they honored Her with their hard work, and their endless care for Her.
Though in some books and on - line sights you will find fixed dates for this ritual, this is one ritual that is truly dictated by the weather and condition of the soil itself. If there is a foot of snow on the ground it is too early ! If the temperature is in the 20's or low thirties, it is too early ! And if the ground it is still frozen, then that also is an indication that it is too early. In order to " Charm the Plow", or in my case a shovel, you must be able to till the earth, and if you can't get a shovel into the ground then your efforts are wasted. Usually after a winter has passed the ground becomes squishy as the frozen earth thaws, and that is the indicator that I use to determine the right time to hold this ritual.
There is one plowing story in the Eddas that I like to add to my ritual, and it comes from Gylfaggining. The story tells of the Goddess Gefjon and how she tricked King Gylfi of Sweden out of his land. " It is said of him ( King Gylfi ) that he gave plough land in his kingdom the size four oxen could plough in a day and a night to a beggar woman as a reward for the way she had entertained him. This woman, however, was of the family of the Aesir, her name was Gefjon. From the north of Giantland she took four oxen and yoked them to a plough but those were her sons by a giant. The plough went in so hard, and deep, that it loosened the land and the oxen dragged it westward into the sea stopping in a certain sound. There Gefjon set the land for good and gave it the name calling it Zealand." Now that my friends is a plowing story !
The Gods and Goddesses that I honor in this ritual are: First and foremost, Jord / Great Mother Earth. Without her life itself would be impossible. Freyr who can " make the sun shine or the rains come". Great Shining Sunna who makes photosynthesis possible. Freyja who makes the soil and everthing she touches fertile. Odin and Frigga, the All - Father and All - Mother. And finally a nod to Gefjon the great "ploughing" Goddess. I also honor any and all Land Wights whose lands might intersect with my garden, for they were here from the beginning of time, and I am just borrowing their land for a short while.
To thank the Gods, Goddesses and Land Wights, I " put back" into the soil an offering of what was taken out of it from last year. Symbolically I use bread, cake, cookies, or even wheat germ as an offering to reinvigorate the soil and appease the Gods. As long as it is a product made from a grain I find it to be appropriate for the ritual. I sprinkle this into the soil as I thank the Gods, Goddesses, and Land Wights. I ask the Gods to bless my shovel, my garden, and the flowers that I will soon plant. I do not toast the Gods with a horn filled with alcohol, but instead use the life giving element of water. With every shovel of dirt I turn, I sprinkle in an offering of wheat germ, toast a Deity, and then sprinkle some water into the soil. While I am doing this I try to visualize our ancestors out in their fields working with the soil, and growing their crops so that their children would have plenty of food to last the year long. I honor them at the end because their hard work allowed our peoples to prosper, and become the nations that are the Germanic culture today.
For the final segment of my "Charming of the Plow Ritual", I fill my long flower pots with soil and add a variety of flower seeds. I then toast the Gods and Goddesses, ( this soil is store bought and therefore does not belong to the Land Wights ) and then pour a generous amount of water over the soil to start the growing process. These seeds will remain inside until they become seedlings, and the last frost has passed.
I really love the "Charming of the Plow Ritual" ! It is a time to work with the land, and become" intimate" if you will, with great Mother Earth again. It is a time of the return of light and warmth, and the promise of great things to come. Most of all it is a time to thank our wonderful Gods and Goddesses for all that they have provided us with, and a time to remember how much our ancestors sacrificed for us. Whatever day you choose to hold your " Charming of the Plow" ritual on, I hope you will enjoy it as much as I do every year. May the Gods and Goddesses bless you all, this day and everyday !
" Rise land from slumbering, Creator's grass from sleeping ! Let stem grow stems, and stalks grow stalks. Send up shoots by the thousand, spread sprouts by the hundred as a result of my plowing, my sowing, especially of my toil. "
- A Sower's Charm from The Kalevala.
Go with Odin's wisdom, Freyja' s love, and Thor' s protection !