Growing With Spirit: Agriculture and Spirituality

Ancient Wisdom  |  01/19/2017

The advent of agriculture was critical to ancient peoples, allowing them to stop wandering and settle in areas for extended periods of time to develop tools, art, and eventually birth civilization as we know it.

Because of agriculture’s game-changing nature it became a defining characteristic of the beginning of the Neolithic period of human existence around 10,500 years ago. The ability to grow food gave ancient cultures time for art, dancing and other non-critical endeavors like brewing beer. Fat and happy these cultures spent their newfound spare time doing the hibbity dibbity, driving a rapid increase in ancient populations. When they weren’t multiplying, ancients went go to great lengths to venerate the gods who gave them these wonderful new gifts.

AZ Hopi Orion Correlation
AZ Orion Correlation, by Gary A. David

Gods such as Hun Hunahpu (Maize god) to the K’iche Maya, Osiris to the ancient Egyptians, and Massaw to the Hopi are all are celebrated for giving people the gift of growing, are all related to grains, and are all directly related to the concept of death and rebirth. As we mention in episode 11 these “grain gods” are also all related to the constellation Orion. The ancient Maya, Egyptians and Hopi  expended tremendous time and energy aligning structures with the stars of Orion, potentially to honor the aforementioned deities associated with the constellation. Why wouldn’t they? Food, drink and nookie is certainly a trinity worthy of worship.

Unlike other ancient cultures who took off their walking shoes to kick it garden-side, the ancient ancestors of the Hopi (Hisatsinom) didn’t settle down with their green thumbs. They continued to wander the earth as instructed by Massaw, the aforementioned deity who welcomed them into this, the fourth world. As Bertram Tsavadawa (C0rn Clan, Hopi) explains in this episode the Hopi were directed by Massaw to explore the earth in all directions and see how seeds reacted in different regions en route to finding their Center Place. If the Hopi were able to find Massaw at their Center Place and live simply as he lives with nothing but a seed bag, planting stick and gourd of water, they would be welcomed in perpetuity.

Clans of the Hisatsinom ancestors of the Hopi arrived at their Center Place – The Hopi Mesas of Northern Arizona – from different directions, at different times, with different traditions. How did they all know where to go in an age without cell phones and GPS? While seeds must’ve reacted more favorably to environments the clans passed through en route to the barren Mesas, they pushed on and settled this region to live simply and peacefully with Massaw. Many see these ancient migrations as bound to North America, but the Hisatsinom may have traveled much further. After all, the Hopi share linguistic similarities with the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians and Tibetans and some clans may have lived among these cultures as others once lived among the Maya.


Recent research suggests that the ice-free corridor promoted by Beringia theorists as the sole superhighway to settling the Americas wasn’t open until 13,000 years ago, and didn’t have the flora and fauna to sustain human travelers until approximately 12,600 years ago. Archaeological discoveries in Texas, Florida and elsewhere show advanced human presence in North America up to 16,000 years ago and beyond. Archaeologist Tom Dillehay of Vanderbilt University returned last year to the site in Monte Verde Chile where he found advanced human presence dated to 14,500 years ago and recently pushed that number back to 18,500-19,000 years. So how can we explain the presence of humans with “Clovis” knowledge in the Americas 3,000 – 5,000 years before the existence of the land bridge that gave these people access? Perhaps they were able to sail.

Diffusionism Map
Possible Routes of Cultural Diffusion

While diffusionist theories suggesting ancient contact are very unpopular among the academic community, linguistic research, DNA studies and oral tradition support these theories. There is also extensive circumstantial evidence such as the existence of a “Houseboat Clan” among the land-locked Hopi. The Chinese appear to have hit California 3,000 years ago, joining other early arrivals who lived on the Channel Islands 10,000 years prior. The Polynesians seem to have reached the Americas in ancient times, sharing boat-building knowledge with the Chumash Indians of California and bringing the sweet potato from South America to the Pacific islands around 1000 AD. Along the Southern coast of the U.S. we find corn from Mesoamerica in Alabama circa 1200 BC and Florida circa 850BC before we find it in Texas, indicating that it likely came by sea. There are stone structures in the Northeast U.S. that look a lot like those found throughout Europe, including a dolman on the battlefield of Gettsyburg, Pennsylvania that shares a name with another dolman in Fyfield, England. Throughout the Ohio Valley we find burial mounds with internal burial chambers designed exactly like their European counterparts, and we see geometric earthworks all over Europe that are exactly like those attributed to the Hopewell people of North America.

Skara Brae, Orkney Islands, United Kingdom
Agriculture Allowed People to Stop at Stunning Sites Like Skara Brae, Orkney Islands, United Kingdom

The many shared characteristics of ancient sites throughout the world and the similar manner in which these sites were utilized suggest contact and shared technology. Contact between ancient cultures appears most probable during the Neolithic period which spans from approximately 7000BC to 2000BC, stretching until about 1200AD in the Americas. Ancient sites considered ceremonial or sacred by the Neolithic peoples focused on honoring and sustaining the cycle of life. It all seems to relate to fertility – the very essence of agriculture. Neolithic cultures viewed the earth plane, ethereal/celestial plane and underworld plane as coexisting and interacting both spiritually and pragmatically, as many indigenous cultures still do today. They visited sacred sites to interact with these planes, communing with the gods and ancient ancestors and praying for bountiful harvests. They would also place the seeds for their crops at such sites to bless them prior to planting. Researchers have found that when the ancients placed seeds at many of these sites, the spiritual blessing they received paid tangible dividends.

John Burke, Kaj Halberg and others have found that ancient structures throughout the world are located on electromagnetic anomalies. These anomalies are often caused by “conductive discontinuities” or where areas of highly conductive earth abut areas of nonconductive earth. The earthworks and stoneworks built atop these anomalies appear to have been built to direct energy into structures and earthworks creating negative ionization, which is beneficial to any living thing. To test their hypothesis Burke and Halberg used a magnetometer and voltmeter to measure energy fluctuation and distribution at sacred structures throughout the world. They then placed seeds at sites where anomalies were measured and reported in 2005’s Seed of Knowledge, Stone of Plenty that plants grown from “blessed” seeds grew faster, stronger, and more resistant to oxidative stress. While Burke and Halberg didn’t test any ancient pueblo sites such as Chaco Canyon or the Hopi Mesas, the topography indicates that the same conditions may exist at these places.

The Hopi Village of Walpi, First Mesa, AZ
The Hopi Village of Walpi, First Mesa, AZ

The Hopi Mesas consist of sedimentary stone with iron and quartz content, and they abut dry soil. The Mesas could represent an enormous conductive discontinuity, which could be more active after rainfalls, and the stone kivas built atop them may be directing energy and ionizing seeds. Having hearty seeds would certainly help the Hopi continue farming in the barren high desert of Northern Arizona where they have lived continuously for more than 1,000 years. In order to survive there the Hopi employ the same ancient dry farming techniques used by their ancestors, successfully growing the three sisters – Corn, Beans, and Squash – to this day without modern assistance. As Bertram explains in this episode many Hopi continue to grow crops without irrigation to show their faith in the earth and adherence to Massaw’s direction. A healthy crop shows a good heart and commitment to teachings.

Like the Hopi Mesas, the ancient ceremonial and trade center of Chaco Canyon also sits in a barren high desert location. In this episode we ponder the choice of Chaco’s location, as even in its heyday from 850-1120 AD, Chaco, like the Hopi Mesas was a challenging region for life and agriculture. As Rob points out, Chaco’s decline was likely tied to a major drought that swept the region from 1120-1180AD and many concur with this theory. Drought would certainly have had an impact on the people of Chaco, even if they imported corn from surrounding areas 50+ miles away instead of growing it on site as recent research suggests. The fact that Chacoans imported corn is interesting in that the ancestors of the Hopi (Hisatsinom) were presumably dry farming on similar land on the Hopi Mesas at the same time they were attending functions at Chaco where corn was purportedly imported. Why wouldn’t the people of Chaco employ the same techniques on the same kind of land at the same time?

Bertram and Dave agriculture
Bertram Explains Dry Farming While Walking his Corn Fields

Most of the Great Houses and Great Kivas at Chaco Canyon such as Pueblo Bonito and Casa Rinconada are built below rock cliffs, not above them as the villages of Hopi are situated, where they may benefit most from a discontinuity. If an electromagnetic anomaly exists at Chaco it appears that the people running the show were not aware of it. While there are a number of “cups” pecked into the stone cliffs above “downtown Chaco” that may have held seeds at one time there isn’t any sign of a structure that once existed to protect them from Chaco’s brutal winds. What happens in the kiva stays in the kiva so it’s not likely the Hopi would’ve shared any of their ceremonies, let alone those related to fertility and agriculture. The people of Chaco made sure to burn and seal all their kivas prior to leaving the site, so it’s hardly a stretch to assume that the Hopi would guard their kiva secrets with similar import.

Whether or not Hopi farmers are benefitting from the same electromagnetic anomalies as their Neolithic counterparts, they share a similar holistic view of existence inherited from their Hisatsinom ancestors. They have maintained connection to their distant past through vigilant oral tradition and continue to benefit from ancient ways. Their dry farming techniques have sustained them through several droughts over 1,000 years of continuous community in a region that is not conducive to agriculture, and they will sustain them through many more. As long as there is earth to farm, the Hopi farmers will grow well – because they are growing with spirit.