A Curious History of Vegetables: Aphrodisiacal and Healing Properties, Folk Tales, Garden Tips, and Recipes - Wolf D. Storl (2016)
COSMIC COOKING: THE PLANETARY CUISINE OF ARTHUR HERMES
Until he was ninety-six years old, Arthur Hermes walked several times a month down a steep path through a forest of beech and pine trees to the train station near his home in Canton of Vaud, Switzerland. He looked like the wise old wizard out of fairy tales, with his wide coat and snow-white hair fluttering from under his worn, wide-brimmed hat—except that he usually had a briefcase with old, obscure notes clamped under his arm. With each such journey he was answering calls for help. He believed that the knowledge that had been imparted to him by his spiritual guide was intended for everyone, and so to those who called he would go. People in the entire area of Canton of Vaud turned to him for advice, including doctors and nurses, teachers and students. But mainly it was farmers and gardeners who sought his advice, which they then often applied in their professions—without necessarily crediting the source.
When Hermes spoke, he talked about Mother Earth, about helpful elemental beings, the spirits of the planets, or the influence of the dead upon the vegetation. He told inquiring farmers and gardeners about biodynamic herbal preparations, companion planting, and the cosmic rhythm involved in plowing, planting, and harvesting. He seemed to know everything about animals as well—and to many it was as though he could communicate with them. He told inquiring doctors and healers about the therapeutic effects of color, music, plants, and rocks, as well as about prophylactic herbal teas and healing meditation. And even though the academicians and scientists who sought him, convinced of their world view, were inevitably skeptical of some of his beliefs; nonetheless, they were impressed by his vitality and conviction—and usually left in a reflective mood. The people admired him as if he were a resurrected Paracelsus or, better yet, a reborn druid. Indeed, his farmstead, in a forest clearing way up in the Jura Mountains, had huge stones left by the ancient megalithic peoples, stones later used by actual druids in ceremonial rituals. Incidentally, Arthur’s last name, “Hermes,” does not concern the Greek god of the same name but is derived from “Irm” or “Irmin,” the old Germanic name for megaliths or menhirs. Indeed, nomen est omen: the name speaks for itself.
Given how visibly healthy, strong, and active Hermes was, people could hardly believe his age when they learned it. He would answer, “My daily meditations draw on primal sources, and my nutrition gives my spirit the strength for these meditations.”
Hermes avoided alcohol, saying: “Alcohol conserves and mummifies worn-out thoughts. It obstructs all fine and tender impulses that come to us from the etheric dimension.” He was a vegetarian as well, though not a vegan; he accepted milk and cheese as “innocent, moonlike substances, full of fresh, lively energy.” He could even accept that someone might eat meat: in order to gain the necessary strength needed in times of crisis, in order to become “strong as a bull.” But, he felt, “whoever eats meat should realize that—karmically speaking—he or she owes the animal spirit appropriate thanks, and will have to pay back the debt incurred.”
When he was asked by a large organic garden community to do a series of talks on food preparation, he shared his thoughts on the sacred act of eating. “We eat the cosmos,” he declared, explaining that plants are made up of over 90 percent water and air, and how the mineral that is part of the plant makeup is actually very small. Both the alchemists of old and the homeopaths of today know that water and air are very sensitive elements, receptive to a multitude of vibrations and diverse radiation. Watery plant organs are, therefore, very adapted to receive the rhythmic and cyclic impulses that radiate from the sun (photosynthesis), the moon (germination, growth), and the planets and stars. The minerals in this watery milieu can be seen as “bait,” amplifiers for certain cosmic vibrations.
The relationships between planets and earthly matter have been observed and studied since ancient times. But Hermes would not accept older traditions just for their own sake; his conclusions that the planets do influence as formative forces derived too from his own observation and experience. He concurred with the Renaissance concept that lunar forces are in resonance with silver, that solar forces are in resonance with gold—and iron with Mars, tin with Jupiter, lead with Saturn, copper with Venus, and mercury with Mercury. In addition, he postulated that the nearer planets—the moon (as satellite rather than planet), Mercury, and Venus—working with the calcium in the soil, stimulate the metabolism and the building up of substance and mass in our planet’s vegetation. In comparison, the more distant planets (Mars, Jupiter, Saturn), working via silicon—quartz, flint—bring forth qualities in plants that our senses perceive as aroma, color, durability, and taste. It’s not just the manufacturers of silicon chips who know of the power of silicon crystals to transmit information; those known as “sensitives” believe that silicon can also transport subtle etheric or spiritual vibrations. Perhaps that is why—as anthropologists have noticed—shamans often wear quartz crystals.
“With the help of these mineral elements, the plants become the antennas or senses of our Mother Earth,” said Arthur Hermes. “They take up the cosmic vibrations and transform them into living substance, so that they become nourishing for humans and animals. Healthy, nutritious plants—especially siliceous grains [that are] naturally fertilized and sown at the right times, according to the stars—are saturated with cosmic energy. Such food plants are fundamental to our life; they open us up to true spiritual inspiration and give us the strength to do our work here in the physical realm. Plants that have been pepped up with artificial fertilizer and treated with poisons can hardly do this. [Though] they swell up like sponges and weigh more, the high qualities, … which cannot be weighed, they are not able convey.”
“Unfortunately,” the wise man continued, “with our wrong cooking and bad eating habits,” “we often destroy what organic farmers have worked so hard to establish. Here too, we should work together with the planets and stars.”
In such working together, Arthur Hermes didn’t just advocate the correct time for harvesting plants. He also paid much attention to the correct time for preparing the harvested food, and explained extensively how cosmic rhythms are mirrored in plant growth. As they germinate and grow, blossom and fruit, plants follow the yearly cycle of the sun. Each full moon provides a new stimulus in growth, and these lunar impulses are different depending on which sign the moon is in. “The main lunar rhythm, next to the sidereal rhythm [that is, the twenty-eight day course through the twelve zodiac signs], is the synodic rhythm of the waxing and waning moon. These cycles are the bases for the four seven-day weeks of the month. Indeed, the seven-day week isn’t just a convenient compartmentation of time we made up—it’s based on cosmic occurrences. According to Arthur Hermes, primeval powers are reflected in these seven days; they’ve been named after seven major gods, whose energies pulse through our earthly world and manifest in the seven visible planets, the seven metals, the seven notes in an octave, the seven colors of the rainbow, the seven chakras in the body, and even in the seven dwarves (elemental powers) that accompany Snow White (who could be interpreted as symbolizing the soul of the earth).”
It follows that seven different qualities are expressed in each of the seven days of the week. Hermes also categorized the herbs, vegetables, and trees into seven categories, according to which characteristics were dominant in each:
✵ On a Monday (day of the moon), he harvested “moon” vegetables for the main meal of the day; these are watery, succulently bloated, climbing plants, such as cucumbers or melons; or juicy ones with milky sap, such as oyster plant, poppy leaves, or lettuce. On Mondays he gathered herbs that are sedative—like lettuce—or, for mothers, herbs that induce lactation.
✵ On a Tuesday (Tiw’s Day, the day of Tiw or Týr, the Norse god of war equated with Mars), he looked for “Mars plants”; these are reddish-colored flora that may have thorns or stickers, may have deep taproots or be spicy or hot in flavor, such as carrots, radishes, nettle, hot peppers, or leeks. And as Tuesday is Mars’s day, he also gathered the plants for healing wounds.
✵ On a Wednesday (Woden’s day, the day of Odin, the Norse god of shamanism, healing, and death equated with Mercury), he looked for “Mercury plants.” These are quickly sprouting, slimy, or especially powerful healing plants, such as purslane, fennel, onion, okra, or mallow. Because Mercury rules over the lungs, he also gathered his healing herbs for lung ailments on this day.
✵ On a Thursday (Thor’s day, the day of Thor, the Germanic god of sky and thunder equated with Jupiter), the main meal was made with aromatic, tasty, or sweet “Jupiter plants,” such as parsnips, burdock root, or salsify; or yellow-orange vegetables, such as pumpkin or other kinds of squash. Healing plants for liver ailments were also picked on this day.
✵ On a Friday, (Frige’s day, the day of Frigg, the Old English goddess equated with Venus), he’d select tender green, cool, and soothing plants, such as peas, green beans, or asparagus. And, as Venus rules over urinary and sexual organs, he also gathered healing plants for venereal issues, bladder ailments, etc.
✵ On a Saturday (Saturn’s day), Hermes prepared bitter or salty Saturn vegetables, such as celeriac, Swiss chard, or orache. Dark vegetables like purple cabbage were also considered for this day, in addition to the herbs that affect the spleen, the organ of Saturn, or those that heal broken bones, such as horsetail or comfrey.
✵ On a Sunday (day of the sun), he selected fine, white, delicate vegetables, such as cauliflower or evening primrose; or ones with sunny yellow blossoms, such as sunchokes. And since the sun is the heart of the planetary system, he would also collect healing plants such as hawthorn leaves and flowers on this day.
To Arthur Hermes, it wasn’t only important to observe the qualitative difference of each day; we must also live in harmony with the yearly cycle—and cook accordingly. By eating what nature has to offer over the seasons, one follows the sun through its cycle. And in the spring it’s important to both purge and nurture the body after the winter’s lack of sunlight and fresh greens. So Hermes picked various edible wild springtime herbs as soon as they began to sprout after the long winter. These plants activate the glands and clear out the slack—the ureic acid built up over the winter. Later in the year, of course, leafy vegetables and lettuces follow. As the year progresses, sweet fruits and root crops enable us to load up on vitamins and to strengthen our immune systems in preparation for the wet, cold winter. In late fall, Arthur Hermes always made an elderberry soup, a “gift from Frau Holle (Mother Hulda, the ancient earth goddess),” he’d say, smiling. He also gathered many various edible mushrooms in the fall, because they connect our spirits with the depth of the earth. In anticipation of the cold winter days, he’d stored many nuts and vegetables in his root cellar. Herme firmly believed that bringing one’s eating habits into full harmony with the cycle of the year opens one’s soul to nature’s inspirations.
For this reason, he felt that lettuce, cucumbers, and strawberries were not to be eaten in the winter; to eat them then was a sign of typical modern estrangement from nature. As he phrased it: “To eat in such an estranged way confuses our finer inner senses that are tuned into the cosmic rhythm of nature. Besides, it is irresponsible if you consider how much of fossil fuel energy is necessary to raise and transport these things in the wintertime. It always takes an immense effort, because nature resists such unnatural ways.”
He also taught that every day we should eat all the various parts that make up plants, that is: some root, some leaf—some stem, fruit, and seed. This is because the threefold archetypical plant corresponds to the threefold human being:
✵ The head and nervous system need the salts that are contained in roots; involved is the alchemical sal-principle of concentration, of centrifugal energy.
✵ Our lungs and circulatory system need green leaves, which are the plant mirror of red hemoglobin; involved is the rhythmic, balancing mercurius-principle.
✵ Adding blossoms and seeds to our meal benefits our digestive and reproductive systems; involved is the sufur-principle of dissipation.
An example of such a balanced meal would be red beets or carrots, grains, and a lettuce with a dessert of some fruit.
But carefully choosing our ingredients is just the beginning of the process. “Planetary cooking is pure alchemy; it involves metamorphosis and ennoblement of the substances. In alchemy the sun and moon play a major role, just like in nature, in the climate, in the seasons and biological processes. The sun warms, dries, ripens, and consumes. By contrast the moon is cooling, expanding, and moistening.”
This thinking, based on cosmic rhythms and cycles, is similarly found in many traditional cultures. For example, in East Asia it is expressed through the yin-yang dynamic; in America and India, it’s found in the symbolism of the snake and the eagle. For Hermes, any heating—cooking, baking, roasting, drying—constituted a “sun process”; a continuation of the ripening process in nature. Everything having to do with water—soaking, pickling, fermenting, marinating—is a “moon process.” By surrounding the food with water, it is protected from a too-strong sun influence (burning, charcoaling, wilting).
Arthur’s planetary cooking system also attended to the source of heat in food preparation. Wood, gas, or coals are actually stored sun energy, and each kind of heat has its own quality. As he explained:
It is very primitive to reduce heat to the temperature measured by the thermometer. I have researched the subject. I have made Capillary Dynamolysis1 experiments with various heat sources. Gas and coal fires show relatively harmonious patterns, but electrical heat results in disharmonious flat lines. However, the most harmonious patterns are shown with wood fire heat. Each kind of wood has its typical pattern. One can actually put them into a sevenfold order because trees also belong to the seven planets. Beech wood burns slowly and hot, pinewood burns hot but a little bit faster. Whoever wants “Saturn warmth” in the soup should make a fire with wood from beech or pine trees. One finds “Jupiter warmth” in maple wood and oak wood. The wood from ash trees burns to pure, white ashes, and radiates sun energy with some Mercury involved. Mercury rules elm wood and hazel wood. Cherry, cottonwood, and willow give a relatively cool and pleasant “moon warmth.” Birch and linden wood contain wholesome “Venus warmth.” I am lucky to live in a mixed forest and not in some tree monoculture; I can choose my “planets in the fire” as I please. Whoever lives in the city cannot do this. But still it is good for city folks to know that different kinds of wood have different healing properties. Occasionally city people can have a fire if they go camping; they can try the different woods and observe the different qualities, the different smells or how the heat feels. We all know how relaxing it is to look into a living fire, and to capture some of its radiance in the cooking pot makes it even better.
Water, as a medium for “moon processes,” cannot be reduced to the simple chemical formula H2O. The water of each well, pond, stream, or spring has its own special quality. Soft, living rainwater, especially that of the full moon, is full of ethereal vitality; “it makes seeds sprout,” Arthur Hermes would note, with a twinkle in his eyes. The water from melted snow or ice, he claimed, contains crystal vitality transmitted from far-away starry regions. Fresh spring water is the best water, and chlorinated pipe water is the worst. (He himself had to use water from a cistern in dry summers.)
In the “planetary” cooking of Hermes, a whole, sun-filled grain—wheat, rye or oats—is, or should be, the mainstay of each meal; like planetary satellites, vegetables, milk products, and salads orbit the “sunny” grains. Only meat is missing. Cooking begins with the moon process: the grain is soaked in water the evening before it will be cooked. The vegetables can also go through the moon process. The next morning, the sun process begins. The soaked grains are slowly cooked on low heat, like a continuing ripening process. The unpeeled vegetables are cut into mouth-sized pieces—they are never grated or mashed. According to Hermes, such would diminish the nutritional value. One-third of the vegetables is quick fried, wok-style; the other two-thirds are slowly cooked in the same water they were soaked in.
Now, imagine taking a seat at a hand-carved wooden table to eat a planetary meal with the old wizard. A beautiful Sistine Madonna hangs on the wall at one end of the table, smiling graciously; a burning beeswax candle offers a golden glow, and a small bouquet of wild flowers offer their fragrance to the table. None of the meals here begins without appropriate thanks to the goodness of Mother Earth and the sun. Once the gratitude has been expressed, some of the vegetable of the day is eaten raw as an appetizer. Then comes the soup to warm one up from inside: the water the vegetables were cooked in to which has been added grated cheese and fresh wild herbs. Then comes the main dish: cooked grains with the vegetable of the day (about two-thirds cooked and one-third quick fried) served with cream cheese. In addition there is home-baked bread, but it is more than just home-baked; Arthur Hermes grew his own grain, sowing it at the fall equinox, on the day of St. Michael. It is thus “St. Michael’s grain.”
All of the herbs for seasoning came out of his garden or the nearby meadows or forest. According to Hermes, the bitters and aromatic essential oils belong to the outer planets: sharp seasonings to Mars, aromatic to Jupiter, and bitter to Saturn. These help balance the heavier carbohydrates that are connected to the inner planets: the moon, Mercury, Venus.
There is no salt on the table. “Salt is important for our incarnation on earth, but too much damages the kidneys, raises blood pressure, and hardens out our thinking. It is better to get salts needed from the root vegetables.” And the same goes for sugar. Roots and fruits can easily cover the human need for sweets. But such isn’t to say that if, for example, a visitor brought a cake, the old master wouldn’t accept it; he would, and graciously. “You’ll surely go to heaven for that!,” he’d say. He also enjoyed one daily cup of strong coffee—“poison,” he jestingly called it. “It should be as hot as hell and as black as the soul, but not necessarily sweet as sin,” he would say. “Coffee drives off our vegetative slumber and shakes our thinking awake.” But, he’d specify, “one should only drink coffee after the midday meal. In the morning one should have brought enough cosmic energy from sleep so as to not need coffee.” He’d also then mention the Lady of Noon, a beautiful elfish being who appeared to the peasant taking a midday nap and begged him to save her. The farmer then woke up and took a drink of coffee, and the spooky apparition disappeared.
Animated by coffee, Hermes might make an excursion into the nutritional development of humanity. “In the golden ages human beings lived from milk and honey and sweet fruit. As people became more enmeshed in material existence, energy-spending cereal grains became more important. High spiritual beings manifested in grains, Christ in wheat, Indian goddesses in corn, Freya in millet, Thor in oats, Buddha in rice… . The planetary powers also revealed themselves in the various cereals. Is rice that grows in water not moon-like, barley that is used to brew beer not Jupiter-like, and wheat not sun-like? Don’t oats, which horses love so much, have a Mars-like nature, and corn a Saturn-like nature? But now in Kali Yuga times humans need more: the power of roots that can pierce into the dark depths of the earth.”
Hermes did not think in terms of vitamins, amino acids, or other molecular structures. Instead he thought about whether he had enough Mars, Venus, or Jupiter in our organisms. He once advised a pale, anemic young lady to go on a Mars-Venus diet, and a phlegmatic person a Mars-Mercury diet. He explained that “narrow-minded establishment science crawls into a microscope and cuts people off from their cosmic roots.” To which he added: “The experts’ opinions change constantly!”
Hermes is aware of how stressed some people feel about the food they eat, how stringently some will first weigh and measure and calculate the calories and essential nutrients of anything they dare to consume. To this he’d say: “It’s better to trust one’s instinct, or to get to know the eternal cosmic principles and live by them.” In this way, Hermes stayed true to his basic philosophy of life: “Stay close to Nature and trust her wisdom. Follow the rhythms of the greater cosmos—the daily and seasonal cycles—and the natural rhythms of the microcosm that is your body. There is a deeper intelligence in Nature than our limited rational mind realizes.”
Whether or not a nutritional expert would appreciate the cosmic background of Hermes’s cosmic cooking, it must be said that his meals, and the concepts behind them, are well balanced. Many Hermes devotees attest to the good health they feel from following Arthur’s planetary guidelines. As he would say: “An idea is only a good one when it is practically applied.”