Trio of Sacred Manure Balls with an Oak Leaf
Trio of Sacred Manure Balls with an Oak Leaf

“Holy shit” or “holy crap” is generally used in a derogatory manner to indicate surprise or indicate that something is very bad.  The etymology of the phrase is unknown, but the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the term “shit” is an word that has a long-standing tradition in the English language, coming to us, ultimately from the Indo-European term skhied.  Who knows when the term “holy” (referring to divinity or god) was added, but the phrase “Holy Shit” has been in existence for quite some time.

I would like to propose a new definition, elevating this term from profanity for use in the druidic garden.  I propose that we take the term at its literal, face value–holy (sacred) shit (excrement).

Here’s what I mean.

A few weeks ago, a good friend and neighbor arranged for a free delivery of horse manure to my house.  I was in desperate need of this manure because in order to establish my basic raised beds using a “lasagnia gardening” or “sheet mulching” approach (more about this later), I needed manure.  Furthermore, Manure provides much-needed Nitrogen in the garden; which my land is rather low in.  When the manure truck pulled in, I was estatic and pleased, knowing I could work to establish some basic garden beds in the fall.

As I began shoveling it (and let me tell you, this stuff is heavy for a softie academic like me!) I realized how important this crap really was, and began to understand the place of excrement within the web of life. Manure forms one of the foundations of organic gardening and has been used for millenia by farmers to enrich crop yields.

Humans, at least those in America today, do not see the value of manure (even our own).  Instead, we hide it away in septic tanks and eventually add it in with other toxic chemicals to create “sludge” that has limited potential and use.  Unfortunately for us, we fail to harness something as simple as our own feces and instead turn it into a toxic substance.  Why? Shit becomes something, well, shitty, and we are quick to get rid of it.

Pitchfork, your best friend when working with manure.
Pitchfork, your best friend when working with manure.

Like many other things in our unsustainable society, this is an error in judgment.  Rather than working against nature, we should recognize her gifts.  Manure allows us to:

  • Adds nitrogen and other key nutrients to the soil
  • Contributes to soil texture, its ability to hold water, and soil conditioning
  • Encourages microbial activity, allowing for easy composting and can be used as a compost “activator” to get a compost pile started
  • Is better than petrochemically-derived fertilizers, that promote water pollution and burn fossil fuels in their production and distribution
  • Is free and produced daily on a farm near you 🙂

In conclusion, Manure is crucial to the gardening process and is incredibly important to any druidic garden.  You can often find a local source (mine comes from a farm 1.5 miles away), meaning that you won’t be contributing to the unsustainable commercial system.  How can we see manure as anything other than sacred?

Dana O'Driscoll

Dana O’Driscoll has been an animist druid for almost 20 years, and currently serves as Grand Archdruid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America. She is a druid-grade member of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids and is the OBOD’s 2018 Mount Haemus Scholar. She is the author of Sacred Actions: Living the Wheel of the Year through Earth-Centered Spiritual Practice (REDFeather, 2021), the Sacred Actions Journal (REDFeather, 2022), and Land Healing: Physical, Metaphysical, and Ritual Approaches for Healing the Earth (REDFeather, 2024). She is also the author/illustrator of the Tarot of Trees, Plant Spirit Oracle, and Treelore Oracle. Dana is an herbalist, certified permaculture designer, and permaculture teacher who teaches about reconnection, regeneration, and land healing through herbalism, wild food foraging, and sustainable living. Dana lives at a 5-acre homestead in rural western Pennsylvania with her partner and a host of feathered and furred friends. She writes at the Druids Garden blog and is on Instagram as @druidsgardenart. She also regularly writes for Plant Healer Quarterly and Spirituality and Health magazine.

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  1. Last year at the National Folk Festival in Washington D.C., Wales was one of the featured countries. They only agreed to come if, along with their traditional crafts and lore, they could showcase their work in sustainability. And it was impressive. But one of the things that grabbed my attention the most was their sheep poo paper. We all know how many sheep there are in Wales. What we might not know is that because of their diet, their excrement is largely (I forget the percentage but it’s high) grass. So they collect the droppings and rinse them, saving the manure ‘tea’ that results as well as the grass. It’s easy to make paper from the grass because it’s already been processed. Sheep poo paper. The manure tea they use on their gardens. And the circle is complete – 100% complete. Lovely!

  2. Nice, Dana. Excellent points – we use our horse manure to fertilize our plants here, and when we build we’re planning to install composting toilets. So this is a topic that seems to be coming up in thoughtful approaches to druidic gardening/ general living.

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