Permaculture & Druidry

What is permaculture?


Permaculture is a system of agricultural & social design principles centered on simulating or directly utilizing the patterns & features observed in natural ecosystems. It helps us to design intelligent systems which meet human needs whilst enhancing biodiversity, reducing our impact on the planet, & creating a fairer world for us all, by transforming their communities with permaculture.


It is a practical method of developing ecologically harmonious, efficient & productive systems that can be used by anyone, anywhere, in our households, gardens, communities & businesses. It is created by cooperating with nature & caring for the earth & its people.


Permaculture is not exclusive - its principles & practice can be used by anyone, anywhere:


  • City flats, yards & window boxes

  • Suburban & country houses/garden

  • Allotments & smallholdings

  • Community spaces

  • Farms & estates

  • Countryside & conservation areas

  • Commercial & industrial premises

  • Educational establishments

  • Waste ground


Permaculture encourages us to be resourceful & self-reliant. It is not a dogma or a religion (see blog ‘A Druid’s Permaculture’, March 9, 2017, by Hilde Liesens, Druid - OBOD) but an ecological design system which helps us find solutions to the many problems facing us - both locally & globally.


Permaculture is primarily a thinking tool for designing low carbon, highly productive systems. It is a journey towards living a more ecologically balanced lifestyle which can go far deeper, even transforming your worldview & radically altering behaviour. It is often viewed as a set of gardening techniques, but it has in fact developed into a whole design philosophy & for some people a philosophy for life - Druidry naturally embraces all these principles so can be a great spiritual path for those wishing to embrace the permaculture principles.. Its central theme is the creation of human systems which provide for human needs, but using many natural elements and drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems. Its goals and priorities coincide with what many people see as the core requirements for sustainability.


The discipline of permaculture design is based on observing what makes natural systems endure; establishing simple yet effective principles, & using them to mirror nature in whatever we choose to design. Permaculture tackles how to grow food; this can be in gardens, farms, buildings, woodlands, communities, businesses, even towns & cities, as well as their infrastructures, & minimise environmental impact at the same time. Permaculture is essentially about creating beneficial relationships between individual elements & making sure energy is captured in, rather than lost from, a system.


The three ethics of Permaculture are: Earth Care, People Care & Fair Shares. They are not exclusive to permaculture & were derived from the commonalities of many worldviews & beliefs, shared by many throughout the world.  Druidry by its very nature shares all of the principles of permaculture & sees the planet/nature as a ‘spiritual path’ & embraces that concept that everything in the Universe is scared & alive, & therefore needs to be treated with respect, lived with in harmony & compassion. What permaculture does is it makes them explicit within a design process; removing them from the realms of philosophy & practically rooting them in everybody’s lives. This transforms thinking into doing. It is their combined presence within a design that has a radical capacity for ecological & social transformation.


Earth Care

The initial concept of permaculture was to design a ‘permanent agriculture with tree crops & other perennials inhabiting all the niches, from the canopy to the ground cover & below’. The soil is left untilled to establish its own robust micro-ecology. Key to this is that the land must be biodiverse & stable for future generations. The original vision of care for all living & non-living things has grown to embrace a deep & comprehensive understanding of Earth Care that involves many decisions; from the clothes we wear & the goods we buy to the materials we use for DIY projects. Though we can’t all build our own house or grow all our own food, we can make choices about what & how we consume & conserve. Key to this is the understanding that up to one third of our ecological footprint is taken up by the food we buy, so even growing a small amount in a city allotment or container garden can make a difference. Permaculture is all about making a difference.


People Care

Fundamental to permaculture is the concept of Permanent Culture. How can we develop a permaculture if our people are expendable, uncared for, excluded? People Care asks that our basic needs for food, shelter, education, employment & healthy social relationships are met. Genuine People Care can-not be exclusive in a tribal sense; there can be no elites here: no plutocracies or oligarchies, all members of the community must be taken into account. It is a global ethic of Fairtrade & intelligent support amongst all people, both at home & abroad. At the core of People Care is an understanding of the power of community. If we can change our lives as individuals & make incremental differences: think what we can do as a community! We can significantly reduce our ecological footprint by sharing resources. By developing good networks we can expand our capacity to live more sustainably & become more self-reliant. This is a decentralised, democratic vision of social transformation.


Fair Shares

It acknowledges that we only have one earth & we have to share it with all living things & future generations. There is no point in designing a sustainable family unit, community, or nation whilst others languish without clean water, clean air, food, shelter, meaningful employment, research shows that we need only work 4 hours a day to meet our physical needs, the rest of the time is used to make things that are truly needed, that is products-tools-relationships-community (social contact for all generations) – the development of our spiritual nature. Since the industrialised Northern hemisphere uses the resources of at least three earths, & much of the global Southern hemisphere languishes in poverty (Africa is the richest continent of natural resources in the world, yet its people are the poorest – go figure), Fair Shares is an acknowledgement of this terrible imbalance & a call to limit consumption (especially of natural resources) in the North.


The Basics

Permaculture combines three key aspects:


  • An ethical framework


  • Understandings of how nature works – a key stone of Druidry


  • A design approach


The foundations of permaculture are the 3 ethics which guide the use of the 12 design principles, ensuring that they are used in appropriate ways.

These principles are seen as universal, although the methods used to express them will vary greatly according to the place & situation. They are applicable to our personal, economic, social & political reorganisation. Thinking tools, that when used together, allow us to creatively re-design our environment & our behaviour in the world to use less energy & resources, & yet produce abundance for all life.


Principle 1: Observe & Interact

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”


By taking the time to engage with nature we can design solutions that suit our particular situation. In observing nature it is important to take different perspectives to help understand what is going on with the various elements in the system. The proverb “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” reminds us that we place our own values on what we observe, yet in nature, there is no right or wrong, only different.


Principle 2: Catch & Store Energy

“Make hay while the sun shines”


By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need. The proverb “make hay while the sun shines” reminds us that we have a limited time to catch & store energy.


Principle 3: Obtain a Yield

“You can’t work on an empty stomach”


Ensure that you are getting truly useful rewards as part of the work that you are doing. The proverb “You can’t work on an empty stomach” reminds us that we must get immediate rewards to sustain us.


Principle 4: Apply self-regulation & accept feedback

“The sins of the fathers are visited on the children unto the seventh generation”


We need to discourage inappropriate activity to ensure that systems can continue to function well. The whole earth is the largest scale example we have of a self-regulating ‘organism’ which is subject to feedback controls, like global warming. The proverb “the sins of the fathers are visited unto the children of the seventh generation” reminds us that negative feedback is often slow to emerge or long lasting.


Principle 5: Use & value renewable resources & services

“Let nature take its course”


Make the best use of nature’s abundance to reduce our consumptive behaviour & dependence on non-renewable resources. A non-consuming use is preferred over a consuming one. The proverb “let nature take its course” reminds us that control over nature through excessive resource use & high technology is not only expensive, but can have a negative effect on our environment.


Principle 6: Produce no waste

“A stitch in time saves nine.” “Waste not, want not.”


By valuing & making use of all the resources that are available to us, nothing goes to waste.

The worm represents one of the most effective recyclers of organic materials, consuming plant & animal ‘waste’ into valuable plant food. The proverb “a stitch in time saves nine” reminds us that timely maintenance prevents waste, while “waste not, want not” reminds us that it’s easy to be wasteful in times of abundance, but this waste can be a cause of hardship later.


Principle 7: Design from patterns to details

“Can’t see the forest for the trees”


By stepping back, we can observe patterns in nature & society. These can form the backbone of our designs, with the details filled in as we go. Every spider’s web is unique to its situation, yet the general pattern of radial spokes & spiral rings is universal. The proverb “can’t see the forest for the trees” reminds us that the closer we get to something, the more we are distracted from the big picture.


Principle 8: Integrate rather than segregate

“Many hands make light work”


By putting the right things in the right place, relationships develop between them & they support each other. A group of people holding hands in a circle together where the space in the centre could represent “the whole being greater than the sum of the parts”. The proverb “many hands make light work” suggests that when we work together the job becomes easier.


Principle 9: Use small and slow solutions

“The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” “Slow and steady wins the race.”


Small & slow systems are easier to maintain than big ones, making better use of local resources & produce more sustainable outcomes.

The snail is both small & slow, it carries its home on its back & can withdraw to defend itself when threatened. The proverb “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” reminds us of the disadvantages of excessive size & growth while “slow & steady wins the race” encourages patience while reflecting on a common truth in nature & society.


Principle 10: Use and value diversity

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”


Diversity reduces vulnerability to a variety of threats & takes advantage of the unique nature of the environment in which it resides.

The remarkable adaptation of the spinebill & hummingbird to hover & sip nectar from long, narrow flowers with their spine-like beak symbolises the specialisation of form & function in nature. The proverb “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” reminds us that diversity offers insurance against the variations of our environment.


Principle 11: Use edges & value the marginal

“Don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path”


The interface between things is where the most interesting events take place. These are often the most valuable, diverse & productive elements in the system.

The sun rising or setting over the horizon shows us a world composed of edges. The proverb “don’t think you are on the right track just because it’s a well-beaten path” reminds us that the most popular is not necessarily the best approach.


Principle 12: Creatively use and respond to change

“Vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be”


We can have a positive impact on inevitable change by carefully observing, & then intervening at the right time.

The butterfly is a positive symbol of transformative change in nature, from its previous life as a caterpillar. The proverb “vision is not seeing things as they are but as they will be” reminds us that understanding change is much more than a linear projection.


The Seven Domains of Permaculture with ethics & design principle there heart


1: Land & Nature Stewardship

Permaculture begins with understanding nature, working with rather than against her


  • Bio-intensive gardening: Use of compost, double digging, companion planting and natural pest control to produce the maximum amount of food in the minimum area.


  • Forest gardening: Producing food from trees, perennial & annual plants in a system that mimics a natural forest.


  • Seed saving: Collecting and storing seeds, often with the aim of maintaining certain strains.


  • Organic agriculture: Commercial agriculture that uses natural fertilisers and pest control methods.


  • Biodynamics: A system of organic agriculture and gardening based on the work of Rudolf Steiner.


  • Natural farming: A Japanese system of organic agriculture involving minimal or no use of tillage and animal manures, most notably associated with Masanobu Fukuoka.


  • Keyline water harvesting: A system of landscape analysis, water harvesting and soil development using dams, channels and soil condition ploughing, developed by P.A.Yeomans.


  • Wholistic rangeland management: A system that uses intensive rotational grazing of livestock to sustainably manage land and provide animal yields, developed and taught by Allan Savory.

  • Natural sequence farming: A system of gabions, revegetation, and swales, to restore health and productivity of floodplains, developed by Peter Andrews.


  • Agroforestry: Integrated production of pastures and/or crops with timber and/or tree crops.


  • Nature-based forestry: Sustainable forestry that uses mixed species, long rotations, minimal impact harvesting and natural regeneration in wild and planted timber forests.


  • Integrated aquaculture: Aquatic systems that provide most of the food for harvested fish and/or other animals.


  • Wild harvesting & hunting: Gathering food and other yields from wild plants and animals.


  • Gleaning: Gathering of food wasted by commercial production.



2: Building

Infrastructure that can enhance our way of life while minimising long-term impact.


  • Passive solar design: Sun oriented glazing and shading, thermal mass, passive venting.


  • Natural construction materials: Earth, straw bale, lime plaster, round pole, stone.


  • Water harvesting & waste reuse: Water tanks, compost toilets and reedbeds.


  • Biotechture: The manipulation of tree form to grow structures and buildings.


  • Earth sheltered construction: “Earthships” and other designs that build into the ground.

  • Natural disaster resistant construction: Bushfire, wind, flood & earthquake.


  • Owner building: Empowerment and financial autonomy of residents and communities in constructing their own housing using accessible technologies and materials.


  • Pattern Language: Organic design theory and tools of Christopher Alexander.


3: Tools & Technology

Human ingenuity used to transform energy from our environment to more useful resources


  • Reuse & creative recycling: Decentralised and context specific reuse of materials through craft, rather than centralised industrial processes.


  • Hand tools: Recovery and maintenance of traditional tools and skills.


  • Bicycles & electric bikes: Human powered and assisted transport that improves the efficiency of the human body.


  • Efficient & low pollution wood stoves: Rocket and other stove designs using simple materials and local construction.


  • Fuels from organic wastes: Bio-diesel, methanol, biogas and wood gas for local cooking, electricity and transport.


  • Wood gasification: Efficient and carbon neutral fuel for local electric power and vehicle transport.


  • Bio-char from forest wastes: Charcoal soil improver and carbon capture.

  • Co-generation: Use of fuel to generate electricity and provide heat for on-site use.


  • Micro-hydro & small scale wind: Simple renewable technologies for remote and local grid power.


  • Grid-tied renewable power generation: Use of the electric grid as a “battery” for localised power generation.


  • Energy storage: Heat banks, pumped storage (water), compressed air, and other simple temporary stores of energy.


  • Transition engineering: Re-localisation of the maintenance, retrofit and redesign of infrastructure and technology.


4: Education & Culture

Redefining how we learn by becoming more active and encouraging creativity


  • Home Schooling: Parents as natural teachers of children within the household economy.

  • Waldorf education: Schools based on the educational methods of Rudolf Steiner.


  • Participatory arts & music: Reclaiming our place as actors/musicians rather than spectators.


  • Social ecology: Philosophy focused on the redesign of society using ecological principles.


  • Action learning: A reflective process of progressive problem solving that accepts the observer as a part of the system being studied.


  • Transition culture: An evolving exploration of the head, heart and hand of energy descent.


5: Health & Spiritual Well-Being

Taking more personal responsibility for our own well-being


  • Home birth & breast feeding: Reclaiming birth and infant nutrition as part of the economy of nature and the household.


  • Complementary & wholistic medicine: A wide spectrum of approaches to health care outside of conventional allopathic medicine.


  • Spirit of place, indigenous cultural revival: Reconnection of spiritual and cultural values to place and “country”.


  • Yoga, Tai Chi & other body/mind/spirit disciplines: The maintenance of health through regular designed exercises based on eastern traditions.


  • Dying with dignity: Movement to reclaim dying from institutionalised medicine.


6: Finances & Economics

Alternative exchange systems reduce reliance on the fragile monetary economy


  • Farmers markets & community supported agriculture (CSA): Direct connection and contracting between producers and consumers without the middlemen.


  • Tradable energy quotas: A parallel currency to allow equitable distribution and trade of the right to consume and pollute.


  • Life cycle analysis & ’emergy’ accounting: Wholistic methods for measuring the full costs and benefits of existing and new technologies and economies.


  • Local & regional currencies: Interest-free money systems that serve a defined and limited territory.


  • Carpooling, ride sharing & car share: Rebuilding community by more efficient use of existing cars and roads.


  • Ethical investment & fair trade: Using the power of investment and consumption to drive equitable economies.


  • WWOOFing & similar networks: Voluntary exchange of work for food, accommodation and experience of ecological living.


7: Land Tenure & Community Governance

Develop new ways to provide access to land & govern our communities


  • Cooperatives & Body Corporates: Legal structures for collective ownership and management of land, buildings and other assets.


  • Cohousing & Ecovillages: Ecologically designed communities where residents are bound together by some degree of shared ownership and organisation.


  • Open Space Technology & Consensus Decision Making: Collaborative tools for sharing knowledge and reaching decisions.


  • Native Title & traditional use rights: Traditional ways of non-exclusive use of land and resources, recognised in law.

the community of the druids nemeton

Crowsfoot Drinkwater


Wiltshire, UK,

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