Let the Green Speak Forth

Collated by Maja Kuzmanović & Nik Gaffney

Or Yet Another Attempt to Capture the Sensory and Mystical Experience of Viriditas in Words and Images

In her visions, mediaeval polymath Hildegard von Bingen—doctor of the church, herbalist, poet, composer, and mystic in the habit of a Benedictine nun—spoke of an incomprehensible greenness, a vigour, a vitality permeating all things. “Viriditas” is the term coined by Hildegard to describe this divine greening force. More recently viriditas has been re-appreciated by people in the interstices between ecology, spirituality, music, feminism, and science fiction.

Hildegard von Bingen Werk Gottes

O nobilissima Viriditas
que radicas in sole
et que in candida
luces in rota
quam nulla terrena excellentia

Tu circumdata es
divinorum ministeriorum.

Tu rubes ut aurora et ardes
ut solis flamma.
—Hildegard von Bingen,
Responsory for Virgins

Viriditas is the memory of the immemorial, a vestige of divine anarchy that discreetly refreshes the world.
Michael Marder

I fall asleep parched, skin pulling away from bones, moisture dissipating in the merciless aridity of a heatwave. I wake up to the scent of petrichor emanating from cracked earth. An augury of life. The inexorable energy of life returning to itself. Green, fresh, moist. Plants opening up to the early morning dew, atmospheric sweat filling out their leaves and shoots. Something is breathing in all that was dry, burnt, and lifeless, breathing out freshness, greenness, vitality. My pores relax, my lungs expand. I allow myself to became porous again, to resume breathing with the Earth. A sigh of relief reverberates through the vegetal, mineral, and animal membranes around me. I can hear the sound of freshness. I can touch it, smell it, taste the greenness on my tongue.

As the trees unfurl their leaves, the very air tints green. Dripping, greening, invigorating. Sun rises above the canopy, irradiating the colour into shimmering green hues Fern, grass, emerald, olive, moss, malachite, myrtle, pine, sage, lime, jade, laurel, grass, forest, jungle, cadmium, chlorophyll, swamp, seaweed, sap, verdun, viridian. . I can feel the greening energy plucking the same strings in the plants, in the air and in me. I am not a plant. Yet there are parts of me resonating, animated by this wondrous greenness. I'm soaked through with it. It emanates from my skin. It exudes from my voice, and from the voices of others, in a greening polyphony. I stop, prostrated on the Earth, for a moment or an eternity, and listen to freshness. The otherwise of the botanical, the expanding and exploring and re-converging on the deeply alien omnipresence and entanglement.

From the gentle layer of air, moisture effervesces over the Earth. This awakens the Earth's greenness and causes all fruits to appear through germination, and it also bears aloft certain clouds containing all that is superior, just as they, in turn, are strengthened from on high. [...] This air gently caresses all the Earth's fertility and purifies it of the dirty odor by which it has been defiled as a result of one of the violent storms.
Hildegard von Bingen

Those of us who do good are like an orchard full of the fruit of good works. Such persons are like the Earth, which is strengthened and adorned by rocks and trees. [...] Such persons display on their green garments their good intentions and the living greenness of their deeds.
Hildegard von Bingen

Humans—even though not visibly green like plants—can act as the stewards of viriditas; we can green and refresh the world through our actions.

The air lives by turning green and being in bloom. The waters flow as if they were alive.
Hildegard von Bingen

Viriditas could be described as an animating force, as life taking shape and making itself known. Yet, any translation of viriditas into words and symbols remains inadequate, but it is a phenomenon that most humans have experienced. Viriditas can be felt while walking through a lush forest, or picking leafy greens. It is the refreshing feeling of a cooling mist on a hot day, a quiet, elemental energy permeating all life.

Sed vita est in vita. Arbor enim non floret, nisi de viriditate, nec lapis est sine humore, nec ulla creatura sine vi sua. Ipsa etiam vivens eternitas non est sine floriditate. / But life is in life. A tree flourishes from nothing else but viriditas, and even a stone is not without moisture, nor is any other creature without its power. For eternity itself is alive and not without floridity.
Hildegard von Bingen

Look at the pattern this seashell makes. The dappled whorl, curving inward to infinity. That's the shape of the universe itself. There's a constant pressure, pushing toward pattern. A tendency in matter to evolve into ever more complex forms. It's a kind of pattern gravity, a holy greening power we call viriditas, and it is the driving force in the cosmos. Life, you see.
Karl Schroeder

The Earth is strengthened by rocks and trees. Like it, we humans are created because of our flesh is like the Earth; our bones without marrow are like rocks; our marrow-containing bones are like trees.
Hildegard von Bingen

Viriditas, the self-refreshing power of creation made visible in vegetation, is the greening green, vibrant and vibrating. In it, greenness is in equal measure metaphysical and physical, a possibility and an actuality, hidden and revealed, irradiating and absorbing intense light and sound waves, open not just to seeing and hearing but also to touching, smelling, tasting, to say nothing of the activity of greening that sees us, hears us, smells, tastes, and touches us. Experientially, it is a total synesthesia, the fusion of all the senses, [...] Human or not, life is a green mass, and that which enlivens it is a symphony in green.
Michael Marder

Inwardness is the characteristic feature of the vegetable rather than the animal approach to existence. The animals move, migrate and swarm, while plants hold fast. [...] If there is movement in the consciousness of plants then it must be the movement of spirit and attention in the domain of vegetal imagination.
Terence McKenna

Making moist and green what threatens to become corrupted, mendacious, ill-used and dried out.
Sarah L. Higley

O viridissima virga,
ave, que in ventoso flabro sciscitationis
sanctorum prodisti.

Cum venit tempus quod tu floruisti in ramis tuis,
ave, ave fuit tibi, quia calor solis in te sudavit
sicut odor balsami.

—Hildegard von Bingen, O Viridissima Virga

Borrowed Scenery

The Viriditas Chapel of Perpetual Adoration

Further Reading & references can be found in the bibliography.