Sheaths

The Sheaths of the Preparations

In the previous chapter, we left off discussion of the animals with horns and antlers. That is because they are so important for the biodynamic preparations. Now we continue that discussion.

Horned Animals

Horns occur with the most powerful metabolic animals. In fact, we see the same phenomenon across different groups of animals.
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In each of these cases, the animal has turned to the most metabolic end of their family’s range and the result is some sort of outgrowth process on the head. The position follows the three-fold order. The rhino’s horn is on the sense-active snout, the wart hog’s is at the middle of the face, and those of ruminants are at the back of the head. (Incidentally, extinct animals follow the same principle. Mygaulidae were horned rodents – they had horns on the far front of their muzzle. Extinct swine had three horns, a pair over the frontal bone and a third on the center of the muzzle – much like a modern rhino.) The type of growths can be quite different. The rhino’s horns grow from a thickened epidermis, or outer skin layer. The wart hogs facial warts grow from thickened dermis, or middle skin layer. And the true ruminates have outgrowths of bone.

Layers of the head covering that develop in a) rhinoceros b) wart hog c) cow with 1) epidermis 2) dermis and 3) subcutaneous bones. Source: Shad.

Layers of the head covering that develop in a) rhinoceros b) wart hog c) cow with 1) epidermis 2) dermis and 3) subcutaneous bones. Source: Shad.

Steiner’s concept is that “the cow has horns in order to direct back into itself the forces that need to penetrate all the way to the digestive organism; much work is thus created for the digestive system just because of what radiates inward from the horns and hooves.” Cattle need horns in order to realize their metabolic capacities and at the same time, the horns are formed by an overflow of this metabolic strength. There are actual two processes involved. One force consists in exaggerating the size and mass of the anterior body; the front part is closed off to make an impenetrable surface. The other process takes place in the large digestive cavities; the flowing back of unused metabolic forces contributing to breaking down the almost indigestible cellulose. The first process is physical, forming the animal’s shape. The second is more the living physiology that makes possible the chemistry of breakdown. Both are mutually interdependent.

Cattle give physical expression to the nourishing, life-giving functions of digestion – it is the power of metabolism that brings life into being and sustains it. An abundance of life and peace emanates from cattle; each protects and nurtures an entire world within. Thus, they represent a peak in the progression of animals.

auroch_250Their long association with man has changed modern races of cattle. The auroch, or wild cattle, pictured here were very similar to Spanish fighting bulls of today. Horns were large but also thin and pointed. The other wild bovid is the bison. How are these two different? The auroch carries its head above the back, while the bison tends to be bowed down. The bison’s anterior end is more compact while the auroch’s body is more elongated with longer limbs. The powerful damming processes of the bison are emphasized by their beard and mane; bison horns are thicker, shorter and more curved.

horn_skull_250Cattle have developed a crest between the horns, the torus frontalis, that contributes to the damming process. The figure shows the torus (labeled T) of the cow compared to the head of a gazelle that has no such frontal process. The bison has no frontal ridge but instead emphasizes the parietal bones, located further back in the cranium. Thus, in the auroch, the damming process is more narrowly confined to the head; while the bison’s even more powerful process involves the whole front end of the animal. The auroch is slightly more open to the world, in a sense, more “feminine” compared to the bison. This may explain why the auroch, not the bison, was domesticated. The feminine nature of the cow lets it give to man what the bison holds back for its own self-expression. Other members of the bovoid family that have been domesticated are the closely related yak and some members of the Asian buffalo family. These all tend to have a developed frontal crest. An exception is the African buffalo, which remains undomesticated.
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The other horned animals are related to the cattle family. Goats are agile mountain dwellers long, curved horns. (Horns are shorter in domestic races.) These horns grow straight up, without a spiral, from frontal bones that are not enlarged. This is an indication of a more sense-oriented form. Sheep prefer a similar habitat but exhibit horns that are larger, face to the outer side and have a spiral shape. (Once again, horns are shorter in domestic races.) The wild sheep also have a more pronounced mane and anterior body. Thus, within this family, the goat is analogous to the cow and the sheep to the more metabolic bison.

On the left, the wild bezoar goat of Crete. On the right, the wild Marco Polo sheep of Asia. Below, the musk ox of the Arctic. Source: Shad.

On the left, the wild bezoar goat of Crete. On the right, the wild Marco Polo sheep of Asia. Below, the musk ox of the Arctic. Source: Shad.

The other horned animals are related to the cattle family. Goats are agile mountain dwellers with long, curved horns. (Horns are shorter in domestic races.) These horns grow straight up, without a spiral, from frontal bones that are not enlarged. This is an indication of a more sense-oriented form. Sheep prefer a similar habitat but exhibit horns that are larger, face to the outer side and have a spiral shape. (Once again, horns are shorter in domestic races.) The wild sheep also have a more pronounced mane and anterior body. Thus, within this family, the goat is analogous to the cow and the sheep to the more metabolic bison.

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Our native pronghorn and the European chamois are more sense-oriented wild animals, with horns that lose any spiral influence. The northern musk ox has turned to a very metabolic form in order to live in a frigid climate. The horns of a young musk ox begin as cones facing outward from the frontal bone. Later, the horns rebuild to form flattened bulges and a broad frontal plate. This flexibility indicates an exceptionally active horn process.
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The receptive, sense-active pole is represented by the antelope family. The family is extraordinarily diverse with some 74 species. While cattle have to hold in their metabolic forces, antelopes are not constrained. While no single antelope reaches the complex structure of the cow, as a group, they have adapted to a wide variety of habitats. The variety is itself an indication of openness to the environment. Species range from the ox-like eland, with heavy forequarters, to the rabbit-like Bates antelope. Most of the species are found in Africa, where they occupy habitats of goats, sheep and deer.

Antlered Animals

Antlers are a completely different kind of frontal process. The horn develops as a permanent bone, sheathed in skin protein. The antler develops quickly but then loses its sheath to become exposed bone. Then the antler is shed so that the process has to be repeated the next year. What accounts for this profligate expenditure of energy for such a short-lived phenomenon?

Compare the deer to the cow, and one is struck by how the deer is light and graceful. The deer is much more sensitive to its surroundings. Steiner observed that the horns represent vents through which the excessive metabolic capacity can flow out of the animal, allowing it to become graceful and sensitive. As the antlers develop, the outer skin does not thicken into plates but remains alive and covered with fur. This living skin, the velvet, clings to the antler and grows along with it. The damming process doesn’t happen; antlers are not constrained by horny sheaths or spiral formations. Rather they branch out in centrifugal fashion. Growing antlers are quite sensitive and deer avoid touching with them. Large blood vessels lie within the velvet and the flowing activity gives shape to them. Research has shown that the path of branching blood vessels determines the branched form. The horn grows slowly from its base; while the antler grows rapidly from its points. While the bone underlying horn remains alive, the antler quickly grows, and then ossifies into a lifeless, naked bone. The antlers are worn through the fall and winter. In the spring, the roots become active again and dissolve the bony roots. The antlers are shed, quickly replaced with regenerated skin and then new antlers begin to grow.

The form of deer indicates a turn toward the rhythmic organization. One indication is the mottled coloration, observed especially in the young. The same markings are observed for a number of animals that are central within their family – tapirs in the odd-toed ungulates, swine, chevrotains, even the ground squirrel within the squirrel family. Interestingly, a number of deer have canine teeth. In fact the presence of canines is quite opposite to the degree of antler development. Some of the transitional deer, like the muntjac, are known to eat meat if they can get it! This leads to the hypothesis that the form of the antlers originates from the canines. In the progression of deer skulls, one observes that the frontal ridge migrates from a position over the canines to over the eye and then to the back of the parietal bones.

Relative sizes of canines and antlers in the male a) musk deer b) water deer c) tufted deer d) muntjac e) hog deer f) red deer g) moose. Source: Shad.

Relative sizes of canines and antlers in the male a) musk deer b) water deer c) tufted deer d) muntjac e) hog deer f) red deer g) moose. Source: Shad.

Heads of the male roe deer, red deer (wapiti) and moose. Source: Shad.

Heads of the male roe deer, red deer (wapiti) and moose. Source: Shad.

The form of the developed antlers branches out but then turns in again so that the antlers enclose a hollow spherical space. It takes several years for a male animal to mature enough to grow a full set of completed antlers. The formative processes involved as the female bears a fawn are transferred to the anterior pole in the male. Sexual dimorphism is another indication of a rhythmic organization.

There is one more example of a frontal process – the giraffe has growths that are neither true horns nor antlers. In the giraffe, the horns are present as bony pegs, even before birth. The pegs have not yet fused to the skull and simply fold back during birth. Over the course of the animal’s life, the horns grow to about 12 inches and remain covered with skin and fur. In the adult male the upper end of the bones is exposed and surrounded with a tuft of hair. The horns show a metabolic organization but with an influence of the nerve-sense system. This is indicated by a third horn that grows unpaired on the forward median line. Large animals also grow a second set of paired horns behind the first set. Thus, while bovine horns remain unbranched and antlers branch, the giraffe’s horns divide to form multiple, unconnected processes.

Skull of giraffe showing five horns. Source: Shad.

Skull of giraffe showing five horns. Source: Shad.

 

Differences in anterior form, the giraffe, stag and bison. Source: Shad.

Differences in anterior form, the giraffe, stag and bison. Source: Shad.

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The bison with head bowed down is permeated by metabolism forces that it dams and returns inward. The deer gives off the surplus forces in order to develop its graceful form. The giraffe lacks the damming processes and the forces push out the forward body in an awkward manner. The giraffe shares lanky limbs with other ungulates that have turned from metabolic to sensory development, the horse and camel. When we assemble a chart of ungulates, we can observe some similarities.
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The sense-oriented members of each family, indicated in red, have developed specialized limbs, reducing lateral toes or dewclaws. The horse, for example, developed the middle hoof and lost the side digits. In general, paired limbs have been associated with metabolic function since the earliest vertebrates. The head processes follow the hooves. The rhino, for example, with a single hoof grows unpaired horns along the centerline. The even toed animals have paired horns or hooves.

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The lancelet (Amphioxus) is a primitive chordate that first shows the pattern of a single fin along the spinal chord (nerve-sense) and paired fins in the metabolic area. Source: Shad.

Hoof of a sheep that was raised off the ground so that the hooves could not wear down. The hoof grows into a spiral shape echoing the horn. Source: Shad.

Hoof of a sheep that was raised off the ground so that the hooves could not wear down. The hoof grows into a spiral shape echoing the horn. Source: Shad.

Forms that project to the sides produce spiraled horns and hooves. This is why sheep, with curved horns, represent a stronger damming process than goats, which have straighter horns. Goats prefer a habitat that involves more climbing of mountains (or trees) in keeping with a strong emphasis on limbs. Similarly, cattle hooves are curved while antelope hoofs are nearly straight.

Making the Preparations

Steiner directed farmers to make a number of preparations, as discussed in the Introductory Class. The two primary preparations are Horn Manure and Horn Silica. Each material is incubated in a cow’s horn to develop its life-energy characteristics. Similarly, there are six herbal preparations for the compost pile; these are typically incubated in an animal organ. In each case, it is the form of the organ, not the substance that is important. During the preparation process, we bring together plant or mineral substances, wrapped in the sheath and exposed to specific processes of the earth and cosmos. In a sense, the process is similar to that of egg-laying animals. The egg is prepared, wrapped in its covering and exposed to the cosmos for a period of time while it develops.

So far we have discussed the horn and contrasted with antlers. Horns grow gradually over the years and it is the skin covering that is used. Antlers grow richer each year, culminating in naked bone that reaches out. Horns show a spiral tendency due to constraining forces and focused on a central point. Antlers show a vertical tendency and seek the periphery around a hollow center. Both are a response to the metabolic forces released by the powerful digestive processes. The horned animals are reflecting those forces back inward; the antlered animals are giving off these forces outward. That which expands in the deer, is kept back in the cow. The cow’s horn is the sheath for the two major preparations because of its damming nature. As the preparation materials are incubated, formative forces are reflected back and reverberate within the horn.

The Stag’s Bladder

From the antlered creature, we use an organ from the opposite pole – the bladder of the male stag. Why the bladder?

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Development of the embryo and its membranes. Source: Gray’s Anatomy, http://www.bartleby.com/107/.

In the development of a growing bird’s egg, the embryo surrounds itself with the allantois, a membrane that provides oxygen exchange. Air spreads through the pores of the eggshell and breathing happens through the allantois. This “lung” surrounds the embryo, in direct contact with the world astrality, the breathing cosmos. The first blood vessels develop to bring oxygenated blood from the allantois; later these vessels merge to become the heart. The true lungs split off from the anterior part of the intestine, but they cannot be functional while the embryo is still in the egg. Instead, breathing is an activity that takes place outside for the bird embryo. In the bird, the bladder and rectum are combined as the cloaca. Urinary waste products are deposited as uric acid in the cloaca. In the mammal, the allantois is found in the embryo as only a small vesicle, connecting as a tube through the navel into the hindgut. In the mammal, the allantois tube develops a separate organ for storing urinary waste products. From the allantois, the cloaca splits to separate the rectum and bladder. Then the bladder develops two tubes, the ureters, that grow upward and branch out. There they link with the mesonephros to form the kidneys. Note that these are located outside the peritoneum and abdominal cavity that holds the digestive organs.

kidney_250Where does the kidney come from? The mesoneophros actually originate from near the primitive gills slits that exist only in the early embryo. One can imagine that in early vertebrates the gills functioned as organs of elimination. During embryonic development, these organs migrate downward and form the blood-filtering portion of the kidneys. At the same time, the cloaca forms the bladder-ureter portion of the kidney. The development is parallel to the gradual penetration of the growing body by the inner astrality. The kidneys pull in astrality and the bladder takes hold of it. After birth, the lungs take over breathing and the bladder opens toward the kidney. The cosmic breathing is replaced by the astral body.

The urine is an expression of that astrality, the “inner weather”. Anabolic metabolic processes create the “lower tears”, shedding nitrogen wastes as urine. This has to continuously stream out, but the bladder, comforting in its cosmic roundness, allows one to control the output. The bladder has its cosmic memories from developmental stages but puts itself at the disposal the consciousness.

The stag is a creature given up to its surroundings; it is nervous, sensitive and open to the cosmos through its antlers. So the world astrality and inner astrality come into harmony. The bladder becomes an expression of the world astrality. We fill the bladder with yarrow and hang exposed to the sun and air, the world atmosphere where yarrow longs to be. Steiner describes the finished yarrow preparation as opening the soil to the cosmic penetrations.

The Cow Intestine and Mesentery

mesentary_250One thinks of the intestines as lying within the abdomen but that is not true. The mesentery membrane lines the abdomen; the intestines lie within the mesentery. The intestines are actually an extension of the outside world that is reaching inside. The intestinal tube and its supporting mesentery are surrounded by the peritoneum that in turn is surrounded by abdominal muscles. In the animal’s body, there are only two spaces that originate as hollows and not as invaginations of the outside wall. These are the inner blood vessels of the heart and the peritoneum.

The nervous system develops as a fold of skin that folds over to form the spinal chord. The cavities of the nervous system were originally watery space. In a similar way, the gut develops during the gastrula stage as a tube reaching from the outside through the embryo. So the intestinal tube begins as outer space. Taking the mesentery as an extension of the peritoneum means that it represents a hollow space.
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Thus, for the two preparations, we use two different sheaths. The intestine is a part of the outside world and the mesentery is part of the inner world. The intestine is lined with villii that suck nutrition out of the contents. To do so, the food must be held back until it is completely broken down into elementary constituents. Only simple amino acids, sugars and fats are allowed to pass through the intestinal wall. Behind that wall, tiny holes connect with lymph vessels that join together to form the thoracic duct. Within the lymph vessels the down coming “cosmic nutrition stream” becomes matter; it appears as if the substance penetrated the intestine, but it comes from the sense organs through the lymph. The mesentery is connected with the cosmic nutrition and its polar opposite, the intestines, with the earthly nutrition.

We fill the intestine with chamomile flowers. These have a wonderful, strong scent, as if something is trying to fly away from the plant. We take this airy, flying-away force that is trying to go away from the earth, and place it in the most earthly destructive surrounding, the wall of the intestines. Then we place it in the soil surrounded by stored cosmic forces over the winter. The exhalation process of the chamomile is necessary to retain the centralized forces of calcium and bring into the compost.

We place dandelion in the mesentery. This plant expresses the workings of silica. It builds a rosette of leaves then shoots up an isolated flower. The cosmic silica process comes down to make the flower. The sheath is the carrier of the cosmic nutrition stream. So when we put this downward-pulling flower within, a fructification process goes on; the finished preparation develops silica processes within the compost.

The Skull

For the oakbark preparation, we can use the skull of any domestic animal. Unlike the other sheaths, the animal species is not important. The skulls of vertebrates are similar. As mentioned, the embryo develops a neural chord as an infolding of the outer skin. The skull bones are bony plates of the outer skin that fuse together. (In contrast, the limb bones form out of mesoderm tissue in a very different mechanism.) The brain cavity actually starts as an enfolded bit of the amniotic space, a captured bit of etheric space. It is within this space that the brain grows. The brain of animals is beginning to reach consciousness but it is still striving toward what man has achieved. The animal’s brain has not fully reached a level that would support the human ego.

Similarly, the tree bark is a substance on the way to becoming something else. Steiner described the tree trunk as like an elevation of soil, with the leaves as the actual plants. So the bark is a substance between soil and the living plant. Steiner also described the human brain as “dead substance” like soil. The animal brain is not so far along so when we put oak bark in the skull, we are placing a part-dead substance with another.

Oregon white oak in winter. The form is spherical and the branches constrained, as if growth has to push against an invisible restraining boundary.

Oregon white oak in winter. The form is spherical and the branches constrained, as if growth has to push against an invisible restraining boundary.

The oak tree in particular, exhibits a gnarled, clutched-in growth gesture as if a force is holding back the entire tree. We recognize the greedy, clutching nature of calcium; indeed oak bark contains a high amount of calcium. König also points out that oak bark in unusual in containing no iron but iron companions, Mo, Co, Zn, etc. These elements, in homeopathic quantities, assist calcium. In placing a calcium substance in a calcium sheath, we are enhancing the sucking-inward, centralizing tendency of calcium. Steiner states that this preparation pulls in and strengthens the etheric forces so that plants resist disease.

Preparations without a Sheath

fig4-10Steiner described the nettle preparation as making the compost heap sensible. It is prepared without a sheath, although it could also be said that the nettle leaves, covered with animal-like stinging hairs, are their own sheath. König points out that the preparation is left in the earth for an entire annual inhale/exhale cycle so that the whole Mother Earth is the sheath.

The final preparation is the juice of valerian flowers. This is preserved but not really incubated, as are the other preparations. König describes the preparation as calling down the help of the Heavens, adding intentionality. By inserting all the preparations, he says that we make the compost heap into a “becoming being” with physical and etheric bodies and the beginnings of a consciousness body. The oakbark makes it slightly awake, the nettle makes it dream and the other preparations help it sleep. The oakbark represents what is in the seed, the nettle is the leaf and stem and the other preps are like the flower, pollen and fruit.

In summary, we have described how the horn and antler represent two different responses to the powerful forces of metabolism. The horn becomes sheath to the two primary preparations. The sheaths of the other preparations can be related to the forms of the animal organs and their eventual application in developing energetic compost.

© 2014 Oregon Biodynamics Group.

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