In Teuge, a village in the east of the Netherlands, a temple is rising. Not just an ordinary temple; it’s a Nature Temple. Mark Huser and Maya van Oosterhout organise and guide ceremonies here, with and without plant medicines. The magic mushroom (truffle) is their favourite. Mark: ‘mushrooms are local, we’ve been raised with them and our ancestors already worked with them. We feel the call to revitalise this indigenous form of nature spirituality.’
The temple is seated between big poplar trees in the garden besides their house. They live in one of the old farms on the premises of Ecotribe Teuge. The terrain was squatted 17 years ago and developed into an unique off-grid community. The temple is off-grid as well: electricity comes from solar panels, they have compost toilets, a rocket stove mass heater, a food forest and rain water is collected and filtered.
Connection with nature and a sustainable lifestyle are intrinsically related. That’s why Mark and Maya founded the Earth Awareness Centre in 2005. Maya: ‘it’s a nursery where people can learn how to live in harmony with nature again. We’re part of a bigger movement aiming to restore the relationship between human beings and nature.’
Since 2006 they began organising plant medicine ceremonies. At first they invited shamans from all over the world and from here they developed their own ceremonies. Mark: ‘We’ve learned a lot from exotic rituals and medicine plants. Especially since our own nature traditions have been largely lost. But in the end we want to connect with the place where we ourselves live and have been raised: with the birds, plants and trees that appear naturally in this environment.’ Besides the gatherings in the Nature Temple, Mark and Maya also guide ceremonies at Dutch festivals, such as Psy-fi and Living Village. Many psychonauts may know them from there.
Organic and local
The fairylike temple that captures everyone’s imagination is built entirely from organic, local and recycled materials. Every type of wood has its own symbolic meaning. Maya: ‘the oak stands for firmness and strength, while the willow is compliant and viable’.
Solid wooden pillars surround the fireplace in the centre of the space. Mark: ‘our ancestors also built wood henges, comparable to Stonehenge.’ The inner circle is covered by a geodesic dome. Around it is a lower outer circle with a - still to be planted - green roof. The outer walls are decorated with a beautiful mosaic of coloured glass and small wooden branches, laid in clay.
Phoenix from the ashes
In 2012 the original temple - a tent with straw bale walls - burned down to the ground. A disaster, but from the ashes a phoenix is rising. Although the current temple is still under construction, ceremonies are already taking place. In May 2018 the first truffle ceremony was hosted. More than a year earlier Mark and Maya started to conduct cacao ceremonies in the temple during the full moon. Maya: ‘with the full moon we don’t use truffles or other entheogens, that’s why these gatherings are accessible to a wider audience.’
This does not prevent them from being a full blown shamanistic ceremony. Mark: ‘we connect with each other, with the sacred core in ourselves and with the greater whole. During the ceremony we make a lot of music, we sing and there’s space to share insights and experiences with each other.’ The fire takes a central place. Maya: ‘grandfather fire is present in almost all shamanistic ceremonies. You can share your questions, doubts and wishes with the fire. It has a transforming effect.’
The truffle ceremonies have a similar structure, but they take longer and of course magic truffles are consumed. What’s the main idea of these ceremonies? Mark: ‘Magic mushrooms are the key to spheres of existence that are accessible within us. With them we can activate our true potential and lead a veritable life.’ Maya: ‘in the ceremony we celebrate life. Mushrooms are playful so we laugh a lot.’
Times are changing
Both the temple and the surrounding community of friends, visitors, assistants and builders are growing steadily. Still these are exciting times. Last year the municipality announced their wish to redevelop the premises of the Ecotribe. Mark and Maya proposed a plan as well. They want the place to become a source of inspiration for a healthy earth and a conscious society. In their vision the location is going to host a cooperation of artists, entrepreneurs and social organisations that all want to live in harmony with nature.
The outcome is not decided yet, but looks promising. Mark: ‘we see it as a chance to integrate the Nature Temple into wider society.’ Luckily the temple is, like its building materials, compliant as a willow and firm as an oak.
Watch this Youtube clip to be shown around Earth Awareness Teuge.